Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Joshua Sparling: A swiftie spitting swiftly

Joshua Sparling could well turn out to be the little swiftboater who cried traitor.

First he is the recipient of the hate-filled "Christmas card" while in Walter Reed (A white supremist took responsibility, but there is some question as to whether he actually did it, or was just seeking a little notoriety for his cause.)

Next there was the alleged airport incident (in which Mr. Sparling, in a wheelchair due to injuries sustained in the occupation, is stopped at a security checkpoint because he doesn't have his boarding pass (it's being held at the gate that he's trying to get to, somewhere past the checkpoint), and while he's arguing his with security, a woman (passenger? airport security?) says nasty things to him about his service in Iraq. The situation is finally made right by three heroic W.W.II vets who were just passing by, and a different airline than the one he was going to fly out on.)

And now, poor Mr. Sparling's been spat at, again by someone who disapproves of his service in Iraq. While the NYT article says Joshua spat back, I understand that he now claims he did not. (I'm sure the article is correct about the rest of the incident, though, right? Even though it fails to have very much information about the identity of the assailant, the distance between the parties, what "words" preceded the alleged spit-fire, whether the writer witnessed the assault or reported what he was told by Joshua and the Freepers he was with, or a quote from any witness who doesn't have something to gain by the story. There isn't even a photo of a wet spot on the sidewalk.)

Here are some other sites asking questions:
Media Matters - Questions for the NY Times about the alleged spitting incident during anti-war protest
Spitting on the truth (with an action alert) | TPMCafe
Media Matters - Still more questions for the NY Times regarding the alleged spitting incident
AlterNet: Rights and Liberties: Did Spitting 'Victim' from DC Protest Cry Wolf?

The Christmas card incident resulted in a flood of gifts and well wishes for Mr. Sparling and the other patients at Walter Reed (over 20,000), and appearances on Fox News. He & his family also attended the 2006 State of the Union address, as guests of Dennis Hastert. I bet Mr. Sparling was quite honored to receive all that attention.

Could it all be true? I suppose it could. But it's still pretty unusual that this one guy has been accosted three times by anonymous folks who don't support the occupation. Google reports a few allegations of mistreatment of Iraq vets who are not Mr. Sparling, and just about as many allegations of anti-war folks being abused by pro-war activists. (All but one are reported on sites who's slant matches the story they're selling... ..I mean, telling. Just like with Joshua's claim, there are few names or independent witnesses.)

I've no doubt that among all the folks who are against this occupation of Iraq, there are a few who are violent, or rude, or otherwise lack good graces. Even all of Mr. Sparling's stories turn out to be true, it says very little (if anything) about the anti-Iraq war movement. A majority of Americans want the occupation to end. Given the number of people in that majority, it's inevitable that some of 'em will be bad eggs. It'd be a mistake to judge the whole group by their most offensive members.

Joshua Sparling is fast becoming the Iraq occupation's John O'Neill. While I appreciate their service, the lies told by Mr. O'Neill & his fellow "swifties" have evermore put a stain on the honorable service of every vet who served on a swift boat. Their smear campaign was targeted at John Kerry; but their tactics and the name, "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth", made collateral damage of the reputations of every man who served on one.

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