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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.

And then:

  • 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.

This is the type of service George W. Bush offered his nation. It is a viable issue not just because it pales abysmally compared to Kerry’s record, but because (a) Bush favored the Vietnam War and admonished schoolmates who suggested they would avoid service, (b) Bush harped on his military service in selling himself as a candidate, (c) Bush has been sending tens of thousands of young men and women into battle, where more than 500 American soldiers have died, and (d) Bush still campaigns like he was some kind of top-gun war hero, with the carrier appearance in his flight suit and the surprise fake-turkey visit in Iraq, bringing up both as recently as a few weeks ago in his State of the Union speech as examples of how connected he is with servicemen and -women.

The truth which is revealed in a look at the facts listed above shows that he was far from distinguished in his “service”–that in fact, he was a chickenhawk hypocrite who used family connections to sit out the war and then deserted even that safe and comfy post. It is also of note that Bush scored exactly 25%, the lowest passing score, on his pilot’s aptitude test–which seems to suggest that he scored even lower, but was bumped up to the minimum so he could be scooted through. While this is conjecture, Bush’s record (both in the Guard and out) is full of suggestive coincidences like this one. In any case–

Bush has no authority–zero, none–to speak as a veteran or for veterans, or to use any such image for his public persona.

I was both surprised, and in a way, not surprised, when I learned today that a co-worker of mine, a Democrat and a very intelligent person, had not even heard that Bush had had any problems in his Vietnam “service.” The press covered for Bush in the last election and virtually buried the story. The facts must come out, they must become widely known. Please feel free to re-use and/or reprint this information and distribute it widely. Americans need to know who it is that they’re voting for, and who they should most definitely vote against this year.

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  1. Tito
    February 6th, 2004 at 02:04 | #1

    I was going to let you know about the Salon article about this topic, it’s pretty good. Problem is, he gets a pass on the celebrity unit stuff, since Clinton clearly would have done the same thing if he’d been able, and got elected anyway. But the no-show stuff, yes, Bush may be vulnerable there. Problem is, most of the people his age in the press tried to get out of it too. But Kerry does provide a nice, striking contrast.

    The Salon article is at:


    A little plug: read and support Salon! It’s leftish (and if that’s not a word, oh, well) and, more importantly, very good.

  2. February 6th, 2004 at 12:34 | #2

    I’m sure this would be nice and juicy in the general election, and I would be happy to point it out when people in my home state of Kentucky try to speak of Bush as a military man. But personally, I will never bragg about John Kerry having decided to go to Vietnam — as far as I remember it never was any high honor. Isn’t it a little dangerous (and hypocritical) if we start using martial values (like “Kerry wanted to fight, Bush didn’t”) to select our candidates? This isn’t to say I don’t agree completely that Bush is a silver-spoon lying sack of shit, because I do agree. But playing the draft-dodger game was dirty when they did it to Bill Clinton in ’92, and it doesn’t seem much more palatable now.

    I suppose I’m just saying that we walk a fine line when these issues come up — your analysis is right on-target, as usual, but I fear that others might end up making fools of themselves by framing it the wrong way. It isn’t so much that he didn’t go to Vietnam, it’s that the celebrity unit his father got him into was apparently too much for him and he was in derilection of duty, yet uses a mere enlistment record to craft a “military man” image.

  3. Pat Elleven
    February 9th, 2004 at 13:17 | #3

    My Dad is a 86 year old retired US Army MSgt, (20+ years, fought in WWII) and was born & raised in Bush country. Think he’d be a Republican? Think again.

    GWB especially grates on his nerves. He says: “G*ddamned %(*&)(% rich *&^%%$!! kid doesn’t even know how to do a *&##$!! proper salute!”

    Every time we see Georgie on TV it’s the same rant about if he’d ever been through even basic training, he’d know how to hold his hand correctly.

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