And a trackback to MeFi as well! Grr. OK, here’s what I wrote. Or skip down below for some random linkage. That’s more fun anyway.
I’ll admit I have several issues which almost no amount of evidence will convince me to change my mind about. Whether Salam Pax is an oppressed, typical Iraqi citizen, a Baathist sympathizer, a CIA plant, or a close cousin to Kaycee Nicole isn’t one of them. I’m far more fascinated by the international interest this blog has generated in the last few months than whether is real or not.
The latest popular scribe about SP (posted on Metafilter, natch) denounces him as nothing more than a regime toady (and how foolish for left-wing Americans to sing any praises for this manipulative fraud). For all I know, this could be true — SP could easily be a remnant of Hussain’s machine, continuing to spread sympathetic lies and propaganda to willing bloggy listeners.
But if that’s the case, I want actual quotes and controlled rhetoric, not a screaming rant. Like this one by David Warren.
I had hoped otherwise, but this article is nothing but a vitriolic attack against Salam Pax and what the author assumes he represents. Somehow, within Salam’s blog, Warren has found quite a monster. I’d be willing to consider Warren’s conclusions, if only he could show me the facts they were based on. Best I can tell, Warren’s entire article damning SP has maybe three quotes from the actual blog (one of which is apparently taken out of context — see the link below), the others aren’t extremely damning.
Early in the article, Warren throws a pretty powerful punch:
Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq’s Baathist nomenclature. 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.
Um. OK, I’m not an expert on Iraqi history. All of this very well may be true, but it doesn’t have to be. The leaps to conclusions reach dizzying heights. Got some facts here? Actual language from the blog? I bet Salam may say something about this, really — but why isn’t it in Warrren’s article? Space? If so, he could easily take out some of the vitriol and have room for revealing quotes. Or dates of blog entries.
Warren takes a number of jabs at SP throughout the article. Summarizing the general tone of the blog, Warren finds, “He has those Tariq Aziz qualities.” What are these qualities, exactly? Are they really familiarity with upscale Baghdad, a familiarity with Western fashions, Salam’s mentions of homosexuality (which the writer finds implausible — I can’t begin to speculate why), his charm, and facility with English (as the article suggests)? And even if they are, what of it? I’m not sure these qualities alone make any person the close buddy (or clone) of the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq. It’s like calling political enemies “French” if you don’t like them. Guilt by vague resemblance.
Warren spends much of the article speculating on SP’s background:
He refers casually to pseudonymous friends, who are also children of the deposed Baathist elite. They all know their way around but, unlike their parents, have never carried the weight of responsibility. They were of a class, but not yet fully in it — products of a very luxurious bubble.”
This is probably true, I’d suspect. But who your parents are isn’t exactly damning, is it? And I’m still not sure exactly what the problem is here. How is SP supposed to control his or his friends’ ancestry? And again, quotes or entry dates would be nice.
In this last quote, Warren seems to suggest that SP and his friends don’t have a great deal of power (at least not yet). At other points of this article, it sounds like he should have is own playing card:
He is spreading “inside views” of the new Iraq, not only to the blogosphere, but directly among the journalists still encamped at the Meridian (formerly Palestine, formerly Meridian) hotel. Not the “embeds” who’ve gone home after remarkable learning experiences, but those “hacks” not yet transferred to the next breaking news story[.]
That’s a pretty damning statement there — is he the new Information Minister? Is there a quote in the blog that supports this statement? A date? And what’s and “inside view”? Are Salam’s infrequent blog postings themselves “inside views”? Also — what a strange and unnecessary reference to embedded journalists — what do they have to do with Salam’s blog?
After a quick critique of these unnamed, non-embedded journalists, he then attacks all media:
Hence our media fixation on a series of stories — starting with the entirely false account that was given of the looting of the Iraqi National Museum — that show the American occupation in the worst possible light[.]
Ah– what this is really about. Salam’s blog is another example of some kind of media making America look bad. Took Warren long enough. Attacking misreported stories is fair, but needs to include WMD and Jessica Lynch. Also, it is my understanding the museum story wasn’t so much false as the museum was pretty badly looted and smashed (though not as bad as originally feared), and then many artifacts were returned (remember — in order for objects to be returned, they must be taken first).
After this, the whole thing takes a weird turn. Salam is accused of having memberships in certain Hussain-loving social clubs on mere speculation alone. He is accused of interrogating ordinary Iraqi citizens. Those kinds of statements really need some better support for a professional newspaper article (as opposed to, say, an off the cuff I can say whatever the hell I want blog entry).
Warren then abandons logical rhetoric completely. He attacks Salam for not sending himself to exile but instead profiting from the Iraqi regime (ok….). The profit point not withstanding, attacking someone for not standing up to a dangerous regime is pretty disingenuous. And it opens the writer himself up for attack (“Mr. Warren, I assume you then give away all but a small amount of your salary for worthy causes? If you don’t, aren’t you just contributing to world suffering by not doing all you can to stop it?”).
That Salam doesn’t like certain of the returning exiles is also found to be damning. Warren seems to like them; the enemy of my friend is my enemy, I guess. But I’m not sure why Warren likes these exiles and Salam does not. Maybe it’s because not all exiles were good people. Some were frauds and swindlers (which doesn’t necessarily prevent them from being committed to Iraqi democracy but might explain why some people don’t like them). The particular people mentioned in Salam’s blog may be the saints the writer makes them out to be; they may not. There’s really no evidence here one way or another.
Warren then goes on to damn Salam Pax for his family (supposedly) being a member of the Baathist party (this part contains one of the few quotes in the story from the actual blog — but as Needlenose shows, this is taken out of context. Needlenose explains the situation better than I do (and since this is getting pretty long and we have hypertext, go click and read there).
Other examples of damnations which don’t seem too dire:
And this from a person who shows no guilt whatever at his own family membership in a Baathist regime that killed some hundreds of thousands of civilians — entirely on purpose. He dismisses all that as “a few bad apples,” without thinking to volunteer any sort of information on where such bad apples might now be hiding.
Let’s think about this. We know of several examples of regimes where many people needed to become members of the reigning party just to get by (e.g. Soviet Communist). It is my understanding that Iraq was one of them. I think that most people who practiced a profession were members of the ruling party, whether they secretly damned the government or not. I would be surprised if most, or even many, people who were (or whose families were) members of this party had any idea where the “bad apples” were. And even if Salam did know where they were, turning them in isn’t necessarily an easy prospect.
And the whole thing about whether Salam shows guilt or not over his family’s supposed membership — that’s just a non-argument.
The article then starts describing the current situation in Iraq (again, no quotes or sources). And here you thought this article was about Salam Pax!
[The Americans] have grasped that the main immediate challenge to democratization in Iraq is indeed from old Baathist elements — who they now know are behind almost all of the “random” violence that has been distracting them in parts of Baghdad and other cities that never had crime problems before.
How do we know this? Both who is behind it and that there were never any crime problems before? And what does this have to do with the blog? Is Salam Pax causing the violence?
Hmm. I’m beginning to think this isn’t about Salam Pax at all. This is why we have next to no quotes and no outside sources about the most famous Iraqi blogger. This is just some rant in a newspaper that certain people are not exceedingly happy about the American invasion/liberation of Iraq.
I wish this had been an expose of Salam. And, for all I know, somewhere out there is an article that demonstrates what kind of guy SP really is. It takes apart SP with real quotes from is blog and researched evidence, showing he’s nothing but a shill (or a disturbed woman in Kansas). Or the real deal. Whatever.
But Warren’s article? It’s more like a personal blog entry than anything else. Like this one. But no one paid me to do this and I have about 5 readers.
Hmm. Maybe that’s the point. To create an opinion about a blog that looks like a blog to talk about how blogs aren’t real journalism… What an interesting hidden message!
(Or is that over-reading it?)