Remembering Steven Vincent's Murder, August 2, 2005

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steven vincent.jpg

A year ago today, freelancer Steven Vincent became the first American journalist to be killed in Iraq by insurgents. His murder remains unsolved, though almost certainly was the work of Shia extremists in Basra, where he was living "in the Red Zone." Just days before he was abducted and shot to death, he had written a piece for The New York Times in which he detailed how Shia militia had infiltrated the British-trained police force in Basra, even writing of "death cars" driven by off-duty cops cruising the streets.

Vincent, a strong though critical supporter of the invasion of Iraq, wrote several feature stories for Reason (go here and here), including 2004's, "Faith, Shame, and Insurgency: Life in Occupied Iraq," which was a haunting portrait of that place even before his murder. Near the beginning of his report, he wrote:

I'd come to Iraq to test my beliefs. Back in New York, I'd been a firm and vocal backer of the war, though not necessarily of the Bush administration. After witnessing firsthand the horrific events of 9/11, I felt the civilized nations of the world had to take on terrorism at its roots—roots that included the Middle East's legacy of poverty, hopelessness, and despotism, epitomized by, among other tyrants, Saddam Hussein. Saddam may or may not have contributed to the murder of 3,000 people in downtown Manhattan, but I believed a free and prosperous Iraq, spreading ripples of democracy and the rule of law from Damascus to Riyadh, was a key element in preventing similar attacks in America or elsewhere.

What I saw and heard surprised, delighted, and horrified me in ways I could never have predicted. I still support the war—even more so, in fact. But I'm less optimistic than I was on April 9, 2003, the day the statue of Saddam fell in downtown Baghdad, when, through my tears, I believed the good guys had won.

That whole story, as relevant today as when first published, is here. His contributor's note is here.

His book and blog, both called In the Red Zone, are online here.

Kesher Talk has a roundup of remembrances here.

Reason eulogized him as a journalist whose "work transcended ideology" here. Even if you disagreed with him about the invasion of Iraq–as I did–he was an exceedingly rare journalist, one who was not only open about his biases and presumptions but also about the times he changed his way of thinking. In that, he remains a model for the profession.

His widow, Lisa Ramaci, has established a foundation that aids the families of freelance journalists killed while doing their jobs. For more information, go here.

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  1. Its also very possible he was fucking his female translator and the killing was an ‘honour killing’ — however he died sucks and was dishonourable, but its worth noting its far from black and white why he was murdered.

    I’d like to say something nice about the guy, but his reports showed he was new to the area, knew little about what he was talking about and his obit could have been written a week or so in advance. Basically the ugly American who meets an ugly end.

  2. In an honor killing, the woman (not the man) is normally held accountable.

    “Ugly American who meets an ugly end.” Talk about black and white …

  3. Not to speak ill of the dead, but

    “Saddam may or may not have contributed to the murder of 3,000 people in downtown Manhattan”

    He wrote this in 2004?

  4. The Translator
    The FBI held Nour as a witness for three months while they investigated Vincent’s murder. She provided what assistance she could. When asked of her future plans, she spoke of wishing to finish Vincent’s book. She said she hoped to travel to the United States briefly to speak to a publisher. The FBI told her that she could never get a visa. They never even gave her the opportunity to have a visa interview. They dumped her penniless outside the Green Zone gates, far from her city.

    How can they have been so callous? Was there no one in the Green Zone who would fight to protect her? I am ashamed.

  5. Spur,

    What a complete a–h— of a statement to make.

    Lots of gossip and no supporting evidence. And as a bonus dose of a–h— you ally yourself with those who would kill somebody for working with a woman in the middle east. Your support for liberty and free speech is a lovely thing to see.

  6. You see, this is why I hate forums. Nick tries to remember a friend of his who was murdered, and the first post is by some ghoul talking unsubstantiated smack about the guy. It’s enough to make me want to reach through the tubes and strangle people.

    Let’s fisk this:

    Its also very possible he was fucking his female translator and the killing was an ‘honour killing’

    Really? Where are your sources on that? Is this sort of like the affair GWB was supposed to be having back in 2000 that every journalist knew was taking place buy couldn’t provide one scrap of evidence for?

    but his reports showed he was new to the area

    Umm, before 2003, who wasn’t new to Iraq? Who should we have sent to report the news? The authors of Lonely Planet Iraq?

    his obit could have been written a week or so in advance

    I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean. Are you suggesting a conspiracy to cover up his death?

    Basically the ugly American who meets an ugly end.

    Nice. Dude goes to report on the war, gets killed, and some Comic-Book Guy in England or Canada pisses all over his memory.

    I’d like to say something nice about the guy

    Then shut the f*ck up and don’t say anything at all.

    Nick,

    I know at the time Vincent’s death really shook you up and reading between the lines, I think you may even have felt some responsibility for it. Don’t let it get you. It’s all good. Peace brother.

  7. Spur and Joe,

    You guys are the worst. I would love to see either one of you have the balls to go over and cover a war. Why don’t you just be honest Joe and come out and say, the guy though Saddam might be behind 9-11 so he deserved to murdered. If you want to debate 9-11, fine, but what does tht have to do with this poor guy getting murdered? As far as the “he was screwing around with his translator” BS, first as far as I have read, it is not true. Second, even if it was, that doesn’t make his death any less of a tragedy. Third, to imply that it did is to dehumanizing and insulting as to be beyond belief. Basically it is saying, “well he was screwing with the animals at the zoo, what did he expect.”

    I hope Reason just deletes both of your posts for our sake and yours.

  8. Is “They got what they deserved.” the new mantra towards any war-supporter who died?

  9. Fortunatly, John, no one gives a shit what you think.

  10. Is “They got what they deserved.” the new mantra towards any war-supporter who died?

    Sure. Its the complement for “chickenhawk.”

    Those who support the war but don’t go Over There should shut the fuck up.

    Those who support the war and do go Over There should be murdered.

    See how it works? Shut up or die. Nice dialogue we’re having, isn’t it.

  11. John,

    If you think that disagreeing with someone’s opinion on Iraq is the equivalent of calling for their murder, then you’ve been reading too many right-wing blogs (Powerline, Captain’s Quarters, NRO, Instapundit – am I right? In your history, no?) that actually do call for the murder of those whose opinions they disagree with.

    I can see how you could make such a mistake, given your intellectual baggage, but that connection exists only in your mind. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wrote, or what I think – no matter how well you’ve been trained to assume otherwise.

  12. “given your intellectual baggage”

    well, there’s the most generous statement on H&R in a while.

  13. Joe,

    You made a snarky policy comment on a memorial post.

    It was out of place and inappropriate, don’t be surprised if you get a little grief for it. Your subsequent posts aren’t making you look any better.

  14. Joe,

    When someone puts up something nice about their friend who was murdered and all you can say about the poor guy is “he did say this, blah blah”. That is terrible. Like I said, if you want to debate Saddam and 9-11 that is one thing. But to run the guy’s reporting down in this forum is terrible. You are so angry and defensive over it because you know it is. The truth is always the worst and most damaging to say.

  15. TJIT,

    I found it odd that that particular statement would be singled out as the lead quote. That’s all.

  16. Interesting theory, John.

    Why don’t you try writing something truthful about my comment, and see how it turns out?

  17. “Not to speak ill of the dead, but

    “Saddam may or may not have contributed to the murder of 3,000 people in downtown Manhattan”

    He wrote this in 2004?”

    What does that have to do with the fact that he was murdered? I am sure he said a lot of things. Why do you feel the need to run the poor guy down when he is not here to defend himself? It wasn’t as bad as spur’s comment but it was still a lousy thing to say and you know it.

  18. “What does that have to do with the fact that he was murdered?”:

    Absolutely nothing. Which is why it was so odd that you concluded it was a comment on his murder.

    “I am sure he said a lot of things.” And wrote them, too. Which is why it is an odd choice to highlight this one.

    “Why do you feel the need to run the poor guy down when he is not here to defend himself?” This was the bone we dogs were thrown to chew on.

  19. “Absolutely nothing. Which is why it was so odd that you concluded it was a comment on his murder.”

    This is a thread about him and his murder. Why else would it be on here? The whole point of your posting was to run the guy down and diminish the tragedy of his being murdered. You know I could almost respect your honest if you had just come out and said, “he was pro-war and I am glad he was murdered” rather implying so and then skulking behind the “I was just point something out” excuse.

  20. “This is a thread about him and his murder.”

    …and his writing, which you can find by reading the except quoted in the post, or by clicking on any one of the one-two-three-four-five-six links that lead to it.

    “The whole point of your posting was to run the guy down and diminish the tragedy of his being murdered.” You’re so good at understanding my motives. BTW, are you ready to apologize for calling me “a longtime supporter and enabler of Saddam Hussein” yet?

  21. It was out of place and inappropriate, don’t be surprised if you get a little grief for it. Your subsequent posts aren’t making you look any better.

    Why is it innapropriate to point out in a thread that discusses some of his work, that some of his work was hackery? I didn’t see the “only positive ass-kissey feel good comments allowed” disclaimer on the post.

    When Nick writes : Even if you disagreed with him about the invasion of Iraq–as I did–he was an exceedingly rare journalist, one who was not only open about his biases and presumptions but also about the times he changed his way of thinking. In that, he remains a model for the profession.
    Why is it inappropriate to point out that this “model for the profession” was pushing false truths in 2004?

    And how is it understandable and acceptable that certain morons will infer from that comment that “Vincent deserved to die”.

    John goes around attributing words and motives to peoples comments that just aren’t there, and people look at joe and say “well you should have expected it because you made a critical comment” instead of saying something along the lines of “despite what some might consider a comment in bad taste at this time, the asshats who are equating criticism of Vincent’s journalism with statments that imply he got what he deserved are way off base”

    Pathetic. No one implied he deserved to die — those who infered it are most likely projecting their own beliefs. But If Vincent is going to be labeled a “model for the profession” when he was actively peddling lies, no one should get all huffy and outraged when someone questions some of his work — even in an ‘In Memorium’ thread

  22. But If Vincent is going to be labeled a “model for the profession” when he was actively peddling lies”

    How is it a lie. There has never been any proof that Saddam was behind 9-11 but there has never been any disproof of it either. If this guy beleived that, you can call wrong or misguided but to call him a liar is to say that he didn’t believe it or knew that it was untrue and said it anyway. That is a bold accusation and I would like to see some proof. I doubt you have it so instead you and Joe just choose to slander the guy by calling him a liar. Of course I live in a world where reasonable people can disagree. You and Joe live in a world where everyone who disagrees with you is a liar!!! Pathetic.

  23. Hey joe. I think the quote was highlighted to help with the “only Nixon” factor. A war supporter has a lot more credibility when he points out the ways that the war isn’t working out than a war opponent.

    And Nick picked a great photo too.

  24. John said:
    How is it a lie. There has never been any proof that Saddam was behind 9-11 but there has never been any disproof of it either. If this guy beleived that, you can call wrong or misguided but to call him a liar is to say that he didn’t believe it or knew that it was untrue and said it anyway. That is a bold accusation and I would like to see some proof. I doubt you have it so instead you and Joe just choose to slander the guy by calling him a liar.

    To say that Saddam may or may not have been involved would not be problematic if our government had never looked into it. But in fact the 9/11 commision did and found that there were no operational ties and that Saddam wasn’t involved. To say other wise is either a lie or a conspiracy theory pointing to an official coverup. Neither of which are legitimate journalism, and especially not the “model” of journalistic standards.

    It’s these kinds of journalistic standards that enable misinformation to become conventional wisdom. Its this kind of journalism that explains why, 18 months ago only 36% of Americans believed Saddam had WMD and now, 18 months later (and the facts haven’t changed…he still didn’t have WMDs) 50% of Americans believe he did. It’s not slander to point out that this “model” of journalism was factually challenged and peddled “facts” that have been officially discredited

    John you are a joke.

  25. “To say that Saddam may or may not have been involved would not be problematic if our government had never looked into it. But in fact the 9/11 commision did and found that there were no operational ties and that Saddam wasn’t involved. To say other wise is either a lie or a conspiracy theory pointing to an official coverup. ”

    Your logic is pretty twisted. Not agreeing with the conclusions of the 9/11 commission does not necessarily imply an official cover-up at all. One could always believe that they just got it wrong.

    ” Its this kind of journalism that explains why, 18 months ago only 36% of Americans believed Saddam had WMD and now, 18 months later (and the facts haven’t changed…he still didn’t have WMDs) 50% of Americans believe he did. ”

    Are fifty percent of americans then liars?

    “No one implied he deserved to die — those who infered it are most likely projecting their own beliefs.”

    Relax there Freud.

  26. “Saddam may or may not have contributed to the murder of 3,000 people in downtown Manhattan…”

    To those of you taking such delight in maligning my husband because of this one part of a longer sentence, why don’t you read the rest of it:

    “…but I believed a free and prosperous Iraq, spreading ripples of democracy and the rule of law from Damascus to Riyadh, was a key element in preventing similar attacks in America or elsewhere.”

    and try to understand that Steven was NOT saying Saddam DID contribute, only that whether he did or not, Steven thought that deposing him was the right thing to do? Whether or not you agree with him personally, and you have every right not to do so, you do NOT have the right to ascribe opinions and thoughts to him when you never even met him.

    And that goes for you, too, Spur, with your “fucking his translator” bullshit. What a pathetic, miserable lout you must be – viciously maligning a dead man and a living woman on a memorial post that his wife then reads. Check out my response to Juan Cole on this subject, or my interview today at National Review Online, and tell me those are the words of the wife of an adulterer. And don’t think I’m one of those simps who doesn’t see reality when it bites me on the ass, if anyone would have known whether or not Steven was having an affair, believe me, after being with him for 23 years, that would have been me.

    You have no idea what you are talking about – either you OR Joe. So why don’t you just keep your completely rude, incorrect and irresponsible opinions to yourselves and let people who appreciate what Steven did have the floor, instead of adding your smarmy comments? Then maybe you can look in the mirror someday without cringing. Morons.

  27. Oh, P.S., my thanks and gratitude to all of you who stood up in Steven’s defense before I got here to leave my comment. I truly appreciate your courtesy and kindness. xoxo

  28. Ms. Lisa Ramaci-Vincent,

    I am sorry about the atmosphere here, your husband’s memory doesn’t deserve this at all.
    He was a guy who had more courage than I’ll ever know.
    He was also one of the people who turned me from a blind war supported into realizing that Iraq had some REALLY bad things going down, things that the US helped unleash such as Sadr.

    His courage to find out truths that were unpleasant to his worldview and to go that extra mile to see what lies under the rock is why he should be celebrated.
    The world morns for your loss Ms. Vincent…

  29. spur,
    Just a word of advice, you might think that’s your mouth that moving when you speak, but all that shit dribbling down your chin might be telling you something…something very, very improtant…

    joe,
    The context of your first remark was not only out of place but plain rude.
    With that kind of attitude, I hope you don’t mind when I smirk at the job the undertaker does to your late-mother’s face, or how I bitch about how long the funeral takes…

  30. Thank you, ChicagoTom. But would it be in bad taste if I disagreed with something you said?

    “But If Vincent is going to be labeled a “model for the profession” when he was actively peddling lies..”

    I never said, or even implied, that he was lying. (John, you didn’t score very well on the Verbal SAT, did you?) He was probably just mistaken.

    John, “There has never been any proof that Saddam was behind 9-11 but there has never been any disproof of it either.” Bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah!!! You really got me there, what with my failure to prove a negative.

    Writing it in 2004 was bad enough.

    Mrs. Ramaci, I’m sorry for your loss.

  31. Frank A,

    The “context” of my remark was the comment thread following a post on a political blog. Perhaps your delicate constitution would be better served by avoiding them.

    If you make comments like that about my mother on a blog thread, I don’t imagine I’ll pay much attention. Nor, more relevantly, would I pay much attention if you questioned how she did her job, which is probably the metaphor you were reach for.

  32. The “context” of my remark was the comment thread following a post on a political blog. Perhaps your delicate constitution would be better served by avoiding them.

    All I gotta say is damn my sensibilities and go read Vincent’s work.
    It was probably some of the best reporting about what was going on in Iraq and it’s a damn shame the world has lost that much talent…

  33. Sorry if I came across a little bit harsh but — if I had my druthers Mr. Vincent would still be alive.

    I just found him to be a hack writer with more guts than sense and little understanding of the environment, culture, history, etc. of the area he was attempting to write very poorly about — hence the ‘his obit could have been written in advance’ comment.

    This is a public blog, if I want to take the piss out of a public figure who has been dead a while I damn well will. How much flack will people get on this blog who lay into Castro 30 nano-seconds after his long over due death is announced. Or perhaps more on target with Mr. Vincent — Michael Moore, or Studs Turkel, or take your pick…my guess will be zero.

  34. I think spur’s comment was totally inappropriate.

    I also think the reaction to joe’s initial comment was an overreaction.

    Honestly, and in general, I’m probably more likely to agree with John than with joe. But in this case, I think John projected things onto joe that joe wasn’t saying.

    Here’s what I got from joe’s first comment:

    By 2004, the consensus understanding was that Saddam had no meaningful ties to Al Queda and had nothing to do with the 9-11 attack.

    Steven Vincent’s quoted statement indicates that he did not accept that consensus, or at least not without some doubt, which appears to imply either:

    1) This journalist had not yet caught up to the consensus, implying that he lacked information that was common knowledge at the time.

    or

    2) Perhaps as a result of his travels in Iraq, Vincent picked up some information, or maybe just a “hunch,” that made him hesitant to accept the prevailing consensus.

    Either possibility has interesting implications and may therefore be worth commenting upon.

    I think maybe joe’s comment, coming so soon after spur’s, is suffering from “halo effect.”

    ————————-

    That said:

    Ms. Ramaci-Vincent, my condolences for the loss of your husband. I haven’t read his writings yet, but it appears he was a very remarkable man. I’m very sorry that the first comment you read here was so insensitive and inflammatory.

    Nick, my condolences for the loss of your remarkable friend.

  35. Sorry if I came across a little bit harsh but — if I had my druthers Mr. Vincent would still be alive.

    I just found him to be a hack writer with more guts than sense and little understanding of the environment, culture, history, etc. of the area he was attempting to write very poorly about — hence the ‘his obit could have been written in advance’ comment.

    Well that’s an interesting opinion…I wonder what you think about other people who do hard jobs that have a high liklihood of death? Just a couple of schmucks who had it coming to them I supose…

    And where again was he misinforming people about the nature of Iraq? You have provided little evidence of the bullshit charges you are levelling against Vincent, so please provide some links instead of sounding like a total jack-ass.

    Oh, and that conlfation with Castro was so sweet, I mean I would never guess that a reporter was so similar to a dictator who jails people for no good reason and has turned his country into a shit stye…

    Stevo,
    Go here, http://spencepublishing.typepad.com/in_the_red_zone
    for his blogs. As opposed to the shit spur is spouting, he is a damn good reporter.

  36. If you make comments like that about my mother on a blog thread, I don’t imagine I’ll pay much attention.

    Yes, joe, because we all know how sensitive you are when it comes to making attacks on commenter’s mothers.

    jf, you kiss your mother with that mouth? You shouldn’t – she’s got scabies.

  37. y’all can fuck off really. if Michael Moore keeled over tomorrow or went to Iraq and got offed and I insulted him and his family in his immediate death, all those reaping venom on me would be giving me virtual high fives.

  38. spur, you just don’t get it, do you? I’ll try to explain it as simply as I can:

    If you’re going to talk smack, you better have game. And my friend, you have yet to bring it.

    First you repeat Juan Cole’s calumny about Vincent being an adulterer, a claim Ms. Ramaci-Vincent demolished A YEAR AGO. Then, beaten there, you insist Vincent was a hack who didn’t know anything about Iraq — a hack who wrote for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, our own Reason, and others, in addition to his book. Some hack. At the time of his death, Vincent had spent 7 months in country trying to tell the rest of us — hawks and doves alike — what the hell was going on over there. And you? What have you accomplished lately? Working toward that PhD in Middle Eastern Studies at Oxford, are you?

    Now that we’ve all taken you to the woodshed, you’ve retreated to, “Yeah, but if Michael Moore, but if, but if…” You argue like a five-year-old.

    I’m not even sure what you’re trying to accomplish on this thread. Everything you say is demonstrably untrue.

  39. y’all can fuck off really. if Michael Moore keeled over tomorrow or went to Iraq and got offed and I insulted him and his family in his immediate death, all those reaping venom on me would be giving me virtual high fives.

    —————————–

    This is H&R, not LGF, dumbass. Please adjust your tin foil hat accordingly.

  40. jf,

    Thank you for proving me point, that I don’t take personal comments on blog threads very seriously. Good to know you have my back.

  41. In hingsight, it was bad form on my part not to express my condolances up front.

    There have been so many deaths from this war that I guess I’m a little numb, my sympathies about any one senseless death in Iraq not as sharp as they used to be.

  42. Mr. Vincent was the only foreign reporter killed in Iraq in 2005.

    Thank you for your courageous sacrifice, Steven Vincent.

    “It is a worthy thing to fight for one’s freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man’s.” – Mark Twain

  43. When you are in a hole, you should quit digging.

    You both should appologize.

    And if Michael Moore were killed tomorrow in Iraq, which would never happen b/c he lacks the courage of Mr. Vincent, I would say what Nick said Mr. Vincent: “I didn’t agree with him, but his murder was an unjust tragedy.”

    Steven Vincent’s work is missed. We could sure have used his work in the last year.

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