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A lie can travel halfway around the world . . . while the truth is putting on its shoes

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By Wendy Binnie

Among the many oft-quoted writers and philosophers,  two politicians’ quotes are most frequently used: Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.

On May 24, 2006, Diana Irey, a Republican candidate who ran against Rep. John Murtha, said at a news conference that Murtha’s comments and actions “are not that of a patriot but serve to aid and comfort our enemy.”

As if those words weren’t strong enough, she added: “Our 16th President once said, and I quote: ‘Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.’”

Irey continued to make clear that she wasn’t actually advocating hanging Murtha, saying that ‘Lincoln’s remedy’ was too extreme.

Not one member of the audience queried this ridiculous statement, perhaps because they did not know, but should have known better.

After she used the ‘quote’ it appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

After the excrement hit the fan, candidate Irey retracted the quote and apologized.

Murtha left college in 1952,  joined the Marines and was awarded the American Spirit Honor Medal for displaying outstanding leadership qualities during training.

He rose through the ranks to become a drill sergeant at Parris Island and was selected for Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Va.

He was then assigned to the Second Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C. He remained in the Marine Corps Reserves. In 1959, Captain Murtha took command of the 34th Special Infantry Company, Marine Corps Reserves.

He remained in the Reserves after his discharge from active duty until he volunteered for service in Vietnam serving from 1966 to 1967 as a battalion staff officer (S-2 Intelligence Section.) He was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

In 1990, he retired from the Reserves as a Colonel, receiving the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.

The opposition should not even think of ‘swiftboating’ this man.

The false Lincoln ‘quote’ has become a favorite of those who like to accuse critics of the last administration’s war policy of disloyalty or treason. An Internet search brought up more than 18,000 references.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr., president of the far-right Center for Security Policy and a columnist for the conservative Washington Times, wrote a column blasting congressional lawmakers who support a non-binding resolution on the ‘surge’ policy.

Gaffney’s piece led with “The Lincoln Quote!”

The Times is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon who demanded in 1997 that other media play up hearings on how Asians bought influence with Democrats. In its outraged stance, the Times called itself ‘America’s Newspaper.’ But it concealed its own role as a secret purveyor of Asian money and its control by the Korean-based Unification Church. Left off the masthead are its publisher, Dong Moon Joo, and its founder, Moon himself. A field day was had by war supporters. One far-right writer said in reference to congressional Democrats, “Lincoln’s prescription for this type of conduct should not be forgotten.”

Another conservative, who frequently equates dissent with treason, said Lincoln’s quote “should be on every conservative Web site as a reminder to America why the Dems are not to be trusted with our national security. If you oppose the Democrat (sic) plans to surrender Iraq, post this quote everywhere.”

When called on this egregious statement, Gaffney ignored complaints until the paper was forced to retract.

Gaffney was reminded on Alan Colmes’ radio show that Lincoln spoke out fiercely against President Polk during the Mexican-American War, saying “show me the spot where American blood was spilled” because he believed the war was based on false pretenses.

In other words, Abraham Lincoln behaved exactly opposite to the right-wing historical revisionists’ balderdash. Although he was elected as a Republican, he was a staunch Whig who believed in the supremacy of Congress over the Executive.

The use of this fabricated quote sounds threatening.

Are Democrats and dozens of Republicans now construed as ‘saboteurs’ for supporting a non-binding resolution against a misguided war strategy?

Lincoln didn’t speak or write like a third-rate politico desperate to defend the indefensible. The ‘quote’ is entirely fabricated and it originated in another Moonie paper, ‘Insight’ in December, 2003.

It was written by the conservative author J. Michael Waller who conceded that the words were his, not Lincoln’s. “The supposed quote in question is not a quote at all, and I never intended it to be construed as one. It was my lead sentence in the article that a copy editor mistakenly turned into a quote by incorrectly inserting quotation marks.”

This lame ‘explanation’ surfaced only when he was taken to task by Lincoln scholars.

When Waller was first asked about the ‘quote’ he said, “Oddly, you are the first to question me about this. I’m surprised it has been repeated as often as you say. My editors at the time didn’t think it was necessary to run a correction in the following issue of the magazine, and to my knowledge we received no public comment.”

Huh?

And these desperate morons didn’t even spend the few minutes it would have taken to authenticate? Lies started a war and kept it going.

Rep. Young (R. AK,) used the same fabricated quote on the floor of the House. Now it’s part of the official Congressional record.

This drive to paint those who oppose the war in Iraq as traitors or not supporting the troops has hit another low. After his unforgivable gaffe, Gaffney continued “It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated, let alone applied, today. Still, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate engage in interminable debate about resolutions whose effects can only be to ‘damage morale and undermine the military’ while emboldening our enemies, it is time to reflect on what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war.”

This subject was visited over a year ago — pre-Obama America! All digits crossed for honest and civil disagreements.

As I was saying …

Wendy England Binnie a novelist and op/ed columnist lives in Oak Trace Villas.