No Spit Zone

by digby

A bit more on the alleged spitting incident.

First of all, let me make it clear why this is a big deal. Most of you know that "spitting on veterans" is a big time hot button. We have been lucky to see very little hostility toward the troops during this war and I have seen no evidence that it is happening now. I think I speak for the vast majority of Americans when I say that we do not blame the soldiers and marines for what is happening and harbor no ill will toward them. We hold the political leaders who sent them over to that meat grinder responsible as is our right and responsibility as citizens.

But even the real hostility that we saw back in the 60's and 70's didn't actually feature people spitting on soldiers. It's an urban legend that was debunked long ago.

But it's a potent charge to this day and one that it's hard to believe Joshua Sparling (and the NY Times) didn't know would push buttons.

Here are a couple of interesting little factoids that readers have brought to my attention.

The Washington Post mentioned Sparling too in an earlier version of today's story about the march. It's been edited out of the current piece, but this intrepid blogger captured it:

Earlier in the day, a smaller rally was held at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. About 3,000 people, many wearing pink or carrying pink signs, showed up for an antiwar protest sponsored by a women-run peace organization called CodePink.

Oriana Futrell, a Spokane, Wash., resident who said she has grown weary of going to the funerals of her friends' husbands, carried a sign also urging the return of her husband, an Army lieutenant in Iraq.

Across the street, however, was a counter-protest, staged by the Washington chapter of the conservative organization Those protesters, who organizers said feared that the antiwar march would hurt the U.S. anti-terror efforts, yelled and sported signs, such as one that read, "Go to hell traitors. You dishonor our dead on hallowed ground."

At least one veteran from the Iraq war tried to bridge the divide between the groups. Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, from Port Huron, Mich., who lost his right leg below the knee in an 2005 explosion in Ramadi, spoke to both groups.

Near the end of the CodePink rally, Sparling, a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital who used crutches to walk, went to the microphone and told the protesters that they are entitled to the right to demonstrate and must fight for what they believe in. But he reminded them that the situation is dire for many Iraqis and U.S. troops there believe that they are fighting to help provide a better option for the people of Iraq. He was rewarded with general applause, although a few feint boos could be heard.

When he finished, he walked across the street and spoke with the FreeRepublic group also.

Actually, according to witnesses in the comment section of the post below, it appears that Sparling was with the Freepers from the beginning.

I wonder why the Wapo eliminated this piece of the story? (I don't have any dark suspicions. It was probably space or relevance or something. Still, it's curious.)

Here, again, is how the NY Times reported the same incident. it's been changed slightly from the earlier version I quoted below, but I can't see how that changed the (misleading nature of) the story:

There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.

Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.

Capitol police made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters.

“These are not Americans as far as I’m concerned,” Mr. Sparling said.

Unfortunately, this is the version that will be googled whenever anyone looks up "antiwar+protestors+spitting."

I have no idea what is behind all the problems with the public that Joshua Sparling seems to confront all the time. Certainly, you would think that if there's a lot of this going on that it would be documented by someone other than this one young man. And I find it very suspicious that it wouldn't be covered constantly in the right wing press, at least.

The salient fact here is that Sparling was allowed to address the anti-war protestors at the Code Pink rally and was treated respectfully and then went on to say that the very people who had allowed him to speak weren't "Americans." I do not know if the spitting incident is a lie, but I believe I am justifiably suspicious of his story under the circumstances.

What I do know is that the NY Times article was so badly reported and so misleading as to be a lie. By leaving out the fact that he spoke at an anti-war rally, it appeared as if he spoke at his own rally. And it made it sound as if the protestors walking by were provoking him, when, in fact, he'd been allowed to speak to them and was treated respectfully. It was the counter-protestors across the street --- his friends the Freepers --- who were the disruptive ones. The NY Times got it exactly backwards.

That they didn't bother to even google Sparling's name, where they would have found that he's something of a rightwing celebrity for his tales of victimization at the hands of terrible lefties, is journalistic malpractice.

They need to correct this story. And they need to look into Sparling. I suspect he's being used by a bunch of creepy Freepers and swiftboat professionals. The man gave his leg. He shouldn't be exploited by these jerks on top of it.

And if he's just making stuff up, the fact that he's a wounded veteran does not excuse it.

Update: From one of the appearances Sparling's dad made on Hannity and Colmes last year, this stands out:

COLMES: How did he get chosen? How did it come about
that last night he was in the gallery? Were you with
him last night at the State of the Union address?

SPARLING: Yes. As a matter of fact, I was sitting
beside Vice President Cheney's wife.

COLMES: Did you talk to her?

SPARLING: Yes, I did.

COLMES: What did you talk about?

SPARLING: She's a very nice lady. And I can see, you
know -- very, very kind-hearted family.

HANNITY: Mike, you sent Joshua our best. Tell him
he's in our prayers. And we look forward to seeing
you guys soon. Thank you very much. And we're going
to help you with that other problem, too, as you
know, when the time comes, about the job.

SPARLING: Sean, Joshua says you still owe him that
trip to New York. And he's sorry he couldn't be here
tonight, and he loves you to death.

HANNITY: When he's ready, he comes back up and we're
going to have a great time. I'm looking forward to
having him up here, sir. Thank you.

Seems they have friends in very high places.

Update II: Apparently Sparling has also made appearances at Ollie North's "Freedom Alliance" concerts. He's a certified minor wingnut celebrity.

Thanks to reader SJS