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Hillary Says She Risked Life As First Lady

From Newsday:

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) arrives for a campaign stop at Traer Memorial Building in Traer, Iowa, December 30, 2007.

Hillary says she risked life on White House trips

Glenn Thrush

December 31, 2007

VINTON, Iowa – Ever since Barack Obama suggested Hillary Clinton’s eight years as first lady were a glorified tea party a few days back, she’s looked for an opening to strike back.

On Saturday night in Dubuque she pounced, arguing she risked her life on White House missions in the 1990s, including a hair-raising flight into Bosnia that ended in a “corkscrew” landing and a sprint off the tarmac to dodge snipers.

“I don’t remember anyone offering me tea,” she quipped.

The dictum around the Oval Office in the ’90s, she added, was: “If a place was too dangerous, too poor or too small, send the first lady.”

It turns out that Clinton wasn’t quite flying solo into harm’s way that day.

She was, in fact, leading a goodwill entourage that included baggy-pants funnyman Sinbad, singer Sheryl Crow and Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, then 15, according to an account of the March 1995 trip in her autobiography “Living History.”

As the plane approached the runway, the pilot ordered the Clintons into the armored front of the plane, Clinton writes.

What’s not clear is whether Sinbad or Crow were invited to the cockpit or had to brave it out in the unprotected rear.

Oh, my sides.

For the record, here is how Mrs. Clinton describes her death-defying mission in ghostwritten autobiography, Living History, pp 406-8: 

WAR ZONES

After arriving at Baumholder, Chelsea and I attended church services, met with the families of our troops, and enjoyed a brief performance in the mess hall by Sheryl and Sinbad. Around 6:30 the next morning, our entourage boarded a C-17 transport plane and took off for Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition to the entertainers, we brought pallets of mail and gifts for the troops, including donations from American companies of 2,200 long-distance calling cards and 300 movies on video. The White House contributed six cases of M&M’s with the presidential seal on every box. For the children in Bosnia, who had lost years of schooling because of the fighting, American companies donated school supplies and toys.

I spent the hour-and-forty-minute flight wandering around the cavernous metal belly of the huge transport plane, chatting with the crew and members of the press corps, who were strapped into benchlike jump seats. It was like touring the inside of a blimp, but louder. The pilot, then one of just four female C- 17 pilots in the Air Force, kept the plane cruising high over the devastated countryside, above the reach of surface-to-air missiles and sniper fire. As a reminder of the dangers that remained despite the official cease-fire, each of us was required to wear a flak jacket on the plane, and the Secret Service moved Chelsea and me up to the armored cockpit for the landing. Above the airstrip, the captain dipped a wing and made a near-perpendicular landing to evade possible ground fire.

Security conditions were constantly changing in the former Yugoslavia, and they had recently deteriorated again. Due to reports of snipers in the hills around the airstrip, we were forced to cut short an event on the tarmac with local children, though we did have time to meet them and their teachers and to learn how hard they had worked during the war to continue classes in any safe spot they could find. One eight-year-old girl gave me a copy of a poem she had written entitled “Peace.” Chelsea and I presented the school supplies we had brought, along with letters from seventh-grade children at Baumholder whose parents and teachers had initiated a pen pal program. We were then hustled off to the fortified American base at Tuzla, where over two thousand American, Russian, Canadian, British and Polish soldiers were encamped in a large tent city.

Sheryl Crow, Sinbad and Chelsea and I flew in Black Hawk helicopters to visit soldiers in forward positions. We were flanked by gunships, an indication of what a dangerous job peacekeeping could be. We touched down at Camp Bedrock and Camp Alicia, army outposts in northeastern Bosnia. We watched our troops demonstrate how they were clearing mines from the fields and roads―a grim mission and another reminder of the precarious life our soldiers led. Many voices back home were raising questions about America’s role in Bosnia. Some argued that soldiers should not be involved in “peacekeeping,” even though it has been part of our military’s historic mission in places and times as disparate as the Sinai desert after the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt and the DMZ after the Korean War. Others argued that European, not American, troops should bear responsibility for maintaining secure borders in the region. Because of these concerns, I spent time talking with the soldiers and their officers, asking for their opinions and listening to their assessments of their mission. One lieutenant told me he hadn’t understood the role the United States could play until he saw Bosnia for himself.

“Before we came,” he said, “it was hard to fathom what was going on here.” He described ethnic groups who had lived peacefully together and suddenly were killing each other over their religions. “You go out in the villages and see all the damage,” he told me. “You see roofs blown off of houses. You see whole neighborhoods that were completely bombed out. You see people who had to survive for years with hardly any food to eat or water to drink. But now, wherever we go, the kids wave at us and smile,” he told me. “To me, that’s reason enough to be here.”

I got my own look at the desolation of war from the window of our chopper. From a distance, the rolling countryside seemed beautiful and green, typical of pastoral Europe. But as I flew lower I could see that there were few farmhouses with an intact roof, and it was the rare building that had not been pocked by bullets. The fields weren’t tilled; they were torn up by shelling. It was springtime, but nobody was planting because of the dangers posed by land mines and snipers. The forests and the roads were not safe either. It was awful to see the extent of the suffering and to recognize how much work remained before the people of Bosnia could resume a semblance of normal life.

I had planned a stop in Sarajevo to meet with a multiethnic delegation to hear their ideas about what the United States government and private organizations could do to help heal a society ripped apart by war. The security situation forced me to cancel my trip to Sarajevo, but the people I was to meet were so disappointed that they insisted on braving the journey along fifty miles of treacherous roads to meet me in Tuzla

How harrowing.

How hilarious (or rather, Hilliarous).

(By the way, lest we forget, there were no US or even NATO casualties from combat during the Kosovo War. And only a handful from crashes and land mines after the war.)

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, December 31st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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