Steven Vincent, R.I.P.

Steve Vincent, whom we have long admired, was killed by terrorists yesterday in Basra, Iraq. Bruce Chapman’s Wall Street Journal book review of Vincent’s “In the Red Zone” is cited at the end of the following story from Reuters.

Steven Vincent, U.S. art critic who went to war

03 Aug 2005 18:03:38 GMT, Source: Reuters

NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Free-lance journalist Steven Vincent, who was killed in Iraq this week, was an art critic inspired to write about war after watching from the roof of his New York apartment as the World Trade Center towers fell.

Author of a well-reviewed book on Iraq called “In the Red Zone,” Vincent documented his regular trips to Iraq on an Internet blog that touched on everything from Islamic feminism to arts and shopping in supermarkets in Basra.

Vincent was found shot dead in Basra on Tuesday. His Iraqi translator was also shot and injured.

Mitchell Muncy, his book editor at Spence Publishing, said Vincent had first gone to Iraq in 2003 as a free-lancer who was more interested in talking to local people than in covering the activities of U.S. troops.

“He spent a great deal of time with the artists in and around Baghdad,” Muncy said. “He spent a lot of time with these people not just as a reporter but as a friend.”

Vincent, 49, who was married but did not have children, wrote for Harper’s Magazine and the Christian Science Monitor.

His death came four days after publication in the New York Times of an opinion piece he wrote critical of the increasing influence of Shi’ite Islamist parties in the southern city of Basra, Iraq’s second city and the subject of his next book.

“Basra was clearly his favorite place in Iraq,” Muncy said, adding that Vincent had studied the security situation carefully before going there some three months ago to research the book. “He honestly didn’t think, and I did not either, that something like this would happen,” Muncy said.

Steve Mumford, an American artist who shared an apartment with Vincent in Baghdad in 2003, said Vincent had told him in an e-mail some weeks ago he had a lot of information he knew could get him killed if it was published.

“He probably could have waited until he left. All I can think is he felt he had to get it out as soon as possible,” Mumford said, adding that this was Vincent’s third visit to Iraq and he had been due to leave soon.

He said Vincent had narrowly escaped death last year after being turned on by a crowd in the sacred Shi’ite city of Najaf following a car bombing.

Vincent was so fascinated by Shi’ism that he plastered the walls of the apartment they shared in Baghdad with religious posters and studied the Koran, Mumford said.

“He kind of envied the faith these people had, but he understood how this kind of obsessiveness was not necessarily the most helpful thing for becoming a new democracy,” he said.

New York Times reporter Edward Wong, who described Vincent as “a short, wiry man with a penchant for cigars,” said Vincent had told him he was prompted to go to Iraq by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Iraq war.

“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,'” Wong wrote in a Times report.

“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,” Wong added.

Reviewing “In the Red Zone” last year, the Wall Street Journal said the book was “in the great tradition of behind-the-scenes war reports, humanizing the participants of varying backgrounds and prominence.”

Vincent’s blog can be see at:

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