I found this book by accident in a little book store… The cover wasn’t really attractive, but this quote captivated me: “The most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world… Salam Pax was the Anne Frank of the war… and its Elvis”
Salam is an Iraqi young man who started blogging, a few months before the second Golf war, in order to keep in touch with his friend Raed who went to study in Jordan. That’s where the blog title comes from: Dear Raed
Eventually, Salam started talking about his everyday life, about his evil greedy boss, about his frustrations living in a country devastated by decades of Tyranny, wars and a ravaging embargo combined with a useless “oil for food” program.
As you get to explore Salam’s universe, you get a better picture of how is the real life in Iraq. You get to understand how the Iraqis got used to the tough times, understand their confusion between the fear of war and the excitement of getting rid of the bloody Saddam.
‘Let me tell you one thing first. War sucks big time, don’t let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of freedom. Somehow, when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine-guns at the end of the street, you don’t think about your ‘imminent liberation anymore’
‘No one inside Iraq is for war (note I said war not a change of regime), no human being in his right mind will ask you to give him the beating of his life, unless you are a member of fight club that is, and if you do hear Iraqi (in Iraq, not expat) saying “come on bomb us” it is the exasperation and 10 years of sanctions and hardship talking. There is no person inside Iraq (and this is a bold, blinking and underlined inside) who will be jumping up and down asking for the bombs to drop. We are not suicidal you know, not all of us in any case.’
‘[…]Do you know what I read in the NY Times also? the American troops they are studying how the Israeli Army fought in Jenin. Jenin. remember how jenin looked like after the siege? how comforting is that.’
‘Do you know when the sight of women veiled from top to bottom became common in cities in Iraq? Do you know when the question of segregation between boys and girls became red hot? When tribal law replaced THE LAW? When Wahabi became part of our vocabulary? it only happened after the Gulf War. I think it was Cheney or Albright who said they will bomb Iraq back to the Stone Age, well you did.’
Although, despite the regretful situation and the sad events he talks about, Salam remained very funny. His sarcasm and humour are extremely hilarious… Salam even offers some didactic courses on Iraq’s history and the accession of Saddam to power, on the Shiite religious holiday Achoura and its origins… Some gossip too about Saddam & sons “achievements”, the Baath party members etc. etc…
‘In the early eighties the Iraqi Hunting Club had a new indoor swimming pool built. Quite big and state of the art. They decided to have some sort of a party to announce its opening. A nice classy affair. at around eleven Uday comes in with his entourage wearing a white tuxedo and top hat, there is still a photo of him in that tux being printed on calendars but without the top hat, has a couple of drinks, decides that the party is boring and to liven things up a bit commands everyone to jump into the swimming pool, and unleashes his dogs = bodyguards to push people into the pool. Has a good laugh and leaves, A fun guy eh?’
Then, as the drums of war get louder, you get to share the Iraqis fate and their preparation for war… it is so disconcerting to realize that it becomes an everyday life thing… you get to share their uncertainty about the future, their time waiting for the bombs to fall, concern and fear… it feels like living the war in Baghdad…
‘Other normal stuff we did this week:
· Finished taping all the windows in the house, actually a very relaxing exercise if you forget why you are doing it in the first place.
· Installed a manual pump on the well we have dug because up till now we had an electrical pump on it.
· bought 60 liters of gasoline to run the small electricity generator we have, bought two nifty kerosene cookers and stocked loads of kerosene and dug holes in the garden to bury the stuff
· so that the house doesn’t turn into a bomb.
· prepared one room for emergency nasty attacks and bought “particle masks” – that’s what it says on the box – for use if they light those oil trenches […]
· got two rooms in our house ready to welcome our first IDPs – internally displaced persons’
‘A couple of hours earlier we were at a shop and a woman said as she was leaving, and this is a very common sentence, “we’ll see you tomorrow if good keeps us alive” – itha allah khalana taibeen – and the whole place just freezes. She laughed nervously and said she didn’t mean that, and we all laughed but these things start having a meaning beyond being figures of speech.’
frankie still says war, but you said….
first week of february..haj or no haj, it’s going down —- 29
second half of february. it’s warmer. —- 30
It’s not happening till march/april —-14
nah….not until next autumn, it’s closer to the elections that way —- 9
what? are you blood thirsty? there will be no war. —- 9
Salam’s courage is amazing, he was the voice of Baghdad before and during the war despite the heavy censorship in Irak and the risk of being executed at every entry he writes in his blog : ‘I spent a couple of days thinking this is the end. And then you wait for a couple of days and nothing happens and you say, “OK let’s do it again.” Stupid risks, one after another.’
Only one word remains to say Salam: MASSIVE RESPEK