A Confederacy of Dunces

Salam Pax enchanted the warbloggers for two reasons. First, his account of life under Saddam pricked readers’ hearts in a way that American politicians and PR firms never could, thus helping the case for humanitarian intervention. More importantly, Salam is, well, not like the rest of those people. He’s not only well-educated, but an architect, a bourgeois aristocrat like Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men. He’s hip to Western pop culture. And he’s gay, in a part of the world where few cars (and one would suppose even fewer camels) sport rainbow bumper stickers. For the warbloggers, Salam was the new Iraq – just like America, but with a splash of local color.

The warbloggers clung to his every post as the invasion commenced. Salam felt the explosions last night! Where’s Salam? Why won’t Salam write something? Is Salam OK? And I have to admit it was a touching show of humanity, these Andrew Jacksons with their adopted Indian. But soon enough, this Indian would confirm the old adage about the only good ones among his breed.

As liberation took hold, Salam began hanging with a bad element. He wasn’t so crazy about the U.S. anymore. There had been warning signs, of course; even before the invasion he wrote “Don’t expect me to wear a ‘I heart Bush’ t-shirt,” but that could be blamed on fear of Ba’athist reprisal. When he penned the following note to the president in the Guardian last November 18, though, it was too much:

“I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don’t seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

“Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

“To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service.”

Suddenly, all of Salam’s hip, liberal, Western attributes began to remind the warbloggers of, well, hip, liberal Westerners. James Lileks had had enough.

“Hey, Salam? F*ck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there’s a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba’athists. You owe him.

“Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba’athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile’s life. What’s certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that ‘scary guy without [sic] the hideous moustache’ (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you.”

No need to append “you effete faggot” to that; we all got it.

Some have criticized Lileks for the ludicrous machismo of this passage, but I think they’re being unfair. Lileks confessed he would never take up arms against tyranny, though I’m sure he’ll hurl his laptop at the first Canadian horde to darken his door. Besides, he had something of a point. It was a bit ungracious for this Iraqi to get the warbloggers all hot and bothered then claim he had a headache. No one likes a tease.

So the warbloggers dumped Salam. (Note the quantitative and qualitative shift in Salam references at top warblog Instapundit before and after the Guardian piece: 38 references before, all positive vs. a handful after, all negative.) But in no time, these witless Woody Allens found a new Oriental orphan/paramour in Zeyad. Now, Zeyad isn’t as sexy as Salam; he’s a dentist, a white-collar mechanic, really – too common to be a Havel, too rich to be a Walesa. You’ll find no dentists lionized in the works of Ayn Rand or Bruce Springsteen, but then again, you’ll also find few English-speaking, pro-American Iraqis with internet connections. The tooth-plucker had to do.

And he was good for awhile, damn good. Back when the administration was pinning the swastika on the Sunnis and Saddam loyalists, Zeyad wrote:

“Those militants don’t understand any language except the language of force. F*ck human rights. Those aren’t humans anyway. We desperately NEED to see some heads rolling. Believe it or not. There’s going to have to be some bloodshed for this to work. Bomb the hell out of Tikrit and Al-Awja. Massacre every last person of Saddam’s tribe. Rape his women. Yeah. Let them taste some of what we have endured the last 30 years. I don’t want to see my dreams ruined because of those trianglees. If the CPA doesn’t want to do it, send in a force of IP and civil defense forces and turn your face the other way, they’ll be more than glad to do it, believe me.”

This was the kind of Iraqi the warbloggers could use.

Then U.S. soldiers apparently murdered Zeyad’s cousin. (And when you throw an unarmed guy off of a dam, it’s hard to suppress a snicker as you claim self-defense – though a million such snickers have been suppressed since this war began.) Oh, how the warbloggers and their readers howled when Zeyad reported it – just read the comments beneath this post and this one. It can’t be true, it just can’t! And even if it is, well – well…he should thank us for liberating him!

And so the whole warblogger project, like this war itself, after a year of humanitarian posturing, essentially comes to this: f*ck human rights, f*ck Salam, f*ck Zeyad, and f*ck you, Iraq. Indeed.