Steven Vincent – 1 Year After His Murder

Medium ImageIt was on August 2nd last year that American journalist Steven Vincent was kidnapped in broad daylight along with his friend and translator Nour Weidi. Shortly after, they were both shot. Vincent died and Weidi was seriously wounded.

This was an astounding loss for those of us trying to understand what’s happening in Iraq. Vincent’s book In The Red Zone is an indispensable resource and a must-read for anyone that wants a clue about the nature of the battle in the Long Global War On Terror’s central front.

In the month that followed Vincent’s death, many tried to blame everyone except the terrorists who committed the act. Juan Cole waited until after Vincent was dead to respond to Vincent’s criticism of his position on the war and politics in Iraq. British authorities, who had been severely criticized for basically caving in to the Shiite fundamentalists in the Basra area did the same.

The story exploded, though, when Vincent’s widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, responded to Cole’s “informed commentary” but received no answer from the good professor. She posted the letter to Mr. Cole in the comments section of Murdoc Online, and I posted it in full in an entry I titled “It’s Called Courage”.

Here’s a taste of what Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent had to say:

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….

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.

The post attracted quite a bit of attention across the blogosphere and beyond, and if Murdoc Online helped get some awareness out there about Vincent’s work and the shameless campaign to blame him for his own murder, then I feel like I accomplished something. If I can convince you to read his book, I will feel like I accomplished even more.

In December, I noted an interview with Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent. In it she said she hopes to write Vincent’s second book using the notes he gathered before his death.

I didn’t know Mr. Vincent. But I know he will be sorely missed.

My thoughts go out especially to Lisa, who I’ve had the honor and pleasure of emailing back and forth with a bit over the course of the past year. I’m sure that the impending anniversary brings up a lot of things both great and sad, and I wish you the best.

Previous Steven Vincent-related posts on MO: