Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Steve Vincent 

A tragic news - a good friend of this blog, writer and journalist Steven Vincent has been murdered by Iraqi "insurgents" in Basra.

Mr Vincent was abducted with his female Iraqi translator at gun point in a street in central Basra on Tuesday.

Mr Vincent's bullet-riddled body was found on the side of a highway south of the city a few hours later...

"Both were later shot, but Vincent was killed, while the girl [translator] is alive," said Lt Col Karim Al-Zaidi.

Mr Vincent had been shot several times in the head and body, said Mr Zaidi.
Steve had a successful and rewarding career as an art critic in New York. Then came September 11, and his life would never be the same again. "When the Administration launched the Operation Iraqi freedom, I felt strangely excited," he wrote. "I wanted to join the conflict." Too old to enlist (his only military experience, driving a cab in NYC, he says), too freelance to hope to accompany the troops, Steve made the decision to see Iraq away from the frontlines: "I sought to embed myself in the Iraqi society."

The fruit of his two trips, and several months of stay in Iraq was his book "In the Red Zone: A journey into the soul of Iraq" - "some of the best journalism to come out of Iraq since the liberation," I
wrote in my review. It was ‚– is ‚– a wonderful work, not uncritical of both the liberated and the liberators, but nevertheless infused with deep sympathy for the long suffering of the Iraqi people, as well as love of freedom, and hope for a better future.

When I interviewed Steven late last year, I
asked him about his post-"Red Zone" plans - whether he was planning to return to Iraq. He said:
Yes, assuming - insha'allah - the country stabilizes and I can move around with relative freedom. If not, I'll head for Afghanistan - or further east, where oil, Islam and Chinese interests intersect. Wherever I go, however, it will be in the Muslim world. Like the cry of muezzin at sunset, with a crescent moon gleaming over the minarets of a mosque, there's something about dar-al-Islam that captures the imagination, and won't let go.
It didn't let go - a few months later he was back in Basra, a city he fell in love with. He wrote to me that his family didn't want to let go back to Iraq, but he felt he had to. He knew there were risks - he has been threatened before - and initially he was considering doing his research there incommunicado. But in the end he decided not to hide away, and even openly blog while in Iraq on his Red Zone blog. Two months ago, he wrote a guest post for Chrenkoff.

Allah willed that he came back to the land between the rivers that fascinated him and captured his imagination. Some cowardly bastards didn't. I don't know whether the "insurgents" who murdered Steve, knew who they were killing - that wouldn't surprise me - or if they merely kidnapped a random Westerner who was hanging out with an Iraqi woman. Maybe there were just criminals, maybe they were neo-Baathists, or maybe Shia extremists.

I never got a chance to meet Steve in person. We had a standing arrangement to catch up for a beer if I were to make it to New York or he to Australia. I'll have one for you tonight, Steve. Where you're traveling now, you will always be safe. I hope - as I know you did, too - that so will be Iraq, one day.


But in the meantime, I hope they'll get the bastards.

More from
Polipundit, and Michelle Malkin.

Update: And La Shawn Barber, Captain's Quarters, Publius Pundit, Powerline.

It appears that Steve might have fallen foul of Shia hardliners whose violent campaign of revenge against local Sunnis ha has been documenting for some time, including in his last opinion piece for "The New York Times". As he wrote on this blog in June:
Over the last week, for example, gunmen killed up to 100 ex-Baathists (as I've noted elsewhere, to some there is no such thing as an "ex" Baathist.) Ask about the identity of these murderers and people claim they don't know--a denial that's not exactly true: Basra's police chief recently admitted to a U.K. Guardian reporter that he believed that Iraqi cops themselves were complicit the Baathist assassinations.
His investigations brought him death threats, and his in his writings he seems to have signed his own death warrant - something that had played on his mind even before he returned to Iraq. As he wrote to me,
I haven't thought about blogging on my own--now moribund--site yet. Do I want the Basran bad guys to know there's a foreign journalist sending out dispatches critical of Islamic fundamentalism?...

For my own peace of mind, just let me ask you not to mention this on your site. I let slip on Red Zone that I was returning to Iraq, and even with my miniscule readeship, I got more attention than I wanted.
But then he changed his mind; he couldn't resist writing, and - possibly against his better judgment - he started blogging from Basra and writing pieces for the mainstream media. He told me it was OK now to let the world know.

Words probably killed Steve, but let words be also his lasting legacy. As he told another interview:
Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word "“guerillas."” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms "insurgents" or "“guerillas"” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase "paramilitary death squads."” Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, "insurgents" —and especially "“guerillas" —has a claim on our sympathies that "paramilitaries?” lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen "right wing paramilitary death squads." Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war.

Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology - and, by extension, the narrative - —of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition "“invaded" Iraq and "“occupies"” it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left.

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "“the resistance."” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour - they are the "“resistance."” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism - —or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought - —should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.


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