Untruths and misstatements

At the Mahon Tribunal lately we’ve heard a lot of semantics about telling “untruths”. An untruth is much the same as a lie – it is false information and the opposite of the truth – but the logic behind telling an untruth as opposed to a lie is that the former does not appear to carry the cloud of deception with it; not as much as telling a lie does.

We’re seeing much the same semantical juggling in the US at the moment with Hillary Clinton’s “misstatements” about her trip to Bosnia.

In a prepared speech on her foreign policy experience Clinton had reminisced about her trip to the war-torn country, saying “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”

The first cracks showed when Sinbad, an American comedian who was travelling on the same plan to entertain troops, publicly questioned Clinton’s dramatic account of the event. The mainstream media and even Barack Obama’s campaign didn’t seem too keen to run with this, however, as it was one account against another and as Sinbad was a paid-up Obama supporter it would have just looked like mud-slinging.

Then this video turned up on YouTube, showing that supposedly cancelled greeting ceremony and no sign of panic or sniper fire.

Now Clinton is saying she made a misstatement, which like ‘untruth’ is a synonym for ‘lie’.

What’s hard to believe is that Clinton could have been so mistaken about the event to tell this lie. If she honestly was… well it doesn’t look too good for a Presidential wannabe to have such a bad memory, or worse a delusional one. The only other option is that she made up an exciting story about what happened in Bosnia to make herself look more experienced, put this into a pre-prepared speech and told it to the world. In other words it was a calculated, intentional lie.

Either reality doesn’t look good for her and you can see why she’s trying to brush it off quickly and move on.

While questions have been raised of Clinton’s experience in Northern Ireland, another point she raised to show her foreign policy credentials, that argument has come down simply to two sides having two different stories. That’s exactly what was happening with this Bosnia claim too until the video showed up – now there’s no doubt about what really happened.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out now – it could be critical. Once it seeps into the US public’s consciousness it could paint Clinton as a liar and make the voters question the rest of the claims she made in that speech. In the same vein they might not care all that much and be more concerned with what the candidates have done on more pressing, local issues.

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