A letter to Salam Pax

“Salam Pax” is the pseudonym of the Iraqi blogger who writes “Where is Raed?”. Below is the full text of an email note I just sent to him.

Dear Salam Pax:

Allow me to introduce myself. I teach public policy at UCLA, and have a weblog.

Having discovered your blog only a few days ago, I immediately put it at the top of my blogroll, and have linked to it twice. I greatly admire your good humor and courage in the situation in which you find yourself.

My political position is somewhat unusual, but not unique to me: I strongly distrust the Bush Administration, but I have very reluctantly come to the view that overthrowing the Saddam Hussein regime is necessary, that only military force will do it, and that now is better than later. I have spoken out against “shock and awe,” and still hope that those leaked warplans will turn out to be disinformation rather than reflecting an actual plan to use mass bombing raids in inhabited areas.

I am writing to apologize in case I offended you. Several American bloggers were furious with me for what they thought was my callous response to your post headed “Rant.”

My response to your post was to commend it to the attention of those who support the coming war enthusiastically rather than reluctantly — the “warbloggers” — who have been pretending to themselves that Iraqis welcome the forthcoming “liberation.” Obviously, a massive military attack on Iraq is going to be bad for Iraqis, and I’m angry with my countrymen who have allowed themselves to believe otherwise.

The headline is a piece of American idiom, with two opposite meanings. On its surface, it is a rebuke to someone who is being overly particular in his desires. But its primary use, and the one I intended, is an ironic version of the same thing, said in sympathy when someone asks for something reasonable and gets it with a side-effect he never could have wanted: “I asked the dry cleaner to get the stain out of my shirt, and they put a hole in it.” “Picky, picky, picky!”

Recognizing that the forthcoming attack is going to cause suffering in Iraq, I still think that fighting now is best for my country, and for the world. That is what I meant by saying “This isn’t about your safety, it’s about ours.” My sorrow for what may happen to you and to others in Iraq is genuine. I regret that world politics has made our two countries enemies.

Know that you and your countrymen are very much in the thoughts of many Americans. We hope for a short war with few casualties and a peace that leads to a free way of life for the long-suffering people of Iraq.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Kleiman

(To email Salam Pax, click his name just above the title of his weblog. He notes on his weblog that he’s busy and may not be able to respond, but a few notes to let him know that most Americans don’t hate Iraqis, and that the inhabitants of Blogspace are grateful to him and impressed by his courage, wouldn’t be amiss right now.)

Footnote Two things surprised me about the response to my earlier post. First, the only two peacebloggers who noticed it at all thought it expressed indifference to, rather than concern about, Iraqi civilian casualties in the coming war. Second, none of the warbloggers bothered to respond, either to me or to Salam’s original “Rant.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com