On Sunday, President Obama made a surprise appearance in Afghanistan after sneaking out of the White House on Saturday night. There, he spoke with Afghan president Hamid Karzai via phone, because Karzai refused to speak with Obama in person. Obama told the troops, “For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan… America’s war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.” Obama’s visit was marred by the White House’s release of the name of a top CIA officer in Afghanistan. He was in the country for under four hours.
The conspicuous timing of Obama’s visit, directly during the fallout over his administration’s mishandling of the Veterans Administration, has raised some hackles. But this is not the first time that President Obama has utilized the troops as a photo op.
May 2012. Obama visited Afghanistan on the first anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, with his re-election campaign in full swing. He visited the presidential palace and gave a televised address that mentioned Bin Laden three times. “[O]ne year ago, from a base here in Afghanistan, our troops launched the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. The goal that I set – to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild – is now within our reach,” he stated.
December 2009. Obama announced his troop increases in Afghanistan from West Point to give him cover for taking a middle course on troop levels. In doing so, he implicitly ripped President Bush for involving the United States in Iraq. “The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It’s enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention – and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world,” Obama stated.
November 2009. Visiting Osan Air Base in South Korea, Obama announced he would be increasing military pay, and – noticing troops holding cameras and cameraphones – stated, “you guys make a pretty good photo op.”
October 2009. Obama met the coffins of soldiers coming home from Afghanistan at Dover air force base. According to the original New York Times report, “The images and the sentiment of the president’s five-hour trip to Delaware were intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste.” That line was stealth edited out.
April 2009. Obama made a surprise visit to Iraq, apparently to troops “cheering wildly,” according to media accounts. But accusations flew in the aftermath that the cheering troops had been shuffled – one sergeant reportedly wrote that soldiers were “pre-screened, asked by officials ‘Who voted for Obama?,’ and then those who raised their hands were shuffled to the front of the receiving line. They even handed out digital cameras and asked them to hold them up.”
President Obama is a fan of photo ops. That’s why he has routinely banned the press from certain situations, instead releasing only approved photos. And when it comes to the troops, he’s happy to slash the military budget, do nothing about the Veterans Administration, and use the armed services for social experimentation, then to show up with the cameras when he needs a boost in the polls.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.