Steven Vincent, Basra and Iran

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Extra: full interview with Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, Steven Vincent’s wife

Steven Vincent was murdered last week in Basra, where he had been working as a blogger and a freelance reporter. The day before, he had published a piece in The New York Times, describing overwhelming Iranian influence in Southern Iraq. On his own blog, In the Red Zone, he writes

Down Basra way, the country most preoccupying the locals is not Amrika, but that brooding, seething, over-cleric’d Mordor to the east, Iran. Whether its supporting religious parties, smuggling oil and gas, sabotaging the energy infrastructure, orchestrating sectarian assassinations or other neighborly deeds, Basrawi detect the stealthy hand of Tehran in nearly every aspect of their lives. “We don’t talk about this in public,” a professor at Basra U. told me. “Get too explicit and you get ‘disappeared.’”

Steven Vincent, July 2, 2005, In the Red Zone

Vali Nasr

Author, The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power

Co-Author, State and Democracy in Iran (2006)

Author, The Shia Revival: How Conflict within Islam will Shape the Future (2006)

An editor, Oxford Dictionary of Islam

His works on Political Islam and Comparative Politics of South Asia and the Middle East have been published in The New York Times and the Washington Post as well as a number of academic journals.

Lisa Ramaci-Vincent

She was married to Steven Vincent for 13 years. Chris spoke with her earlier today.

Steve Mumford

Painter (portfolio)

Lives in New York. He’s created watercolor, oil and ink drawings as an embedded sketch artist in US occupied Iraq. He joins us from Maine.

Alan Chin

Freelance photojournalist, on assignment in Basra for the New York Times. He spent time with Stephen Vincent in June. He joins us from Detroit, MI.


  • http://www.MSEndo.com endoman

    Iran has in the past had great influence in the Middle East region. When Shah was in power, Iran was an awsome force in the area with much political power. Our support of his deeds were clearly a refection of the useful purpose he served for us over here. With a new ideology in power why do we seem surprised that they too want to pursue their own political influence? Unfotunatey, our mutual interest are now at right angle at this time and this is why we need a comprehensive plan about Iran. But before doing so, we need to clarify something for ourselves: do we envision a peuralistic world where opposing ideologies can tolerate one another, or do we plan to builid a world where our ideology is the last word on morality. If Iran wants to stay a conservative power of its own kind, do we bomb them into submission like we did to Iraq, and if so at what cost and to what extent? Iran doesn’t seem to be like Iraq. It is a much larger and stronger nation with five times the population of Iraq. Alternatively, can we make peace diplomatically and learn to live with opposing view points?

    Not until we have a realistic vision of our style of leadership can we speak about the correct posture we need to take to deal with the Iranian threat.

  • cassandra

    Stephen Vincent’s excursions into the part of Iraq ‘safest for Americans’ — the relatively quiet South around Basra — seems to have been bound to end in disaster from the start. That is the impression I clearly had after a cursory reading of the last few weeks’ worth of Vincent’s blog posts.

    As you can verify for yourselves, he frequently got into actual scuffles or even fist fights with complete strangers — in public, in the street, in bars. Addressing his wife back in Manhattan, he proudly recounts sitting in a river-boat making obscene gestures to a group of Iraqi security guards because he wanted to get even and win an argument despite his massive language barrier.

    Another post sees him bellowing “you got a problem?!?” at a stranger in a bar who stared disapprovingly at his scantily clad female Iraqi interpreter.

    His last post bears the title The Naïve American… unfortunately and tragically, Vincent’s derision of his fellow travellers-mercenaries-occupiers didn’t help save himself.

    I have seen reports that the Iraqi police investigating Vincent’s murder is looking into the possibility that he actually fell vitcim not to local militia but to an ‘honor killing’ resulting from his alleged promise to marry his female interpreter in order to get her a US visa. (I wonder what his wife thought about that?)

    (I’ll be happy to look those reports up for you if you don’t have them already – i think one source was Juan Cole and others were the BBC and TNR)

    I am looking forward to any insights you and your guests may be able to uncover.

  • cassandra

    Murder of US reporter in Iraq may be linked to marriage pledge

    by Colin Freeman, Telegraph (UK)

    filed 7/8/2005

  • cassandra

    I would like to add the following:

    Stephen Vincent’s death is a tragedy. I have never met Mr Vincent and only learned about his writings through media reports of his horrific death. I know next to nothing about his life and I don’t want to my comments interpreted as passing judgment on Mr Vincent and the decisions he made.

    However, I also hold very strong and emotional views about the war that he fell victim to — and especially about those who started it, those who are responsible for it. And that makes me just one of hundreds of people who expressed their views at Mr Vincent’s blog.

    I would like to quote one:

    I can see that Steven Vincent’s brutal murder is now a lightening rod for the truth, the elusive truth that war produces…and perhaps the truth that Mr. Vincent met in Basra. I cannot imagine a writer such as Mr. Vincent would be opposed to a highly spirited debate that deals with his death, and death in general in the war zone on his very own blog/journal/diary. It is a credit to him that posters and readers and thinkers of all persuasions have come here to pay homage to him by considering the many facets of his life and his death.

    My heartfelt condolences to Mrs. Vincent.

    Matthew Rose

    Paris, France

  • http://civilities.net/ JonGarfunkel

    endoman– very interesting. I’ve always thought that when we in the U.S. say “We don’t want Iran meddling in Iraqi affairs,” it has just as much currency as the Iranians saying the same thing of us! Granted, the spoils of war are to meddle in the affairs of the losing side. Though I can’t say we would be rendering political props to Iran if they had just accomplished a military, er, victory.

    cassandra– very interesting as well! Will definitely consider that as I listen in the show. I had no idea when I first heard the story, but nothing is as simple as it seems in life, and not in death.

    And, also, “on a sourcing note”… I hadn’t heard of Vincent before the news came out last week. The only Iraq correspondents I’m familiar with are those of the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and Dexter Filkins, and only because Slate had saluted him. One of the great ironies of the the blog world is that there is a list of somewhere which celebrates writers of a particular topic. The blog world tends to list only bloggers, since the assumption is that web readers wouldn’t care to seek out writers who they’d have to pay to read). But that’s unfortunate. One of the great things about the short-lived Brill’s Content magazine is that they would spotlight the top writers on given subjects. I’d still like to see this, somehow.

  • Potter

    Do we really know what we are doing in Iraq? I guess I am disturbed that as good as his work was, Steven Vincent wanted himself to be counted as a victim of 9/11. It Did not have to be so. It seems to me he was another victim of Bush’s dubious project. Again, do we really know what we are doing other than mixing it all up and overseeing a lot of death and destruction?

    Someone just said- we bit more than we could chew.

  • LeeJudt

    The author of The Islamic Leviathan was awfully good.

    I wish Chris had been able to keep up with him.

    I don’t think we know what we are doing in Iraq. We had one script and when that script fell apart we seem unable to come up with something more coherent.

    It’s as if the administration seems to really think in the crude ways its propaganda machine projects its views around the world.

    Not that the opposition in the US and elsewhere is any more coherent. They too disseminate crude propaganda which they confuse with the real world.

    Is it surprising that Iran would want to influence events in iraq? Why hadn’t the administration aniticipated that move? What are they prepared to do about it?

    It doesn’t seem like anything good is going to come out of this badly thought out adventure.

  • JamesFlynn

    A great meme in tonight’s show – “has Iran won our war in Iraq?”.

    Ok – it’s simplistic. Ok – it’s trite. But hearts and minds are won with the easily-communicated ideas. It’s not as if the proponents of war aren’t indulging in a little trite propaganda.

    On a recent visit to Boston, I was intrigued how many of my (intelligent, otherwise well-informed) friends were unaware that Saddam had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or that the primary causus belli – WMD – was a bald lie. One former work colleague did know however – he’s read of the congressional report and knew there were no WMDs.

    But then he threw a retort at me – “The war in iraq is an essential part of the war on terror”. Goodness – What can you say to that? I asked him to name a single Iraqi terrorist attack on the US, but it was of no use – his mind was closed.

    “The War on Terror” – an utterly meaningless slogan, but effective pro-war propaganda.

    “Has Iran won our war in Iraq?” – a simplistic meme perhaps, but it has more than a kernel of truth, and communicates well the folly, bad planning, and disastrous consequences of Bush’s war.

  • LeeJudt

    “On a recent visit to Boston, I was intrigued how many of my (intelligent, otherwise well-informed) friends were unaware that Saddam had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or that the primary causus belli – WMD – was a bald lie. One former work colleague did know however – he’s read of the congressional report and knew there were no WMDs.”

    Oh come on, James Flynn. You are repeating what has become a tedious cliche. I live in Boston and most people who support the war are aware that Saddam had nothing to do with 911.

    On the other hand, they are also aware that given his intense hatred of the US for curtailing his ambitions in the mid east he would definately have made an alliance with the Islamo Fascists.

    Nothing is as cut and dry as both the proponents or the oponents of the war suppose it to be.

    My biggest disappointment has been unintelligent way the administration handles the invasion and its aftermath.

    They tried to run the war as if it were a for profit operation and it shows in the results.

  • JamesFlynn

    Lee, if you’d bothered to read my post, you’d see that I didn’t claim that “most people who support the war think that Saddam had nothing to with 9/11″. But then, why bother with the facts, eh?

    Your post suggests the problem isn’t that the Bush sent the US to war on a lie (that there was clear evidence of WMD, etc, etc), but rather that the war didn’t turn a profit.

  • LeeJudt

    “Your post suggests the problem isn’t that the Bush sent the US to war on a lie (that there was clear evidence of WMD, etc, etc), but rather that the war didn’t turn a profit.�

    If that is what you got from my post, then I suggest you take up remedial reading.

    War can be fought on flimsy pretexts and won (or lost) or they can be fought on substantial moral high ground and lost or (won).

    The pretext for going to war and its manner of execution are two different issues.

    I supported the project of removing Saddam, what I don’t support is the shabby way in which the war is being executed.

    I also don’t support the administrations project of democratizing the Arab world. Democracy is a form of government that is difficult to maintain on the best of circumstances, but in the Arab world with its clans and its religious divisions its impossible.

    Why should one group have more power just because they have been more successful in demographic reproduction? This isn’t the introduction of the rule of law its sanctification of mob rule.

  • Potter

    I think it was Vali Nasr who was on last. He was just excellent. I have to say how impressed and grateful I am for the quality of the guests on this show but also on the other shows as well.

  • JamesFlynn

    Lee,

    You say of Saddam: “he would definately have made an alliance with the Islamo Fascists”.

    No, that’s a hypothesis, not fact. The facts are – according to the 9/11 Commission – there is “[no] evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States”. I doubt you have better evidence than Congress.

    So the Bush Administration has brought the US into a war against a country which posed no military threat to the United States, had no WMD, and no connections to 9/11.

    You also say: “War can be fought on flimsy pretexts and won (or lost)”.

    We completely agree on this point. We disagree, I imagine, on whether Bush went to war on flimsy pretexts.

    But this is an inappropriate forum for this conversation, and it’s a conversation that’s been run on thousands of message boards already.

  • LeeJudt

    James:

    “No, that’s a hypothesis, not fact.”

    Yes, it is. But it is a very strong hypothetical which coupled with the fact of Saddam’s past behavior, his invasion of Qwait, his gassing of the Kurds, his attack on Iran, his paying money to the families of suicide bombers, etc. made his removal a matter of high priority.

    “The facts are – according to the 9/11 Commission – there is “[no] evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United Statesâ€?.”

    The 911 commission wasn’t asked to determine policy towards Iraq.

    “But this is an inappropriate forum for this conversation, and it’s a conversation that’s been run on thousands of message boards already.”

    We agree there.

  • http://last-straw/blog/ Christiaan

    Unfortunately deaths like Steven’s are the best thing that can happen at this point. The more the better. It’s not the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that will bring an end to American occupation (they’re not even counted, literally) but thousands of dead Americans, preferably affluent and white. That he was a right-winger in support of the occupation is just the icing on the cake.

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  • JamesFlynn

    Christiaan, I’m loath to revisit this thread, but your comment is beneath contempt. I suspect you may not be for real, but just in case you’re a sincere poster — it’s sickening that you would claim that Steven Vincent’s skin colour, financial situation, or political pursuasion should make his murder “the best thing that can happen at this point”, or in any way lessen the tragedy of his death, and I urge you to reconsider your opinion.

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