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Did Obama Blow Off Troops at Bagram?

By Jim Meyers   |   Monday, 28 Jul 2008 10:14 AM

The controversy over a report that Barack Obama “blew off” American troops during a visit to Afghanistan has taken a new turn, with an assertion that a photo issued to discount the report is false.

As Newsmax correspondent Kenneth R. Timmerman reported on Thursday, a U.S. Army captain sent an e-mail about Obama’s hour-long visit to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan on July 19 during his week-long foreign tour.

The e-mail was first posted to the pro-military blog Blackfive.net. Signed by an Air Force Capt. Jeffrey S. Porter, the e-mail said in part that Obama “got off the plane and got into a bulletproof vehicle, got to the area to meet with the Major General who is the commander here at Bagram. As the soldiers were lined up to shake his hand, he blew them off and didn’t say a word as he went into the conference room to meet the General.”

Obama then went to a tent “so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball,” the e-mail continued, and “again shunned the opportunity to talk to soldiers to thank them for their service.”

The e-mail was quickly circulated in thousands of e-mails and dozens of blogs. Several liberal blogs immediately claimed that the story was a hoax or a fabrication and that there was no such Capt. Porter.

But the Obama campaign went into high gear attacking Porter’s e-mail and got the Pentagon to issue a statement contradicting the claims made. An Army spokesperson acknowledged the e-mail was real and written by an actual Capt. Porter, at the same time seeking to deny its validity.

“These comments are inappropriate and factually incorrect,” Army Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green told the New York Daily News.

Obama did not play basketball at Bagram or visit the tent, she said, adding that Obama “took time to shake hands, speak to troops, and pose for photographs.”

Capt. Porter also issued a statement via e-mail, asking those who received a copy of his posting to delete it and asking bloggers to take it from their sites.

“Some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong,” Porter wrote, according to the Military Times. “This e-mail was meant only for my family.”

Porter did not, however, specify which information was wrong, not did he issue a blanket denial of his account.

And the Army Times reported on Sunday: “An Army officer’s negative e-mail account of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit with the troops in Afghanistan that set the blogosphere ablaze prompted Army officials to correct aspects of the e-mail and resulted in a statement from the message’s author that ‘some of the information that was put out in my e-mail was wrong.’”

The Army Times story was accompanied by an Associated Press photo captioned: “Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama speaks to troops at Bagram Air Field on July 19.”

That prompted the blog Blackfive.net to report: “We have established that Senator Obama did not play basketball at Bagram airfield or visit a specific tent . . . However, that is not very important in establishing whether he did indeed blow off the troops . . .

“I have been asking for photos and searched for hours for photos of the Senator talking to troops at Bagram. That would debunk this whole notion that he didn’t talk to the troops at Bagram, wouldn’t it?

“At that Army Times post, part of their evidence is a photo of Senator Obama talking to troops at Bagram.

“Just one minor problem here — that’s not Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. That’s Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.”

Blackfive’s report includes an official Army photo showing Obama meeting with the same group of soldiers depicted in the wrongly captioned AP photo. The official photo was taken at Camp Arifjan on July 18.

Blackfive concludes: “So here we have a patently false photo in the Army Times.”

(Editor's Note: Following the Blackfive report, the Army Times changed the caption to correctly state that the photo was taken in Kuwait.)

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