Monday, June 13, 2016

Was Hillary Under Sniper Fire In Bosnia in 1996?

Hillary's gaff regarding her coming under sniper fire on a tarmac in Bosnia in 1996 is one I truly find funny. Not because Hillary didn't screw this one up - she clearly did. But rather because of the sudden big deal everyone has made about it - and the real truth behind it.

This story broke way back in 2008 when Hillary was campaigning against Barack Obama. It hit the news wire that Sinbad, of all people, had discounted Hillary's story regarding her trip to Bosnia in March of 1996 and having to duck due to potential sniper fire. The way Sinbad told it, the tarmac was perfectly peaceful, and video later surfaced that the tarmac was quite tranquil as the First Lady was strolling across it with her daughter.

That story hit the news cycle - and died. Probably because by then, Barack Obama was all over the news and was in the lead for the Democratic Party nomination.

In fact, I never even heard about the story until 2015, and I'm a news junkie!

So what's changed? Why is this eight-year-old story suddenly such a big deal?

Why, it's good ol' Bernie! Or, rather, his followers. Because while Bernie's biggest fault is being unable to hold his fame-liquor and as a result being a sore loser, a certain segment of his followers are far more flawed in character, vitriolic and hot-tempered. They are convinced that Hillary Clinton is Satan, and will not let any evidence to the contrary sway them otherwise.

So naturally, when they got hold of this dusty old news story, they saw it as evidence of Hillary being the lying sack of shit they assume her to be. Suddenly the news story got blasted all over social media in a way that was never seen back in 2008.

So what really happened? Fortunately, the news media already figured it out, and told us, but then put it "below the fold" as they say in the news biz. A very nice piece in the Washington Post describes just what happened, recalls Hillary's claim from 2008 and how it got rated with with "four Pinocchios," then describes further that the security situation was indeed rather tense, and that the threat of attack was rather high. Here's an excerpt from two important updates to the article which was first published in the Post back in 2008:

UPDATE: March 21, 6:45 p.m.

Lissa Muscatine, who served as Hilary Clinton’s chief speechwriter in 1996 and accompanied her on the Bosnia trip, feels that I have failed to provide a full picture of what took place. She gave me her “vivid recollections” of the arrival in Tuzla, which I quote below:

I was on the plane with then First Lady Hillary Clinton for the trip from Germany into Bosnia in 1996. We were put on a C-17 — a plane capable of steep ascents and descents — precisely because we were flying into what was considered a combat zone. We were issued flak jackets for the final leg because of possible sniper fire near Tuzla. As an additional precaution, the First Lady and Chelsea were moved to the armored cockpit for the descent into Tuzla. We were told that a welcoming ceremony on the tarmac might be canceled because of sniper fire in the hills surrounding the air strip. From Tuzla, Hillary flew to two outposts in Bosnia with gunships escorting her helicopter.

UPDATE: March 22, 8:45 a.m.

Gen. Nash says that I misquoted him in saying he was unaware of any “security threat” to the first lady. While he was unaware of any “sniper threat,” he now tells me there were a couple of “security concerns” that day, which he found out about after returning to his headquarters after greeting Clinton at the airport. There was a “non-specific report” of a possible truck bomb in the area. The military also had information that “some of the communications associated with the First Lady’s visit were being monitored.”

“In both cases, we took appropriate security action,” said Nash, adding that Clinton’s visit was not disrupted.

But that's not all. The updated article goes on to include other new bits of information:


Michael Dobbs’s Four Pinocchio ruling – and the attention paid to Clinton’s false recounting – ultimately led her campaign to concede that “it is possible in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke in regard to the exit from the plane.” But officials continued to insist that she was “going to a potential combat zone” – even though the war had ended three months earlier.

Finally, in an effort to put the controversy behind her, Clinton told the Philadelphia Daily News:

“Now let me tell you what I can remember, OK — because what I was told was that we had to land a certain way and move quickly because of the threat of sniper fire. So I misspoke — I didn’t say that in my book or other times but if I said something that made it seem as though there was actual fire — that’s not what I was told. I was told we had to land a certain way, we had to have our bulletproof stuff on because of the threat of sniper fire. I was also told that the greeting ceremony had been moved away from the tarmac but that there was this 8-year-old girl and, I can’t, I can’t rush by her, I’ve got to at least greet her — so I greeted her, I took her stuff and then I left, now that’s my memory of it.”

Over time, the incident became etched in the minds of Clinton’s detractors, which is why it resonates today.

There is one interesting update to the episode. Former ambassador Christopher R. Hill, who accompanied Clinton on the trip, published a memoir in 2014, “Outpost,” in which he recounted that just before landing in Bosnia, the staff and reporters received an unusually intense briefing about the security situation. Hill’s account does not necessarily excuse Clinton’s false statement, but it is an example of how memories can be forged in unexpected ways. Here’s what he wrote on pages 114-115:

[During the landing at Tuzla], I ventured over to listen to a member of the security detail briefing the first lady and her team on the situation we would likely encounter on the ground. As she did for every briefing she received, she listened attentively, glancing at her reading material as he talked and talked.

I found myself almost rolling my eyes as the briefer went on and on about the possibility of snipers and what the plan of action would be (essentially, making a beeline to the armored vehicles parked nearby). As the briefing continued for what seemed like half an hour, one of the journalists, a little worried, asked me if it was going to be that dangerous.

In other words, it was perfectly reasonable to remember this incident incorrectly. Was there sniper fire at one point? Yes. Did the First Lady and Chelsea have to don flak jackets? Yes they did. But what it on the tarmac? No.

Now comes my own contribution to this retrospective. In 2009, long after Barack Obama had won and Hillary had been named Secretary of State, a conservative group sued to have certain government documents pertaining to Bill Clinton declassified, and was successful. In them, they discovered that Bill and Hillary had very nearly been killed in an assassination attempt in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 23rd of 1996, the same year Hillary had visited Bosnia. We know Hillary accompanied Bill on that trip because she delivered a speech to a women's forum in that country at the same time. A bomb had been planted beneath a bridge that the president's motorcade was expected to cross. But when the secret service received an alert about a potential threat, they rerouted the motorcade route at the last minute. Later, security personnel did discover that a bomb had been planted beneath the bridge. Had Bill and Hillary's motorcade crossed the bridge, they would both likely have been killed. You can read about the story in the London Telegraph here.

It is not at all unreasonable to say that Bill and Hillary left the Philippines under heavy guard when crossing the tarmac back to Air Force One. They may even have been told to duck down due to the potential of sniper fire. And it's also not unreasonable to think that Hillary probably accidentally conflated some of the stories garnered during her countless travels as First Lady, especially when retelling the story twelve years later.

Hillary's sniper fire in Bosnia gaff is a non-story. We all make mistakes. We all remember details wrong. And it's not like Hillary hasn't had bullets whiz past her head! Such as in 1994 when a shooter named Francisco Martin Duran fired at least 29 shots into the White House in hopes of killing Bill Clinton. Or on July 18, 2012, when Al Alam News reported that Secretary Clinton's motorcade had come under fire during a trip to Israel.

She's been under fire, both metaphorically and literally. She's earned her battle scars, Bosnia story or not.

Look, has Hillary deliberately lied? Sure! I have no doubt she's lied on purpose about any number of things.

Just not this time.

So she had a "senior moment." Big, fucking deal.



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