April 11, 2007
Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax: Part 1

Salam Pax

Watch the program: Part 1 | Part 2

I decided to make a film "How to stay alive in Baghdad" when it dawned on me that I am spending much more time and energy on answering that question than on anything else.

It has become a bit of an art form: Which roads to choose, which ID to show and how to answer questions about your religion when the check point isn’t clearly an official one. But the truth is you can never tell where the next car bomb will explode, so really it ends up being a matter of crossing your fingers and bravely ignoring the latest news bulletin.

I started by putting together a list of the bizarre reasons people have been killed for besides being in the army or being a politician –- which in Iraq qualifies you immediately as prime target.

The list included the wrong type of beard, wrong type of attire, wrong shirt colour and wrong profession. But there is one glaring omission, journalists. They have been a target for killings and assassinations from the beginning, but the more I was looking into that issue the more I got worried about making this film.

I decided to do the ostrich-manoeuvre and hide my head in the sand otherwise getting out of the car with a camera would have been really difficult.

The sister film, "Looking for fun in Baghdad," was an obvious one to make after spending 10 days on the streets looking at the absurd reasons people are killed for in Iraq. Initially I had proposed to go spend a couple of days at a studio where pop videos were filmed, but that was too optimistic. They had abandoned the building months ago, too dangerous a profession.

Even filming on the set of the soap opera took days to set up because the director was worried about the safety of her crew. Being a freelance filmmaker here makes getting people to trust you hard work. But it paid off, the atmosphere on the set was fantastic.

Even in this film I couldn’t really escape the subject of random violent death as it has become part of our daily reality. The question which still pains me and all Iraqis is that four years on and we still can't say with any certainty how many Iraqi civilians have died since the start of the war.

Before I end I would like to pre-empt a comment which invariably comes up, if I may.

I am not laying all the blame for the deaths of Iraqi civilians solely on the actions of the coalition forces. I realize that our own Iraqi politicians have been just as incompetent and have shown just as much insensitivity towards the suffering of the Iraqi people as the "coalition of the willing" has shown.

-- From "Baghdad Blogger" Salam Pax
Since before our own US-led illegal and immoral invasion and now occupation of Iraq, I've been asking several simple questions:

o Where has the threat been to justify so many lives lost and money spent?

o Where was the "last resort" that Bush talked about?

o Is there a poll of the parents and families of those killed and permanently injured?

o What about the Iraqis themselves that have long since been rioting in the street in protest of this war?

o Yes, I agree there are many terrorists in Iraq...where there weren4t before the invasion.

Mark Wise
Retired Army
It was really an impressive documentary! very well done but it's so sad the iraqi people live under such conditions...
I watched Salam's report on CNNi and found it to be refreshing.In a time where so much media focus lies on the latest explosion and the ever-increasing body count, it was insightful to catch a glimpse of everyday life in Baghdad. Though the news was less than ideal (i.e. the last remaining flower and music shops and the dwindling displays at the sole privately-owned art gallery), it gives one some confidence that the insurgency has not yet won. As long as there are Iraqi citizens who continue to brave the violent streets in order to carry on with their peaceful daily lives, there is hope for the future of Iraq. Only when the last Iraqi abandons his lifestyle to the ideology of radical Islam must we give up on the Iraqi people. Thanks, Salam, for bringing a more human face to the reality in Iraq.
This was terrific. It was thoughtful, well written, and eye opening, but Mr. Pax writes very well.

Thank you.
Fascinating. Salam Pax is clearly a gifted reported who gave me a rare glimpse of the day-to-day fear the people in Iraq live with. All I can say is, thank you!
Hello Salam,
I have just finished watching your blog on Baghdad and am impressed with your courage in videoing such a high risk documentary.like the rest of us in this world,most Iraqis are ordinary people trying to make a living and lead a normal life,I cant imagine living under such extreme circumstances coming from a country with freedoms we take for granted.It must be so diffuclt over there having to put up with such a faceless and gutless enemy with no courage to face you in the open and sort it out man to man,and i dont care what religion they are.Keep up the blogging and i hope what you are doing can make a difference.
So, what happened to all the security and democracy the Americans along with their sidekick the Brits were supposed to bring to Iraq? I thought they were going to bring them freedom but now they can’t even go to an art gallery or go for a walk by the river? Iraqi’s have lost over 65,000 lives, Americans have lost 3500 lives and there is still no sign of Freedom, democracy, and security.
I am glad that this show is being aired so that American people can what damage their government has caused. People of Iraq had more security and freedom during the reign of Sadam Hussein. As an Iranian I was never fan of the monster but I always backed and always will back the innocent people of Iraq from the tyrants who are keeping them prisoners in their home while stealing their natural resources.

Thank you very much for the documentary I have just seen about what Baghdad is really like now.
This clearly raises the essential question of:

Can we really put ourselves in the shoes of the innocent civilians who live in daily fear of death?

I have been deeply touched by the documentary - We need to make them see that there is much more to life than the sole enjoyment/leisure time that they now just get from seeing their children return home safely!

If this is not possible, I believe that they at least need to feel empowered to move on for a better life, a better future.

Who dares to actually say that their lives (of innocent civilians) have no value and why?


Leslie (U.K.)
It is a story that reveals cynically all that has gone wrong in Iraq. Makes one wonder whether Saddam should have continued at least then the killings were a particular group and particular place unlike now where it is anywhere, everywhere,anyone and everyone! I have watched Westerns on tv and Baghdad seems to be one Western town - of course what happened yesterday at Virginia Tech is Baghdad for Americans.
Thank you for the documentary and for sharing your point of view. I really admire how you state the facts without accusing anyone for causing today's situation in Iraq.
It is a shame that things have become so violent and so far from what Americans intended when they removed Sadam. Yet, casting blame is truly useless at this point. The war in Iraq is a war between good and evil. As long as good still exists, we shall all hold hopes that things will change for the better.

PS: Shame on some comments that justify the murders of Sadam better and more justified than what is happening today. No murder is justified. Only God should judge a man's death.
Yes, it is very sad to see the conditions the Iraqi people are living in today.
Yet, sadder is to realize that this condition was brought uppon then by a nation who calls itself Christian, defender of human rights, proclaimer of freedom and so much more.
My point of view my be a bit unpopular. I think people should lay off the Americans and British. They may have screwed up on the reasons for going doing the war in Iraq. Although I think the same war would have ocurred maybe 10-15 years later when Sadam had had sufficien time to become another Iran (probably helped by Iran or North Korea or both). I think civilian and military causalties/fatalities are much lower than a full out chemical/nuclear war would give the world.

Then there is the issue of the troop pull out. Were any of the people reading this comment alive during the reconstruction of Europe and Japan after WWII. Okay now try and imagine a military power trying to reconstruct a country where groups of the population refuse to end the war and these groups happen to be sponsored by the country's nearest neighbors. So lets say the US pulls out. Does anyone really think that Iran and Syria are really going to stand on the sidelines while free oil ladden land undergoes a civil war. That would be like the US pulling of South Korea which then happens to suddenly undergo a civil war which North Korea would play no part in or benefit from. Honestly what are the chances that NK would just sit there.

My point is unless the world and American Democrats back off and or help reconstruct Iraq, when the US leaves Iraq because politicians can not stand an unpopular war the violence will not lessen. The correct policy is if you start a war you need to see it through no matter what. See the effects Vietnam and Korean Wars if historical references are needed of failure to see a war through to the end. See Japan if you want a reference of what a rebuilt nation can become. Now imagine Iraq becoming the Japan of the middle east. Would peace in the middle east be possible? I think so.
I can't understand people who are quick to criticize and blame Americans for what is happening in Iraq now, when not a word of condemnation is ever mentioned and said of the real culprits who create the chaos, instability, and the despicable and heartless killings of the tens of thousand innocents. Surely, if all nations and people cooperate to fight this war on terrorism, then peace will be achieved. There is NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for terrorism!!!!
Hello salam,Thankyou for your willingness to share openly and with an honest heart, healthy views on complex conditions. May godbless your projects & protect you. Some nations forget the value of a women, the purpose why God created them, to bring beauty & gentle love to heal broken& hardened hearts. Keep up your great blogs, u will make a difference in jesus name amen!
I agree with NINA people need to stop attacking the US and its allies for thier efforts in Iraq!!!!
Hi Salam,
Thankyou for your openess and healthy views on tough times in this part of the globe. May God bless your projects and give you protection.
People forget the value of a women. The purpose of why God created her, to bring beauty, and gentle love to broken/hardened hearts. I wonder what Iraq would look like, if women could lead/walk along side male authorities in speech & action??
Keep up your outstanding blogs, you will make a difference!!
Salam Pax (great penname, "Peace Peace") rocks!
This war has taken so many lives, and I don't see that it has improved the lives of the Iraqui people. I have seen estimates as high as 100,000 civilians dead and it's such a travesty. I am embarrassed and ashamed to be from a country that would attack another country without provocation; and label anyone who protested this action to be a traitor. I never thought I would see this happen in my country, and here it is four years later; and lives continue to be lost.

Jody Johnson, MS
What I Fear Most!

That Iraq is the beginning. Why are we so focused on what Sadam did or what a bunch of terrorists do?; not that I am trying to whitewash their barbaric genocidal activities.

What the world and I should fear is:

* The only nation that used WMD (atomic bombs) against not one but two civilian population centers.

* The nation that has the largest nuclear, biological and chemical arsenal in the world capable of destroying the entire planet several times over.

* The nation that violated every known international law by abducting the Head of State of a sovereign nation (Gen. Noriega of Panama).

* The nation that experimented on its own troops by exposing them to radiation.

* The nation that advocates "Regime Change" as a national policy while at the same time talking about rule of law, democracy and human rights.

Now those are real reasons for concern and fear internationally.

Come on America give the world a break. As your great President Lincoln said you can't fool all the people all of the time.
That was a very informative video! Well done!!
Hi salam, thanks for the eyeopening story I share your views on yhe fate of the women and children.
It's a shame. They need to do somting about it insted of talking...
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