February 5th, 2004
Conservatives, it seems, are indignant nowadays because people are actually paying attention to discussion about President Bush's rather inglorious military record. Didn't we dismiss that four years ago, they wonder? No, it might have been dismissed by conservatives, but the question was never answered to satisfaction, and the press pretty much ignored it. That is not, by any measure, a justification for saying that it is irrelevant today. In fact, with Bronze- and Silver Star winner John Kerry looking to be the candidate for the Democratic ticket, Bush's record seems all the more relevant. While John Kerry, like George W. Bush, was the son of a prominent East Coast family and a Yale graduate, Kerry decided to go to Vietnam the honest way--while Bush, who admonished others to do their duty, got his daddy to pull strings so he could join a celebrity unit of the National Guard, guaranteed never to see combat anywhere. At an age when John Kerry was commanding a fifty-foot gunboat and taking on a Viet Cong soldier, about to fire a rocket at his crew, in personal combat, George W. Bush was sniffing cocaine and then bugging out of service for an entire year or more when they started drug testing in the Guard. So you can see why, just maybe, Bush's "war" record is fair game again. The question was not resolved, and all the evidence points directly at the conclusion that Bush did indeed go AWOL. Here are just a few of the facts.
- Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard just 12 days before his student deferment ran out and he would have been eligible for the draft.
- The Guard unit Bush got into was a "celebrity" unit, with sons of two other senators (Bentsen and Towers), sons of oil magnates, and 7 sons of Dallas Cowboys players, among other offspring of powerful and influential people.
- At the time Bush applied, there were 100,000 young men or more on the waiting lists for the National Guard. The wait was usually one and a half years. Bush was accepted into the Texas Guard the very same day he applied.
- Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes admitted to receiving a request from a Bush family friend to get Bush into the Guard, and contacted Brig. Gen. James Rose, head of the Texas Air National Guard, to accomplish this.
- Col. Walter Staudt was so eager to take Bush in that he held a special ceremony in which he was photographed swearing Bush in, even though Bush had been sworn in earlier by a captain.
- Bush was accepted for Air Force officer and pilot training despite (a) having no flying experience whatsoever, and (b) scoring an abysmal 25% (the lowest possible passing score) on the pilot aptitude test.
- Bush specifically checked "do not volunteer" for overseas assignment.
- Bush was commissioned as a second lieutenant by "special appointment" by the unit's C.O., despite having no ROTC in college nor having taken the 18 months' of military service or training school--required for any commission except for surgeons.
- Was elevated into the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron over a waiting list of far more highly qualified and deserving pilots.
- Bush "volunteered" for action in Vietnam flying the F-102, but was unsurprisingly turned down because he had only 300 hours of flying time, whereas only volunteers with 1,000 hours flying time or more were accepted.
- The plane Bush was trained in, the F-102, was soon thereafter excluded from any active service, something that had been decided before Bush started training in them.
- In April 1972, all overseas and stateside military services started instituting drug testing.
- In May, Bush put in a request to be transfered to an inactive postal Reserve unit in the Alabama Guard. One week later, his request was turned down. Bush remained in Alabama, however, and did not return to Texas as was required.
- In August 1972, Bush was grounded from flying for "failure to accomplish annual medical examination." It is not entirely clear exactly what happened--whether he simply did not attend the exam, or if he attended and failed; Bush's service records are still sealed.
- Usually a Flight Inquiry Board is convened when a pilot is suspended, but none was for Bush, suggesting family connections put the kibosh on an investigation.
- In September 1972, Bush was ordered to start service in an active but non-flying Alabama Guard unit. While Bush and his people swear up and down that he served there, no records can be found of this service, and the base's C.O. at the time, now retired Gen. William Turnipseed said, "To my knowledge, he never showed up... I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered."
- In November 1972, Bush finally returned to Houston Texas, but did not report for duty with his home squadron.
- In December 1972, Bush inexplicably began working as a counselor with black youngsters in Houston, in a community service stint--often a punishment for offenders who are let off easy. His public criminal record for that period was wiped clean when Bush became governor of Texas and had his driver's license number changed. (Rumors suggest that Bush was either caught with cocaine or for a second drunk driving offense.)
- In May 1973, Bush was ordered to serve "nine certain duty days" in person at Ellington Air Force Base in Montgomery; he never showed up.
- In summer 1973, Bush was awarded 35 "gratuitous" inactive Air Force Reserve points, which means that he did not attend his duties but was credited with serving anyway.
- Bush applies for admission into the University of Texas law school, and is turned down.
- In October 1973, Bush applies for Harvard law school, and is accepted.
- Bush is granted early discharge from the National Guard so he can attend Harvard.