When Howie Carr first started talking about this story in the NYT, I thought it was a joke. But NO! It's real!! Thanks Lissa Muscatine and Melanne Verveer!! I can't believe that you are actually THIS STOOOOOOPID! This story was dying a natural death. I was bereft. I kept saying that it was too bad that this foolishness was happening so early. I want Obama and/or Hillary stepping on their crank in October or November, when it could yield the most benefit to my bad boyfriend. I thought it was too bad that it would be a forgotten memory in the fall.
Then THEY bring it back up! Thanks again Lissa & Melanne!
April 1, 2008
Straight Shooting From Tuzla
By LISSA MUSCATINE and MELANNE VERVEER
AS staff members who traveled with the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Bosnia in March 1996, we have followed with more than passing interest the extensive news coverage of her landing in Tuzla. Video footage clearly shows that Mrs. Clinton’s assertions that she landed “under fire” and that the arrival ceremony was canceled were wrong. She said so herself last week.
Yet even since she acknowledged her mistake, the commentary has continued unabated. Reports are now being embellished (to borrow the term du jour) to suggest that Bosnia was not really a danger zone. Her visiting American troops on a peacekeeping mission in a hostile environment is now being treated as if it were a trip to the beach. During a week of nonstop coverage, few journalists went beyond the irresistible video footage to ask what else happened on this trip and how Mrs. Clinton might have erred in the details about the landing in Tuzla. So here are some facts that provide context:
We flew in a C-17 cargo plane from Germany to Bosnia precisely because it was capable of steep descents and ascents into and out of areas of conflict. We were issued flak jackets on the plane before landing in Tuzla and were told the tarmac ceremony might be canceled or curtailed due to sniper fire from the surrounding hillsides. The first lady and Chelsea Clinton were moved to the armored cockpit for the landing. Armored vehicles were placed around the tarmac, and Apache helicopters hovered overhead.
In a recent e-mail message to a British blogger, Ejup Ganic, who was the acting president of Bosnia during Mrs. Clinton’s visit, wrote: “I remember that visit quite well. Although the NATO troops were in Tuzla, we still believed that some positions on the hills were occupied by radical Serbs, so I was worried about the overall safety.” The planned welcoming ceremony was shortened, he said, but it still lasted a bit longer than expected because a nongovernment group brought along a little girl to sing to the first lady.
Later, Mrs. Clinton flew from Tuzla to two military outposts by helicopter, escorted by Apache gunships.
As has been reported, Mrs. Clinton’s trip to Bosnia included a U.S.O. component with the comedian Sinbad and the singer Sheryl Crow. The helicopters that carried them to performances at American base camps zigzagged just above the trees to avoid potential ground fire, according to Carey Cavanaugh, who was then a State Department official traveling with Sinbad, and helicopters flew alongside to deal with the threat of anti-aircraft fire or snipers. These facts explain why many of us, including the first lady, believed that the conditions on the ground were precarious. We were worried about sniper fire and were prepared to rush off the tarmac when we landed.
In their single-minded focus on the landing in Tuzla, reporters and commentators have omitted any discussion of what Mrs. Clinton accomplished on her trip. In addition to showing support for our troops and for the peace accords in Bosnia, Mrs. Clinton met with Bosnian religious leaders, women and community activists and, when she returned to Washington, was able to give administration officials her firsthand assessment of the nascent reconstruction effort.
After leaving Bosnia, she met with leaders of Turkey and Greece and in those countries promoted efforts on behalf of international development and democracy. In Istanbul, five years before 9/11, Mrs. Clinton presciently convened representatives of some of the world’s major religions to advance a dialogue about religious reconciliation and ways to counter religious extremism.
The video of her arrival on the tarmac in Bosnia may be great theater and easy fodder for commentators, but it shouldn’t be allowed to obscure what else was happening on this important trip when the cameras weren’t rolling.
Lissa Muscatine was the chief speechwriter and Melanne Verveer was the chief of staff for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first lady. Ms. Muscatine is an adviser to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.
********Howie and Col. Hunt were once again.......en fuego!