US election diary: War and lies

How misleading statements have hit both Clinton and McCain’s campaigns.

Clinton later admitted she “misspoke” over a trip to Bosnia she made as first lady [AFP]

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential hopeful, fashioned a dashing, dramatic narrative to support her claim she is ready to grab that White House red phone at 3am and bark out orders.

Previous entries

Part 1: Obama factor
Part 2: It’s personal
Part 3: Overload
Part 4: A nasty week
Part 5: A week of war

She told her campaign rallies repeatedly about that perilous day in 1996 when her plane corkscrewed into the landing zone in Bosnia.

Crouching low, she raced across the tarmac, dodging the sniper fire that erupted all around her.

She’s one tough gal, that Hillary! Her middle name isn’t Rodham, it’s “Danger”.

There’s just one problem: the whole story is made up. Hokum, balderdash, baloney, horse puckey.

The former first lady’s travelling companions, including the comedian Sinbad, told reporters they did not recall any corkscrew landing, mad dash, or Serb snipers.

Questioning claims

Others questioned Clinton’s claim that she was sent to Bosnia because it was “too dangerous” for President Bill Clinton – so he sent his wife and daughter, Chelsea, instead?

In focus

In-depth coverage of the
US presidential election

Sure enough, CBS News promptly produced videotape of the incident.

It shows Clinton beaming as she strolled unhurriedly across the airstrip, greeting US military officials and local children.

That was the end of the retroactive Clintonian derring-do.

Clinton now says she “misspoke”. The American Heritage Dictionary says misspoke means “to speak mistakenly, inappropriately, or rashly” or “to speak or pronounce incorrectly”.

Well, that about covers it. Maybe Clinton was reading too much Hemingway. Or the Dangerous Book for Boys.

A misrepresented meeting

Clinton also makes major claims to have helped broker the Northern Ireland peace process.

Actually, I was in Belfast when the Clintons came calling in December 1995. Hillary had tea with some very nice women from groups helping single mothers and deprived young people.

She so admired the ordinary British cafe stainless steel teapot that one of the ladies gave it to her as a gift.

It was not a significant event; I cannot even remember whether I included it in my report on the presidential visit.

But 14 years later, out on the campaign trail, Clinton grossly misrepresented the meeting as a pivotal moment in the peace process, in which she “brought together for the first time” people from Protestant and Catholic communities who agreed to work for peace.

The actual participants in the peace process, including John Hume and David Trimble, say Hillary had no input in their negotiations.

Lies and ‘facts’

Why do they do it? Why do politicians lie, especially when they know that the camera’s unflinching eye will eventually provide the truth? I have no idea, but they do it. And they do it all the time.

Some lies are venal. Hillary Clinton’s husband knows that. The most famous utterance of his presidency is: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Fighting in Iraq continues despite McCain’s
confidence of victory [Reuters]

Some lies are predictable, for example Mitt Romney saying he decided to drop out of the Republican race solely “because I love America”.

Um, Mitt? Actually, it was because you ran a losing campaign and had no chance whatsoever of beating John McCain.


But some untruths are more dangerous. Here is one: “We’re succeeding. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve seen the facts on the ground.”

That was John McCain, speaking this week shortly after his return from Iraq. As the only candidate who promises to keep the war going till “victory” – even if that takes 100 years – McCain has made the success of the surge is the absolute centre-pole of his campaign tent.

Unfortunately, Iraq is not following McCain’s script.

Intense battles are raging in the southern Iraqi city of Basra and the capital, Baghdad, between the US-backed Iraqi security forces and the Shia Mahdi Army militia.

In Basra, the decision taken last year by British officials to pull their forces back left the city at the mercy of various militias and mafias.

The British troops remain out of the fight that is under way now, presumably drinking tea safely in their fortified bases.

The Iraq effect

Sadr’s ceasefire aided a drop in US deaths and
shifted US attention from Iraq [GALLO/GETTY]

It was Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s decision last summer to call a ceasefire that has been largely responsible for the drop in violence in Iraq, US military officials say.

In turn, that led to a reduced rate of US casualties. Without a steady stream of death notices coming out of Iraq, the US public shifted its attention to other matters. 

But renewed conflict between US troops and the powerful militia could drive casualties up and drive a stake through the heart of McCain’s White House hopes.

Sometimes, though, lies told by politicians are deadly. Here are two, firstly:

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

And secondly: “My fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.”

You really do not need me to tell you who told those lies, do you?

Source : Al Jazeera

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