“It’s called courage”

I received this as a comment on a post noting Juan Cole’s theories about the murder of Steven Vincent. It’s from Vincent’s wife, and she thinks, well, I’ll let you read for yourself. I’m posting it here in its entirety, and it’s worth every bit. All emphasis is mine:

I thought you might like to see the email I sent Juan Cole in response to his August 8th post about my husband. Sorry if it runs a little long –

“Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner.”

Mr. Cole –

(I refuse to call you professor, because that would ennoble you. And please change the name of your blog to “Uninformed Comment”, because that is precisely what the above paragraph is.)

I would like to refute this shameful post against a dead man who can no longer defend himself against your scurrilous accusations, a dead man who also happened to be my husband. Steven Vincent and I were together for 23 years, married for 13 of them, and I think I know him a wee bit better than you do.

For starters, Steven and Nour were not “romantically involved”. If you knew anything at all about the Middle East, as you seem to think you do, then you would know that there is no physical way that he and she could have ever been alone together. Nour (who always made sure to get home before dark, so they were never together at night) could not go to his room; he could not go to her house; there was no hot-sheet motel for them to go to for a couple of hours. They met in public, they went about together in public, they parted in public. They were never alone. She would not let him touch her arm, pay her a compliment, buy her a banana on the street, hyper-aware of how such gestures might be interpreted by the misogynistic cretins who surrounded her daily. So for you brazenly claim that she was “sleeping around,” when there is no earthly way you could possibly know that, suggests to me that you are quite the misogynist as well. Cheap shot, Mr. Cole, against a remarkable woman who does not in any wise deserve it.

This is not to say that Steven did not love Nour – he did. And he was quite upfront about it to me. But it was not sexual love – he loved her for her courage, her bravery, her indomitable spirit in the face of the Muslim thugs who have oppressed their women for years. To him she represented a free and democratic Iraq, and all of the hopes he had for that still-elusive creature. And he loved her for the help she gave him – endangering herself by affiliating with him because she wanted the truth to come out about what was happening in her native city of Basra and the surrounding area. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that it is possible to love someone in a strictly platonic way, but I assure you, it can happen – even between men and women.

And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour, but only to take her out of the country to England, where she had a standing job offer, set her up with the friends she had over there, divorce her, and come back to New York. He had gotten her family’s permission to do so (thereby debunking the “honor killing” theory), but more importantly, he had gotten mine. He called one night to say that it had been intimated to him that Nour’s life was essentially going to be worthless after he left; since he was an honorable man (a breed you might want to familiarize yourself with), he then asked what I thought he might do to help her. I told him to get her out of the country and bring her here to New York. However, the only way she could have left Iraq was with a family member or husband. Since her family had no intention of going anywhere, Steven was her only recourse, and it would have been perfectly legal for him to convert, marry her, then take her out of Iraq to give her a chance at a real life. (Now that that avenue is closed to her, I have made inquiries to the State Department about the possibility of my sponsoring her in America. Do you perhaps labor under the misapprehension I am such a spineless cuckold that I would put myself out thusly for the woman you believe my husband was traducing me with? If so, I’m guessing you don’t know much about the Sicilian female temperament.)

As to your claim that “In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men”, it may perhaps have escaped your notice that Iraq does not abut, in any way, shape or form, the Mediterranean Sea. Italy is a Mediterranean culture, as are Spain, Greece, Southern France. In none of them is “honor killing” an accepted form of “protecting womanhood”. As to the southerly lands like Morocco and Algeria, they are not, in the general scheme of things, considered Mediterranean cultures – they are considered Arabic, a whole different beast. For you to seemingly be unaware of this, and then to say that my husband “did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture” again begs the question, just where do you get off? If you cannot differentiate between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, how is it you feel qualified to pontificate so pompously?

How often have you been to the Middle East, Mr. Cole? In 2000 Steven and I spent almost a month in Iran on vacation. In 2003 we spent 10 days over Christmas in Jordan. In the last 2 years he had made not one, not two, but three trips to Iraq, and at the time of his death had about 7 months of daily living there under his belt. Can you offer comparables?

How much Arabic do you speak, Mr. Cole? Steven had been learning Arabic for the last two years, and was able to converse simply but effectively with the people he came into contact with. He had many expatriate friends in the Muslim world from whom he was always learning. As I sit here writing this at what was his desk, I can look at the literally dozens of books he devoured about Islam and the Middle East – each one thick with Post-It notes and personal observations he made in the pages – as he sought to comprehend and absorb the complexities of the culture and the religion he felt, and cared, so deeply about. If you would like a list of them, please email me back and I will be happy to send you a comprehensive accounting.

Yes, Steven was aggressive in criticizing what he saw around him and did not like. It’s called courage, and it happens to be a tradition in the history of this country. Without this tradition there would have been no Revolutionary War, no Civil War, no civil rights movement, no a lot of things that America can be proud of. He had made many friends in Iraq, and was afraid for them if the religious fundamentalists were given the country to run under shari’a. You may dismiss that as naive, simplistic, foolish, but I say to you, as you sit safely in your ivory tower in Michigan with nothing threatening your comfy, tenured existence, that you should be ashamed at the depths to which you have sunk by libeling Steven and Nour. They were on the front lines, risking all, in an attempt to call attention to the growing storm threatening to overwhelm a fragile and fledgling experiment in democracy, trying to get the world to see that all was not right in Iraq. And for their efforts, Steven is dead and Nour is recuperating with three bullet wound in her back. Yes, that’s right – the “honorable” men who abducted them, after binding them, holding them captive and beating them, set them free, told them to run – and then shot them both in the back. I’ve seen the autopsy report.

You did not know him – you did not have that honor, and you will never have the chance, thanks to the murderous goons for whom you have appointed yourself an apologist. He was a brilliant, erudite, witty, charming, kind, generous, silly, funny, decent, honorable and complex man, who loved a good cigar, Bombay Sapphire gin martinis, Marvel Silver Age comic books, Frank Sinatra, opera and grossing me out with bathroom humor. And if he was acting in a dangerous manner, he had a very good excuse – he was utterly exhausted. He had been in Basra for 3 months under incredibly stressful conditions, working every day, and towards the end enduring heat of 135 degrees, often without air conditioning, which could not have helped his mental condition or judgment. He was yearning to come home, as his emails to me made crystal clear. But on August 2nd, two days before my birthday, he made the fatal mistake of walking one block – one – from his hotel to the money exchange, rather than take a cab, and now will never come back to me. I got a bouquet of flowers from him on August 4th, which he had ordered before he died, and the card said he was sorry to miss my birthday, but the flowers would stand in his stead until he made it home. They are drying now in the kitchen, the final gift from my soulmate.

I did not see your blog until tonight. I was busy doing other things – fighting the government to get Steven’s body returned from Basra days after I was told he would be sent home, planning the funeral, buying a cemetery plot, choosing the clothes to bury him in, writing the prayer card, fending off the media, dealing with his aging parents, waking and then burying him – but I could not let the calumnies you posted so freely against two total strangers go unchallenged.

You strike me as a typical professor – self-opinionated, arrogant, so sure of the rightness of your position that you won’t even begin to consider someone else’s. I would suggest that you ought to be ashamed of yourself for your breathtaking presumption in eviscerating Steven in death and disparaging Nour in life, but, like any typical professor, I have no doubt that you are utterly shameless.

Sincerely,

Lisa Ramaci-Vincent

Donations can be made to Spirit of America in honor of Steven Vincent by following the link on this page.

UPDATE: I posted a few thoughts on this here.

UPDATE 2: Juan Cole replied. Well, he really only reposted his original article and then told us about how he was right all along, but that’s probably as close to a reply as Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent is going to get. Links and more here.

UPDATE 3: If you haven’t read Steven Vincent’s book IN THE RED ZONE: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq, you probably should.

Comments

  1. Actually Juan Cole is an expert on Middle Eastern culture, and so am I. I didn’t take the same courses that he did, but I did sleep in the same Holiday Inn.’ OMG!!! That was funny!!!! Good one dude!

  2. So then why would marrying her make any difference to enter the UK? You don’t need to be married to land in London. And since Vincent is not a UK citizen Mour would not get work papers from marrying him. Nour did not need to marry Vincent to enter the UK.

  3. You’ll be glad to know that Juan Cole has responded to Lisa’s statement (24 August ‘Informed Comment’ entry, reproduced below): Steven Vincent Case I am reposting here with commentary my comments of 8 August about Colin Freeman’s story in the Telegraph concerning the murder of art journalist Steven Vincent in Basra. Below, I also reprint part of the Freeman article. I am clarifying my remarks because Vincent’s widow is circulating a misleading characterization of them. I understand the grief of a bereaved widow, and I am not interested in arguing with her. But Vincent does not get a pass on being criticized simply because he is dead (the entire historical profession would collapse in this case). Most of her beefs seem to me to have to do with Mr. Freeman’s article, which I referred to as part of the ‘news consolidation’ aspect of this blog. A recent, informed discussion of the case by David Enders, who is in Basra, makes many of the same points as I did. The wingnuts are going crazy over this contretemps, which is what is really interesting. I think it is because Vincent is a symbol for the pro-War American Right. He was inspired to his journalism in Iraq by September 11. That was his first mistake. The poor Iraqis had nothing to do with September 11. He was a defender of the Bush administration policies in Iraq, and he was killed in the course of reporting on Shiite religious parties’ and militias’ influence in Basra. But that influence was a direct result of Coalition policies! The Bush administration appointed the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI, a pro-Iranian Shiite party) to the Interim Governing Council, in July of 2003. The Bush administration decided to allow the Badr Corps militia (SCIRI’s paramilitary) to operate as long as its members did not carry heavy weapons in public. How can the US Right then complain that SCIRI is taking over Basra? They already certified the legitimacy of SCIRI and the Badr Corps (both of which fielded candidates in the Jan. 30 elections, winning 9 of 11 provinces with substantial Shiite populations)! I think Vincent is such a controversial figure because he and his death can be read on the left as symbols for the failures of Bush administration policies in Iraq. For the Right, he is a sort of martyr, now beatified and beyond criticism. So here is the commentary: Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. Note that I did not say, as Mrs. Vincent assumes, that he was sleeping with his interpreter, Nur al-Khal. That he was romantically involved with her is obvious from his blog, where he calls her ‘Leyla’. I don’t have any interest in their personal lives per se, but this relationship may have had something to do with his death and so is fair game for mention. ‘If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Everything I have said here is true. Clueless Americans don’t understand the principle of gender segregation for the most part, and if they do understand it they are horrified by it. But in large swathes of the world, it just is not considered right for a male to be in the company of an unrelated female. It isn’t just a matter of sleeping around, as my wingnut correspondents assume. It is being alone in the company of an unrelated man or woman, and having that be known publicly. Male honor is invested in the protection of the virginity of female relatives, and a conviction that something improper may have occurred would be enough in some instances to cause a vendetta. It is not just a Muslim thing. Many Orthodox Jews and Middle Eastern and Balkan Christians feel the same way. Clueless Americans don’t understand gender segregation, and they don’t understand clan honor as practiced in most Arab societies. We American men aren’t dishonored in particular if our sisters sleep around, though I suppose in high school it can’t be pleasant for a guy to have everyone taunt him that his sister is a slut. But in Arab culture, a brother can’t show his face in public if his sister is known to be a slut. He is enraged by this loss of honor, and sometimes he will kill her to wipe out the shame. And, by the way, her father and male first cousins are also shamed, and might conspire in taking action to restore their honor. It is in fact an extension of a general Greater Mediterranean (please read Fernand Braudel) ethos of honor and honor killings. Mostly we in the West know about the issue of furious husbands killing their wives for sleeping around. In many Mediterranean and Mediterranean-influenced societies (e.g. Latin America), such a ‘crime of honor’ was not even typically punished by the courts in the past. The reason the husband behaves this way is not just, as many Americans imagine, insane jealousy. It is because he believes his honor has been irretrievably damaged. There is a large literature on honor killings. Look up the phrase at amazon.com if you want to dip into it. The whole system of clans, clan honor, and the investment of male honor in the protection of the chastity of females may be horrific. But it is the norm in much of the world (it operates to some extent in parts of Africa, in South Asia and in Central Asia, as well). Not understanding and respecting it can get you killed when you are out there. By the way, the US military in Iraq understands all this perfectly well, and has forbidden troops from fraternizing with Iraqi women, and has punished some who did. That is, if you asked a US officer in Iraq about this issue, he will tell you the same thing I have. So how can I be criticized for articulating it? Finally, the politics of honor and the body of the woman has been inscribed on nationalist politics in the Middle East for decades. Colonialism and foreign conquest has been spoken of as a kind of rape. Having foreign troops in one’s country fooling around with its women is seen as symbolic of the humiliation of imperial subjection. This theme is central to the novel Midaq Alley, by Nobel prize winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz. In the novel, a young Egyptian man kills his girlfriend for consorting with Western troops in Cairo during World War II. The incident is a symbol of Egyptian resentment at having been recolonized by Churchill during the war. Vincent, as an American male going about in public and private with an unrelated Iraqi woman, put himself in the position of being seen as symbolizing this joint sexual and colonial humiliation. It may well have been part of the reason he was killed. Some correspondents have said it was odd that Vincent was killed but Ms. al-Khal survived. Uh, you can’t shoot someone 4 times without intending to kill the person. Her survival is welcome and piece of good fortune, but the intent of the shooters is obvious. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture There are kinds of knowing. Vincent could not read a book about the Middle East written by a Middle Easterner in Arabic. He did not understand Shiite religious law. He saw the surface of things because he was there. He did not know their depths. How many of us would accept an art critic’s claim to be an expert on French politics and culture when he could not read French literature and had only been in France off and on for 18 months? When the person could not read President Chirac’s speeches in the original when reprinted in the press, could not read French literature or legal writings, and the extent of his knowledge of Catholicism was that he had attended some masses at the Notre Dame? Of course if he was in Paris when a riot occurred, he could describe what he saw, and could interview English-speaking French or use an interpreter to interview some rioters and politicians. He could write knowledgeably about the riot, and could add to our knowledge. But he wouldn’t be a France expert. and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, Read his blog. ‘ and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner. ‘ I.e. he was egregiously breaking the rules of gender segregation and female honor. He should have had a male interpreter. His death was most unfortunate, and I felt it. He was a colleague of sorts. But he behaved foolishly and frankly ignorantly. ——- The Telegraph * Murder of US reporter in Iraq may be linked to marriage pledge By Colin Freeman (Filed: 07/08/2005) British officials hunting the killers of an American journalist in Basra are investigating the possibility that he may have been targeted over his relationship with his Iraqi translator, whom he had pledged to marry. Investigators believe that Steven Vincent, a freelance reporter who was abducted and shot last Tuesday, may have angered local religious hardliners with his conduct. The interpreter, Nour Weidi, who was shot four times in the attack, has told investigators from her hospital bed that Mr Vincent planned to marry her so she could settle in the United States. The investigation is being led by Iraqi police, with British and US officials playing a strong supervisory role. Speculation over the murder initially focused on the possibility that Mr Vincent was killed after writing articles alleging that Basra’s police had been infiltrated by Shia death squads. The pair were abducted soon after midnight in central Basra. Mr Vincent’s body was later found nearby with multiple bullet wounds. The murder was unusual in that was no attempt was made by his attackers to hold him hostage or make political capital out of his nationality. No group has claimed responsibility, suggesting that terrorist involvement is unlikely, say investigators. Staff at the Basra hotel where Mr Vincent had lived for three months say the couple’s relationship had drawn disapproval and warnings of retribution. But investigators have not commented publicly on whether they think the relationship was sexual, and believe that the case has hidden complexities. ‘There is a straight-line connection that people have drawn between Steven Vincent criticising the Iraq police and therefore being murdered,’ said one investigator. ‘But from the evidence so far, including accounts we have had from the Iraqi interpreter, that is not the immediate conclusion we are drawing. It appears to be quite a complex case. ‘There is the possibility that this was an attempted ‘honour killing’, related in some way to the relationship he had with his interpreter. But it does not fit the pattern of honour killings as it is usually the woman who dies.’ Mr Vincent, 49, a former art critic who turned to journalism after witnessing the September 11 attacks, had been married to his American wife for 13 years. She is understood to have been aware of his plans to marry Ms Weidi for visa purposes. Police are now examining Mr Vincent’s articles and weblog to trace people he interviewed and wrote about. He was not afraid to voice pro-US views or get into rows with locals. In one weblog entry, he describes a heated exchange with an Iraqi who looked disapprovingly at his translator because she was not wearing a headscarf. He seemed relaxed about his personal security. He had no bodyguards, travelled in taxis and made no secret of his disapproval of local Iran-backed Shia militias. In an opinion piece published in the New York Times the day before his murder, he alleged the existence of a ‘death car’, a white Toyota full of off-duty police who killed political opponents. He also claimed to have received death threats and to have unearthed political scandals.’

  4. To all the people who argued about the possible marriage or otherwise. A few years ago a close friend and former teacher of mine from a top UK university, after being out of touch for some time, informed me of a serious problem that was taking place. A brilliant graduate teacher from a country outside the EU was about to have her contract terminated by another university, which were doing their best to get rid of her. With her contract, her residency permit would also be terminated, and she would be deported to her native country. Her position there, for personal rather than political reasons, was so bad that if that happened she would commit suicide, and, my former teacher said, he could not blame her. I know the man: he was and is the ultimate in honour and honesty. I also knew the lady a little. My reaction was immediate. The day was Thursday, and her residence permit would espire on Sunday. I told him: get in touch with her; get a date at the registrar; I will marry her and take her to the Italian consulate, where I will put matters in motion to make her an Italian citizen. As an Italian citizen, nobody will be able to touch her. After a decent interval, there will be a quiet divorce. Fortunately, it came to nothing, because her employers could not find anyone of her calibre and gave in at the last minute. But it happens, folks, it happens. My own father did the same for a stateless Czechoslovak refugee during the cold war, so that I have a legal half-sister whom I never met. Marriage is one way in which an honourable and brave man can take a woman out of a hellhole and to safety. Pity Mr.Vincent could not manage to do it fast enough.

  5. Clueless Americans don’t understand gender segregation’ LOL. People understand its evils all too well. But to understand is not to love, or to excuse. Unless, it would seem, you are Cole. Why is Cole upset anyway? Surely he understands the culture of the Internet, a culture of free exchange of opinions and ideas? If not, he only has himself to blame for bringing this unprecedented criticism by a -gasp- woman on himself. Just how badly does Cole envy segregated societies (actually societies with segregation imposed on them by men)?

  6. Juan Cole is willfully myopic. The Telegraph article on which he commented states that it was unclear whether or not Steven Vincent’s murder was an honor killing and that his wife was ‘understood to have been aware of his plans to marry Ms Weidi for visa purposes.’ Despite reading this, he states unequivocally that Mr Vincent ‘was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter’ and goes on to conclude that ‘Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture.’ Lisa Ramaci-Vincent’s reply fleshes out her husband’s integrity, passion for learning about his subject and caring about the people he encountered. I am anxious to read Steven Vincent’s work, since he seemed to be trying to understand and report what was happening in Iraq and the Middle East with the sensibilities of someone who values individuals. Apparently, he was disgusted by corruption and the oppression of women enough to shed light on it and help one woman get out from under it. The sincerity and depth of the good will possible from such a point of view is impossible to the scholar who pretends the choice not to approach a subject from this ‘western’ viewpoint makes his analyses more objective. Vincent’s form of scholarship requires moral evaluation but that does not disqualify it from describing the truth. Meanwhile, the vaunted expert (tenured at U of Michigan and president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association) who shot his mouth off about Mr Vincent, responds to his widow’s comments by insulting her husband’s scholarship further. It is hard not to be offended when he uses the term ‘clueless Americans’ twice to emphasize how little we understand about Arab societies, pours several paragraphs worth of his knowledge on us. Then, he tries to put over the idea that one would have to soak up as many reams of books on the subject as he has before understanding the subject. ‘There are kinds of knowing,’ he writes smugly. Indeed, there are. Mr Vincent offers true understanding of the issues and lives at stake in Iraq and beyond. Juan Cole leaves one wanting for that sort of truly deep understanding. This quote from Steven Vincent’s blog (July 26) sums up the issue nicely: ‘And there it was, the familiar Cultural-Values-Are-Relative argument, surprising though it was to hear it from a military man. But that, too, I realized, was part of American Naivet+

  7. Seems Cole is set on his ‘honor killing’ speculation. And that he either can’t read plain English, or didn’t bother to actually read Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent’s email: ‘And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour…. He had gotten her family’s permission to do so….’ With her family having given permission, whence, then, comes Cole’s ‘honor killing’? Likewise, from both the email and Steve’s reports, we’ve seen the extremes to which Steve and Nour went to avoid ever being in private with each other, so where did Cole get that they associated ‘in private’? Maybe it’s that, like many experts, Cole cannot admit that the culture on which he is an expert is profoundly unworthy of admiration in many respects, so he must find someone to blame in order to avoid addressing that little problem. Or maybe it’s that he’s such a primitivist at heart that he can’t refrain from sitting up in his tree flinging shit at anything in sight.

  8. Cole was apologizing yet again for a culture that is now being civilized as a result of 9-11.

  9. Most of you posters don’t seem to understand Cole is the only one not judging here. What was his judgement, that in situ the man’s actions were foolish and going to get him killed? From everything I’ve seen and heard, they were. He’s not defending anyone, nor his he apologizing or promoting the culture that did it. He didn’t call the woman a slut, just that her actions could very easily be interpreted as promiscuous/offensive to male sensibilites (weren’t they, for right or wrong?) He is simply calling a spade a spade. Not every sees things in a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ mindset, judging other cultures based on little to no experience with them…

  10. As Norman Mailer pointed out, Americanism as an ideology can be seen in the light of the apparent fabrications which lead to the police state which has come to pass.’ That gibbering sentence is a really good illustration of why no one reads Mailer’s work anymore. Here is a much better quote from a much better author: ‘Fascism is forever descending on America, yet somehow always lands in Europe.’

  11. ‘His whole post is one big long passing of judgement on Vincent and clueless Americans.’ Do you think Vincent got himself killed? So do I. So did Cole in his initial post. He had to defend himself when people started putting words in his mouth. Here’s an abridged list of stuff he never said, but assumably ‘clueless Americans’ who make a call without watching the play: He never said Vincent’s death was a good thing. He never said that the cultural tenets that may have gotten Vincent killed were good things. He never said Vincent’s interpreter was a slut. He never said any of it was a good thing, just a likely explanation…

  12. The biggest irony here regarding all of those heaping scorn on Juan Cole (the grieving widow excepted)is that it can be argued that Mr. Vincent shared the same sympathy and ideology regarding the Shia south as Mr. Cole. In fact, it is Cole, a leading expert for decades on the Shia, who has been instrumental in informing people on the dangers of Iraq, with a Shai dominated govt, creating an Islamic state with sharia laws. It is Mr. Cole to whom many people turn to learn specifics regarding what Shia faction is aligned with what militia, the history of Sadr and his father, the views, role and power of Sistani, who has what connections to Iran, what rights are going to be potentially lost, etc. I would think Mr. Vincent would very much have enjoyed meeting Mr. Cole as they shared so many interests. And, if Mr. Vincent was the serious student of Shias, southern Iraq, ect., well then he must have had at least one Juan Cole book on his shelf. Mrs. Vincent has my sincere condolences. And, as a grieving widow it must have really hurt to read speculation regarding whether her husband was physically intimate with another woman. But, when you consider the public way in which he was attempting to get this woman out of the country – asking her family to marry her, stating he was going to convert to Islam – well, you can see where The Telegraph, that Cole was quoting, assumed they were really an ‘item.’ There is one thing that sounds especially odd here, though. I wasn’t aware that a woman couldn’t leave Iraq without a male family member or a husband. There are numerous examples of Iraqi women coming to the US to speak recently where they were not accompanied by a male relative/husband. Could it be that the woman’s family forbid it? That they are part of the very conservative southern Shias who are trying to force Sharia law and Wahhabi type social mores onto the citizenry? If she was someone so dedicated to preventing the fundies from taking over, what made her decide to leave for a job in London? Could she have been threatened? And, did she think if she just left without family permission and blessing her family would be threatened? If so, it seems likely that the murder of Mr. Vincent could very well be related to the honor code thing. I mean, even though he appeared to have asked for her hand, this must have really put the family in a spot if they are part of the very traditional, sharia law advocate group. Even though Vincent stated his aim was to convert, well, he was not a muslim. And worse, he was an American. So, even if the nuclear family did not participate in the shootings, it is easily within the realm of possibilities that a local hardcore militia did it. How about the group that recently reacted with extreme violence against a mixed sexes picnic at the university in Basra?

  13. I understand Lisa’s indignation, and I’m surprised by the language Cole uses in describing Peter’s relationship with Nour, but as part of a rational, balanced dialogue we’ve got to note that attacking Cole on his expertise is going to look silly. The guy speaks and reads fluent Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. He writes in those languages, and according to the bio online, he’s spent years and years in the Middle East (even as a child). So let’s attack him on his choice of words, but the guy is one of the leading experts on the Middle East and his blog has won all kinds of awards from even mainstream orgs. My sympathies for the widow, but I’m not going to join her in attacking Cole’s credentials. — Peter

  14. My sympathies for the widow, but I’m not going to join her in attacking Cole’s credentials.’ Huh? You mean the prefesser isn’t a snooty, know-it-all, blame-America-first, French-sounding, ivy-tower, terrorist-loving mysogynist? Didn’t you read the emotional outpouring of righteous indignation from Murdoc, Andy Sullivan, et. al.?? They can’t be just angry because it fits their anti-professional worldview and assumptions, right? 🙂

  15. This is a tender thing to ask but I can’t be the only one wondering. Why didn’t Nour just leave? Vincent must have had contacts. I mean people are going back and forth from Jordan all the time. How about Kuwait? Not that the ride to Jordan isn’t dangerous but she would have had to take it at some point and it would probably be easier not doing it with an American. As someone said above, Iraq is still suppose to be working under the interim laws. While it might be turning really strict in the south, you can still cross the national border without a male relative can’t you? Why would you put your family through that if you’re just gonna get a quickie divorce anyway? If Vincent just wanted to help a friend get out, well why didn’t he just do it? I mean, did he really need to convert to Islam, get married and personally escort her to London? And, like, can a married American who marries an Iraqi in Iraq get a divorce in London anyway?? Here in Arizona we’re having some issues with polygamist cults on the Utah border. Now, if I resented the way a friend was being treated and I wanted to get her out, I don’t think I would like try and infiltrate the group, pretend I was a polygamist and marry her just to get her out of there. (Not that my wife is as open as Mrs. Vincent.) I think I would just try and help her sneak away.

  16. Hey courage is one thing but what do you call it when someone yells ‘integration now’ in a 1950s kkk ralley? Good thing Bush took August off. Remember his reaction when those contractors went for a joy ride thru downtown Falluja without letting the Marines know their plans? whoowee

  17. bayheim: Which ’emotional outpouring of righteous indignation from Murdoc’ are you referring to? Which attacks on Cole’s credentials have I made? In fact, I’ve repeatedly pointed out that the esteemed Professor is, indeed, knowledgeable about the Middle East and that the rumors didn’t originate with him. It’s what he’s doing with that knowledge and those rumors that I don’t agree with. Better look around a bit before flying off the handle. Or are you just angry because it fits your worldview and assumptions? :]

  18. bayheim: And though I haven’t read Andrew Sullivan in over year (I think) I wandered over to see what ’emotional outpouring of righteous indignation’ was to be found. I half-hoped that I might be able to mock it a bit for kicks. Instead, I find that the only mention of this whole incident (at least since Lisa Ramaci-Vincent made her letter public) is a one sentence link to someone’s post on the subject and a mention of credibility. So the ’emotional outpouring of righteous indignation from Murdoc, Andy Sullivan, et. al.??’ consists of something written by Al. I don’t have the URL of Al’s blog. Please post it here so we can check out his emotional outpouring. I’m not sure, but doesn’t this make you an idiot? Now, now. Don’t get mad…I’m only asking a question.

  19. I’m not sure, but doesn’t this make you an idiot?’ Name calling. The first refuge of the willfully ignorant. I was just poking fun, Jesus. But, since you care so much: Upon closer examination, I’m suprised to discover you personally have only accused Cole of ‘smearing’ Vincent, so perhaps its not fair to say you are too worked up about the matter. But, its pretty obvious your ‘what more needs to be said’ presentation of a very emotionally charged letter indicates your own opinions of the situation. Include that with the company you keep (the majority of your commenters & the some of the people who’ve linked to you) & your response to my first post with insults (you should really fix the link, btw, it would be more effective if the picture wasn’t a mile down the page past the ads b/c you don’t know how frames work), and maybe you can see the difficulty I had in making a distinction between your particular brand of oversimplification. You’ve got me there chief. But, let’s look at another case: Andrew Sullivan a.k.a. the paragon of dilittantism. He knows virtually nothing of the subject, every prediction he’s made about the course of the war from start to finish has been wrong, and its never struck him that there might be real-world consequences to playing pundit (for other people, of course). His response, while brief, was the same yarn he always has: experts don’t know anything, other cultures are inferior, etc. I would say my words were a pretty fair characterization for him. So, let me rephrase that, I had misspoken: ‘Didn’t you read the emotional outpouring of righteous indignation from [the majority of the posters on the blog ‘Murdoconline’ but excluding Murdoc himself, whose indignation is not blinded by emotion but rather perhaps based on jingoism & cynicism], Andy Sullivan, et. al.?? They [of course, excluding Murdoc again but not his fans or blog neighborhood] can’t be just angry because it fits their anti-professional worldview and assumptions, right? :)’

  20. bayheim: Oh, I’m certainly worked up about the matter. But I have done nothing like you accused me of doing. Your comment in question had one (count ’em) point: That I, Andrew Sullivan, et. al. was/am guilty of ’emotional outpouring of righteous indignation’. The two named bloggers are guilty of nothing of the sort. That weakens your case considerably, doesn’t it? And yes, I’m aware of Sullivan and his history. That’s exactly why I haven’t read him in over a year. And regarding the ‘majority of the posters on the blog ‘Murdoconline” you’ve got it wrong. There is one (count ’em) poster on Murdoc Online. That would be Murdoc. There are countless commenters, however. A fine distinction, some may say. But it is absolute. The downside of an open comments policy (like on this site) is that all sorts can speak their mind. Other than commercial spam, I have deleted exactly three comments in the two years I’ve had them for violating my ‘policy’, and the most recent was about six months ago. This means that all types can say all sorts of things. That doesn’t mean it’s what the site stands for. This isn’t a bulletin board or a moblog. It’s a blog with an open comments section. If I only allowed comments that were in line with the sentiment of my site, do you think yours would still be up? How about Juan Cole’s comments section, BTW? What’s up with that? And, yes, I realize the adstrips mess things up at times. I don’t like it much. But if I wanted frames I’d use frames. Finally, calm down, there. I didn’t call ANYONE a name. I was just asking a question. Which I noticed you failed to answer.

  21. Commenters, posters. The distinction is trivial to me. Every blog has its regulars, whether they ‘post’ or ‘comment’. Reading over the comments, its pretty obvious the demographic being attracted: Anti-intellectual, overly-emotional, jingoistic, bucolic, two-dimensional thinkers. I don’t see how my original characterization is off, I’d like to think its obvious but I guess not. As to the rest of your response…did you even read what I wrote just now? I don’t feel like repeating myself; I’ve already said my piece. But, let’s get back on track. Perhaps it would help if I give you some perspective: Juan Cole is essentially a doctor of history (hence the title). Doctors, whatever their profession, are charged with holding a dispassionate stance on things – lab-coat doctors are often stereotyped as being indifferent to human suffering, but really its just that they intentionally distance themselves from their subjects. Dr. Cole isn’t ‘smearing’ anyone, he’s putting together several sources of information to account for Vincent’s murder, and making some connections to what he knows. That he appears callous in doing so is directly connected to the fact that he’s supposed to be: that’s what historians do. I don’t mean to disparage his widow (and I am sure Cole isn’t either, based on his response) but most of her statements are colored by the heat of the moment, and many of them are mischaracterizations, and some are just wrong. She just lost her husband; she’s not one to be argued with. Those who jump on her bandwagon (especially you), though, should realize as I first noted, Cole isn’t saying that Vincent’s death was ‘good’ & he isn’t trying to defend the killers. He is noting Vincent’s actions up until his death put him at terrific, and somewhat needless, mortal danger. You call that courage because of the sociopolitical context. I call it lunacy, needlessly dangerous lunacy. But then again, we probably have an identical disagreement about the whole adventure in Iraq, so I guess everything is nice and symmetrical. I just hope to God the macrocosm doesn’t share the same fate…

  22. ++Commenters, posters. The distinction is trivial to me. Every blog has its regulars, whether they ‘post’ or ‘comment’.++ Are you kidding? I can’t help it if it’s trivial to you. I suspected it was, which is why I wrote ‘a fine distinction, some may say’.

  23. Regarding Cole being a dispassionate historian doing what he’s supposed to do blah blah blah.’ Now isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? If you see it that way, if you can’t see the distinctions between Cole and other pundits that’s, as they say, your problem amigo. Consider which is more important distinction to make: the task of the historical profession, or the difference between a poster and a commenter on a blog… P.S. once again, I will reiterate that I already addressed the you/andrew sullivan tangent. I lead you to my posts, but I guess ‘aint no one can make you read them!

  24. I, too, am delighted to know that Juan Cole has responded to Lisa’s statement ++I understand the grief of a bereaved widow, and I am not interested in arguing with her. Isn’t that just great? He feels compelled to call her husband an ignorant man who got what was coming to him, but doesn’t feel like arguing with her. How convenient. ++But Vincent does not get a pass on being criticized simply because he is dead (the entire historical profession would collapse in this case). Yet if historians stayed busy slandering the dead only a week or two after the fact, while lacking any facts, people’s favorite sport would be hunting historians with hounds. Come to think of it, it does sound like fun. ++A recent, informed discussion of the case by David Enders, who is in Basra, makes many of the same points as I did. Well isn’t that just great. We all know how worldly wise 24 year-olds are. Whatever his opinions on how married forty-somethings act, I’d take them as gospel. ++The wingnuts are going crazy over this contretemps, which is what is really interesting. I think it is because Vincent is a symbol for the pro-War American Right. +++ I think it’s because a breathless ninny feels compelled not only to slander a brave writer, but has to insult the writer’s intelligence, along with the writer’s wife’s while he’s at it. ++He was inspired to his journalism in Iraq by September 11. That was his first mistake. It may have been a mistake, but still not on the level of Mr. and Mrs. Cole’s tragic mistake with birth control. ++The poor Iraqis had nothing to do with September 11. And the poor Germans had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor. Yet both were under the thumb of National Socialists, and both enjoyed the support of Nazi apologists. ++He was a defender of the Bush administration policies in Iraq, and he was killed in the course of reporting on Shiite religious parties’ and militias’ influence in Basra. But that influence was a direct result of Coalition policies! Well of course. Everyone knows that Bush had far greater influence over Shi’ite religious beliefs than every leader since Ali. In fact, al-Sadr is just a Bush sock puppet, unless of course al-Sadr opposes Bush, in which case he’s just one of Bush’s many Play-Do creations. This view could be summed up as Cole’s circular ‘Mr. Potato Head’ theory of the Middle East. Still, Vincent was a defender of our policies, or more properly an advocate for a change in Iraq’s policies, which I suppose makes him just like every soldier over there. By extension, Cole’s reasoning would also explain the deaths of any US soldier at the hands of assassins, indicating that Casey Sheehan was a dumbass, while his mother is ‘wise’. ++So here is the commentary — Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. Note that I did not say, as Mrs. Vincent assumes, that he was sleeping with his interpreter, Nur al-Khal. That he was romantically involved with her is obvious from his blog, where he calls her ‘Leyla’. I don’t have any interest in their personal lives per se, but this relationship may have had something to do with his death and so is fair game for mention. Oh, and I’m romantically involved with every woman who puts me on a first name basis– So if I call Juan Cole ‘Juan’, does that mean he’s romantically involved with me? Yikes!!! ++’If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Again, for those like Cole who are goegraphically challenged, Basra is further from the Mediterranean than Birmingham, and the population of Basra doesn’t have ancestors who’ve ever lived on the Mediterranean. That’s what passes for insightful knowledge among people who only spent six years in the Middle East, as compared to people who only spent two years, which apparently rates one a fool. By then by that scorecard, Muhammed down at the Quicky Mart knows five times more about the Middle East than Cole, which isn’t really surprising. ++Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. And where an academic whores himself for hits, it brings enormous shame on his teachers, colleagues, students, and family, but unfortunately for us, it’s rare for them to kill him. These mindless bleatings and sadly unforgiveable behavior tend to be confined to the ignorant, arrogant, and dimwitted desk barnacles of academia, but are not unknown amongst people who can hold real jobs. One clue to stupidity is thinking a PhD in the study of someone else makes an expert. For example, show me a male professor of feminist studies and I’ll show you a professor who in actuality knows less about his subject, his specialty, his raison d’etre, than OVER HALF the people on the planet. At least Juan Cole, in his specialty, is only guaranteed to be more ignorant than a billion other people, but his recent postings indicate that this estimate is far, far too generous. More to the point, hearing Juan Cole bleat about male honor does make for sidesplitting hilarity.

  25. bayheim: I responded to your obvious misunderstanding of what I was saying (and even of what Sullivan was saying) and then, since you extended that misunderstanding to include commenters, I responded to that as well. If I didn’t read your comments what do you think I was responding to? You can all of a sudden pretend it’s a tangent if you’d like, but despite your request to get back on track, I must once again remind you that the track you’re on doesn’t exist as I didn’t say what you said I did. Since you carry on as if Cole’s place in the world is what you and I are discussing, I did mention Cole a bit and made pretty clear what I think of what he’s doing with his knowledge, but that’s neither here nor there. If you’d like to go on and on about Cole and how what he’s doing is so vital, you’re welcome to. As we’ve established, MO has an open comments section and I only delete truly hateful stuff. But unless something piques my interest I’m don’t really care to get into that discussion. I believe I’ve been more than fair about the way I’ve referred to him since I posted the letter, and while I’ve got my doubts about his motivations I’m not questioning his knowledge or his expertise in matters Middle Eastern.

  26. Murdoc…you just said: ‘….I’ve got my doubts about his motivations’ And that’s what I’ve been speaking to this whole time, you just haven’t been listening. That’s the main attraction for me. I never said ‘you are assailing his knowledge / expertise’, but you seem to think I did. I’m telling you you’re wrong about his >motivations<, and your 'commenters' and the other bloggers I've read today aren't even THINKING when they react. They just react, knee-jerk style.

  27. ++They just react, knee-jerk style Oh, and like putting on a clown suit, marching under Iraqi flags with a Bush picture labeled ‘Hitler’, at a rally sponsored by Kim Il Jung’s chief American supporter, and staging an innovative ‘shit in’ on the sidewalk i

  28. ++ George Turner At least the nutjobs who are closer to me ideologically aren’t getting us bogged down in a ‘war’ we cannot win, at the cost of much blood and treasure. They are harmless loons, you are less so.

  29. I’m sure there are a million Vietnamese boat people, and a couple million more Veitnamese refugees, who will be delighted to hear that, Bayheim. Whether it’s North Korean madness, totalitarian communism, Ba’ath National Socialism, fundamentalist theocracy, or rule by genocidal tweenage thugs, one group comes out of the woodwork to offer their wholehearted support, while blaming the eventual result on the US.

  30. Oookay, bayheim, you obviously aren’t paying proper attention. The telegraph article never mentions the word romance. In fact, if you read the article, there is more evidence against the idea of romance than for it. Now, since I’m unsure if you are aware of the definition of romance let me show it to you. Romance (n.) – A love affair. Now, unless one is describing objects other than humans one really really doesn’t tend to use word placement like that unless they intend to infer a sexual relationship. Cause y’know, I love my family and friends but I don’t exactly have a romance with them. So, immediately Monsieur Cole has implied that their relationship was based at least in part on sex. The article itself does not support that idea. Especially given the fact that it later says that this wasn’t like any other honor killing they’d seen. Wow, what a surprise. He then writes the following: ‘In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men.’ which when applied to Iraq is moral and cultural relativism at it’s finest. The correct statement for what he is talking about in Iraq and with honor killings in general would be ‘In various parts of islamic and hindu culture, as well as some palestinian christians, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to control access to and behavior of his womenfolk, who otherwise have virtually no rights of their own.’ So far as I know those are the only areas in which honor killings and maimings occurr(maimings tend to happen more often with Hindus though.) However, as noted by the police this doesn’t have the marks of your typical honor killing either, and so for Cole to imply that as the main reason for his death is just as much of an indication of his leanings as his use of the word romantic. The idea behind his post was quite probably meant to cast doubt on Vincent’s character, not to wonder about the specifics of the murder.

  31. My condolences to any who are berieved over the death of Mr. Vincent. To the others who are trashing Mr. Cole on a ‘moral’ high ground, your morals don’t seem all that enviable to me. Just hearing that the two were betrothed means that they were romantically involved. If not, what’s wrong with guy/guy mariage or girl/girl mariage. Interesting how it’s a good thing to have a marriage of convenience in this case, but not for others who may need health insurance benefits to save their life. Personally, I’ve been quite libertarian on my view of marriage for most of my life. I don’t think the state should have anything to say about it. To me it is strickly a religious freedom that should be based on one’s faith. (Obviously betrothed also has some meaning in Shiite think, which I don’t pretend to understand but for now I accept Cole’s thesis since no one has disputed it.) As for the converting to Islam, I was raised to believe that the Ten Commandments aren’t something that you make statues of and put everywhere (the Commandments themselves forbid this), they are Gods laws. Was the plan to keep his fingers crossed while converting and hope God wasn’t looking? Was it a true catharsis? Please don’t read this post as an attack on Mr. Vincent’s character. I did not know him and would not do that. From everything I have read he was living in very dangerous circumstances and trying to do the right thing. The thing is that doing the right thing is not always possible. Personally, I sin quite a bit (its not illegal) but I don’t try to justify it by saying I was answering a higher moral calling.

  32. Steve, +++Just hearing that the two were betrothed means that they were romantically involved. I think you left the logic out of that statement. What part of ‘marriage of convenience’ didn’t you get?

  33. ++George Turner Sir I am at my wits end with you. It’s obvious from your flawed understanding of military history you have no concept of who we on the Left are or what we stand for, beyond right-wing delusions of ‘surrenderists’ and ‘peaceniks’ and so on.

  34. So, immediately Monsieur Cole has implied that their relationship was based at least in part on sex.’ What’s that? An assumption? Guess who you just made an ass of? You & also you. Romance =! sex. Read Vincent’s blog. If he didn’t have a romantic relationship with ‘Leyla’ (sp?) he most certainly had an intimate, loving relationship. So, in a sense it doesn’t even matter what you or Dr. Cole or even Vincent & Leyla thought about their relationship. In terms of perception, it was exactly as Cole describes, esp. if the man is asking the family’s blessing to marry. Word on the street was, they wanted to marry each other. Hmm…. Now, with regards to your accusations of ‘cultural relativism’, Dr. Cole is guilty on all counts, and proudly so. He’s got something you don’t training. He’s a professional historian; his job is to understand how people think IN OTHER CULTURES. Not think about them one-dimensionally through our own perceptions and definitions. Objectively, your definition of ‘rights’ clearly supports your interpretation, to you. But, not to an Iraqi (or for that matter, really any member of Western Civilization before the 20th century). To them, things we consider distasteful or wrong are not, and likewise for us. Bin Laden thinks Americans are immoral because they are addicted to stimulation – auditory and visual. Are you going to say he is wrong and we are right, just….because? The definitions are in many ways arbitrary. In a minor and trivial example, one might argue that the American female needs to be ‘liberated’ from having to wear a top, that she is being oppressed if she cannot do so. Of course this person would just as readily say to you they are right as you might to them. The task of the historian is to understand what people are thinking within their own cultural framework, and develop a cause-and-effect relationship along those lines. Could Vincent’s death be caused by his suicidal attempt to court and abscond with an Iraqi woman? Possibly. Did that come from his desire to do good? Of course. If so, was his death the result of poor decisions based on naive interpretations on his part in a very dangerous part of the world? Yes. Dr. Cole’s argument in a nutshell.

  35. ++George Turner +++Sir I am at my wits end with you. It’s obvious from your flawed understanding of military history you have no concept of who we on the Left are or what we stand for, beyond right-wing delusions of ‘surrenderists’ and ‘peaceniks’ and so

  36. Bayheim: Your defense of your colleague and his moral relativism was quite impassioned, suitably adoring and ultimately vacuous. I believe a quote by Theodore Roosevelt is applicable: ‘To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.’ Likewise your your critique of the ‘failures in Iraq’ and the rationale for the fall of the Soviet Empire were similary insipid and fanciful. What is especially amusing is your hubris in declaring there is a better way, ‘your way’. That was only topped by your assertion to George Turner that he had ‘no concept of who we on the Left are or what we stand for’. I dare say you are more well known for what you stand against. ‘It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’ Theodore Roosevelt

  37. George Turner: It pains me to see you know nothing of political movements beyond an ignorant sense of party affiliation. I was done with lame arguments like ‘but but FDR started WWII & he was a Demmicrat!’ in about 10th grade (co-incidentally, I was also suprised to discover people still arguing that blacks should vote Republican because Abraham Lincoln was Republican, a belief I’m sure you share with your fellow classmates). ++’Now why would I have my doubts about leftist dabblers?’ Ha. Mussolini and Hitler leftists. Ha. I suppose you consider Tojo & Franco a leftist too? And the authoritarian Religious Right? And anarchists? How simple your world must be! Kinda like ‘GI Joe’ right? You have on the right, ALL THE GOOD GUYS, and on the left, ALL THE BAD GUYS. It’s too bad all this ‘liberal tinkering’ didn’t start in the early 1800s, it starts with the European Enlightenment. The belief in a government based on a rational understand of humanity – something our own country was founded on and continuous trial and error has developed. Early American utopian experiments were attempts to take this one step further, again to ask as our founding fathers did ‘Isn’t there a better way?’ (sound familiar?). Of course, it would be nice to simply categorize all the positive accomplishments (advocacy of racial and gender equality) as ‘your side’ and all the negative results (class intolerance) as ‘my side’, but such categorizations betray a simple mind. I have nothing in common politically and philosophically with Marx & Engels beyond a desire to improve the lot of my fellow man, if possible. Of course, your simple-minded understanding of the 1800s also betrays how little you know about the context of the Communist Revolution in Russia. Welfare Capitalism in the US spoke directly to the very valid objections communists had to industrial capitalism; I’m very glad we had found a happy medium by the New Deal. If you intend to associate me with everything bad that came out of ‘tinkering’, you should have to award me everything good as well. The fact that even the most bigoted GOPers can’t talk about race or ethnicity as openly as they would like to today warms my heart. Even class as a concept is taboo, which I’m also pretty happy about. ‘Cobra!!!!!’ ++And if our conduct as victors is to run away, leaving tens of millions of people to suffer under another genocidal or tyrannical regime, what’s the point? Hold on a second, let me finish my tofu before you put those words in my mouth. I don’t seem to have mentioned, endorsed or pontificated on pulling out early (unfortunately neither did your father), and in my opinion we can’t. Thank you for pounding the square peg I actually said into the round hole you made up – finally found a good use for your thick head! ++And here I thought the failure was Woodrow Wilson’s, possibly the most racist President ever to hold office this century. Let me guess, you also think that he has anything in common with me because of party affiliation. World must be nice when everything is just so gosh darn simple! And just for the sake of historical sobriety, how exactly was it WW’s fault? His advocacy of US participation abroad? His support for an international peace-keeping entity? The decisions of European allies to extract their pound of flesh from the conquered? ++So your way wasn’t the Democrat way? LOL I didn’t even read that yet when I said ‘Let me guess, you also think that he has anything in common with me because of party affiliation.’ 1 second HAHAHAHAHAH HAHAHAHAHA ok I’m done. Here’s a link to a website describing some major party realignments of the 20th century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realigning_election I’m sure your teacher hasn’t covered that yet, or you just didn’t pay attention last semester, so maybe you should spend some time with da book learning before you form some opinions….or were you just trying to impress me with your silly fantasies about static party makeup? Guilt by association is it? Hah. ++Vietnam, etc. It’s amazing how revealing your post is about your own tinfoil hat worldview. Here, let me give you some observations: ‘congressman who were in a hurry to leave’ odd, you only seem to be referring to Kennedy in the rest of the passage, ex. ‘he stopped them’, ‘push through a measure’ as if he had some great power over America. Quite a powerful man, so powerful you used the plural past tense ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ when you refer to him as the ‘congressman’. The Dark Lord Kennedy, so powerful he requires a plural verb!! Kennedy is a douche, but so are all politicians. He’s just a skilled douche who ends up more on my side than yours. . Not only that, but you didn’t even talk about the VW itself (other than to mention how its fate was SEALED by the Great Kennedy, who were also forging the One Ring of Power). Now, I honestly can tell you I don’t know much about Sen. Kennedy’s singlehandedly losing us the war, nor do I care. I’m a big picture kinda guy, and here’s my big pic of that war: clusterfuck from start to finish. We didn’t understand the context of Ho Chi Min’s political movement, we didn’t pay attention to the French experience, nor did we care whatever asshole we put in power in South Vietnam, so long as he was ‘our asshole’. Johnson escalated things on false premises with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the US media kept lying to the American people about our glorious victory….right before the Tet offensive. To draw some historical connections, this was not unlike the ‘clap louder!’ British press during WWI, a war they would have lost had it not been for the American entry. I recommend ‘The Fog of War’ as a good intro to what went wrong, although ‘A Bright Shining Lie’ is good, and even the ‘Battle of Algiers’ for a good parallel. ++’Well congratulations, because only three of the twenty-some reasons for war cited by congress…’ OH SNAP, how did you know I was a member of congress, and completely based my opinion of the validity of the war on official US reasons? I mean, it’s not like I’m actually a normal citizen who was told that Iraq not only HAD WMDs, but that those WMD’s were being funneled to Al Qaeda and who knows who else, and that we have to protect ourselves and our regional allies from said WMD’s. I mean, it’s not like the POTUS went on TV saying that if Saddam doesn’t disarm we would invade… It’s not like Colin Powell went to the UN with MAPS detailing said WMD…. It’s not like I’m holding in my hand right now an magazine I picked up at the drug store from 2003 SHOWING ME where ‘Saddam’s WMD’ were in Iraq and that we had to stop him before it was too late (and what I could do to protect my family from said WMD!) How did you know! ++The Center for Budgetary Strategic Policy Analysis, prior to 9/11, estimated we were spending about $50 billion a year keeping Saddam bottled up, were he was free to kill tens and thousands of his own people to generate propaganda fodder for the region’s news networks. Twelve years of that comes to $600 billion, which only bought us nightly demonization on those regional newscasts. We’re currently reaping the results of twelve-years of such political indoctrination spread throughout the region, and Osama bin Laden said our sanctions were his chief recruiting tool. Sanctions were a disaster. They only strengthened Saddam because they forced his people to become ever more dependent on him, and promoted nationalist solidarity. I could have told you that in 1991 – it’s almost as if…history was repeating itself….and I had mentioned something earlier about the importance of winning the peace? But again, you and your black and white world. There are only two sides to every coin right!? On a completely unrelated note, how’s Castro holding up? ;0) ++To stop the looting we’d have had to send in what, three million soldiers? No, we’d just have to have prepared for the vacuum of local law enforcement, and at the very least protected major municipal and cultural buildings. The clowns in charge of this war were literally surprised when they didn’t recieve rose petals. You realise the whole ‘pulling the statue down’ was staged? They actually had to bus in people to do it – everyone else was probably too weak from a decade of starvation. Since we are on the topic of mendacious guilt by association, who decided to stop in Kuwait again…? Who told the Kurds to rise up against Saddam and then fucked them over (hope they don’t hold a grudge!)? ++The sanitation had already collapsed, in case you hadn’t read any ‘left-wing’ humanitarian outcries in the years preceding the war. I did, in fact, and that was another reason I thought sanctions were a terrible idea. Too bad we just made it worse. ++The electrical system was already shot, and much of it still is. That would probably have been when we bombed the fuck out of the electrical & telecom grid (twice) ++which is why our contractors were largely stumped about how to expand it. You know, when they aren’t shot, set on fire, beaten with pipes, dragged through the streets and hung from bridges amid cheering crowds. Then they are REALLY stumped. ++which would explain the left’s penchant for supporting regimes whose policies seem to revolve around bullets in the back of the head. I really hate to bring up current events, but ‘we’ aren’t the ones calling for the bullets to be delivered to the back of heads of state on the 700 Club. ++Indeed. I’m sure 400,000 people were dumped in the mass graves by only a couple of Ba’athist party members who’d had a drunken night of bad tequila. Right, and the men, women and children tortured and raped to death while in US custody were only done by a few Private Englands on the night shift. And, you are confusing your set of ‘dirty brown’ stereotypes: that would be the Mexicans who drink tequila. I hope you can pick up my point before I have to use a waterboard: genocides are committed by regular people. Psychologists have been setting up experiments that demonstrate how in one way or another since WWII. Oh, no, I get it. You think it’s just ‘human nature’ to riot (at least, non-white human nature, I’m guessing) and doing anything to stop it is too much effort, but mass genocide is only done by evil people…who coincidentally make up a whole population of a previously non-evil nation. Ahh, America, where you can avoid cognitive dissonance like no other country in the world! ++They may have invented it, but under Saddam they sure gave up practicing it. Who are ‘they’? The Iraqi people? Who specifically are you referring to – Sunnis? Shiites? No wait, let me guess – you still think the Japanese were wholeheartedly in support of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. It’s easier to use names to label everyone than to understand anyone. ++Under Saddam, Iraq had ‘civilization v1.2 — rule by Arab socialist thug’. We’re running version 14.1 revision B. It was time they upgraded. Do you really hold that genocidal National Socialism or fundamentalist theocracy are superior systems? See previous point. And, as far as your culture/software analogy goes, us anthropologists have been doing that for years. There are some interesting parallels, but I suggest you learn something about memetics or ethnology before you use such retarded versions of it though. ‘It was time they upgraded.’ Haha. That’s almost as funny as the one about Wilson. Comedy gold! ++Ah, let’s keep the same officers in place and let them continue to enforce military rule over the populace. That’ll win us friends. I know the far left has a fondness for military police states, but can’t you put it aside for just a little while? Because, you know, everyone in a given government is a politically homogenous group, who all share the traits/philosophy/disposition of the leaders of such a country. In fact, when fighting such a government’s army, it is wise to fire the lot of them, and let them take home their 1) military training 2) resentment over having no way to provide for family thanks to US 3) weapons Yeah. Real smart. How’s that working out? ++We have an official plan, officially called ‘victory and a free and democratic Iraq. That’s funny, we had that same plan in Vietnam. Of course, it took us about a decade to realize that our definition of ‘freedom’ meant ‘no communists’, whereas the Vietnamese definition was ‘no Western occupier’. What a wacky misunderstanding! On a serious note, I’m of course referring to the actual exit strategy that was supposed to have been put in place in the beginning but never was. ‘When its done’ only works when we have clearly defined objectives, such as ‘Make Germany and Japan surrender unconditionally’. ‘Victory’ is not an objective. ‘Freedom’ and ‘Democracy’ are poorly-defined objectives. See the Vietnam repost. ++ ‘which is a plan that so certainly guarantees defeat that it’s been banned in all games, sports, and competitive activities.’ I’m really not sure what this is supposed to mean? A fixed timetable in sports? Like, inning, quarter & rounds? Or maybe seasons? Last time I checked, ALL professional sports involved fixed ‘timetables’…. ++We’d be better off dumping another $600 billion to ensure Saddam staged more baby funerals while the French raked in all the illegal oil kickbacks in return for overpriced food for the Republican Guard? George H.W. Bush seemed to think so. So did Clinton. Douches, both of em. BTW did I mention Versailles…. ++Following the same timeline, that would’ve taken till 2075. OMG so like, if the Iraqis are the Russians, and the US is the US, then everything will follow the >exactsame’ This war has been a PR disaster from day one, and its outcome will be just like the last time ‘you’ tried this shit. Left half of the country (and we are about half, btw) isn’t in, most of the right ‘in’ only as armchair quarterbacks or Young Republican cheerleaders or both, and the lion is still asleep. I actually was in the process of joining the Army after Sept. 11, but Bush blew it for me with his adventure in Iraq. Call me when its a war we should be fighting. We are waiting. ++So said the Fascist and Communist supporters who wanted the US to disarm during WWII and the cold war. I’m confused – I think you weren’t reading what I wrote in your haste to connect it to a dumbass talking point. This is one of the few sentiments I shared with Ronald Reagan – standing up for yourself is not the same thing as being a jerk, our system of economic and political freedom SELLS ITSELF, and is in fact hindered by major military action. In some ways its very Ghandi-esque. The goal is not to defeat the opposing country, but to convert them to our way of thinking through a competition of ideas – to show them how our economic and political system just >works better<. To get the Iraqis on a helicopter and show them the US countryside. That’s how we won the Cold War (or at least, assisted in helping Russia break apart). ++I believe Ted Kennedy was one of your nutcases, and the Vietnamese still reap the disaster of his policy. Wow. Just. Wow. I had no idea the Dark Lord Kennedy were so powerful – he and he alone governed US policy from beginning to end, despite being a lowly Senator. Indeed he are HE WHO SHOULD NOT BE NAMED. Although I suppose in 20 years you’ll be whining about how Senator Kerry didn’t vote for the 87 billion and thus lost us this war. I hate to say it, but as a student of history it is pretty obvious America is on its way out as the dominant superpower. In about 100 years it won’t matter how Vietnam or Iraq turned out, and your bitterness over US policy in this regard may as well mean as much as who owned the Phillipines in 1905. In the broad scheme of things, we should be grooming our future partners in power through further tinkering and aggressive exportation of what we have found works. Ignorance and simplistic pigeon-holing can stay here with you though.

  38. Judgemental – It’s very fitting your name shows you aren’t making the distinction between supporting one’s own culture and ethnology. You are probably upset Cole doesn’t condemn Vincent’s death – don’t wait around for it. Cole is a social scientist – his job is to study things outside of his own cultural binoculars. His blog has never been the place to use American cultural values to describe or belittle others, nor should it be – there’s plenty of places on the ‘net for that. But of course that goes back to the fundamental misunderstanding about him on this page: he’s neither supporting nor condemning Vincent’s death, that’s not his job. He does argue that it was foolishly arrogant to do what Vincent did, and he has an argument to back that claim up (most importantly the fact tha t Vincent is no longer alive) As far as the rest of your post goes, I’d consider TR a great example of Turner’s ‘tinkering’ (which he attributes fallaciously to just the Left). The taming of big oil and railroads was in large part thanks to TR’s policies, and the ‘Square Deal’ was an intellectual precursor to the ‘New Deal’. Was there a better way than endless worker strikes and strike-breaking violence, he may have asked? Of course there was, and he took action. Now, trying to wrestle someone down with quotes is a nice appeal to authority and all, but surely you must realize there are times when ‘at least we are doing SOMETHING’ is a pretty lame choice. What did the millions of dollars that went into the Los Alamos lab accomplish, c. 1944? While all these brave men were dying on the front, a bunch of military-age young men were fooling around in the desert! Vietnam is perhaps a better example: ‘at least we did something’ did not stop 15 years of national Vietnam Syndrome, nor has it removed that policy stain from our history. Even defenders of the Iraq War accept that Vietnam was a disaster, hence the denial that Iraq is anything like that war. Our soldiers and civilians were being lied to by their leaders, and our leaders thought they were fighting Korea. ‘At least we were doing SOMETHING’ is the battle cry of brave men, but it is also the cry of the simple-minded and the long-defeated.

  39. Bayheim, Vietnam was by no means a disaster, especially after Creighton Abrams replaced Westmoreland, after which our policy and tactics changed so much that you might as well consider it to be two completely different wars going under the same name. The military felt the Vietnamese Army needed two to three more years before their general officers were competent to handle multi-division maneuvers, but they were denied the time they wanted. Even so, the North was so profoundly beaten in 1973 that it took them two years to recover, a defeat that used Americans to support South Vietnamese ground forces. Thanks to opposition to the war, we weren’t willing to crush the 1975 invasion, which was actually quite smaller than the 1973 invasion that was roundly defeated.

  40. They do say the wife is the last to know but this takes the biscuit. Vincent sounds like the lowest kind of snake, although no one deserves to die the way he did.

  41. ++bayheim ‘At least the nutjobs who are closer to me ideologically aren’t getting us bogged down in a ‘war’ we cannot win, at the cost of much blood and treasure. They are harmless loons, you are less so.’ Bogged down? Obviously you suffer from MSM induce