Thanks to commenter Pete-at-home who brought this to my attention.
The latest chain e-mail smear against Barack Obama: He “blew off” troops at an Afghan base to shoot hoops for a publicity photo.
The letter was apparently written by a Utah Army National Guard intelligence officer in a linguist unit at Bagram Airfield who claimed the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was rude to G.I.s.
“As the soldiers where [sic] lined up to shake his hand he blew them off,” wrote the Task Force Wasatch “battle captain.”
But angry Army brass debunked the Obama-bashing soldier’s allegations, which went viral Thursday over the Web and on military blogs such as Blackfive.
The e-mail claims Obama repeatedly shunned soldiers on his way to the Clamshell – a recreation tent – to “take his publicity pictures playing basketball.”
“These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” said Bagram spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, who added that such political commentary is barred for uniformed personnel.
Obama didn’t play basketball at Bagram or visit the Clamshell, she said. Home-state troops were invited to meet him, but his arrival was kept secret for security reasons.
“We were a bit delayed … as he took time to shake hands, speak to troops and pose for photographs,” Nielson-Green said.
On his Mouth of the Potomac blog, Meeks reports that the email’s author has issued a retraction.
Now the Bagram captain is dialing back, having signed the viral e-mail with his name, rank and unit – a possible violation of military regulations barring political statements. This morning, he sent The Mouth a new statement (punctuation corrected):
“I am writing this to ask that you delete my email and not forward it. After checking my sources, information that was put out in my email was wrong. This email was meant only for my family. Please respect my wishes and delete the email and if there are any blogs you have my email portrayed on I would ask if you would take it down too. Thanks for your understanding.”
An Army officer familiar with the incident told The Mouth today that the writer is “devastated that the letter was made public. It was never his intention that it go beyond members of his family.”
There is some confusion which needs to be cleared up. Blackfive deliberately identified the email’s author as an air force officer in order to protect his anonymity, which effort failed. Some reports claim that the army captain had mistakenly forwarded a hoax email of which he was not the author. Apparently, such reports are incorrect.
Snopes likes to pretend to be a purely objective source, but political prejudice creeps in. Snopes was perhaps a little overly eager to debunk this particular account.
Confederate Yankee (7/25) correctly notes that the official refutation only contradicts two minor details and notes that we haven’t seen any refutation of the second email posted by Blackfive one day later.
It is vitally important for us to know that Barack Obama didn’t play basketball in Afghanistan, nor did he visit a specific tent. We should be grateful that Meek ferreted out the truth and debunked those scurrilous allegations.
But LTC Nielson-Green’s refutation of these two rather minor specific points does not at all address the most important allegation made in the viral email, the author’s perception that soldiers on base were “blown off” by the junior Senator.
In fact, the PAO admits that Obama only met with selected soldiers. Only service-persons from Illinois were invited to meet him, and soldiers not from Illinois (the author of the email is from Utah) were indeed not met by the junior Senator. Though no doubt a touchy situation for the military, the key premise holds.
The same handful of faces are seen in all the pictures released to the media from Obama’s visit. If you were not a soldier from Illinois or otherwise selected serviceman, you were not allowed to meet Obama. The question then arises whether the decision to limit contact with the troops was a decision made by the military brass, if that was a decision made by the Obama campaign, or by joint agreement.
The second email published, from someone at an air base as Obama swung through Iraq stated in part that Obama’s visit was “A disgraceful PR stunt, using the troops as a platform for his ego and campaign.”
To date the second email has gone unchallenged and a senior officer I interviewed confirmed on background that Obama’s visit to Iraq was nothing more than a campaign stop masquerading congressional delegation visit.
Captain P’s retraction may very possibly have merely been a prudential response to pressure from command. It is hardly unlikely that he was threatened with prosecution for violating regulations by publishing political statements.
The left would like to believe that the US military is full of Obama supporters, involuntarily-closeted gays, and disgruntled pacifists all itching to vote democrat, but none of that is true. Common sense suggests that Obama would be wise to restrict access of military personnel to his campaign-oriented visits to the front. Most of those stationed in Afghanistan have probably already served in Iraq, and they just might not be the world’s biggest fans of someone publicly committed to reversing their efforts and throwing away their personal sacrifices. Obama doesn’t need to be photographed surrounded by hostile, booing troops.