The Command Post
March 28, 2003
Murder By Telecast

It takes a lot to cause me to lose my equanimity. The atrocities by the fedayeen etc I can handle, having been inured to them over the years. But right now I'm feeling very emotional about one issue.

The BBC World Service has just signed Salam Pax's death warrant, live, on air, with a worldwide audience of millions.

Various bits of information about him have been on the web at various times in various places. So much that those of us that care about him were getting increasingly worried. But nobody had built up quite such a comprehensive dossier before, with all the pieces in one place. The BBC World Service then aired it, with the rather snide comment that he hadn't posted recently, and maybe the US Air Force had got him.

No mention of his less-than-complimentary remarks about Saddam, Uday etc and that he might just be in a hell of a lot of danger from some Ba'athist fanatics right now.

Should it be found out after this that Salam Pax had been liquidated as the result of this program, then I would be Upset with the people concerned. Miffed even. I think publicising the names and addresses of the people who deliberately did this would be in order. The same thing that's done for sex offenders. Or a charge of culpable homicide.

For once a rant I don't feel better about after making. And I truly, truly hope that on this one I'm 180 degrees wrong and end up looking like a complete idiot.

Posted By Alan E Brain at March 28, 2003 02:50 AM | TrackBack

Sounds like a good reason to call in live during a broadcast. Call them to the carpet for their arrogant stupidity. Does the Beeb do radio talk shows?

Posted by: gus3 at March 28, 2003 03:12 AM

Too bad that clever BBC reporters weren't astute enough to find Joe Katzman's 3/25/03 post ( at Winds of Change, where he made, prospectively, the same point that you've just made. Too bad for Salam, that is. As if they cared.

Posted by: AMac at March 28, 2003 03:14 AM

And what about Diane's comments to the reporter in The New Yorker article? She was supposed to be Salam's trusted email confidant and yet, based on the article, she couldn't seem to stop blabbing about what she knew of Salam Pax -- completely disregarding the fact that she was putting his life in danger. Or maybe she too didn't care.

Posted by: lusquea at March 28, 2003 03:39 AM

I've already posted to the BBC World TV service about this matter, and with luck the program won't be repeated a dozen times over the next few days (as is their usual habit). Especially not on their Arabic service. I thought about keeping quiet and pretending it didn't happen, hoping no-one would notice. But the BBC World service would be compulsory viewing by someone in the Iraqi information ministry, so the cat is out of the bag unless they blinked at the wrong time. At least I had the brain-cells not to repeat the information on this blog myself...

Posted by: Alan E Brain at March 28, 2003 06:00 AM

I think he mentioned that he watches the Beeb on their secret dish. Maybe if he sees this, he can go into hiding. He has a large extended family, some of whom live out in the country. Maybe one of his relatives can find someone else to sequester him.

Meanwhile, Alan, let's not anticipate. It's counter-productive.

I'm just wondering if I should send him an e-mail to warn him. The news said that the main telephone exchange was hit last night and there are some outages. If his branch is out, he won't be able to get his e-mail. I need to think this over.

There's also the girl 'rb' and a couple of others.

Yeah, you might say I'm distraught.

Their insouciant perfidy is ineffable.

Posted by: button at March 28, 2003 06:06 AM

Alan, please let us know any updates about this. Thank you in advance.

Posted by: button at March 28, 2003 06:08 AM

By all means warn him or anyone who knows him by e-mail, carrier pidgeon or smoke-signal if neccessary.
Any Brit reading this, make sure you inform your MP. I've already used the phrase "Questions will be asked in the House" to the Beeb, as I think that appealing to their cover-your-posterior instincts would be more productive than an appeal to their finer sensibilities re squashing this.
'Nuff said, pending further developments.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at March 28, 2003 06:29 AM

Button, he has been warned. Read my blog post, even, which may be why he has been so quiet. Don't expect to hear from him before this is over.

As for the BBC... I believe they knew exactly what they were doing. Bastards.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at March 28, 2003 06:29 AM

Maybe, God willing, the junta will be too busy trying to get their communications network together after last night's bombardment to go looking for him. But remember how the Nazis were obsessed with sending those trains out of France no-matter-what even to the very last minute. When you're dealing with ideologues and fanatics, it's a bottomless pit.

Posted by: button at March 28, 2003 08:02 AM

Ha ha ha! Maybe Salam's extended family are the frickin fedayeen!

Posted by: Iran next at March 28, 2003 08:05 AM

Very curious how many really believe the guy's legit--I don't buy his sincerity, his persona or his 'facts.' I don't even think it's very cleverly disguised...but who am I to disagree with Insta and Command Post?

I do have one advantage, however....I've been to the region. I've lived over there for extended periods of time, know the people, know the religion and especially know the media. It's my job.

Posted by: JohnŠ at March 28, 2003 08:33 AM

Maybe...just maybe all of you'll concerns are misplaced. From what I can tell, Pax is a grown man. He has lived under Saddam's rule. He was the one who started blogging. He was the one who accepted the BBC offer. In other words, He is responsiple for putting his life endanger at this level. Remember that. He is the one who knew the risks and decided to take them. Although I wish him all the best, if winds up killed, it will be due to his poor judgement.
mike lawson

Posted by: mike lawson at March 28, 2003 09:25 AM

Of course, we have even less reason to believe in your authenticity than Salam's, Mr Anonymous.

Posted by: Ryan Waxx at March 28, 2003 09:34 AM

who me? (not a blog)
I just think ppl should realise that it is Salam's choice to put himself at this elavated risk. I for one admire his courage for doing so, however, given the current state of events, I do not think it is the smartest idea to be doing live interviews. But that is not my decision to is his.

Posted by: mike lawson at March 28, 2003 09:40 AM

I have been reading 'where is raed' blog for more than 6 months now and I believe he is genuine. It's not the facts but how he writes, the vibe, if you will. I recognise the state of mind of someone trapped in a country ruled by thugs - I spent first 18 years of my life under communism.

Having read Salam's entire blog, there wasn't much then, I realised why it is right to remove Saddam's regime. In the Cold War days, we wished for the US and the West to come and rid us of communists, even by force.

What makes me pretty certain Salam is real is that I would not expect anyone (including intelligence services) living in a western democracy to understand some things about living in a totalitarian regime.

Posted by: acl at March 28, 2003 09:42 AM

Well, as long as the BBC could make political hay out of it, what's one more dead Iraqi to them? Bastards.

I'm pulling for him, but Saddam's progressive crowd hangs women for waving at our troops - there's not much hope for Salaam.

Damn, I'm hoping I'm wrong.

Posted by: Andrew at March 28, 2003 09:56 AM

From Mike Lawson: ...He was the one who accepted the BBC offer. ...

MB can't see anywhere else in this thread that Salam "accepted the BBC offer" except from ML...reading all the other comments it appears that the BBC gathered info from everywhere else to be published! Would ML care to explain where/how/when Salam allegedly appeared 'live'??

Posted by: MommaBear at March 28, 2003 09:57 AM

perhaps, i had missunderstood what i had read. I assumed that salam gave the bbc his info. If i am mistaken, i do apologize. However, how the heck did the bbc get this info in the first place?

Posted by: mike lawson at March 28, 2003 10:10 AM

Digging around, putting tidbits from his blog together, etc., just as others have tried to do. His life has been in danger for quite a while, and he has developed 'antennae' that would warn him off from such a venture!

If Salam had granted an interview, he would have posted about it...he quit blogging for a bit the last time someone started gathering/compiling on it is HIGHLY unlikely he would submit, at this point in time, to an interview, particularly not with the beeb! He would know better than that.

Posted by: MommaBear at March 28, 2003 10:23 AM

God i would hope so. I thougt it would be pretty stupid to do a live interview. Perhaps he should do a "head count" and find out if any of his "friends" have been leaking his personal info.

Posted by: mike lawson at March 28, 2003 10:29 AM

Reporters (sorry, "journalists") don't give a good crap about the people they write about as a general rule. They care about "THE STORY", and about scooping other news crews and pleasing their bosses.

Most of them do have some morals, but few indeed have ethics.

Posted by: mojo at March 28, 2003 11:24 AM

Lileks mentioned today that the building Salam said his Internet service came from was photographed. Lileks heard it was one that was destroyed last night.

That may be why we aren't hearing from him.

Posted by: bryan at March 28, 2003 11:38 AM

The BBC might have gotten his info from the New Yorker article. The reporter from New Yorker did get some of it from Diane, who only showed him photos and told him certain things after he promised not to use it. This was naive of her, but 1) reporters are trained to gain the trust of the interviewee - it's happened before to too many people who know better, 2) the NYer reporter lied and used the info anyway. The New Yorker did take the story off their website after people complained, but it was already in the print edition, which the BBC could have seen.

Diane cares very much, believe me.

Posted by: Yehudit at March 28, 2003 12:44 PM

I've never read this Salam Pax guy, but maybe all of these personal details were his own disinformation.

Posted by: Lonewacko at March 28, 2003 12:56 PM

What's always bothered me, is if Iraq is a totalitarian country (and it is), how did this guy have unfettered internet access to begin with?
I was under the impression that only government officials were allowed access to it. (I can't find any info either way, so I don't know, but...)

Northern Iraq/Kurdistan does seem to have full access if you can afford it.

Posted by: Jeremy at March 28, 2003 04:31 PM

Yehudit, I wish I could believe you, but it's a real struggle at best.

John, I don't know who could pass your sniff test. A weblog is a form of mediated personality. That means that in his dreams, he's tall, dark and handsome, but in fact, he's short, fat and bald. Well, so what?

Posted by: button at March 28, 2003 04:57 PM

Yes, the BEEB has caller content. Phone calls, e-mails and even a voice-mail service you can access from a cell phone. Mostly, these serve the short- wave service.

You must be watching BBC on Public television or listening on NPR (if you're a Yank). I gave up on that crap a while ago. Despite that appalling editorial stance, including the Pax story, I have yet to find much fault with its SW content, which is usually so detached it is a shock, compared with most reporting. I listen to BBC often and did not hear about Pax on short wave (aka the original world wide web). Still, I cannot say it did not.

That said, it appears that part of the BBC wants to preserve its reputation; another wants to imitate CNN with cutsie "personal interest" stories such as that about Salam Pax that they sell to NPR and Public Television. More's the pity. Until I am truly offended by a story, I'll continue to trust and respect BBC shortwave.

Please get a short wave radio, listen for a bit, and give me your opinion of my standpoint.

And above all, do not assume that the content on one BBC stream mirrors all of the others.


Ed Bush

Posted by: Ed Bush at March 28, 2003 05:59 PM

I have parents who spent most of their lives under a totalitarian regime, anyone who says
that the fact he lives under one is reason enough to doubt his authenticity obviously knows
nothing about it. There are ways around their restrictions and controls, and when you find
one, especially one that may give you a chance to tell people the truth, if you are brave,
you take it and run. They may not have had the Internet in the USSR, but look at all the
evidence in the form of books, music etc. (Many of which, yes, did get people killed.) I
hope that somehow, by some miracle, he will evade the security services and American
bombs. The world would be a darker place without him and people like him.

Posted by: moirae at March 28, 2003 06:02 PM

Sorry to do this dbl post thing but I have removed the link and even his name from my site because there is no way I'm going to contribute to anything that might help them find him (Google rankings, a good point made by someone else). I think we should start a mass e-mail campaign to get google etc. to help eliminate anything that might help trace him. Look, they (google) agreed to certain content limitations the Chinese gov't required so they could provide access to Chinese citizens. The President and CEO's motto is "Don't be evil", I think they might listen...if its not far too late.

Posted by: moirae at March 28, 2003 07:00 PM

If anyone has taken my suggestion of e-mailing google seriously (which I somewhat doubt, I admit it is idealistic and probably too little, too late) you can do so here:

Praise and complaints:


Posted by: moirae at March 29, 2003 12:58 PM

Further developments:
The Guardian 'online blog' has noted your op ed and mentioned it on one of their entries which I saw when I dropped by there last night. Just so you know, it has crossed The Pond.

I must mention that your headline or title absolutely froze my blood when I first saw it and made my head swim.

I still can't forget the Hungarian radio station incident from the '56 uprising. That's what gave Frank Wisner the nervous breakdown, and I vowed when I became involved with this case that I am not going to let it get to me like that. Well, it almost did when I saw your headline.

Posted by: button at March 30, 2003 06:41 PM

I also know what living under a repressive regime is like. I grew up in the United States during the Reagan/Bush Sr era's and now the Bush Jr regime.

Posted by: Dreamweaver at March 31, 2003 09:10 AM

Dreamweaver...and travelled nowhere outside the US, right? No matter, talk to some immigrants outside your circle of friends. Seriously.

I've acquired several clues this way (e.g. to some ex-Chileans who put me straight about Pinochet, may his socks rot). Still missing many though, to state the obvious.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at March 31, 2003 09:38 AM

Actually, I live in New York and know people who work at the New Yorker, and that article was fact-checked out the wazoo: Diane knew everything that was going to be in it. If she's now saying that the reporter lied to her, she's just protecting herself from criticism, which I guess is understandable.

Posted by: New Yorker at March 31, 2003 02:38 PM

So much for "diversity". Imagine if Salam Pax had been Anne Frank. In these times the Left is revealing what its commitments are really about. In the midst of a war, we find that the "Vichy" spirit is alive and well.

Posted by: Brooks at March 31, 2003 11:31 PM

Going into Where is Raed? and seeing no new post is about the saddest moment of my day, for the past week. Well, except for reading the sadly under-reported facts on Hallowell and the Carlyle Group, but that inspires more a feeling of fatalism than sadness...

I'm not sure I understand why the BBC would do something so stupid and dangerous and shortsighted. BBC has a rep for at least not being the blind news-whores you find calling themselves "American Journalists". This is something I would have expected from CNN or, god help us, the Fox Newschannel. Or (gag) MSNBC.

We can only hope that his silence ends up being explained by the mass quantities of "shock&awe" we laid on the Iraqi phone system... Or maybe he had the sense to get the hell out of Dodge, & lives to post another day.

Posted by: karin h at April 3, 2003 12:57 AM

"Actually, I live in New York and know people who work at the New Yorker, and that article was fact-checked out the wazoo: Diane knew everything that was going to be in it."

A host of stories began springing up after the New Yorker article; many of them basically the same, put out by an AP feed. Even one here in our local paper. BBC didn't sign the death warrant, Diane did.

Was it 'payback' time for the scuds released on Israel back in the '90's?

Posted by: Allison at April 3, 2003 07:32 AM

Well, to be fair to Diane, almost every detail in the article was also somewhere in Salam's blog, which is how it was fact-checkable. But it's true that the immense amount of media coverage made those details way more easily accessible.

Posted by: New Yorker at April 3, 2003 04:32 PM

I was not enthousiastic about Diana's approach in regard to the New Yorker article either. But the DR-SP blog writer wrote something extremely specific in that blog early on. If that content is true, it would take only a single phone call by a dictator to find him.

Posted by: neurotechnology at April 4, 2003 09:15 AM
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