The whole “Steven Vincent is to blame for his own murder” theory

I didn’t write anything about this on my site when I first learned that Steven Vincent had been murdered, at least in part because I didn’t want to help get the idea out there. But a certain segment of the world seems to think that Steven Vincent was having a romantic relationship with his translator Nour Weidi, and that this explains why he was killed.

First of all, it’s pretty clear from his writing that Vincent’s relationship with Weidi was more than a simple journalist-translator one. How much more is unclear to me, though rumors that Vincent (who had a wife in the United States) crossed the line somewhere are running rampant.

It’s not terribly kind to speak ill of the dead or dig into their laundry (dirty or otherwise), though, and I won’t try to delve any deeper. If you really need to know more, there is a legion of writers who didn’t agree with Vincent about Iraq who will be happy to help you learn.

The theory seems to go something like this: Vincent was having an affair with his translator and locals, their honor bruised, killed him for it. Therefore, Vincent’s writing in Iraq isn’t worth anything.

Or something like that. Pretty shameful, really.

Martin Kramer responds to a Juan Cole article that supports this theory:

But maybe what’s really at issue here is Cole’s ego (on his website, it usually is). Beneath his haughty dismissal of Vincent (“did not know anything serious”) lies the fact that Vincent had the audacity to challenge him. Vincent didn’t think much of Cole’s armchair expertise or his claim to be driven by concern for Iraqis, and told Cole just that on his weblog:

You might want to review your own site and how well it reflects love and concern for the Iraqi people. After all, on “Informed Comment,” pro-liberation Iraqi bloggers are accused of being CIA agents, the elections are practically dismissed as window-dressing and every terrorist–no, I mean guerrilla, as Cole would have it–attack is given marquis billing, as if their psychopathic bloodlust discredits the liberation of 26 million people. Whoops, I mean 23.5 million–because according to Cole’s Wednesday post, 2.5 million Iraqis support the “resistance.”

Well, I thank Cole for revealing his gut-level concern for the Iraqi people… My question to the Professor is, which Iraqi people–the fascist thugs he calls the “resistance,” or the police, National Guardsmen, politicians, everyday people and eight million voters who comprise the true Iraqi “resistance”? We await his Informed Comment.

Cole didn’t respond then. But now that Vincent is dead, Cole has seized the last word in the argument. Vincent shamed him, but now he has his honor back. He’s taken his revenge. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown among full professors.

I don’t know what the truth about these rumors of romance are. But, even if true, I don’t see how they would really affect the legitimacy of Vincent’s writing. In any event, regardless of any disdain that Vincent may have been due over these rumors, I find it odd that anyone is suggesting that he deserved death.

UPDATE: Link to the Kramer post inserted. Sorry.


  1. Well, My daddy did warn me that having sex with the wrong person could kill you. But I thought it meant death by syphilis, gonnoreah or A.I.D.S.

  2. I think this is disgusting. I didn’t see anything suggesting they were other than friends, and besides which, there’s no law against it either way.

  3. I thought you might like to see the email I sent Juan Cole in response to his August 8th post about my husband. Sorry if it runs a little long – ————– ‘Was American journalist Steve Vincent killed in Basra as part of an honor killing? He was romantically involved with his Iraqi interpreter, who was shot 4 times. If her clan thought she was shaming them by appearing to be having an affair outside wedlock with an American male, they might well have decided to end it. In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner.’ Mr. Cole – (I refuse to call you professor, because that would ennoble you. And please change the name of your blog to ‘Uninformed Comment’, because that is precisely what the above paragraph is.) I would like to refute this shameful post against a dead man who can no longer defend himself against your scurrilous accusations, a dead man who also happened to be my husband. Steven Vincent and I were together for 23 years, married for 13 of them, and I think I know him a wee bit better than you do. For starters, Steven and Nour were not ‘romantically involved’. If you knew anything at all about the Middle East, as you seem to think you do, then you would know that there is no physical way that he and she could have ever been alone together. Nour (who always made sure to get home before dark, so they were never together at night) could not go to his room; he could not go to her house; there was no hot-sheet motel for them to go to for a couple of hours. They met in public, they went about together in public, they parted in public. They were never alone. She would not let him touch her arm, pay her a compliment, buy her a banana on the street, hyper-aware of how such gestures might be interpreted by the mysogynistic cretins who surrounded her daily. So for you brazenly claim that she was ‘sleeping around,’ when there is no earthly way you could possibly know that, suggests to me that you are quite the misogynist as well. Cheap shot, Mr. Cole, against a remarkable woman who does not in any wise deserve it. This is not to say that Steven did not love Nour – he did. And he was quite upfront about it to me. But it was not sexual love – he loved her for her courage, her bravery, her indomitable spirit in the face of the Muslim thugs who have oppressed their women for years. To him she represented a free and democratic Iraq, and all of the hopes he had for that still-elusive creature. And he loved her for the help she gave him – endangering herself by affiliating with him because she wanted the truth to come out about what was happening in her native city of Basra and the surrounding area. Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that it is possible to love someone in a strictly platonic way, but I assure you, it can happen – even between men and women. And yes, he was planning to to convert to Islam and marry Nour, but only to take her out of the country to England, where she had a standing job offer, set her up with the friends she had over there, divorce her, and come back to New York. He had gotten her family’s permission to do so (thereby debunking the ‘honor killing’ theory), but more importantly, he had gotten mine. He called one night to say that it had been intimated to him that Nour’s life was essentially going to be worthless after he left; since he was an honorable man (a breed you might want to familiarize yourself with), he then asked what I thought he might do to help her. I told him to get her out of the country and bring her here to New York. However, the only way she could have left Iraq was with a family member or husband. Since her family had no intention of going anywhere, Steven was her only recourse, and it would have been perfectly legal for him to convert, marry her, then take her out of Iraq to give her a chance at a real life. (Now that that avenue is closed to her, I have made inquiries to the State Department about the possibility of my sponsoring her in America. Do you perhaps labor under the misapprehension I am such a spineless cuckold that I would do put myself out thusly for the woman you believe my husband was traducing me with? If so, I’m guessing you don’t know much about the Sicilian female temperament.) As to your claim that ‘In Mediterranean culture, a man’s honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men’, it may perhaps have escaped your notice that Iraq does not abut, in any way, shape or form, the Mediterranean Sea. Italy is a Mediterranean culture, as are Spain, Greece, Southern France. In none of them is ‘honor killing’ an accepted form of ‘protecting womanhood’. As to the southerly lands like Morocco and Algeria, they are not, in the general scheme of things, considered Mediterranean cultures – they are considered Arabic, a whole different beast. For you to seemingly be unaware of this, and then to say that my husband ‘did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture’ again begs the question, just where do you get off? If you cannot differentiate between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, how is it you feel qualified to pontificate so pompously? How often have you been to the Middle East, Mr. Cole? In 2000 Steven and I spent almost a month in Iran on vacation. In 2003 we spent 10 days over Christmas in Jordan. In the last 2 years he had made not one, not two, but three trips to Iraq, and at the time of his death had about 7 months of daily living there under his belt. Can you offer comparables? How much Arabic do you speak, Mr. Cole? Steven had been learning Arabic for the last two years, and was able to converse simply but effectively with the people he came into contact with. He had many expatriate friends in the Muslim world from whom he was always learning. As I sit here writing this at what was his desk, I can look at the literally dozens of books he devoured about Islam and the Middle East – each one thick with Post-It notes and personal observations he made in the pages – as he sought to comprehend and absorb the complexities of the culture and the religion he felt, and cared, so deeply about. If you would like a list of them, please email me back and I will be happy to send you a comprehensive accounting. Yes, Steven was aggressive in criticizing what he saw around him and did not like. It’s called courage, and it happens to be a tradition in the history of this country. Without this tradition there would have been no Revolutionary War, no Civil War, no civil rights movement, no a lot of things that America can be proud of. He had made many friends in Iraq, and was afraid for them if the religious fundamentalists were given the country to run under shari’a. You may dismiss that as naive, simplistic, foolish, but I say to you, as you sit safely in your ivory tower in Michigan with nothing threatening your comfy, tenured existance, that you should be ashamed at the depths to which you have sunk by libeling Steven and Nour. They were on the front lines, risking all, in an attempt to call attention to the growing storm threatening to overwhelm a fragile and fledgling experiment in democracy, trying to get the world to see that all was not right in Iraq. And for their efforts, Steven is dead and Nour is recuperating with three bullet wound in her back. Yes, that’s right – the ‘honorable’ men who abducted them, after binding them, holding them captive and beating them, set them free, told them to run – and then shot them both in the back. I’ve seen the autopsy report. You did not know him – you did not have that honor, and you will never have the chance, thanks to the muerderous 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. I did not see your blog until tonight. I was busy doing other things – fighting the government to get Steven’s body returned from Basra days after I was told he would be sent home, planning the funeral, buying a cemetary plot, choosing the clothes to bury him in, writing the prayer card, fending off the media, dealing with his aging parents, waking and then burying him – but I could not let the calumnies you posted so freely against two total strangers go unchallenged. 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. Sincerely, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent

  4. That was an incredibly civil and restrained letter, considering the subject and recipient. One can only hope that its contents actually have an effect on those bent on destroying others for their own ideology and pleasure.

  5. Lisa Very heartfelt and intelligent retort. Maybe you should set up camp outside Cole’s office and demand that he meet with you.

  6. Lisa, Have you considered a lawsuit for libel? I hate the abuse of the American judicial system. When I hear about someone suing someone else, I usually roll my eyes. But in this case, I think it’s justifiable. Regards, A. Clements

  7. Lisa: Having read with a strong interest Steven’s reports from the field these past several months, and now, your moving response to correct the record, please know that the real and only ‘Ugly American’ herein – is Juan Cole. While shame is now his due, something more is required to honor Mr. Vincent’s heroic efforts and memory, his considerate and dignified wife, and your courageous Iraqi friend, Noor – for I agree that Cole remains arrogant and shameless. I urge all concerned parties to demand redress for Juan Cole’s degrading and despicable words/behavior by emailing his employer and requesting his censure and/or dismissal. Is he not to be held responsible for his conduct, as it sets example for his students, and reflects upon an institution of higher(?) learning? Cole deserves it. He has abused his position, and brought disgrace upon himself, his profession (?), and the institution which retains him. ABC/Disney/WMAL have just done far more – for far less ‘alleged’ offense. Again, another journalist is ‘shot in the back’ for doing his job, for telling the truth – as he saw it. The spotlight is the best remedy for these privileged profs who disdain and attack this Nation that supports their freedoms, protects them – and tolerates their poisonous pens. Better still, as you intone, perhaps his employer can find balance and justice for all by requiring Juan Cole to ensconce himself in Iraq, walk in Steven’s shoes for several months, and see if he can manage to ‘keep his head and his pants on’ without becoming and out-and-out traitor to the USA, while in the field (something he comes close to achieving consistently while here at home). Yet, he probably considers himself a citizen of ‘the World’, or the UN, first, not the USA, as is the wont of these twisted thinkers for hire. As a publisher/trade developer, I maintained a position similar to Steven ten years ago while in Vietnam, before the US trade embargo was lifted, when things were still a little wild and wooly for the first Americans in since 4/30/75 – similar conditions, but certainly not comparable to the dangers in Basra today. I, also, was escorted in public by a twenty-three year old, very attractive, and intelligent female, Mai Lynn. Appointed by my Houston based, American-Vietnamese business partner, Lynn Nguyen, Mai Lynn provided for my protection, transportation, and translation assistance in my business meetings with the government authorities and business interests. All turned out well, but it was never dull, believe me. The proprieties (strict socially correct behavior) were observed at all times between us, day and night – no public displays of affection of any kind – very taboo! Yet, we became very close. Were we tempted? Of course. But, to this day, I respect my former associate, Mai Lynn, for her part. Social mores, and paternally monitored family morality are still strongly practiced in Asia, though business ethics, as in the Middle East, are yet to be found in wide, if any, acceptance, nor generally codified in law, as in the USA. All is fair in war and business, there. Generally, murder is the remedy for business deals gone bad, or perceived to have gone sour – not the Courts. It happened to one of my American competitors representing a US Fortune 100 corporation while I was there – it sent visible shivers! But, it’s their culture, not ours, with our civil laws and remedies. Ironically, in my personal experience abroad in many countries, that’s why so many foreign business interests desire American business partners first. They desire our better products, trade practices, capital, and performance results – regardless of that swill the ivory tower based US profs serve up about the horrors of Global American Imperialism – they haven’t a clue! Most of them have only been there by proxy, if that, and also lack the business acumen to run a snowball stand on the beach in July. Pity their inspired, improvised students – for the world as it actually is, awaits them. Mai Lynn could have easily attempted to ply me to gain legal access to the USA (I was a bachelor) and had she done so, I doubt that I would have resisted, but she chose not, which only increased my fondness and respect towards her still. Yes, Lisa, profession relationships between men and women are possible and do occur. I am living proof, and happily married to a European MD now, with no regrets about Mai Lynn. I still wish her well, in meditation. You can’t fully appreciate the allure of America to third worlders, especially the better educated, unless you have truly been – in country, on your own, and in the thick of their cultures. It requires, among other things, well, courage, for which I commend your husband. His mission was of a more noble cause than perhaps mine. I was only trying to promote ‘Yankee’ trade among our former foes. Still–. In Vietnam, to my huge surprise, as one of the first Americans back to a nation in which we had killed about 3 million perhaps innocents with bombings during war, I received more honest open affection and hospitality from regular folks on the street, not just the dignitaries, than in almost every other nation I have visited – the food was outstanding as well. I was, and remain very impressed by it all. Like Noor, Mai Lynn was indispensable to my mission (and my life). She kept me from real trouble (VN Mafia, hostage takers, etc.), doublespeak in negotiations, and was of excellent deportment, great wit and humor, as well as, a very mature insight. I, for one, therefore readily appreciate and accept your account of Steven’s relationship with his associate, Noor, his valiant efforts, and applaud your grace in his defense. The three of you deserve a novel, and then the screen play. Come down from your Ivory Tower, Juan Cole, for you have exposed and disgraced yourself – by your own low minded, self-serving pen! A pox on you – and your backers. Get thee to Iraq and await the film – ‘Reports From Basra’, ‘an account of the heroic life and times of the American Journalist, Steven Vincent, who was murdered from behind, while trying to understand and bridge two disparate cultures during the War on Terror.’ After the film, perhaps his Medal Of Freedom awaits( ey, Bush)? Suck on that, jc – consider how you will be remembered as the one who supported the vile, uncivilized, brutal murderers – with self-serving, unsupported lies! My condolences on the loss of your inspired, brave,and courageous Steven, Lisa. Goat

  8. You might not want to check out how Professor Cole tears apart your propositions.

  9. pig: Thanks for the tip. We’ve been watching the esteemed professor all along and I’ve already posted on his self-congratulatory ‘response’ to Lisa Ramaci-Vincent’s letter. I’m sure that he agrees with you that he ‘tears apart’ things, but unfortunately he seems to have fallen a bit short. Posted last night:

  10. Dear Lisa; My condolences on the loss of your dear Steven. I wish you all the best in the future from Hanne

  11. Dear Lisa; My condolences on the loss of your dear Steven. I wish you all the best in the future from Hanne

  12. Dear Lisa; My condolences on the loss of your dear Steven. I wish you all the best in the future from Hanne

  13. Dear Lisa; My condolences on the loss of your dear Steven. I wish you all the best in the future from Hanne