Lemoine, Ray 1979-
Lemoine, Ray 1979-
Born 1979. Education: Attended Northeastern University.
Home—New York, NY.
Co-owner of a baseball T-shirt company, 1999-2003; Humanitarian Aid Network of Distribution in Baghdad, Iraq, manager, 2003-04.
(With Jeff Neumann and Donovan Webster) Babylon by Bus; or, The True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling Yankees Suck T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Babylon by Bus was adapted as a sound recording, Penguin Audio, 2006; USA Network plans to adapt the book for television.
Boston Red Sox fan Ray LeMoine and his business partner Jeff Neumann were selling "Yankees Suck" T-shirts for a living when they had a crazy idea. After the Sox lost in the 2003 play-offs, they resolved to leave their company and go to Iraq to see if they could help by volunteering their services. Quickly taken up on their offer, the young men, both in their twenties, were put in charge of the Humanitarian Aid Network of Distribution (HAND), which operated out of the capital city, Baghdad. They were completely naive about what they were doing and the danger they were in, and from December, 2003, through February, 2004, life seemed pretty good for LeMoine and Neumann. They distributed clothing to poor children by day, and at night they partied with Americans in the safe Green Zone during what would prove to be a lull in the war. Then, events took a turn for the worse. Terrorism and sectarian violence escalated considerably, and LeMoine and Neumann found themselves targets of anti-American Iraqis because they had organized an inter-Iraqi meeting to which all citizens were invited. Extremists opposed such freedom, and LeMoine and Neumann knew that their lives were in danger. Handing over control of HAND to their friend Hayder Messehn, they left for Jordan, later learning that Messehn had been killed. Many of the other friends they had made there were shot or killed by bombs, too, in the violence that has since escalated considerably. Making their way to Jordan, LeMoine was arrested for reading a newspaper before paying for it. He and Neumann would both have been sentenced to eleven years in prison, except that connections at the U.S. embassy freed them. Making his way home, LeMoine got another taste of how much has changed in the world when he was stopped at the airport by Homeland Security agents. Oddly, he was not detained because of any suspicions of terrorism, but rather for copyright infringement regarding his T-shirt business. The experience led him to conclude in a Los Angeles Times article: "As long as we allow Homeland Security to act like a Keystone Stasi, terrorism will continue to win in destroying our freedom."
LeMoine and Neumann wrote about their foolhardy and eye-opening experiences in Baghdad in Babylon by Bus; or, The True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling Yankees Suck T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them. Here they talk about the free-wheeling lifestyle enjoyed by many Americans who were not in the military. For example, LeMoine and Neumann stayed at one of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's palaces, where they swam in his pool and luxuriated in his throne room. While many people were honestly trying to help the Iraqis, their efforts and those of the coalition forces were hampered by what the authors saw as gross incompetence. As LeMoine told Michael Slenska in an AlterNet interview, by February, 2004, most people realized that the American occupation was doomed to failure: "That was the most shocking thing—that the most powerful nation in the world could go in there and screw things up this bad. It raises a bunch of questions, like could anyone else have done any better? It was really surprising."
Reviewing Babylon by Bus in Entertainment Weekly, Jennifer Reese noted that "the choicest material in this strenuously lighthearted book is their infiltration of expat society," adding: "One of the most telling revelations about postwar Iraq, as the authors acknowledge, is that clowns like them were part of it." Booklist contributor David Siegfried concluded that the book "is a complex, harrowing, frustrating, and heartbreaking account of the American occupation in Iraq."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 1, 2006, review of Babylon by Bus; or, The True Story of Two Friends Who Gave Up Their Valuable Franchise Selling Yankees Suck T-Shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them, p. 24.
California Bookwatch, October, 2006, review of Babylon by Bus.
Entertainment Weekly, August 4, 2006, Jennifer Reese, "Mixed Baghdad," review of Babylon by Bus, p. 70.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2006, review of Babylon by Bus, p. 507.
Library Journal, July 1, 2006, Edwin B. Burgess, review of Babylon by Bus, p. 95.
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2006, Ray LeMoine, "Terrorist in a Bootleg T-Shirt."
Phoenix News, August 14, 2006, "From ‘Yankees Suck’ to ‘Wow, We Suck.’"
Publishers Weekly, May 29, 2006, review of Babylon by Bus, p. 50.
AlterNet, http://www.alternet.org/ (August 25, 2006), Michael Slenske, "Partying in Baghdad," interview with Ray LeMoine and Jeff Neumann.
Outside Online,http://outside.away.com/ (March 2, 2007), "Back of the Bus: Q&A with Ray LeMoine and Jeff Neumann, Authors of Babylon by Bus."