Where is Raed ? (www.dear_raed.blogspot.com) is an on-line journal (weblog) written by a Baghdadi architect who goes by the name of Salam Pax. The journal started in September of 2002 and continued through the United States' invasion of Iraq, sporadically interrupted by power cuts and lack of Internet access.

In the days leading up to the war, Salam gained popularity as the only "blogger", or weblog writer, in Iraq. Despite an article carried by Reuters and numerous attempts to determine the veracity of "Where is Raed ?", Salam has thus far maintained his anonymity even after travels and interviews abroad, a widely published collection of his blog entries ("The Baghdad Blogger"), and the publication of revealing details about his family and work situation.

Part of Salam's appeal to the Western reader lies in his knowledge of Western culture. He claims to have spent much of his life in Europe, having studied architecture in Vienna, Austria, and therefore possesses a decent fluency in English and German. Like many in the Iraqi elite, Salam has had the opportunity to travel and experience Western culture firsthand, and thus rejects many of the fundamentalist religious and nationalist viewpoints common in the Arab world. He claims to have "read the Tao Te Ching with more interest than the Quran", and occasionally points out that "the way [he] looks at other men makes them uncomfortable", an oblique reference to his homosexuality. Salam's irreverent tone and often humorous analyses of the Iraq situation have earned him a wide variety of fans, among them science fiction novelist William Gibson, quoted as saying "My man Salam. I'm a total fan. Tells it like he sees it, and sees it like I can't."

"Where is Raed ?" reveals many of the mundane details of Baghdad life inaccessible by foreign viewers that go unreported by major news outlets, such as the wild swings in the price of the Iraqi dinar, the black market in gasoline, and the propaganda released by the U.S. governments's "Public Diplomacy" initiatives.

Salam's political views can be characterized as generally liberal and secular, but he rarely endorses anyone: While decrying the brutal oppression to which Iraqis were subjected in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Salam criticized the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush as hypocritical and Machiavellian. Salam's outspoken political views have caused him to be accused as being a front for the Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency), the CIA, the White House, the Ba'ath Party, the Mukhabarat (Iraqi secret service), Uday Hussein, MI6, Raytheon, or any number of other political/corporate interests, depending on the political affiliation of the accuser.

In May 2003, Peter Maass, a writer for the British newspaper The Guardian, returned to the U.K. after a stint reporting the war in Iraq. Upon returning home and reading a few pages from the blog, Maass realized that Salam had been his interpreter during the months in Iraq, thus confirming his identity. Maass used this personal relationship to arrange a weekly column in the Guardian written by Salam, a deal he described as "selling my soul".

A few months after the war, Salam was joined by the titular Raed, a Jordanian friend who lives in Iraq, in writing the blog. A bit after that, Salam and Raed had some sort of fight and Raed stopped writing. As of April 10, 2004, Salam took a "hiatus" from blogging. Blog-watchers await his return with baited breath.

Update, May 14, 2005. Those who are still awaiting his return with baited breath have surely died by now. After nearly a year away, it seems doubtful that he will return.

Selected quotes:

I frikkin' met an Ayatollah! a real life Ayatollah, I watched him eat a banana and then he put his hands on my shoulder and prayed that I get married soon, my mom was beside herself with joy and I just couldn't stop laughing. The heretic fagot getting a blessing from an Ayatollah. that is how great those four days were.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

there is still nothing happening im baghdad we can only hear distant expolsions and there still is no all clear siren. someone in the BBC said that the state radio has been overtaken by US broadcast, that didn't happen the 3 state broadcasters still operate.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Dear US administration, Welcome to the next level. Please don't act surprised and what sort of timing is that: planning to go on a huge attack on the west of Iraq and provoking a group you know very well (I pray to god you knew) that they are trouble makers.

Oh and before I forget.........Help please. Tuesday, April 06, 2004
"Where is Raed ?" http://dearraed.blogspot.com/
"Salam Pax is Real" http://slate.msn.com/id/2083847

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