Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Fine words about Belfast don’t reflect reality…

Fri 25 July 2008, 8:03am

I HAVE a feeling that Obama’s Berlin feel-good speech will play better in Europe than back home; he seemed a tad apologetic for America. A key theme was that tearing down the walls of division would help defeat terrorism – and so it was perhaps inevitable that he name-checked Northern Ireland. The Democratic candidate said: Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid. Fine words, but the irony is that more walls have gone up in Belfast since the Agreement was struck. Nice sentiments, Barack, but factually incorrect.

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Comments (49)

  1. cynic says:

    I think you are too ungenerous to Belfast. Yes there are more walls but overall things are better – look at this summer (so far!!) as an example. We are not yet integrating but we are ignoring and tolerating each other. The rest will come more slowly.

    As for the rest of the speech it did have an ‘Ich Bin Ein Binliner” quality to it – we know what he means but its just a bit off key to our ears. But that’s what sometimes happen when your style is to enthuse with big concepts but you speak American and we listen in English.

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  2. slug says:

    It is implortant that we use our time of peace to bring down the walls, to bring people together in schools, and to do what Obama thinks we have been doing. Because we are not doing our best for future generations if we don’t.

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  3. Gareth says:

    Perhaps it is a metaphorical set of walls.

    Or perhaps he really is just a bad man for making a mistake about centre of the universe, so important that everyone should know everything about it Northern Ireland.

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  4. Me, myself and I says:

    Tear them all down to fuck.

    See if the trolls that live either side can figure out that if you don’t throw stones at them’uns they won’t throw them back?

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  5. Chekov (profile) says:

    In the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance illegally dismembered states, established our favoured war criminals and terrorists in government and enshrined precedents encouraging ethnic nationalism which inflames Balkanisation in other trouble-spots.

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  6. TB says:

    It was pretty clear to me that he was comparing the physical Berlin Wall to figurative walls coming down elsewhere.

    That was pretty clear from his earlier words: “The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down. We know they have fallen before.”

    Given the exceptional progress that has been made in Northern Ireland, I feel his words were entirely appropriate. They might seem a tad simplistic from a narrow, literalist viewpoint, but in a wide-ranging speech on foreign policy, which was clearly supposed to reflect his “hopeful” mantra, it’s somewhat disingenuous to engage in such pedantry.

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  7. Hugh Green says:

    Face it lads: he only wanted Belfast for its ‘B’.

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  8. Obama: Ich Bin Ein Skeptiker – I’m not won over by the rhetoric, wonderful as it is. Thoughts (and beautiful word cloud!) at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast and Beyond.

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  9. Nevin (profile) says:

    Chekov, it’s my impression that the Balkan affair came about through a tussle between ‘European’ oil interests – Germany, France and Italy – and UK-USA ones for the establishment and control of a pipeline to the Mediterranean. There was the related matter of EU expansionism.

    A relative of mine was a family friend of the Rugovas and she claimed that the Americans supported the KLA leader’s presidential candidacy. In our context it would have been a bit like supporting Martin McGuinness against John Hume.

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  10. client9 says:

    He’s talking more about the spirit of things than the cold facts of them, and in that he is correct.

    His way is the way it should be from a man aiming to fire up the imagination of ordinary people rather than than fire up the imagination of administrators.

    Obama inspires, and inspiration relies chiefly on what IS possible (as the campaign slogan goes, “Yes We Can”). Besides, if he painted the facts about Belfast he would bore the arse of his audience.

    The man senses high office. I hope he gets it. Just let him do his thing.

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  11. 6countyprod says:

    Gerard Baker has a hilarious article in the Times about ‘The One’:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/gerard_baker/article4392846.ece

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  12. billie-Joe Remarkable says:

    I saw Kirsty Wark describe it as “apologetic” on Newsnight last night. Probably just coincidence.

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  13. esmereldavillalobos says:

    cynic (not directed at you personally, more an observation of your [admirable] “glass half full” mentality)

    Yes there are more walls but overall things are better – look at this summer (so far!!) as an example. We are not yet integrating but we are ignoring and tolerating each other.

    OMG, I feel like coming back right now! Ignorance and toleration is indeed bliss! Them peace walls, sure, good fences make good neighbours, eh?

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  14. Parson says:

    Anyone else think Obama is acting like he already IS President…?

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  15. Ardonian says:

    This summer’s peace has been as a result of segregation being reinforced by the guardians of segregation nothing more. Most of the interface violence happens where there are gaps in these walls such as Ardoyne shops.

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  16. 6countyprod says:

    Thanks for the reality check Belfast Gonzo. You have nailed a key characteristic of Obama: …Nice sentiments, Barack, but factually incorrect.

    It seems that Barack gets a lot of basic facts wrong, especially when speaking without notes about America and its history (47/57 States of America, one bomb hitting Pearl Habour, etc). Whatever sounds good in a given situation works for him.

    Sticking to the facts is not a strong area for Obama. He has a penchant for misrepresenting or mis-stating previously held positions in the new political climate. They are not so much flip-flops, more like cynical calculations concerning future political ambitions. He successfully lulled the loony American left into helping him gain the Dem. nomination, but as soon as they had fulfilled their usefulness to him, he jettisoned the way out stuff, and has adjusted his message to try to come back into the mainstream of American thinking.

    I reckon we have only seen the beginning of his fickleness and duplicity.

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  17. Peat Blog says:

    Gerard Baker has a hilarious article in the Times about ‘The One’:

    6cp,

    It’s hard not to be a bit cynical of all the media adulation of Obama (just think of a certain Tony Blair all those years ago) but Baker does have neo-con form, so I also have to be a bit cynical of his, albeit amusing, satire. Sour Grapes or Grapes of Wrath comes to mind.

    Baker has been spectacularly wrong on the economy in recent years so his musings in favour of McCain will undoubtedly consign him to defeat in November.

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  18. Rapunsel says:

    Yeah, he’s a cock and full of so much overblown bullshit. In reality his positions aren’t so much different from McCain. Did anyone listen to his bellicose speech about Iran and his wooing of the pro israeli lobby in the states.

    I am begining to think a McCain presidency will actually wil be better because you know what you are getting. With Obama it will look like you are getting something different but in reality same old same old

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  19. Peat Blog says:

    “With Obama it will look like you are getting something different but in reality same old same old”

    Rapunsel,

    What do you expect? Whoever comes in will follow the “national interest”, especially on long-term foreign policy issues such as the approach to Israel. Remember all that oil that runs the American economy? Israel is, de facto, an American protectorate and as close to a western state as you can get in the Middle-East. Whatever happens with other regional “allies”, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, they can always count on Israeli backup if things get tough.

    The best we can hope for Obama, I suspect, is that he acts as a break with the past, as a black man, and someone who is not a member of the various wealthy political dynasties (Bush, Clinton, Kennedy etc.). He can help change the rhetoric and character of debate and also, perhaps, be less socially conservative. He will probably also be protectionist as far as the economy is concerned (we can argue whether that is a good thing).

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  20. francesco says:

    It’s time you came down off your high horse and admitted you might have made a mistake.

    said that anyone but the idiot from texas..

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  21. Mick Hall says:

    This particular young man is going to cause us all a great deal of trouble, he has been touring the middle east telling the USA’s favorite satraps that they need take no notice of his campaign rhetoric, as far as a Barak presidency is concerned it will be business as usual.

    In Europe he has been trying to win over the Germans and others to provide more troops for Afghanistan, what a peace maker. If he gets them we can look forward to ten years of bloody warfare there and an eventual retreat, tails between our legs a la Vietnam or Red Army, whilst Afghanistan burns.

    Although by then the creep will be setting up his museum and filling it with the brown envelopes provided by his ever grateful big business financiers.

    As to free health care at the point of need, forget it this guy is to far in hock to the multi nationals to provide a civilized health care service.

    Thankfully it seems Angela Merkel is having none of it, but the opportunist Obama got more out of Brown and Cameron. What a world we live in when a man with nothing more than sound bites gets to be US president.

    Since day one this guy has been the multi nationals candidate, what is it with todays young people? They should have sent him home with a flee in his ear.

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  22. RepublicanStones says:

    Whoever gets to be CEO…sorry i mean President of the USA sits on a throne of $$’s. All the beautiful rhetoric in the world won’t change that. To keep that throne comfy, big business is courted like the prom queen (behind the scenes) while outfront, any old soundbite that is syrup in the ear of the proletariat is heralded as signalling a new departure, but the train never leaves the station.

    This alone demonstrates that Obama is a Who fan.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91150432

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  23. Ted Leddy says:

    I think 6countyprod probably got it right. Obama used the far left and now he is taking a more mainstream approach. However this does not mean that we might not see radical change in his time. He clearly does not aspire to neocon thinking about American power and how it should be applied in the world. This may not radical but it is entirely possible that he may use his significant powers of persuasion to create an international coalition that agressivly fights global warming and world poverty.

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  24. Aldous Duke says:

    Securing the democratic nomination is obviously a completely different ‘ball game’ to the Presidential race. The democratic race has traditionally split the party before the nominee tries to ‘heal’ it once they have the nomination secured. ‘Healing’ involves pandering to influential figures within the party and voting blocs, hence the lefty agenda gets quickly dropped and instead we have Obama preaching support to AIPAC.

    Aside from that, I sense the Democrats have a good chance this time. If Clinton gets on board for the VP nomination, then that’s a powerful bloc of delegates going into the Democratic convention. Which I think will mean a fairly united democratic ticket.

    As for Obama’s speech/behaviour in Europe, it appears to have blindsided McCain, he was forced to come out with some kind of response which came across as petty. The traditional republican tactic of let the democrats lose it while ‘we’ keep relatively quiet is not working this time (As it worked for Nixon and Bush).

    But the massive media circus around Obama is a double-edged sword… Any internal ripples of discontent no matter how small will get reported.

    In my opinion Obama is responding to the circus well. He is writing the headlines himself rather than forcing the media to find it by poking around his staff. The media coverage here has been positive, but that is irrelevant. What matters is how it is received in the US.

    The major obstacle for Obama remains his connection with Jeremiah Wright and the fallout from it among white working class voters.
    There are a lot of those in between New York and California…

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  25. Dave says:

    Mick Hall, you have him pegged. See what he said to the Teamsters to get their endorsement… along the lines of “That stuff about probity, honesty, etc, that I waffle on about for public consumption, don’t worry about it.” That ‘stuff’ was the core of Obama’s nod to the Teamsters that he would shut down the Independent Review Board (created to remove Mafia influence in that unon). In short, despite his carefully crafted persona, it would be (corrupt) business as usual if he was elected with the candiate in hock to the vested interests groups who supported him.

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  26. BfB says:

    Ich Bin Ein Beginner!

    He’s a racist, marxist-communist, bastard, and his wife is no better. Can’t wait until he becomes POTUS!!!

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  27. Dread Cthulhu says:

    Obama is just another Chicago political bag-man, complete with a convicted mentor/money-man, writ large and prettiful. He is as much (if not more) of a gaffe machine as McCain. He’s literally just another politician, albeit one with a slicker than normal patter for the marks and a good grasp of stage-craft.

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  28. BfB says:

    Megalomaniac narcissist.

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  29. 6countyprod says:

    BfB,
    You have been paying close attention to Hitchens!

    It is fascinating to see how popular Obama is in Germany and France. Of course, anyone is popular who is willing to criticise America.

    Apparently he would win by a landslide if he was standing in an election in G or F. Or would he? Don’t see too many non-white politicians in either of those countries.

    So, would France or Germany select a Black leader? Read on:
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/45482.html

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  30. Comrade Stalin says:

    The speech was a bit of wordplay, I wouldn’t read too much into it.

    But I’m not surprised that Obama is turning out not to be the radical progressive voice for “change” (whatever that means) that he sold himself as. Watching Obama talk over the past year was an eerie reminder of Tony Blair 1995-97. Blair, too, talked of the need for change, how there would be a “New Britain”, a “New Deal” and various other things. As time went on and as his victory seemed more and more assured, Blair sought more and more to make it clear to the large business interests and other concerns that he would not be rocking the boat, that things would get tweaked and changed a bit but on the whole it would pretty much be business as usual. That’s the way I see Obama going, and I think Americans who are looking for a progressive President won’t find one there.

    I have to say that I do appreciate the positive notes being sounded on the relationship between Europe and the USA which has been badly damaged and which is in dire need of repair. Bush strangled the burgeoning broad-based anti-terrorist coalition at birth. I would like to see us back on track and working on capturing Bin Laden and closing down the AQ networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    It is fascinating to see how popular Obama is in Germany and France. Of course, anyone is popular who is willing to criticise America.

    A good dose of criticism from a friend is often what the doctor ordered.

    On a barely-related note, on the subject of walls coming down, it was heartening to hear of Francie Brolly condemning the flying of tricolours in Dungiven. I’m not sure what the backstory is, but it was a constructive thing to go public on.

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  31. cynic says:

    “OMG, I feel like coming back right now! Ignorance and toleration is indeed bliss! Them peace walls, sure, good fences make good neighbours, eh?”

    So what hacked you off? That the Good Friday Good Fairy didnt wave her magic wand and suddenly everything was settled? Hey 400 years of history wiped out in the blink of an eye and sprinkle of political pixie dust.

    Grow up. It will be a long hard road to reconcilliation.

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  32. BfB says:

    Ah, yes, Hitchens it was. Catchy phrase though.
    He goes over to anti-America Europe and speaks in anti-American. He avoids visiting our troops for selfish reasons. He is really a thin veneered piece of liberal poo poo. Had a back and forth with an Obamaniac today and when asked about the racist bastards house of cards experience, the fool brought up George Washington as an similarly situated candidate!! Barking mad, over educated wimps!!
    I can’t wait until the dogs ass is POTUS!!

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  33. 6countyprod says:

    Comrade,
    The badly damaged relationship between the US and Germany and France is already well on its way to being healed (without Mr. O) thanks to the good sense of the German nd French people and their new leaders who agree a lot more with Bush than their predessesors.

    France and Germany were the ones who needed to get their act together to restore good relations, and they are doing a good job.

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  34. Mick Hall says:

    France and Germany were the ones who needed to get their act together to restore good relations, and they are doing a good job.

    Posted by 6countyprod

    Run that one by me again, so when the US says jump all senior European politicians must do is ask how high. Some partnership.

    The problem I have with this is Europe’s best interest do not necessarily always coincide with that of the USA, no where was this clearer displayed than Bush’s foreign military adventures.

    Both France and Germany were able to stay clear of Iraq and in the process have avoided the sheer hatred that many muslim nations now feel towards the USA/UK. This hatred must eventually seep down into the world of business contracts.

    Whilst the US multi-nationals have been feather bedded from this by the Bush regime, when it signed a sweetheart contract with the Iraqi quisling government. British business has been left like Oliver Twist, having to ask, “Please Sir, can I have some more.” Something both the German and French governments anticipated when they shut their doors to the war criminal in the White House advances when he came calling post 9/11.

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  35. 6countyprod says:

    Mike: Run that one by me again

    Jacques and Gerhart hate(d) Bush and the US. The Germans and French have now elected leaders who are much more pro-USA, as, of course, they should. France has been irrelevant on the world stage since the time of Bismarck, and the US has twice rescued the French from the Germans. US troops are currently stationed in Germany to protect Germany, and indeed Western Europe from the Bear, so Europeans could, at the very least, show a bit of appreciation for America, instead of constantly harping on about US flaws.

    I find it interesting that we don’t hear very many Germans calling for the withdrawal of ‘war criminal’ Bush’s stormtroopers from German soil! I wonder why?

    the sheer hatred that many muslim nations now feel towards the USA/UK

    Of course the ‘sheer hatred’ of radical Muslims for the US and its allies was expressed on September 11, and on numerous other occasions (Bali, Kenya, Tanzania, etc) long before the Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched.

    The Iraqi people now know who their real friends are, and it’s not France, Germany, Spain or Al Qaeda.

    Mike, you insult the democratically elected government of Iraq by insinuating that they are traitors like the Norwegian government. The Iraqi people have suffered more than you and I could ever imagine, and it took tremendous courage for them to go out and vote for a government under the very real threat of death from Sunni and Shia extremists. Shame on you!

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  36. Liam says:

    ‘US troops are currently stationed in Germany to protect Germany, and indeed Western Europe from the Bear,’

    hmmm, someones about 20 years behind the times methinks.

    Seriously 6countyprod, are you D. Vance in diguise by any chance? You sound like him at least from the fact you’re mentally stuck in the cold war era and when you’re farting on about Europe having to grasp its ankles and bend over for Uncle Same to have his wicked way at all costs…….

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  37. Liam says:

    hmm obviously that should read Uncle Sam

    Is there no way to edit your posts here?

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  38. 6countyprod says:

    Liam,

    Obviously you do not keep up with current affairs in Russia.

    European leaders are starting to recognise the looming threat of a revived, hungry and humiliated bear on its east.

    A few turns of the gas and oil valves will have Europeans begging for mercy. Although it might have a silver lining in helping to reduce global warming!

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  39. 0b101010 says:

    I find it interesting that we don’t hear very many Germans calling for the withdrawal of ‘war criminal’ Bush’s stormtroopers from German soil! I wonder why?

    Waste of breath given that, since 2004, that’s exactly what the Pentagon have been implementing. One of the few examples where preemption has been an astute move by the US military.

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  40. 6countyprod says:

    Ob101010,
    Right on, and the natives are not very happy!

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  41. BfB says:

    The sooner we get out of Eurabia, the better. Can’t wait for the Euro crash…the ‘disaffected youth’ burning, beheading, raping..etc. Housing crash, unemployment, energy crisis, financial unraveling. NRA memberships are still open. Oh, wait…you’re not allowed to defend yourselves…sorry. Seems that you’re ok with that anyway. Putin has stepped up his martial arts training to pound the shit out of any Euroweenie showing up to beg for some natural gas… Plenty of room over here boys. Just have your papers in order, like the good chaps you are.

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  42. Dread Cthulhu says:

    Comrade Stalin: “But I’m not surprised that Obama is turning out not to be the radical progressive voice for “change” (whatever that means) that he sold himself as.”

    Now, *THAT* would be a matter of which Obama you’d care to believe, Josef — was he lying then or is he lying now.

    6countyprod: “Jacques and Gerhart hate(d) Bush and the US. The Germans and French have now elected leaders who are much more pro-USA, as, of course, they should. France has been irrelevant on the world stage since the time of Bismarck, and the US has twice rescued the French from the Germans. US troops are currently stationed in Germany to protect Germany, and indeed Western Europe from the Bear, so Europeans could, at the very least, show a bit of appreciation for America, instead of constantly harping on about US flaws. ”

    And, when the US talks about removing those soldiers, as the Germans occasionally purport to want, the same Germans whine out of the other side of their mouths, acting as if the draw-down of American forces is some sort of horrible economic retaliation, as if the forces stationed there was some sort of reward for their role in global events.

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  43. 6countyprod says:

    It can’t be! It’s just not true!

    No wonder the folks at CNN/Time/USA Today are horrified…

    http://thepage.time.com/2008/07/28/gallup-ing-shocker/

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  44. BfB says:

    Wag The Dog type players in Barrys’ camp. House of cards. And that shrew of a wife will provide more than a few ‘she said WHAT!’ condescending, brainless, racist, drivels. I can’t wait…….

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  45. earnan says:

    Subject: Obama’s Visit
    >
    >
    > Hello everyone,
    >
    > As you know I am not a very political person. I just wanted to pass along that Senator Obama came to Bagram Afghanistan for about an hour on his visit to ‘The War Zone’. I wanted to share with you what happened. He got off the plane and got into a bullet proof vehicle, got to the area to meet with the Major General (2 Star) who is the commander here at Bagram. As the Soldiers where 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. As he finished, the vehicles took him to the ClamShell (pretty much a big top tent that military personnel can play basketball or work out in with weights) so he could take his publicity pictures playing basketball. He again shunned the opportunity to talk to Soldiers to thank them for their service. So really he was just here to make a showing for the American’s back home that he is their candidate for President. I think that if you are going to make an effort to come all the way over here you would thank those that are providing the freedom that they are providing for you.
    >
    > I swear we got more thanks from the NBA Basketball Players or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders than from one of the Senators, who wants to be the President of the United States. I just don’t understand how anyone would want him to be our Commander-and-Chief. It was almost that he was scared to be around those that provide the freedom for him and our great country. If this is blunt and to the point I am sorry but I wanted you all to know what kind of caliber of person he really is. What you see in the news is all fake.
    >
    > In service,
    >
    > CPT Jeffrey S. Porter
    > Battle Captain
    > TF Wasatch
    > American Soldier

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  46. 6countyprod says:

    Just as his fine words about Belfast do not reflect reality, Barack’s nasty words about Boston do not reflect reality either…

    “As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic . . .” – Barack Obama, Berlin, July 24, 2008

    However, “data from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute shows that there is more ice than normal in the Arctic waters north of the Svalbard archipelago. In most years, there are open waters in the area north of the archipelago in July month. Studies from this year however show that the area is covered by ice”, the Meteorological Institute writes in a *press release.”–Barents Observer (Kirkenes, Norway), July 24

    * http://met.no/?module=Articles;action=Article.publicShow;ID=1032

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  47. 6countyprod says:

    oops! sorry, wrong link. should be:

    http://www.barentsobserver.com/?cat=16149&id=4498513

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  48. Dread Cthulhu says:

    C’mon, 6countyprod… you think they’ll let anything so trivial as inconvenient facts get in the way of their cusade?

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  49. sexspace says:

    Where is reflection?

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