Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Stephen Vincent

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 Dymphna said...

He was right: in so many ways this is a war of words. That he saw, and acted upon, the necessity to join that war by going to Iraq, speaks volumes for his courage and integrity.

You mention his criticism of the Brits'military. I wonder if the group which claims that the military deliberately targets journalists will jump all over this one.

It bears watching, especially for those like Michael Yon who have answered the same calling.

8/03/2005 03:52:00 AM  
Blogger Reg Jones said...

Beautifully said Wretchard.

Steven had a knack for discovering the intangible, the nonobvious and the often uncomfortable truths often at the heart of the matter. Here's a quote from one of Steven's early pieces, "Faith, Shame, and Insurgency" March 2004:

"Yet the more I investigated Saddam’s regime, the more I began to realize that the dictator had bequeathed something perhaps even more corrosive to the Iraqi people than repression, trauma, and fear: shame. This is one of the most sensitive parts of the nation’s psyche, one that may prove the most problematic. On some level, many, if not most, Iraqis are ashamed that Saddam Hussein brutalized them -- and even more ashamed that it took foreign troops to end his reign. At a small social function one evening, I spoke to an Iraqi woman who expressed excitement over the fall of Saddam. Yet in almost the same breath, she declared, "I hate the Americans so much I fantasize about taking a gun and shooting a soldier." When asked how she expected Saddam to fall without the hated U.S. soldiers, she looked at me miserably. "I know," she said, "and you can’t imagine how that humiliates me..."

For those who haven't read his blog or his various articles in National Review or the NYT you need to do yourself a favor and honor Steven by going back and reading his work for the past 2 years.

God Bless him. We honor him by remembering the wisdom and the power of his words.

8/03/2005 04:00:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

The entire middle east and muslim world is in a humiliated, angry, and resentful frame of mind. The less constrained will strike out at anyone convenient. This time of turmoil is a time of opportunity, and great danger. Any westerner traveling there travels at his own risk.

Perhaps the burgeoning free Iraqi media can provide arabs and muslims with an alternate, more liberated world view than their former slave chains provided them. Being a slave must have been a perverse comfort to many of them. It will take time and courage for them to adjust.

8/03/2005 04:56:00 AM  
Blogger goesh said...

I guess he had his standards of professional conduct, which it appears prevented him from carrying a revolver/pistol. I am not demeaning him or questioning his memory in any way, but I would rather die fighting than to be slaughtered like that. In that environment, when several men come at you, they are bringing death, nothing more. We are born with the ability to choose. I simply couldn't face the God of my understanging by letting myself be slaughtered without a fight.

8/03/2005 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

I think it would be disengenous not to point out that it was a police car and "five men" who picked him up, shortly after producing a story about the number of radical Shia islamists in the police department and his comments on corruption, etc.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out who killed him, but it may take a genius to figure out how to bring them to justice.

8/03/2005 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Heraclitus said...

Interesting Vincet quotes from an interview with frontPage magazine:

"As I’ve noted here and elsewhere, suppression of the feminine—whether it be feminine sexuality, freedom or laughter—is the foundation upon which the death-cult of Islamofascism rests. Undermine that foundation, and the entire edifice, from al-Sadr to Zarqawi to bin Laden will collapse.

But for the West to encourage such an event, we must overcome our own fears of liberated women. By that I mean, the Left must discard a multicultural mindset that refuses to use Western standards to criticize other cultures, even when Western values—such as feminism--are clearly more beneficial to those cultures. As I describe in my book, one afternoon in Baghdad I listened to a group of Western anti-war activists complain that the American invasion of Iraq was an imperialistic attempt to crush the country’s native culture. When I suggested that some aspect of this “native culture” should be crushed—like forcing women to wear black sacks in blistering summer weather—one of the activists looked at me with a shocked expression. “But feminism has brought such destruction to the American family, do we want to wish that on Iraq?” And she was no post-feminist youngster, but a woman from the anti-Vietnam War days!"

"You have hit bingo here my friend. Fighting for feminism under Islamism, in my view, is like fighting for private property and freedom of speech under communism, or fighting for equality for Jews under Nazism. Once Gorbachev initiated Glasnost and Perestroika, he destroyed the very system he was trying to save. If a potential Nazi system started letting Jews into the political process, Nazism would cease to be what it is supposed to be overnight. Once gender equality infiltrates and assimilates within Islam, it will no longer be Islam."

"But the Right has to bite some bullets, too. Let’s face it: many of us prescribe for Iraq the very measures that conservatives detest about the 1960s—particularly when it comes to feminism, sexual freedom and rejection of patriarchal authority. So the Right—especially those on the religious right—have to accept the fact that once you let the feminine genie out of the bottle, the results are unpredictable and not always to a conservative’s liking. That means here in America, as well.

Communists, libertarians, leftists, neo-cons, Christian evangelists, Hollywood celebrities and NASCAR Americans ought to be able to rally at least one point: women must be free in the Islamic Middle East. It’s an issue that combines visionary idealism with hard-nosed, America-first realism."

8/03/2005 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Both the Sunni and Shia theocratic power structures would have something to lose by allowing the existance of secret-ballot democracy, since it would create a mechanism for the people to safely communicate rejection of theocracy. They therefore have something to gain by forcing Iraq into a Beirut-style descent into factionalism

8/03/2005 06:11:00 AM  
Blogger NooYawkah said...

Stephen Vincent's death is quite upsetting, especially following on the heels of the news of the heavy Marine casualties.

With people like him being cut down, the only sources people will have left will be the MSM, followed by Michael Moore, Sean Penn, etc. for political viewpoints.

Has anyone read Alla's take on what to do about the insurgency?

I believe we really need to change our mode of operations, or things will continue to deteriorate.

8/03/2005 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger Zeno said...

Too bad... I had discovered his blog only days ago, and was impressed. May he rest in peace. Maybe his death will be the catalyst for changes in Basra? Although I'm not very optimist right now.

8/03/2005 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger goesh said...

I should have qualified my statement to read, "when several non-western men come for you, they bring death, nothing more."

8/03/2005 06:35:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

My Vincent Posts and links are on the previous thread!
As Kat says, it doesn't take a genius.
...and with the Brits/coalition in collusion with the saderites, democracy ain't going to save things til things change.

8/03/2005 06:38:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Pence said...

a brave warrior of real "on the ground news". he will be sorely missed.

8/03/2005 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

...take a genius to figure out that it was his NY Times outing of the Police/Sadr connection that led to his murder.

8/03/2005 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

...and worse, we have provided them (Shia) an armed police force!

8/03/2005 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

reg jones said,
"For those who haven't read his blog or his various articles in National Review or the NYT you need to do yourself a favor and honor Steven by going back and reading his work for the past 2 years."
Has all the links posted at the Corner.

8/03/2005 06:53:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

NooYawkah said... Has anyone read Alla's take on what to do about the insurgency?
Here it is in a nutshell.
Is it doable?
"As I have said long time ago. Secure Baghdad and you have done most of the work of securing the whole country. Baghdad as whole should be turned into a “Green Zone”, just like the area in Baghdad housing the M.N.F command and the main governmental organs."
(and it still leaves Sadr and Basra, and etc.)

8/03/2005 07:04:00 AM  
Blogger Monty said...

This sounds to me like a political hit rather than an insurgent operation. If this had happened in Chicago or New York, we'd call it a Mob hit.

I think this news may prod the Brits into cracking down more in Basra. Their "hands off" approach may have allowed a lot of things to fester, much as our inaction in Fallujah did last year.

Stephen Vincent was an intrepid and intelligent man. He deserves every accolade given to him.

8/03/2005 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger yahoo said...

Juan Cole on how far the Reaganites are culpable for the Mujahideen and Osama.

Oh another dozen dead troops today in a roadside blast. Still winning the war on terror, are we? Where's Chrenkoff when you need him!

8/03/2005 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

This is not really on point but I sense a decided shift in tactics by insurgents in Iraq. They have sharply reduced the attacks on civilians and have increased their attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops. It is a smart move on their part and is terrible for our soldiers (Marines especially). What I think is most remarkable is the speed with which this shift occurred. I am becoming more convinced that the insurgency is well organized and managed. It does not appear that it is a disparate rabble.

8/03/2005 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger luminary said...

I hope that Steven's words live on.
As far as putting up a fight, this is not always an option when working alone.

'To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.' -- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

8/03/2005 08:02:00 AM  
Blogger ricpic said...

I'm not smart enough or informed enough to know what's going on over there. Just a terrible sick feeling in my gut for the poor man.

8/03/2005 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

re: shame

In the previous post I wrote:

"I believe an unintended consequence of the Al'Qaeda and Baathist atrocities will be the creation of an Iraqi national narrative: the immense heat of the fire will forge a more solid foundation than we ever could have done ourselves. Put another way, our mistakes and Al'Qaeda's depravity may give us a victory that otherwise would have been forever out of our reach."

My reasoning was based on the humiliation of American liberation. Coming through the fire on their own, when even the powerful Americans could not win, will give the Iraqis a story they can all embrace, and be proud of.

8/03/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ash said...

"NooYawkah said...

With people like him being cut down, the only sources people will have left will be the MSM, followed by Michael Moore, Sean Penn, etc. for political viewpoints."

How the heck do you separate him from the MSM which published so many of his articles? Don't you see the irony of your statement?

8/03/2005 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger david bennett said...


The recent heavy wave of civilian bombings came after US officials announced a significant drop in bombings after the spring offensives. This is the old Vietnamese trick of pulling something off after it's anounced you can't, eg. the Tet offensive. It undermines faith in our pronouncements and we still fall for it by making these boasts, note how just yesterday W took seriously claims that attacks on US troops were falling.

The civilian bombings come in waves, they are also double edged swords in that they alienate Sunni support in Iraq and other nations, but they do goad the Shiites towards retribution which is the goal of at least some of the insurgents.

It should be noted that civilian killings do not cease, but are carried on by the mafia/death squad elements of the insurgency. The extent of this activity can be glimpsed here and there in the press, but for the most part it isn't reported even officially. Lots of bodies stack up, the largest number probably being the victims of simple criminality, but also with various political death squads including increasingly those tied to Shiites.

There are indications that large portions of the south are under a reign of terror, this is a very uncomfortable situation for us not only because it is contrary to our ideals, but it is tied to increasingly blatant alliances with Iran. However to challenge it is to risk unrest in many of the "peaceful" provinces we boast about. The "good news" stops being so good when one looks closer at "success stories" like Basra.

Similarly the press only touches on things like how fundamentalist elements of the Sunni insurgency do things like kill barbers who shave beards or intimidate those who work for us or the Iraqi government and lots of other squalid acts of brutality and murder.

8/03/2005 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr1 said...

It is far too soon to call this a shift in tactics; these deaths came in just two incidents, the biggest being an IED. At this point it is still in the "coincidence" realm.

8/03/2005 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

re: insurgency

I am cautious about using specific events as determinative metrics by which to judge the strength of the insurgency. It takes but a few men to kill an unarmed and unescorted journalist.

Will we hear from the lights of the media on Vincent's murder? Or will they choose to ignore it as Hollywood ignored another Vincent not too long ago?

I'm not holding my breath. When we desperately need the right words, when the house is surrounded and the situation dire, you can usually find journalists quietly slipping out the back door.

8/03/2005 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger NooYawkah said...

Ash said...

"How the heck do you separate him from the MSM which published so many of his articles? Don't you see the irony of your statement?"

I should have thunk my words through better and said something along the lines of:

"the only sources people will have left in the MSM will Michael Moore, Sean Penn, etc. for political viewpoints."

One-a-day, plus irony.

8/03/2005 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Vincent at NRO (and why we will never be a traditional empire, reason #1,222):

"That leaves conservation. Abbas estimated that if Basrans reduce their energy consumption by half, they could enjoy 24-hour electricity. "It would be a hardship, but not impossible." To test his theory, I asked friends if they'd be willing to cut back on their lights, wide-screen TV watching, washing machines and, above all, air conditioning. Without exception the response was no. "Why should we? Iraq sits on a sea of oil," is a typical response, followed by the usual slam against America.

"Well, of course," Abbas replied, when I gave him the results of my poll. "People were deprived of power for so long, they now feel they have a right to as much as possible." Sighing, he added, "Iraqis have no sense of moderation. If you're thirsty, you drink as much as you can, even if you're no longer thirsty. Basrans have gotten used to a certain degree of comfort, and they don't want to let it go." It's not an answer that would satisfy Sheik Baghdali, of course — but then again, for Basrans like him, it's always easier to sit in the dark in an un-air conditioned room and curse America."

Soon, so long and good riddance to that particular problem. America will never be a care-taker for lazy ingrates, and that goes double for at home.

8/03/2005 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger geoffgo said...


I don't know if you realize how remarkable your responses actually are.

Firewire fast with your retorts, armed with some facts, some quasi-facts, plus sh*t you make up contemporaneously. It's quite a brilliant mix. You really are far more articulate than most (a vast majority including the tinfoil hat brigade) of the Left, and you are wasting your time here.

Should you choose to optimize this ability to deliver the "exact opposite in real-time," you are offered you 3 choices:
1) Proceed immediately to the DNC and demonstrate your seemingly automatic and instantaneous "intellectual dyslexia." They will hire you in a heartbeat to teach it to others.
2) Or, you can get it refocused on discovering the truth,and not only the exact opposite. (requires long discussions with willing and wise people who take the opposite stance, and keeping an open mind. As smart as you are, when 500 informed folks (strangers) say you're 180 degrees wrong, it should get your full-time attention.
3) Having got the dislexia repaired, you could be great in sales.

8/03/2005 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Fernand_Braudel said...

Goesh said...
I should have qualified my statement to read, "when several non-western men come for you, they bring death, nothing more."

You, you, PROFILER You!

8/03/2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger AK said...

Here's the link for Steven Vincent's NYT Op-Ed from last week:

Perhaps some more context to the "Shiite problem" in Basra and throughout Iraq can be added from the following:

"On July 7, the Iranian and Iraqi defense ministers signed an agreement on military cooperation that would have Iranians train the Iraqi military. The Iraqi defense minister made a point of saying American views would not count: "Nobody can dictate to Iraq its relations with other countries." However, even if the training is deferred or derailed, it is only the visible—and very much smaller—component of a stealth Iranian encroachment into Iraq's national institutions and security services."

So who exactly is America handing Iraq over to? Doug? What does SCIRI stand for?

8/03/2005 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger atoep said...

A gut wrenching story. I don't really know what else to say. It's a good swift kick in the nuts.

8/03/2005 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Waking up to this news this morning (still can't believe I was so early that I posted first on Wretchard. Don't think that's ever happened before)I was stunned.

SV truly saw the fissures in Iraq. As Shakespeare noted, that's why those with real insight are blinded. Or silenced.

His work on Islam's tribalism, the necessity for equality -- or something approaching it -- for women, and his realism about what we were dealing with was more than "They" wanted us to know.

Creepy cynicism in leaving his translator wounded...just a message that they can be precise when they want.

Words Matter

His book title used the term "soul" of Iraq. I wonder if it has a heart?

8/03/2005 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Subsunk said...

Eloquently put, as always.


8/03/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger RattlerGator said...

The temptation, of course, is to say this is an unfortunate tragedy. However, at a moment like this we are reminded of the words of Whittaker Chambers from the foreward of Letter to My Children:

Crime, violence, infamy are not tragedy. Tragedy occurs when a human soul awakes and seeks, in suffering and pain, to free itself from crime, violence, infamy, even at the cost of life. The struggle is the tragedy – not defeat or death. That is why the spectacle of tragedy has always filled men, not with despair, but with a sense of hope and exaltation.

So, filled with my own personal sense of hope and exaltation regarding our effort in Iraq: rest in peace, Steven Vincent.

8/03/2005 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

"I think this news may prod the Brits into cracking down more in Basra. Their "hands off" approach may have allowed a lot of things to fester, much as our inaction in Fallujah did last year."

- monty

Crack down in response to the murder of an unarmed, unembedded US reporter? You've got to be kidding. Mr. Vincent's death, horrible as it was, is one more drop in a big, big bucket of bloody mayhem. His slaughter matters to his friends, his family, and his readers, and obviously to those who went to the trouble of killing him, but beyond that it is a minor footnote in the downward spiral of an erstwhile nation.

8/03/2005 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

U.S. Laying Groundwork for Iraq Pullout By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
Wed Aug 3, 9:52 AM ET

At best, a U.S. drawdown would begin shortly after elections for a new government in Baghdad, scheduled for December. That assumes two other difficult political milestones are achieved first: drafting a constitution by Aug. 15 and holding a national referendum in mid-October to approve the constitution.
I think there must be bottlenecks in constitution drafting set to be completed by Aug 15. Likely the USA is putting the fear into the Iraquis of inaction.

8/03/2005 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Pity a journalist died, but he is just one person that wouldn't warrant the news coverage if he wasn't a journalist, and a risk-taking journalist at that. It looks like 20 Marines based with Marine Forces Reserve's 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Brook Park, Ohio died over the last 2 days in very worrying fashions. 6 were a Marine sniper team that got shot before they could shoot. 14 were in a single Amphib personnel carrier that fell victim to the new shaped charge bombs that defeat US armor.

Give an unknown, intelligent enemy close-up observation time on your forces defenses and tactics and eventually they will find the weaknesses or adapt better weaponry/tactics.

That is the real news the day. That and the Shiites are getting real cozy with Iran.

As Trish said:

Mr. Vincent's death, horrible as it was, is one more drop in a big, big bucket of bloody mayhem. His slaughter matters to his friends, his family, and his readers, and obviously to those who went to the trouble of killing him, but beyond that it is a minor footnote in the downward spiral of an erstwhile nation.

8/03/2005 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Buffy said...

If you strike me down, Darth, I will rise up again a thousand times stronger. You cannot win.

8/03/2005 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger NooYawkah said...

Who's playing Darth in this scenario?

8/03/2005 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


"Mr. Vincent's death, horrible as it was, is one more drop in a big, big bucket of bloody mayhem. His slaughter matters to his friends, his family, and his readers, and obviously to those who went to the trouble of killing him, but beyond that it is a minor footnote in the downward spiral of an erstwhile nation."

That doesn't make it a nothing, any more than it makes a death in the Sudan nothing. Last I heard the number of civilian deaths in Iraq were a small fraction of the daily toll under Saddam.

Maybe this goes to the heart of it. According to a certain point of view, the Sunni are the enemy and Vincent was inconveniently writing about Shi'ites killing Sunnis in Basra. But he made this footnote itself too large. May he not now be a footnote himself.

8/03/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

Rest in peace, Stephen Vincent.

And God bless you and yours.

8/03/2005 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Surely there's another word than "tragedy" that can be used for the cold-blooded murder of someone who was writing the truth, and doing it with eloquence and stoic passion. Just like 9/11 was NOT a tragedy, which implies an inavoidable act of God like a tsunami, so too this death of a good man is not a tragedy in the sense that it was an unavoidable act of God.

But a flippant Soprano's "whacking" seems inappropriate, too. I guess I also have a problem calling him a "journalist" since I have been firmly convinced for so long that all "journalists" in Iraq worked for MSM and hired terrorists to set up their ambushes for them.

I think, given the universal reaction to his death, it may be a tipping point of some sort. And that is benediction in and of itself, that this man did not die in vain.

8/03/2005 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Basra's Serpico.

8/03/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

I have to agree with Kat and Monty. I have read some of Vincent's work and he tends to expose very distasteful corruption which may have done him in (bid rigging, theft of electricity, and the unpleasant fact that Basra police had become corrupt).

As Kat said noted it was a police car that abducted him and his interpreter. "...It doesn't take a genius to figure out who killed him..."

The interpreter may live to tell who did it (but, I am not betting on it). It looks like a classic hit job. As Monty points out the place is being run by the mob. Wretchard has pointed out the killings of many hookers and other Isamo/mob style killings. If one wanted to get the top guy hitting al-Sadr would be the best bet (assuming he truly has infiltrated the police).

If you can't trust the police you can't trust anyone.

8/03/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

If the hit was put on Vincent because of something he wrote, his writings will have all the clues we need to determine his killers. While obvious, I mention it as a prelude to the possibility that Iran may be involved (from In the Red Zone):

"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.'"

8/03/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

"That doesn't make it a nothing, any more than it makes a death in the Sudan nothing. Last I heard the number of civilian deaths in Iraq were a small fraction of the daily toll under Saddam."

- wretchard

I didn't say it was a nothing. I said it was a very small something in the current context of Iraq. There are many such small somethings every day. If these do not, taken together, rise to the running daily average under Saddam, it's not for lack of trying.

8/03/2005 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Heraclitus said...

Probably be one of those Princess Di type unsolvable mysteries...

8/03/2005 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

Noah at defense tech (

Before I left for Iraq, a pair of Marines warned me -- and the crew of young troops they were training -- not to trust the Iraqi army or police forces, under any circumstances. Treat them as hostiles. Too many of them were insurgent agents, only pretending to be on the government's side.

The advice kept going through my head this morning, as I read about Vincent's death, and the ambush of six marine snipers, near Haditha. "The attack is eerily similar to one in nearby Ramadi more than a year ago," MSNBC notes. "In both cases, it's feared the Marines were betrayed by insurgents who had infiltrated the Iraqi military."

When I was in Iraq, I saw the increasing number of patrols by local police and army units as a good thing. Now, in hindsight, I'm not so sure.

8/03/2005 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Have not checked today, but my antennas went up also when I saw that 6 were killed, and not by an IED.
Hope details come out.

8/03/2005 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger FreeRiderNoMore said...

Who will pick up his burden, now that he has been silenced?

I think the reaction in the coming days will speak volumes about where we stand as a nation. It will tell whether we really are starting to look to evacuate as soon as possible with a barely acceptable amount of face remaining.

Will any reporters go to Basra to continue his work? Will any reporters inquire of the British Military why they believe that, in the 21st century, it is the right thing to do to turn a blind eye to what he exposed? Will any reporters inquire of the US Military whether they agree with the British in looking the other way as the Shiites use the time-tested tactics of Saddam and countless others to solidify their power in the south of Iraq?

Will any reporters ask President Bush if he thinks Steven Vincent was the kind of soul he had in mind when he spoke of spreading freedom to make the world a better, safer place?

And if he does, will they follow-up and ask, "What do you intend to do about those that killed the man who took up your fight?"

8/03/2005 07:27:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Will any reporters ask President Bush if he thinks Steven Vincent was the kind of soul he had in mind when he spoke of spreading freedom to make the world a better, safer place?

Bush just started his 5-week summer vacation.

He left instructions to "Stay the course, smoke the evildoers out of their caves."

Try asking that in late September when he is back in town.

8/03/2005 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Welcome to Mexico. Any one care to hazard a guess as to how many journalists that have been wacked in Mexico in the last few years. We coddle craven murderers in our back yard. |Murderers are our friends. |Get used to making peace with muderers in the Middle East. We as a nation like them, encourage them, and aspire to their ease of evil.

8/03/2005 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

I haven't read his work,but feel his sacrifice was noble and heroic.He brings to mind other fallen journalists like Ernie Pyle,Bernard Fall,Sean Flynn,Daniel Pearl.Someone has to record the sights and sounds of geopolitical conflict and they pay the price too.
The 20 kids from Ohio in two days is gut wrenching.That's an almost unbearable loss for one town in a conflict like this.Look on memorials in small town centers.Some towns didn't suffer that sort of loss in WWII.This demands some sort of response,some ginning up of the cost to the Jihadis and lowlife Saddamites.
I've been a Bush backer and an optimist on the war,but it is starting to smell more and more like a quagmire and I dislike that word.
Not a quagmire of being unable to conquer this rabble but a quagmire of fretting away victory because crushing force is insensitive and determined leadership is plowing the north 40 in Crawford,Texas rather than ordering real shock and awe.
I seem to recommend alot of books to read.I strongly recommend this one:
"Ripcord" by Keith William Nolan.Mr. Nolan is a battle historian of the Viet Nam war.He is an american Bernard Fall.Ripcord tells the little known story of the last major American ground combat in the Viet Nam war.A battalion of the 101st Airborne built a firebase way out in indian country far into the Ashau valley to prepare for a final offensive to defeat a North Vietnamese push on the coastal plains before American withdrawal.From the moment of inception the firebase was targeted by thousands of NVA troops.The infantry companies in the hills were cut up piecemeal and only superb company level leadership saved them from annihilation.The firebase was pounded into dust by mortar and rocket fire until abandoned with lots of casualties.
What's the lesson of FB Ripcord?Don't hang your troops out to dry while apple polishing brass refuse to fight to win and politicians who don't know which end the round comes out of blow smoke.

8/03/2005 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
did I use those letters somewhere.?
(Just Curious Why you asked... in one of the links?)

8/03/2005 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Welcome to the first fully multicultural Quagmire.
For the sake of starting the operation, we maintain that we are better than Saddam, but whose to say we're better than any of the present combatants?
...thus better to tend the farm.

8/03/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

...and be thankful we preserved the lives of gems like Sadr.
So compassionate and subtle of us.

8/03/2005 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I wish Jinn or some other Al Sistani watcher was here.
What's his view on this setup?

8/03/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What I wonder about is where accident victims will go once they close all the emergency rooms in Southern Calif.
...They just closed another one yesterday.
Something about not being able to make money giving away their services.
Very Compassionate, and completely Multi, however. they just have to get it through my thick skull why increasing the proportion of the population that votes at least 60 percent democrat as fast as possible is in the GOP's interest.
Sometimes my brain is just fluff.

8/03/2005 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Give somebody their own separate interests, a vote, and a growing majority and see what happens. I live in SoCa so know that the hospitals are going away. They are being replaced by pay-for-use emergency medical outlets, staffed sometimes by the very local doctors and surgeons that lost their jobs. Times, they are a changin’ and our politicians are struck moribund by social justice beliefs that are neither social nor just.

America the melting pot is becoming America- “seating is limited so sneak in while you can”.

8/03/2005 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I met Steven Vincent last November.

Here's a short post I wrote today in his memory.

He risked his life for all of us, and now he's gone. Actually, he did more than risk his life, he pretty much ended up sacrificing it, like a canary in the Basra coal-mine.

We all owe a debt to him.

8/03/2005 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

I just watched a lengthy presentation and Q & A by Anthony Cordesman of CSIS (video and audio links at C-Span). The presentation was given in June, after Cordesman returned from a two-week visit to Iraq. The visit was at the behest of State and DoD. It's an extremely interesting listen.

One of the things I found particularly striking is Cordesman's absolute insistence that the goal of our various military operations has NEVER been and never will be to "break the back of the insurgency" or to otherwise destroy it. The goal has always been and continues to be to to limit it, mainly by depriving it of stable, reliable sanctuary (within Iraq, anyway). It's the same thing in Afghanistan: occasional sweeps in cities, towns, and villages where insurgents (and/or al Qaedaists) have lodged, after which they move to other cities, towns, and villages. They'll always find their way back once you're gone or your security posture changes. No decisive engagements, no final smackdown and mop-up.

I've no doubt that revenge for the dead Marines will be taken out of someone's hide, just as it was after the killing of the Navy Seals in Afghanistan. But the message doesn't stick. Why should it? They'll sacrifice 200 to get 20 of ours in two blows. Big newsday, and it's good for recruitment.

8/03/2005 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

And that incidents such as those in Haditha (or those north of Asadabad, for that matter) do not happen often is a demonstration of the modern American military's blessing and curse: zealous force protection.

8/03/2005 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger SF said...

SV's death is indeed tragic: his resume suggests he was a good man, and any time a good person is killed because of stupidity or greed or lust for power or similar evil reasons, it's a tragedy for all of us.

As a former military officer who's supported the U.S. actions in Iraq and 'Stan, let me propose a solution to the problems in Iraq:

Bring our troops home and leave Iraq to the factions.

If your blood pressure just jumped, hold on: Thousands of analysts have said we can't pull out now because that would trigger a hugely bloody civil war between a) Shia, including Iranian agents; b) devout Sunni, who resent their loss of power in a democratic system; c) corrupt police and members of the Iraqi army; d) non-religious Ba'athists, who want to regain their absolute power; and e) whatever few Iraqis may exist who love freedom enough to fight for it.

Yes, it will be incredibly bloody. And there's a good chance the Good Guys (assuming there are any still left alive) will lose.

Yes, their deaths would be tragic too--but worthwhile in the larger, strategic picture. Let me explain:

One of the big--and widely overlooked--lessons of VietNam was that when a powerful ally offers to help defend you, gradually the recipients of the help begin doing less and less. (Human nature, perhaps.) Did any Iraqis notice what happened to the South VietNamese after the U.S. left?

What if the North Vietnamese--instead of being a largely monolithic, uncorrupted, hard-working force--had consisted of many competing factions, all of which were either brutal or corrupt or merely venal. In that case the post-war outcome would probably have been even more of a disaster than it was.

In Iraq, we succeeded in the main goal of the invasion: Saddam is gone, his sons are dead, and we escorted the citizens of Iraq thru their first true elections. (The Kurds in particular seem to be doing pretty well, and won't likely give up their freedoms easily.) We could not be expected to solve every problem between the various factions--indeed, we cannot, no matter how long we stay. So rather than viewing coming home as a loss, a bad thing, look at it as the "ultimate weapon" that we now--reluctantly--choose to use; a weapon powerful enough to destroy an entire nation if its people insist on maintaining their current ways. A weapon that has power precisely because the various factions are so selfish, so viscerally opposed to freedom for all.

Few things more instructive than having to live with the consequences of one's own choices.

Bush should explain the reasons for our proposed use of this weapon in great detail: We did what needed to be done, and now we can't hold their hands forever. It's time for them to either stand up and fight for their own freedom or be defeated by their own fanatical countrymen and corrupt police.

Emphasize that our troops--including the very excellent National Guard--have done everything that was asked of them and more, and we honor and thank them. This is what we should have done with South Vietnam, but it was our first experience with a limited war and we didn't know any better.

The Left will be conflicted: After all, they've been wailing from the outset that we should bring the troops home. When some congressional Dem rises and wails about how awful it is that we'll be abandoning the "poor innocent Iraqis", reply that we gave them every opportunity to rat out the jihadists and corrupt cops and assassins in their midst, and for the most part they declined, so now they're free to bask in the social system they seem to have wanted.

Just rewards, and all that.

When a few on the Left grasp the implications of a pullout, tell them "This is what you've been insisting that we do. Do you now oppose the very thing you so strongly demanded only a few days ago?"

Finally: other nations, other peoples who find their country on the brink of Islamic revolution, will see what happens in post-American-refereed Iraq.

And if they have IQ's above double digits, they won't want that outcome for themselves.

Compare the quality of life in the former South VietNam with life in, say, South Korea. There's no comparison--everywhere freedom exists, life flourishes. And the converse is also true.

Mr. President, it's time to stop being squeamish: Use the ultimate weapon.


8/03/2005 11:28:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

John Robb at Global Guerillas ( has a very informative post up on the IED marketplace in Iraq, to include IED cell structure and SOPs. It's definitely worth a read.

"The following revealing picture of how these cells operate and why they remain so hard to penetrate comes from extensive interviews with military intelligence officers with the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, briefing documents, and interviews and presentations at an Army sponsored counter IED conference June 13-17 at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Ca. Much of what U.S. officials know about IED cells was gathered through the interrogation of captured Iraqi insurgents."

8/04/2005 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Matthew's link is highly recommended.
This from NY Times Piece he has there also:
"He said he fully supported the Iraq war, believing it was part of a much larger campaign being waged by the United States against "Islamo-fascism." But Mr. Vincent said he was also disappointed by the failure of the United States and Great Britain to enforce their visions of democracy here in Iraq, instead allowing religious politicians to seize power across the south."

8/04/2005 03:03:00 AM  

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