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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan July 4, 2011

Did Barack Obama say the troops 'whine' and 'nobody made these guys go to war'? Pants on Fire!

Did you get this e-mail? It says President Barack Obama said the troops "whine about bearing the costs of their choice" and that "Nobody made these guys go to war."

We've gotten many copies of these e-mails forwarded to us by readers. It's similar to another chain e-mail we fact-checked awhile back, but since this new version keeps arriving, we thought we'd look at it again. It's still Pants-on-Fire wrong. 

This particular e-mail seems aimed at veterans and their friends and family members.

If someone has to explain this to you, You are not a veteran. ... He [Obama]  doesn't seem to have much respect for the military. Maybe in the future our leaders should be veterans.


Bad press, including major mockery of the play by comedian Jon Stewart, led to President Obama abandoning his proposal to require veterans carry private health insurance to cover the estimated $540 billion annual cost to the federal government of treatment for injuries to military personnel received during their tours on active duty. The President admitted that he was puzzled by the magnitude of the opposition to his proposal.

"Look, it's an all volunteer force," Obama complained. "Nobody made these guys go to war. They had to have known and accepted the risks. Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice? It doesn't compute.." 

"I thought these were people who were proud to sacrifice for their country," Obama continued. "I wasn't asking for blood, just money. With the country facing the worst financial crisis in its history, I'd have thought that the patriotic thing to do would be to try to help reduce the nation's deficit.. I guess I underestimated the selfishness of some of my fellow Americans."

If he thinks he will ever get another vote from an Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard service member or veteran of a military service he ought to think it over ... If you or a family member is or has served their country please pass this to them.

To begin with, President Obama never said these words. 

They actually come from the humorist John Semmens, who writes satire on the news.

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In fact, we've fact-checked two other chain e-mails that we've found to be rip-offs of Semmens' pieces, passed off as real facts. One chain e-mail claimed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords urged the military to stab or club their opponents instead of shooting them, as a way to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment. Another said Obama wanted to change the national anthem to "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." We awarded both chain e-mails Pants on Fire ratings.

In the case of this chain e-mail, Semmens wrote his report in March 2009 after the White House abandoned a plan to bill veterans' private insurers for their war-related injuries. It was intended as a cost-savings measure, to save the Veterans Administration $540 million a year. 

By the way, note that the chain e-mail changes that price tag to $540 billion, with a "b". That too is inaccurate.

Veterans groups opposed the plan, and the White House scuttled the idea. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a press release on the matter on March 18, 2009:

"The President demonstrated his deep commitment to veterans by proposing the largest increase in the VA budget in 30 years and calling VSO (Veterans Service Organizations) and MSO (Military Service Organizations) leaders into the White House for an unprecedented meeting to discuss various aspects of the budget proposal," Gibbs said. "In considering the third party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans; however, the President listened to concerns raised by the VSOs that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families' ability to access health care. Therefore, the President has instructed that its consideration be dropped. The President wants to continue a constructive partnership with the VSOs and MSOs and is grateful to those VSOs and MSOs who have worked in good faith with him on the budget proposal."

Not only have we fact-checked this before, but our friends at other fact-checking organizations -- and Snopes-- have also debunked it. 

In fact, the chain e-mail is pretty much the opposite of Obama's actual comments about the troops. 

For example, here's what he said to troops in Afghanistan on March 28, 2010.

"You've been there for us, tour after tour, year after year, at a time when too many American institutions have let us down, when too many institutions have put short-term gain in front of a commitment to duty and a commitment to what's right," Obama said. "You've met your responsibilities, you've done your duty -- not just when it's easy. That's why you've inspired your fellow Americans. That's why you inspire me. That's why you've earned your place next to the very greatest of American generations. And all of you represent the virtues and the values that America so desperately needs right now: sacrifice and selflessness, honor and decency."

Or what he said to troops at Fort Cambell on May 6, 2011, in the days after Osama bin Laden was killed.

"And today, here at Fort Campbell, I had the privilege of meeting the extraordinary Special Ops folks who honored that promise. It was a chance for me to say —- on behalf of all Americans and people around the world —- 'Job well done.' Job well done. They're America's 'quiet professionals' -- because success demands secrecy. But I will say this. Like all of you, they could have chosen a life of ease. But like you, they volunteered. They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm's way. They trained for years. They're battle-hardened. They practiced tirelessly for this mission. And when I gave the order, they were ready."

Or what he said to troops at Fort Drum on June 23, 2011.

"The reason that I know many of you continue to do the outstanding work that you do is not only love of country but it's also love for each other, and your commitment to making sure that those sacrifices were not in vain. So the main message I have for all of you here today is that the American people understand the sacrifices you're making; they understand the sacrifices that your families are making. ... So, for all the sacrifices that you've made, I want to say thank you."

The chain e-mail that purports to be Obama's comments on troops is maliciously false. It's particularly egregious for trying to ply veterans with false information. We rate this one Pants on Fire!

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More by Angie Drobnic Holan

Did Barack Obama say the troops 'whine' and 'nobody made these guys go to war'? Pants on Fire!

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