He calls himself Salam Pax--peace in Arabic and Latin, respectively. He claims to be an Iraqi living in Baghdad, and he posts poignant first-person reports on the Web. "The images we saw on TV last night...were terrible," begins one. "The whole city looked as if it were on fire. As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion, I was close to tears."
Pax's missives (at dear_raed.blogspot com offer Web watchers a rare look at how one Iraqi views the war. Although no one has been able to verify his identity, Pax appears to be the real thing, and his reports on bombings, power outages and dwindling food supplies became--until he lost Internet access early last week--must reading for war buffs of all political stripes.
War-related weblogs--war blogs, for short--have soared in popularity since the hostilities began. Their chief attraction is that they offer perspectives overlooked in most U.S. news reports--from war photos too grisly to print to viewpoints too far outside the political mainstream. And because their diary-like formats are so informal, they tend to invite reader participation, discussion and fiery debate.
Some war blogs are first-hand accounts from soldiers stationed in the Middle East. The anonymous author at lt-smash.us says he is a reservist in the U.S. military stationed in the Persian Gulf. In one entry, he writes about a recent encounter with some locals: "They were glued to their satellite TV set, switching between al-Jazeera, Fox News, BBC, the local station and Iraqi TV. They especially enjoyed the female anchor on Fox, with her short skirt." At sgtstryker.com the mother of a female Marine posts excerpts from her daughter's e-mails. And at chinpokomon.com Naval Lieut. Commander Kevin Mickey, stationed at Camp Patriot, Kuwait, posts droll photos and strong opinions about what should be done to Iraqis who execute U.S. POWs.
Plenty of war blogs are also posted by stateside armchair pundits. Sean-Paul Kelley, who runs The Agonist (at agonist.org) says traffic to his site has increased more than tenfold, to over 60,000 visitors a day, since the war began. From his home in San Antonio, Texas, the self-employed asset manager posts 10 to 20 news updates a day, culled from dozens of websites and media reports from such far-flung outlets as the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald and the Army Times. Each posting gets about 100 replies, which are also posted online.
Other pundit sites worth checking out include andrew sullivan.com (from the former editor of the New Republic and contributor to TIME), dailykos.com instapundit.com littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog warblogging.com and warincontext.org For military analysis, stop by Intel Dump at philcarter.blogspot.com Blogsofwar.com and command-post.org have good news updates.
Want to find some war blogs on your own? There is no central index, but one site usually leads to others. Cyberjournalist.net has loads of links to reports from writers embedded with the troops (at cyber journalist.net/features/iraqcoverage.html) And at daypop.com a blog-specific search engine, a search on Iraq turns up more than 2,600 results.