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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Anti-War March In DC: Protestor Spits At Vet

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Will this single overheated moment seriously harm the anti-war movement? An Iraq War veteran who lost his right leg below the knee at Ramadi was heckling the large throngs of anti-war protesters marching Saturday in Washington. Apparently, things got boisterous and somebody spit towards the soldier, Joshua Sparling, who spit right back.

Today, reports of the incident are spreading rapidly among veterans groups because it conjures up ugly memories of the Vietnam era, when servicemen often were targets for verbal abuse and worse. [Ed Note: I was spit at in New Orleans in 1970 while in Army uniform on leave from Fort Polk, La. It landed near my shoulder, and was horrifying to a kid who had answered his draft notice. I was in the military because I had drawn No. 56 in the December 1969 draft lottery, the only lottery I ever won.]

Lest anybody think the spitting incident Saturday is Internet fiction, there is this account from Sunday's New York Times (page 20 National Edition), whose reporter Ian Urbina seems to have been a witness:

"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, who was not scheduled to speak, addressed the counterprotesters to voice his support for the administration's policies in Iraq.

Later, an antiwar protester 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.

"Capital police made the antiwar protestors walk farther away from the counterprotesters.

"'These are not Americans as far as I'm concerned,' Mr. Sparling

I think the anti-war spitter was an incredible fool. Sparling had a right to express his opinion. I am no fan of President George W. Bush and his war policies. I will apologize to Corporal Sparling for what happened. And I salute his service and his sacrifice.


  1. Bill Sloat: I was spit at in New Orleans in 1970 while in Army uniform on leave from Fort Polk, La. It landed near my shoulder, and was horrifying to a kid who had answered his draft notice.

    Today's DailyKos ran an item discussing what appears to be an urban myth, that troops returning from Vietnam were spat upon: In fact, a sociologist researched the subject and wrote an entire book which concluded that these spitting stories were largely made up, post 1980. The Kos article includes a link to a Boston Globe article by the sociologist.

    Mr. Sloat, your anecdote suggests you believe you were spat on because you were in uniform. Since it was such an upsetting experience, no doubt you can recall the details. As a longtime reporter, would you please provide the who/what/when/where/how?

    Despite its reputation for carousing, New Orleans was and remains a very politically conservative city. Of course, all kinds of bad behavior happens when people are wasted on Bourbon Street.

  2. I am from the Vietnam days and unfortunately I could not serve my country but was very supportive of the troops fighting over there. The recent spitting incident was an ugly reminder of the unpatriotic idiots who displayed their crude and unforgivable conduct shown to our returning troops then. Another ugly reminder is Jane Fonda showing her replay. lack of patriotism. If our troops cannot be supported by these people, being generous with the term people, then I suggest they leave this country and let the patriotic American citizens get the job done. God Bless our American citizen patriots and our service men and women!

    Thanks Bill Sloat for telling it like it is..

  3. I walked by the counter protesters and am sure that there was enough seperation that neither one was in close enough range to spit on each other.

    I don't think the anti-war protester should've spit but the counter protester that was a veteran did say some nasty things to the crowd passing by. It's funny how 399,999 people can have a good old fashioned peaceful protest, it's largely ingored by the media and this what they chose to focus on.

    I saw a WW2 veteran and war protestor about 20 feet away from where the counter protestors were. Too bad he didn't get interviewed!

  4. To first anon:

    As to who, what, where, why and how.

    This is what I remember: We came down by Greyhound or Trailways and were in khaki short sleeves because of the ticket discount that I think we got for being in uniform, or maybe we had to be in uniorm when we left the post. I know we wanted to slip into civvvies, but there was a reason why we couldn't immediately do so. The spitting was near the bus station, the exact location of which I don't remember. We stayed at the Howard Johnson's, which I recall was near the La. Supreme Court. We were not on Bourbon Street, but did go to see to see a movie that day, a porno flick called the Devil Is Miss JOnes, where the woman slit her wrists in a bath tub at the end, which freaked us out. A girl spit at me at me as we walked to the HoJos. I do remember it vividly to this day. Maybe it was NOT because were GIs? But you will never convince me. And, anon, I think you are profoundly ignorant of that era. Sorry. If you think I am full of it, then think what you want . . .

  5. Just as an aside, to drive home the point that it almost doesn't matter whether it's the down to the detail truth or the biggest lie ever told: does anyone, ANYONE, DOUBT, really really doubt - that the emotions people are feeling about the military in Iraq COULD lead to such incidents?

    Because to me, that's the really story. People are fatigued, sick, tired, angry, frustrated and feeling powerless.

    Whether I believe Bill or I'm persuaded by others that it can't be true is really irrelevant: what matters is that people feel like they could spit and we all know it.

  6. Jill --

    I understand the frustration with the war. But whom would one spit upon? Certainly not the military people. Political leaders as targets?

  7. I'm not sure there's a defined target, Bill. Rather, people from both sides - for the war and against the war (and I don't even like calling it a war - it's more out of current convention that I'm calling it that) seem to be at the point where they are just so upset or exhausted that they could just spit. I take it more as a parallel state of being, than an action they want to pursue. Maybe I'm not expressing myself well. I hate when that happens - just makes me want to spit... :) Sorry. couldn't resist.

  8. Jill --

    I will loan you a hankie. I understand where you are. Me, too.

  9. I returned from Viet Nam at the end of May in 1969. I attended anti-war rallies where there were servicemen in uniform. I never saw or heard of anyone being spat on. Perhaps ten years later I first heard various poseurs begin to be claiming to have been spat upon. Many also claimed to be suffering from PTSD as did other losers who didn't make the "spitting" claim around me. When pressed by me for details, I never was able to identify a single one who had actually served in Viet Nam and I was convinced that some hadn't served in the military at all, or who might have received a general dischrage directly from boot camp. Some stories were so ludicrous as to be downright hilarious. Others who claimed to be suffering and who paraded around as supposed ex-vets declined to provide any details at all, after seeking veneration for being largely responsible for keeping the heathens from our shores. This is an urban myth perpetuated by a incredibly lazy major media establishment and right-wing fringe loonies, in my estimation.