Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Stephen Vincent: In Memoriam

I am republishing this post in Memory of Stephen Vincent which originally appeared in 2005. The blogosphere is commorating his death and it's being coordinated at Kesher Talk.

Steven Vincent, a freelance reporter who also has a blog In the Red Zone, was shot dead in Basra. (Courtesy of reader JK). The BBC carries this report:

A US freelance reporter, Steven Vincent, has been shot dead by unknown gunmen in Basra, southern Iraq, police have said. ... Mr Vincent had been in Basra in recent months working for the Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times. In a recent New York Times article, Mr Vincent wrote that Basra's police force had been infiltrated by Shia militants. He quoted a senior Iraqi police lieutenant saying some officers were behind many of the killings of former Baath party members in Basra. Mr Vincent also criticised the UK forces, who are responsible for security in Basra, for ignoring abuses of power by Shia extremists.

Although every life and loss of life is unique, Mr. Vincent's work shares certain points in common with Michael Tucker (the producer of Gunner Palace, who accompanied his film subjects on patrol for two months) and Michael Yon, who describes himself as "an independent, informed observer chronicling the monumentally important events in the efforts to stabilize Iraq. His dispatches have the benefit of his life experiences without drawbacks based on deadlines or demands of marketplace." In the strange and recursive network of the Internet, Mr. Yon filed this dispatch on Mr. Vincent's death.

On Wednesday, an American freelance journalist was found dead in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, the U.S. Embassy said. Police said Steven Vincent had been shot multiple times after he and his Iraqi translator were abducted at gunpoint hours earlier. I had just contacted Stephen asking when he might come to Mosul. Stephen Vincent was an author and the popular blogger of "In The Red Zone." Stephen had been writing most recently from Basra.

CNN characterized Mr. Vincent and his work in this way:

Vincent was in Basra writing a book about the history of the city. He also maintained a Web blog about life in Iraq, and most recently had an op-ed piece in The New York Times on Sunday. According to the Web site of his publishing company, Vincent's work appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Harper's, The Christian Science Monitor, Art and Auction, and National Review Online, along with other art and political journals. He was a resident of New York for 25 years, the site said.

This is not the place to speculate why this murder occurred, but the tragedy serves to underline the discussion in the previous post which discussed, among other things, the rising tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite in Iraq. It's interesting to note that the BBC linked Mr. Vincent's murder to his interest in the sectarian conflict. It would have been ironic if Vincent had been killed not because he was an American, but because he came too close to a story.

What compelled him to cover a battlefield of the war on terror "traveling without security or official connections, living by his wits," according to the Spence Publishing site? CNN gives the answer in Vincent's own words.

"I stood that morning on the roof of my building in lower Manhattan and watched United Airlines Flight 175 strike the south tower of the World Trade Center," Vincent said in a December 2004 interview with Frontpage Magazine. "At that moment, I realized my country was at war -- because of the 1993 attack on the Trade Center, I figured our enemy was Islamic terrorism -- and I wanted to do my part in the conflict. I'm too old to enlist in the armed services, so I decided to put my writing talents to use."

In that interview Vincent described the weapons with which he intended to fight.

"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."

Whether Sunni killed Shi'ite or Shi'ite killed Sunni, Mr. Vincent knew murder when he saw it. It will be interesting to see whether the media will attribute Mr. Vincent's death to "guerillas" or to "paramilitary death squads". But in a sense it will not matter. He was witness to the necessity for honesty and the survival of outrage; conscious of how near death stands to all of us in the workaday world without watchful men ready to give the alarm with just words.


Blogger 2164th said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/02/2006 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger gultig said...

Mr. Vincent is a perfect example of speaking truth to power. More of his kind could bring honor, dignity, and prestige back to the press. Traits that are lacking in today's society.

8/02/2006 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Thanks for reminding us of Mr. Vincent. He is the about the only Western journalist singled out by the terrorists for murder, presumably because he was not one to hole up in the safe air-conditioned hotels of the green zone; he did not simply parrot slanted and manufactured propaganda fed to him by terrorist sympathizers; he did not follow the appeasement tendencies of the MSM; and he distributed his writing by the same internet that the terrorists have recognized as a superlative media tool.

In the previous comment stream I just posted a lengthy reminder of the endless list of atrocities being committed daily around the world by Islamic fanatics. Steven Vincent did more with his posts to alert us to the threat we face than ten thousand stay-at-home bloggers, or a million toad-sucking newsreaders.

8/02/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger jonesy said...

God rest his soul.

8/02/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

This man Knows the Enemy, and he's Pissed.

8/02/2006 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Habu_3 said...

Vos ago ut vos electus quod pereo effectus quis vos votum. Is est bonus.
May vestri sator complexo vestri animus.
Pacis exsisto vobis.

8/02/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this war is that we have many, many people telling us that our enemy really does not believe such and such - despite the fact they say what they believe all the time - and therefore will not do such and such - despite the fact that they always act consistant with what they say they believe.

It is as if when Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor people pointed to the quiet, prosperous Neisi in the California and said that they were a peaceful, decent people and could not have done such a horrible thing. Or when the Nazis bombed Great Britian they would pointed to the hardworking people of German descent in rural South Carolina and how they lived peacefully, intermarrying with people of Scotch, Irish, and English descent and so they could not be commiting such horrid acts.

But today that very thing is happening. We are being told to believe what our eyes and ears tell us is not true. That is why what Stephen Vincent did was so important - and ultimately, why even his death is important.

8/02/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger redaktør said...

Steve Vincent is a hero. He fought for unmolested information concerning Jihadists, which is a fight as important as the physical fight against the jihadi molesters themselves. Blessed is his memory.

8/02/2006 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger Captain America said...

The free press is not free in Iraq or in Lebanon.

Brave journalists, like Mr. Vincent, are endangered for reporting accurate news. Similarly, brave journalists in Lebanon have been assassinated for reporting news contrary to the wishes of Syria-Hezbo-Iran.

Former TIME Magazine news reporter, Michael Ware, explained in his interview with Hugh Hewitt a few months back that his life was threatened by al Qaeda/insurgents.

Consequently, news reports from "on-the-ground" journalists reporting from Lebanon or Iraq should be viewed with skeptism.

We need to see the world from their vantage point (under threat) rather accepting things from our safe, secure perspective.

8/02/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger rufus said...

Habu, it's too early in the day to be drinking that stuff. Got any more?

8/02/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Buzz said...

Well said gultig!
I would really like to know how many deaths in Iraq have been at the hands of Iranians. Ive grown quite weary of the "sectarian" violence. I am about ready to draw some lines on a map and move on to the west or the east...or both.

8/02/2006 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger K. Pablo said...

Ach, I remember this man! Thank you for bringing up his memory. I will bring up the memory of Michael Kelly of the Washington Post as another journalist whose passing I mourn.

Very few of those, by the way....

8/02/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Von Humbolt Fleisher said...

Daniel Pearl was also in hot pursuit of the big story. Journalism can be an honorable profession.

8/02/2006 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger david bennett said...

Mad Fiddler:

There is a wonderful thing called search engines.

In a minute I pulled up the following:

Note insurgents are blamed for well over half the deaths. The majority of these are classified as murder if one does some figuring since none of the 14 deaths attributed to the US are listed as intentional.

It is fun to pretend that the journalists are cowards, but their deaths exceed those of Vietnam.

Also note that Steve Vincemt was killed by Shiite militias associated with the southern governments in a region that we claim are pacified.

And if his estimates of killings in Basrta were accurate the carnage has been severely underreported. This probably applies to death squad activities in much of thr south.

Mr Vincent's message was one of deep pessimism. He was also a brave man, not an excuse to repeat what limbaugh says.

Have you no shame?

8/02/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Reporting of the other kind:
The Media War Against Israel

...Yet "Reliable Sources," presented by Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz, is broadcast only on the American version of CNN. So CNN International viewers around the world will not have had the opportunity to learn from CNN's "Senior international correspondent" that the pictures they saw from Beirut were carefully selected for them by Hizbullah.

Another journalist let the cat out of the bag last week.
Writing on his blog while reporting from southern Lebanon, Time magazine contributor Christopher Allbritton, casually mentioned in the middle of a posting:
"To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I'm loathe to say too much about them.
The Party of God has a copy of every journalist's passport, and they've already hassled a number of us and threatened one."

Robertson is not the only foreign journalist to have misled viewers with selected footage from Beirut... (more examples)

8/03/2006 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

When live Jews can't be found, dead ones are targeted.
In Belgium last week, the urn that contained ashes from Auschwitz was desecrated at the Brussels memorial to the 25,411 Belgian Jews deported to Nazi death camps. It was smashed and excrement smeared over it.

The silence from Belgian leaders following this desecration was deafening.

8/03/2006 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Dear Mr. Bennet,

I set aside whole afternoons to wallow in my shame, over various lapses in manners. But in this instance, please note that the word I used was “newsreaders” meaning specifically the on-camera alleged “talent” who are increasingly at a great remove from any sort of journalistic discipline, and far from any danger worse than heat exhaustion from the lights.

If any phrases in my earlier post echo some phrase of Mr. Limbaugh, that is pure coincidence, as I have never heard him mention Steven Vincent. And, thank you very much, my deep skepticism of journalists dates back to a number of personal experiences I have had of witnessing events, then seeing those same events reported in the papers or on television, and noting the conspicuous discrepancies between what I saw and what the reports described.

I attended highschool in a small rural community in Northern Virginia in the mid 1960’s and became friends with a highly-intelligent, restless soul who found Hampden-Sydney College insufficiently challenging in those turbulent days. He quit school, and joined the Marines. He’d been in Vietnam just a few weeks when a sniper’s bullet crashed through the windshield of the truck in which he was riding, sending bits of glass into both eyes.

After a few operations, he was able to see enough to get around with thick spectacles, but not so well as to be useful as a rifleman. He mustered out, and though legally blind, started a years-long hike around the globe. He found he could sell his notes and essays and reports to various publications, and paid his expenses as a stringer for a number of newspapers.

Traveling on military standby, he spent time in the Philippines, Lebanon, Israel, and a number of places. In time he became a regular columnist for NavyTimes, ArmyTimes, and his byline appeared occasionally in the better known newsweeklies. Fred was closer to my brother, graduating in the same class, and every couple of years he would drop in and visit us for a few days, then hitch a ride on a transport out of Langley or NOB.

He was in Pnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge made their final assault; he made it out hours before they arrived.

He now blogs on military, police, and politics from his home in Baja, and while I don’t always agree with his views, I have enormous respect for him because I know he put himself on the line over and over, going into hot zones to see what was going forward. That personal acquaintance has reassured me that there are after all, people who actually go out and make the effort to see the events they report on.

The sort of “journalists” for whom I have only snorting contempt is the posturing actors who stand before the cameras wearing crisply starched BDUs to suggest they’ve just returned from the boonies risking their lives gathering HUGE FACTS, when in fact they’ve spent most of the day bending elbow, interviewing the barkeep and swapping stories with other newsreaders; folks who blindly accept the pre-digested briefings and parrot them for their feeds; people who stand up at briefings and show how brave they are by throwing out a question calculated to make them seem to be watching out for the little guy, and standing up to “The Man” as though there is some vast and remote Gulag where U.S. governments send unruly journalists to toil in broiling heat and frigid rain till they drop dead and get thrown into an unmarked trench for a grave.

“Mr. Rumsfeld, can you please explain why no one in this administration has even started to address the reported acute shortage of chemlight batteries for our troops?”

“Thank you for bringing that up, Mr. Rackburn. Right now, we’re giving top priority to ensuring there are enough clearing barrels for all forward posts.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I am pretty familiar with search engines, actually, and use them a lot. I have visited the site for the Committee to Protect Journalists, the American Journalism Review,, and a number of others to get perspective on the issue of how reporters have fared in combat in modern times. I try to look at sites that represent a wide range of viewpoints, and assume that once in a while I will find something that will force me to re-evaluate some of my basic assumptions.

You needn’t chide me about any lack of respect for journalists who actually go forth and investigate in a war zone. But I especially reserve my regard for those who do so without the support of a six-figure salary, health insurance, and per diem supplied by a multinational corporation.

8/03/2006 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Sure haven't heard much about great journalist Michael Kelly
(or his family):

Michael Kelly, Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Post, April 3, 2003, outside of Baghdad

Kelly, editor-at-large of the Atlantic Monthly and a columnist with The Washington Post, was killed while traveling with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division just south of the Baghdad airport, according to a statement from The Washington Post.

According to press reports, when the humvee in which Kelly was riding came under Iraqi fire, the soldier driving the vehicle tried to evade the attack, and the jeep ran off the road and rolled into a canal. Both Kelly and the driver drowned.

Kelly, who had previously served as the editor of The New Republic and the National Journal, was the first U.S. journalist killed while covering the war.

8/03/2006 03:09:00 AM  
Blogger ppab said...

Add this to your iconography of Islam:

This from Totten in Iftar:

"Suddenly a muezzin screamed in Arabic over the loud speakers. It was a thunderous call to prayer, and it was real screaming. I have heard the call to prayer hundreds of times in Beirut, but I never heard anything like this. It was electrifying and dramatic and it gave me a thrilling shot of adrenaline.

Ominous military music threatened to blow out the speakers. Then the sound system switched, briefly, to music from Star Wars. It switched, briefly again, to the soundtrack from The Terminator. Someone, perhaps the same muezzin, screamed anti-Israeli incitement over the music. You didn’t have to be fluent in Arabic to figure out what that was about."

How absolutely bizarre.

Chinese psy-ops anticipate dropping "talking leaflets" in future operations.

21st Century will be pretty interesting. With media as a weapon, who has the biggest gun? Is there a media hegemon or is there a balance?

These journalists are force-multipliers if one considers propagation of our values and subversion of their values to be a weapon of war.

Memetic MLRS

What kind of system is the Belmont Club? Is it even on the popular idea map? Maybe its not, but thats what makes it valuable.

Is LGF like a carrier battle group, deploying ideas to Malkin, who goes to O'Reilly who fires ideas onto millions of brains?

8/03/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

Dawn Eden posted an article worth absorbing (via Christian Solidarity International) about how Hizb’allah has shifted to commandeering the homes in Christian villages as rocket launching sites, and shooting the villagers as they attempt to flee.

Here’s the trackback link to that post:

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

I followed her link to Christian Solidarity’s site, and found a good article giving the historical background on how Syria and Hizb’allah have gradually and brutally wrested control of Lebanon from the Christians, who just a few decades back constituted the great majority of Lebanon.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

p.s. Can someone please tell me how to embed a URL using the html tags allowed in Wretchard's comment stream? The html tags I use in my own website are rejected with hoots of derision when I try to use'em here.

8/03/2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger The Mad Fiddler said...

“That's Entertainment: the seamless web of war and propaganda and media”

posted by neo

This article has a devastatingly acute critique of the dysfunctionality of modern “journalists” many of whom are actually in the entertainment industry, NOT the business of disseminating information and analysis anymore.

8/03/2006 12:43:00 PM  

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