Salam Pax is back
May 7, 2003 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Salam Pax is back. It's been a long wait.
posted by grahamwell (40 comments total)
posted by xmutex at 8:19 AM on May 7, 2003

I am looking forward to reading the whole thing. Meanwhile -- YES!!! This man is a hero.
posted by SealWyf at 8:24 AM on May 7, 2003

If that guy is real(not that I am firmly convinced one way or another), I am very happy for him.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:27 AM on May 7, 2003

Too much has happened the last couple of days but my head is as heavy as a lead boulder. Hay fever time. The sexual life of palm trees makes me weep.

My joy in reading things not only from the inside, but also expressed so eloquently, is intense.
posted by VulcanMike at 8:36 AM on May 7, 2003

hope they are ready for the bandwidth crunch....and glad he is back as well. Fake or no.
posted by th3ph17 at 8:44 AM on May 7, 2003

hope they are ready for the bandwidth crunch

Yeah, I just copied & saved the text in case of another outage so I can read it all later this afternoon. So far it looks good, except for the incursions by "Diana." Isn't she the one that gave all his personal information to the New Yorker?

Anyway, grahamwell, thanks. You don't have a "via" there, so can I assume that you, unlike the rest of us, persisted in checking the thing every day, even after we gave up around mid-April?
posted by soyjoy at 9:00 AM on May 7, 2003

Hooray hooray hooray! I'm so glad he's alive, and that this stuff is here.
posted by Marquis at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2003

It's been in my daily line-up forever... and just this morning, without even reading it, I moved it into my archives.

Great timing.


Thanks for the great news, grahamwell!
posted by silusGROK at 9:15 AM on May 7, 2003

Yes, I did check every day - a bit obsessive I'll agree. I can't describe the feeling on finding that he was OK - having now read all of the new material I feel quite optimistic for Iraq, and that's great too. Finally I feel properly informed.

They just disappeared, Puff, into thin air. The big disappearing act. Army shoes and uniforms are thrown about in every street, army cars abandoned in the middle of the road. An act of the almighty made every army member disappear at exactly the same time, fairy-tale-like “……and the golden carriage was turned back to a pumpkin at the strike of 12”.

On his authenticity (I have no doubt) there's the opportunity for confirmation from John F Burns of the New York Times.
posted by grahamwell at 9:17 AM on May 7, 2003

Hooray too! I beg your pardon for the sharp simplification, but I think Salam Pax is an extraordinary individual in a extraordinary place at a very interesting time, it's a joy to read the writings of a person that sounds so truly human.

I don't think he's a fake, but if he is, the author is a truly genius
posted by samelborp at 9:18 AM on May 7, 2003

Thanks for posting this. I've missed him.
posted by GaelFC at 9:47 AM on May 7, 2003

Glad to hear he's ok. I was starting to believe the folks that were convinced he was dead. Wonder what they'll say about it now.
posted by mathowie at 9:55 AM on May 7, 2003

Thank you, thank you for posting this. I hadn't given up, but my thoughts were becoming dark. And every time I read his choppy, madly poetic, pissed-off-in-all-directions prose I am newly amazed that anyone could doubt his bona fides. What side could possibly be benefiting from his reportage? And who could make this stuff up?

VulcanMike: Damn you for beating me to the palm-tree quote!
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on May 7, 2003

What side could possibly be benefiting from his reportage?

Well, he doesn't necessarily need to be "in the pay" of either side to be fake: he may just enjoy the creative aspect of it. To pull an example out of the air: is Elizabeth George in the pay of the State department or the British equivalent? Or does she just like to write crime novels set in a reportedly very authentic UK?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:09 AM on May 7, 2003

For those who can't open url's with "_" in them (like me at work), blogspot has also mirrored the site here:

As for server loads, I think this was on eof the first sites to migrate to google's servers. Some comments by Jason Shellen here
posted by jonah at 10:26 AM on May 7, 2003

soyjoy, good idea. I copied and pasted the new entries into Word: 33 pages worth.

Looking forward to reading them.
posted by jokeefe at 10:31 AM on May 7, 2003

Amazing. It's like reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time. Regardless of reality or fiction, I haven't seen anyone else express so vividly the ambivalence I feel at the outcome of this war, the happiness that Saddam is gone coexisting uneasily with the tragedy that this war was waged. Except maybe Yeats.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:41 AM on May 7, 2003

But “Communist”? I will look like a “Communards” fan if I start wearing red stars and buttons with the sickle-and-hammer thing. Nothing against Mr. Sommerville but I’m past that phase, and no one could ever sing along to his falsetto anyway.

Yeah... it's him. And it's nice to have him back.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:55 AM on May 7, 2003

I think Salem Pax has a story to tell. I would say a book. This could be an important story concerning Journalism, Blogging and the future of communication.

plus it could address "the style of blogging" as evidenced by
" his choppy, madly poetic, pissed-off-in-all-directions prose I am newly amazed that anyone could doubt his bona fides." (great observation Languagehat)

Style...Does this apply?

Meanness, the very thing which is unforgivable in human social life, in poetry is thrilling and valuable. Why? Because the willingness to be offensive sets free the ruthless observer in all of us, the spiteful perceptive angel who sees and tells, unimpeded by nicety or second thoughts. There is truth-telling, and more, in meanness.


In poetry, as in life, meanness almost always has a personal flavor, and perhaps it is even more admirable for its lack of detachment. The mean speaker is not retired from the battles of selfhood, removed to some philosophical resort where experience can be codified in tranquility. She or he is still down in the dirty human valley, fighting it out with the rest of us. In that way, the mean speaker may possess more convincing credentials than a kind or wise one.

(from Hoagland article)

Liam Rector states:

It's said that this war will mainly be fought in the shadows. . September 11th started in the morning on the corridor, and now it seems everywhere.

I do believe in reality there is such a thing as national security and a need for secrecy in the deployment of war, but where mistakes are made I hope writers and the press will be erring on the side of the First Amendment, wherever freedom travels in this conflict, wherever history is revising even a single word.

(i happen to think that If there's anyone who's expert in the shadows, that would be the poets is simply not true concerning american poetics)

welcome back Salam Pax.
posted by clavdivs at 10:58 AM on May 7, 2003

like anyone in the world even knows the Communards anymore. Has to be real.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:59 AM on May 7, 2003

Y'know, I loved that Communards record. Convinced me...
posted by greengrl at 11:07 AM on May 7, 2003

I'm making my way through this chronologically ("backwards"). Here are a couple of annotations to what I've read so far (for the curious).

Salam Pax: The worst thing that could happen to you these days is having an empty or half built house near the place you live. It will be seized by the government. We have now Hizbis as neighbors.

A hizbi is a (Ba'ath) party member.

Salam Pax: Al sahaf is outdoing himself each time he is on TV, and I know no one who can tell me what “oolouj” means.

this article: Al-Sahaf also introduced insults virtually unknown to the Arab public. His use of "uluj", an obscure and particularly insulting term for "infidel", sent viewers calling TV stations for a definition. (An English anthology of Sahaf's baroque invective:
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:11 AM on May 7, 2003

Great news! Thanks grahamwell.
posted by plep at 11:18 AM on May 7, 2003

Salam Pax: the lawless phase of this attack has reached Baghdad. Farhud has started in Baghdad. Farhud. The first one was the Farhud of the jews of Baghdad after they have been driven out of their homes, don’t ask me about dates. Diane told me about that one... Today I tell you History does only repeat itself once but it hits you a third time in the eye.

Here's an article, "How Not to Occupy Iraq," that made (in anticipation: March 17) the same connection that Salam makes (to the Farhud, the anti-Jewish pogrom that accompanied 1941's "regime change" in Iraq).
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:30 AM on May 7, 2003

posted by jann at 11:40 AM on May 7, 2003

(One final contextual contribution from me.)

Salam Pax: “Az zaman” [] ... is quite good compared to the leaflets newspapers the various parties are printing and distributing... It has a very good culture section called “Alef yaa” [].

The the current lead article on Alef Yaa: Iraqi musician Kadim al Sahir, speaking by phone in Cairo to a German news agency, calls for the unity of the Iraqis and for an end to the American occupation.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:47 PM on May 7, 2003

Zurishaddai: Thanks very much. I had, needless to say, been wondering what “oolouj” means. Actually, I just remembered I have a beat-up Arabic dictionary here at work, and with the confidence of knowing the answer I looked it up and found it's the plural of ilj 'unbeliever; uncouth person, roughneck.' And right below is the word uljoum (I'm using -ou- for long u because I'm too lazy to look up the HTML for u-with-circumflex), which is glossed as 'male ostrich; male frog; duck; wave; darkness.' Wonderful language, Arabic.
posted by languagehat at 12:58 PM on May 7, 2003

I've already been warned not to blog at work, so can't take the time to clean anything up.

I love the cloak and dagger element and that out of everyone in the known world the only person who could submit the post everyone in the blogosphere and beyond has been waiting for, could only do so at the risk of LOSING HER JOB. Not sure about her editorialising at the end though ... might have been nice to let Salam's words speak for themselves ...
posted by feelinglistless at 2:23 PM on May 7, 2003

And by the way, who is Diana Moon?
posted by feelinglistless at 2:37 PM on May 7, 2003

Diana Moon is "Diane from Gotham", author of the now-defunct blog "Letter From Gotham". She is an NYC resident--I met her at one of the blogger bashes--and works at a media outlet (magazine?) of some kind. But they found out about her blogging and were not thrilled with it, and so she had to take down her site a few weeks ago, which was a shame since she's an interesting writer and her blog was a good read.

She started corresponding with Salam Pax very early on, before his site was well-known. I think she mentioned that blogger Eve Tushnet stumbled across his site initially via a weblog directory, and her post alerted Diane to his presence. She struck up an e-mail correspondence with him, and became one of the first people convinced he's for real--which he apparently is. She's also been filling him in on the history of Jews in Iraq for some time now; they used to be 20% of the population at the end of WWI, but since the 1960's have almost all been killed or are living in exile, many in Israel. Younger generations of Iraqis like Salam know little about them, thanks to Saddam's regime, which is probably why he mentions learning about the 1941 pogrom from her.

She did give some information about Salam *on background* to the reporter for the New Yorker article...but it ended up in the article anyway. Oops. Luckily--very, very luckily--Salam is apparently still alive and well, so no harm done, I guess.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:28 PM on May 7, 2003

5 comments since april 2001! Don't be a stranger Asparagirl. :P
posted by dgaicun at 4:34 PM on May 7, 2003

Thanks, Asparagirl. Actually on reflection I'd be pretty excited at being able to bring such sought after words to the world. Thanks Diane if you're reading ...
posted by feelinglistless at 4:55 PM on May 7, 2003

Sorry to take up bandwidth with this long post, but a fellow MeFi-er alerted me (by way of a request for my downloaded copy) that Salam's blog has already been edited from yesterday, apparently to remove references to John F. Burns. Clumsily so, I might add, since the date header for this entry is (currently) not on a separate line like all the others. I don't see what the problem is, unless it's a threat to Salam since Burns can now identify him? Or is it just that Burns (whom I don't know) comes off as arrogant? Whatever the case, it's not like this is unavailable to those who know how to retrieve it. But I thought I'd post this (the complete 4/26 entry) here in case other people wanted to see what was so damned important...


I have seen John f. Burns of the New York Times naked. I knew this war had to be good for something.

Well kind of naked, he had a stripy towel wrapped around him, but G. who got me there in the first place couldn’t control his giggles because he kept saying that the whole setup is like a trashy 70’s porn.

Actually Burns was very nice, really. He did act like God, but we sat for about an hour there and we talked about everything from the work of reconstructing Iraq to architecture in Beirut.

G. had met someone a couple of days prior to that who told him that the NY Times might be needing Iraqi translators, an interview was arranged and because the whole idea of meeting Burns seemed a bit surreal we forgot to note the room number. The Meridian Hotel where he was at is a mess; there is no management. They have no idea who is where. So we run around frantically trying to find out which room he is in, not wanting to be late and all. At exactly 11am we knock and a huge Mukhabarat-looking Iraqi opens the door. In we go and there he is with only a towel around him sitting in a room which is too hot (no air conditioning, remember there is no electricity) and he is talking to 3 other people. We are the porn extras no one will look at. People come and go we sit on a fake leather couch which makes the heat in that room even worse. About 20 minutes later everybody is gone, John Burns shouts from another room that he will be right there; G. whispers "this is the bit where he comes in with nothing on but a jockstrap and a whip". Thankfully he comes wearing shorts. And the first question he asks me is "so, in which prison did you work as a guard?". Whaaa?, ahem wrong movie. More nervous laughter. I bet we came across like two loonies. "Sorry, we are here for the translator job". He explains that they were trying to get rid of the old "minders". We talk for about half an hour about everything, more people come and go. There is talk of going to the Abu Ghraib prison which I really want to go see. Finally Burns says that he will be leaving in a couple of days and we should keep in touch with the people who will stay here. Audience with God is over; shake hands and out to the corridor. We are giggling like idiots. The result is that I now have a paper with NY Times heading and signed, telling the people at the barbwire fences near the Hotel entrance that we are "good".

People there only go in if they are "good". I have not heard anyone yet say "stop that man, he’s evil". You come, get tickled by the body check guys, they look at your papers say “you’re good” and in you go. The day we went to the Meridian most of the media was checking out, if they were staying for long periods it makes more sense to get a house for yourself.

After we left the hotel we stood for a while looking a "demonstration" in front of the Meridian, Iraqi army officers were doing something in the "Alwiyah Club" building and everybody is selling photocopied papers which are supposed to be job applications or something.

A whole market has emerged right there in front of the two hotels, Meridian and Sheraton. Thuraya [] phone owners standing in front of their cars offering you phone calls abroad for $5 a minute (it actually costs less than a dollar). Photocopy shops to make copies of whatever the coalition is throwing at the people today. People with foldable chairs and cardboard boxes in front of them offering to exchange your dollars, no idea why the cardboard box. Maybe to make it look like an office. Cigarette vendors, various sandwiches are at offer but they don’t look too safe to eat. The atmosphere is like a festival. We only needed live music and a beer stand.

Whatever….. G. had a falafel sandwich and we drank "ZamZam Cola". Baghdad is flooded with "ZamZam Cola" – named after the "holy" well in Mecca. Iranian product and tastes too sweet. But since it is called ZamZam it must have some divine qualities. I have been drinking ZamZam Cola for a while now; I am expecting to grow angel wings any day.
posted by soyjoy at 10:28 AM on May 8, 2003

Thanks soyjoy. The current version has also asterisked out the names of the two clubs taken over by political parties. What's up I wonder?
posted by grahamwell at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2003

Funnily enough though the whole Burns episode was reprinted in The Guardian G2 supplement today along with a bunch of other extracts. They've been (I thought) redundantly reposted online here. Seems might not have been such a bad idea after all ... still no answer to my question in the original thread about the legality of this ...
posted by feelinglistless at 1:53 PM on May 8, 2003

Yes, I've mailed the Guardian online editor pointing out the mysterious edit (Kudos btw to Sarah Henderson -- new member "lobakgo" for spotting this in the first place). Given that they have reprinted the offending material let's hope they'll look further into this and perhaps contact John F Burns to see what he has to say.
posted by grahamwell at 2:15 PM on May 8, 2003

Don't know. Just doesn't seem authentic to me. I'm conflicted-b/c if the dude's all real-I'm sorry to doubt him-but -based solely on these blog entries-the whole thing seems contrived. I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell's remark that the Truth, if found, may prove uninteresting.
posted by quercus at 2:57 PM on May 8, 2003

in case other people wanted to see what was so damned important...

Just so there's absolutely no confusion... I meant "so important to whoever edited it that they went ahead and screwed around with this," not "so important to lobakgo." I reread my post and realized it might be taken that way.
posted by soyjoy at 8:43 PM on May 8, 2003

Early today the blog was updated with a pretty fascinating entry (CD-ROM's being sold on the street with some gruesome footage of Saddam's crushing of the '91 uprising, Uday's atrocities, etc.).
posted by Zurishaddai at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2003

Not everyone is a fan.

".. one may discover a great deal about him from carefully reading his blog, and following obvious leads from there.

Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenklatura. He was brought up at least partly in Vienna, which is the OPEC headquarters; his father was therefore an oilman, and possibly a former head of Iraq's OPEC mission. Another clue is a hint that his grandfather was an Iraqi tribal chief; from which I infer that his father was one of the Iraqi tribal chiefs that Saddam Hussein rewarded for loyalty, outside the Tikrit clan. "

posted by grahamwell at 5:03 AM on May 15, 2003

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