CCN exclusive: Clinton lands Bosnian backing in spite of sniper fire claim
November 4, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
SARAJEVO, Bosnia – Despite Hillary Clinton’s false claim that she came under sniper fire upon landing in post-war Tuzla, Bosnia, the Democratic presidential candidate still has the support of Emina Bicakcic, the Bosnian “tarmac girl” who greeted her with a poem that day.
“I’m in the Hillary corner,” Bicakcic said Thursday in an exclusive interview with CalCoastNews. “Go Hillary.”
In March 1996, shortly following the conclusion of the Bosnian War, Clinton flew to the reeling Balkan state to meet United States troops and boost their morale. After landing at an air base in Tuzla, Clinton walked onto the tarmac; met Bicakcic, then 8 years old; greeted her with a kiss; and listened to a poem the Bosnian girl had written about the newfound peace in her country.
Clinton said she really liked the poem, Bicakcic said.
Twelve years later, during her initial presidential campaign, Clinton falsely claimed in a speech that she came under sniper fire after landing in Tuzla and that she had to duck and run and skip her scheduled greeting ceremony. After major media exposed Clinton’s account of the events as false, the then-senator said she misspoke.
Bicakcic, now 28 and a medical doctor in Sarajevo, said Clinton’s remarks about the sniper fire surprised her. Bicakcic said she did not recall there being sniper fire on the day she met the-then first lady, but Bosnia was still unstable at the time.
“It was very brave of her to even come, and we were honored that she came when nobody else wanted to come to Bosnia and to see how it was,” Bicakcic said. It was also very brave of Clinton to bring her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, Bicakcic added.
Bicakcic said, in her eyes, then-president Bill Clinton stopped the war in Bosnia, so it was incredible for her to meet his wife. Until that point, Bicakcic had spent much of her life without running water and electricity and under constant threat of grenade and sniper fire.
The Sarajevo native brushed off Clinton’s sniper fire claim as “just politics,” saying she is plenty used to hearing Balkan and Bosnian politicians exaggerate or falsify stories.
“Doesn’t the world have much bigger issues to solve than was there or wasn’t there shooting in Tuzla?” Bicakcic said.
Clinton critics, though, have seized on the sniper fire claim to further their argument that the Democratic candidate is a dishonest politician. In 2008, her false account of the Tuzla trip dealt a blow to Clinton’s initial presidential campaign, which was then engaged in a heated race for the Democratic nomination against then-Senator Barack Obama. This year, critics have at times tossed in the Tuzla story while discussing Clinton’s alleged lies about the 2012 Benghazi terror attack and the State Department email scandal.
In June, Clinton’s Republican challenger, Donald Trump, turned to the sniper fire claim in calling Clinton “a world-class liar.”
“Just look at her pathetic email server statements or her phoney landing in Bosnia where she said she was under attack and the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers,” Trump said.
Bicakcic says she favors Clinton over Trump due in part to concerns that the Republican candidate does not have an aspiration for world peace. Bicakcic also says the leader of the United States sets an example for Bosnians to follow. Likewise, she is interested to see how a woman would function in that role.
“We see in America that beacon that will give us directions, how to do things, how not to do things,” Bicakcic said. “It will be a very interesting to see if she wins how it will be to have a female as a head of the state and a woman as the president of the greatest power in the world.”
Heading into the final weekend before the election, polls indicate Clinton has a narrow lead over Trump.