BY ANN MARLOWE
WHEN I emailed Steve Vincent congratulations on his major oped in Sunday’s Times about police corruption in Basra, I never dreamed I’d be writing his obit three days later, when Steve became the first American journalist to be killed for his work in Iraq.
Steve began his piece by talking about the progress of the Iraqi police in Basra, a good many of whom were “switched on” — British slang for gung ho — about supporting their country’s fledgling democracy. But Steve went on to describe the disturbing infiltration of Basra’s police by extremists loyal to Shiite thug Muqtada al Sadr, and the recent string of murders committed in Basra by an unmarked white “death car” filled with off duty police. Now it appears that the death car came for him.
The body of the 49-year old American art critic and political writer was found riddled with bullets, and some members of the Basra police have been courageous enough to charge renegade cops with his murder.
Steve was a complex person and a quintessential New Yorker. “A natural contrarian” in the words of his friend gallerist Becky Smith, he was a political conservative in the left-leaning art world and a former East Village squatter who dressed in suits.
As his friend Steve Mumford put it, “He was an amateur in the 19th century sense of someone who followed his passions, and he became an art critic because he wanted to be yanked off his feet by a work of art. He became disenchanted as the New York art world he knew from the ’80s became increasingly professionalized, and after 9/11 he felt that he had a cause he had to follow. He wasn’t an ideologue, but he believed that the Islamic world had to look within itself. And the possibility of dying in Iraq didn’t deter him one bit.” (more…)