Bill Clinton Adds Fuel To Bosnia Sniper Fire

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Just as the Bosnia sniper flap seemed to be dying down, count on a finger-pointing Bill Clinton to fan the embers. The former president managed to make half a dozen factual errors in coming to the defense of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, for her now-acknowledged "misstatements" about her March 1996 trip to Bosnia. By yesterday afternoon, the would-be first laddie was revising his revisionist version of history.


As documented in previous posts, Hillary Clinton gave exaggerated, partly erroneous accounts of her Bosnia trip on at least three different occasions. She gave the most colorful version in a St. Patrick's Day speech when she described running across the tarmac at Tuzla airport with her head down to avoid sniper fire. It was not until March 24 that Clinton acknowledged that she "misspoke," saying that she had made "a minor blip."

Here are the principal factual errors that Bill Clinton made Thursday:

1. Hillary recounted misleading versions of her Bosnia trip more than once, talking about a harrowing "corkscrew" landing under sniper fire.

2. She gave her St. Patrick's Day speech not "late at night," but mid-morning.

3. There was no "immediate" apology from the Clinton camp for the misstatement. On the contrary, the campaign stood by her version of events for a week.

4. The first lady visited Bosnia not in 1995, when the country was still at war, but in 1996, when the situation was quite peaceful.

5. Hillary was not the first first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt to "go into a combat zone." Pat Nixon visited U.S. troops in South Vietnam in 1969, while that country was still at war.

6. The former president mentioned that three American "peacekeepers" were killed as they drove into Sarajevo along a mountain road, "because they could not go the regular way." He was citing a story told by Gen. Wesley Clark, a prominent Clinton supporter, about three U.S. diplomats (not peacekeepers) killed in August 1995 when their car hurtled down a ravine. Traveling around Bosnia was indeed very dangerous in the middle of 1995, when the war was still going on. The risks were minimal in March 1996.


Bill Clinton accused the media of treating Hillary as though "she'd robbed a bank" in shooting down the Tuzla sniper story. But the wounds were largely self-inflicted. It is difficult to know whether he believes his aggrieved version of history or was shooting from the hip. I will be charitable and award him three Pinocchios.

ONE PINOCCHIO: Some shading of the facts

TWO PINOCCHIOS: Significant omissions or exaggerations

THREE PINOCCHIOS: Significant factual errors

FOUR PINOCCHIOS: Real whoppers

THE GEPPETTO CHECK MARK: Statements and claims contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

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