RE: The letter from Lisa Ramaci-Vincent to Juan Cole

In the past two and half days MO has had over 33,500 visits. This is compared to a typical 1,500 per day during the week. I initially tried to keep track of everyone who linked to “It’s called courage”, but there’s simply no way for me to keep up with everyone. So, for now at least, a blanket “thank-you” is going to have to suffice, though Winds of Change, Little Green Footballs, Jonah Goldberg at NRO, and Instapundit deserve special mention as the ones who sent the most traffic.

As any blogger knows, it’s incredibly gratifying to be linked by big sites and the fact that thousands of people are reading your words is a pretty big ego boost. And, whether they admit it or not, most bloggers watch their traffic counters like hawks.

But the words in “It’s Called Courage” were not mine.

They were the words of Lisa Ramaci-Vincent, the widow of freelance writer Steven Vincent. And I believed that they needed to be heard. Steven is no longer with us to speak for himself, so it fell to his bereaved wife to respond to the rumors and innuendo about the relationship between her husband and his Iraqi translator Nour Weidi.

The letter was written in response to Juan Cole, the professor at the University of Michigan who took the rumors and ran with them. (He did not start the rumors, as some seem (or want) to believe. But he certainly helped them gain attention.) While Mr. Cole is no doubt very knowledgeable about the Middle East, he certainly seems to have overstepped his bounds when writing about Steven and Nour. And Vincent himself wondered how it was that Cole could reach the conclusions he did regarding Iraq knowing what he does.

I do not know when the letter was sent to Cole, but it was published on my site Saturday afternoon by Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent. According to her, Cole has not responded either publicly or in private.

While it’s all fun and good to see Juan Cole knocked around a bit for his pompous and heartless article, I truly believe that the real value of this letter is the look it gives us into the reality of the murder of Steven Vincent.

If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.

The rumors Cole wrote about were, in part, true. But the conclusions he reached were not all that accurate. And when you read what was really going on, I don’t see how anyone can help but admire the Vincents and Ms. Weidi even more.

So while words like “emasculated”, “eviscerated”, and simply “ouch” are plastered all over posts and comments about this letter, I hope that we don’t lose sight of the larger picture and realize that it’s not just about slapping around an opponent on the other side of the aisle.

Revenge and defense of honor are Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent’s territory. The rest of us can watch if we want but this isn’t a sporting event.

Steven Vincent did many incredibly brave things to try to get at the heart of matters in Iraq, and we all owe him. The least we can do is read his book and try to keep it in mind when forming opinions or making policies about Iraq and larger conflict that it’s a part of.

I want to help make sure that his legacy is not tarnished by those uncomfortable with the things he had to say. I want to help make sure that the truth gets out there. I want to help make sure we can all do the best we can in these trying times and carry on in a way worthy of admiration.

Two final points. First, a number of commenters here and elsewhere have pointed out “his wife said that he was in love with the translator but that they weren’t ‘romantically involved’…yeah RIGHT”. This is obviously the first conclusion that many will reach, but keep in mind that Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent did not say that her husband was “in love” with Nour. She said that he “loved” her, which can be very different. As I responded in the comments, I happen to love both of my brothers very much. That doesn’t mean that we’re ‘romantically involved’. You don’t have to be siblings to share this sort of bond, and you know it.

Secondly, when I originally posted the letter I was pretty sure that it was genuine. I would not have posted it otherwise. After posting it I contacted the given email address pointing out that I had published it and asked if anything needed to be changed. A few emails convinced me even further that the sender was, indeed, Steven Vincent’s wife.

Later, a manner of obtaining independent confirmation of the writer’s identity occurred to me, and it turns out that she’s the real deal. I felt that I had known it already, but final proof is nice to have in a pinch. I’ve got it, though publishing it here wouldn’t really help, as non-believers would simply assert that I forged it. So I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

In her emails to me Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent has said several times that she’s “honored” that I’ve published this and drawn attention to it. She wrote that one of her greatest fears is that Steven’s work will be ignored or forgotten, especially if smear tactics harm its credibility. I, too, fear for that and it is exactly why I published the letter.

But it is I who am honored, Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent.

My five minutes are just about up, so I’d just like to take this opportunity to say “thank-you for reading Murdoc Payday Online” and encourage you to keep fighting the good fight.

UPDATE: Juan Cole replied. Well, he really only reposted his original article and then told us about how he was right all along, but that’s probably as close to a reply as Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent is going to get. Links and more here.


  1. I’m really sorry for Mrs Vincent’s loss. I really am. But this is ridiculous. She would have us believe that her husband was going to divorce her after 13 years, a legally binding final divorce which would have huge impact on all their finances including home ownership, taxes, health care access, etc.. That he was going to change religions. That he was going to marry another woman. But all this was platonic? And he was supposed to take her out of the country. If he planned to take her to the US he needs to live with her for a while, the INS will check that. The new wife would have claims on Vincent’s assets (or what was left after the divorce). But we are told the plan was to take her to the UK. I don’t see how a US citizen (which is what I think Vincent was) can take anyone to the UK and get her work permits. If they wanted to come to the US they would have had to live together for some time to get a green card. They say the wife is the last to know. Her letter shows she is deluding herself.

  2. GT – Exactly where did Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent say that Steven was going to divorce her in order to marry Nour? Under the laws of other countries it is permissable to have more than one wife, therefore a divorce prior to a second marriage is not required making the bulk of your comment ill-informed dribble. Secondly, as a New Zealand citizen living in Australia I can certainly help someone obtain the correct work permits and find a job in the UK utilising my personal and professional networks. Friends can do amazing thing for one another.

  3. Wow, that was quite a comeback. Did you think it up all by yourself? Then again, if you believe that Vincent was going to divorce his wife of 13 years, with all the huge legal and financial costs that implies, renounce his religion and convert to another, and then marry another woman yet this was all platonic I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in.

  4. GT, that is actually a question not a hint, and it is a question that has already been answered in Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent’s letter. And yes, I am for real. My work has taken me to numerous overseas (mainly third world) countries. I spent some time in Papua New Guinea and a mans wealth in the province I was in was measured by how many pigs he had. The more pigs a man had the more dowries he could create, and therefore the more wives he could have. At the time, the PNG government was trying to limit the maximum number of wives to eight. In Iraq, the predominant religion is Islam, and one could resonably assume that social laws are based (as are Australian) loosely on the historically dominant religion of the country. Under Islam, a man is permitted four wives. Don’t believe it? Try this on for size: As for your hint, by converting to Islam and marrying Nour, he has a locally acceptable pretext to take her from Iraq without dishonoring her family and re-establish her in a new country to start a new life for herself. Just remember, most countries in this world do not subscribe to the western ‘sensibilites’ that we take for granted, and sometimes to achieve a desirable result you do have to go about things in a different manner. Nour cannot just leave Iraq of her own volition like a female of a liberlised western nation can.

  5. I’ve done some pretty crazy things for people I like and I find others just don’t understand me wanting to be nice to them. They think you only ever do things when you get something of equal or greater value in return, but don’t see that there are intangible things you can get back. Sometimes I think it’s worth doing something good for someone you like and respect even if it costs you something, especially when what it costs you is immaterial to your life. Sometimes the reward for a good deed is the deed itself. Sometimes money or other material things matter less than helping others. I certainly could imagine putting myself in Mr. Vincent’s position. I believe one can be honourable as his wife says he was. I also believe some people will do almost anything to right a wrong.

  6. Tinkas, You didn’t understand me. I meant what did Vincent think he was going to accomplish by marrying Nour? Are you saying that Iraqi law does not allow an unmarried woman to travel abroad?

  7. Tinkas, And another related question.How was he going to help her re-establish herself abroad? AFAIK she didn’t have work permits to work in the US or the UK so how was he going to resolve that?

  8. GT – Iraqi law i am not an expert in, however there is more to understand than that. The cultural expectations and religious obligations play a very large part in Middle Eastern life. Many ME nations laws are based primarily on religious obligations. As far I understand it, an Islamic woman leaving her family to live and work in another nation (particluarly a western one) can be seen to bring dishonour, and honour is something that Muslims (rightly or wrongly, like many tribal based societies) take very seriously. So what was Steven going to achieve? Help Nour leave Iraq without bringing dishonour upon her family. She left with her husband, a Muslim. And as for your related question, It makes me wonder if you have actually read the letter Mrs Ramaci-Vincent wrote. If you have, you may wish to re-read the fifth paragraph where Mrs Ramaci-Vincent states ‘where she had a standing job offer’. For me thats a pretty good start in a new life.

  9. Tinkas, Standing job offers mean nothing without work papers. I know this from personal experience. The US recognizes marriages abroad by US citizens. If Vincent got married in Iraq without divorcing his wife he would be guilty of poligamy. In principle he could go to jail or be fined. This whole argument makes no sense. If there is no law against a single woman leaving Iraq (and I doubt there is) why did Vincent need to marry her? If he wasn’t going to divorce his wife the second marriage would not count and he couldn’t bring her to the US. Vincent was not a UK citizen so he could not provide work papers to Nour. If Nour had papers waiting for her in the UK, which I doubt, so that she would have a legal job just showing up why would she need to marry? If she was willing to be seen with Vincent in public, to the point that her life after Vincent left was sipposed to be over, why would she care what anyone in Iraq thought. If she really cared what her family or others thought, if she was really worried about honor and dishonor, she would never had accepted the job. This simply makes no sense.

  10. GT – This could go on forever 🙂 Unfortunately for the both of us we could continue to rebut each other until the cows come home, and I don’t believe either of us will change our position anytime soon. All I will say, If the contents of this letter are the truth, the world has lost a very noble man and will be the poorer for it. If only more people were willing to so such selflessness the world of the future would be something to behold. May he rest in peace.

  11. GT, Did you read the entire response that Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent posted? And I guess you’re not aware that Nour has a family of her own, which includes brothers who are VERY protective of her and are basically in control of her future. Mr. Vincent detailed this in his book. She wouldn’t have been allowed to go anywhere without their permission, much less leave the country, much less marry anyone unless he had their approval. As for the rest of the details, such as guaranteeing work for Nour in England and such – can’t you take Mrs. Ramaci-Vincent at her word or are you going to just make this argument stretch on until you see Nour’s travel papers? Skepticism is very nice, but not at extremes. You’re stretching it mighty thin.

  12. For your information, GT, Nour’s job offer came from The Guardian newspaper, one of the biggest of the British dailies, and their ability to get her work papers is unquestioned. As to Nour’s ability to travel alone, it is not permissible under current Iraqi law. A woman must travel with a male family member. Finally, Steven was not going to divorce me – his conversion to Islam would have allowed him to take Nour as his second wife and bring her to England (not the United States), an arrangement allowed under British law. He would have divorced her in England, thereby negating any bigamy problems he would have had if he came back here, but remained Muslim for the rest of his life, to prevent any threat of apostasy. Now may I ask that you please stop your aggressive and uninformed attacks against my husband? You know nothing whatsoever of the situation, which your ceaseless hostile posts make crystal clear.

  13. If that last post is real, it is awesome. Talk about stuffing something in someone’s pipe. Way to go, Lisa, if that was you. Sorry for your loss, and I assure you that your husband’s work and name will not be forgotten. His name is forged in my memory. Also, your letter to Cole was incredible. As an Ivy League grad, I am all too familiar with pompous professors who believe that their opinions are truths. I applaud you, your husband, Nour, and the good fight.

  14. Lisa’s rebuttal of GT’s drivel is awesome. Ideologically bent people like GT should take a good look in the mirror before they go around accusing people of misdeeds. Thank you Lisa for your informed reply against the uninformed Juan Cole. He has a track record of ignorance when it comes to Iraq and Iran. And I know that because I am Iranian and do sometimes visit his site. Also, Cole appears to have converted to Sufism, a most reactionary cult offshoot of Islam. Cole, the former Bahai, a reactionary faith, has now become a cultist Islamist Sufi, and that explains a lot about his apologetics of fascism and Islamism. My experience with political Sufism is that it is very brutal, reactionary, and intolerant to dissent.

  15. Juan Cole is an idiot to say that Cole’s proof that Vincent was ‘romantically’ involved with his interpreter is because Vincent called her ‘Leyla’. What idiotic reasoning. Anybody from the middle east knows that Leyla is a favorite nickname taken by women, in the same manner that men take on nicknames in the west or in the middle east. Also, Vincent was loath to identify Leyla by her real name on his blog, due to obvious security reasons.