[FoRK] Salon on Bushs' (lack of) Service
elias at cse.ucsc.edu
Wed Sep 8 23:19:46 PDT 2004
Stung is right... Just one more reason why I like Salon. Big question -
will other media outlets pick this up? Will it matter whether they do or
A swarm of new media stories on young George W. Bush's dereliction of
duty pops his heroic-leadership bubble.
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By Eric Boehlert*
Sept. 9, 2004 | On Feb. 13, as controversy swirled
around President Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard during
the Vietnam War, the White House released more than 400 pages of
documents on the press corps, proving, it claimed, that Bush had served
honorably and fulfilled his commitment. The sudden rush of records,
often redundant, jumbled and out of chronological order, generally left
reporters baffled. From Bush's point of view, the document dump was a
political success, as the controversy cooled and the paper trail ran dry.
In retrospect, it's doubtful that even White House aides understood all
the information embedded in the records, specifically the payroll
documents. It's also unlikely they realized how damaging the information
could be when read in the proper context. Seven months later, the
document dump is coming back to haunt the White House, thanks to
researcher Paul Lukasiak, who has spent that time closely examining the
paperwork, and more important, analyzing U.S. Statutory Law, Department
of Defense regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures of the
1960s and 1970s. As a result, Lukasiak arrived at the overwhelming
conclusion that not only did Bush walk away from his final two years of
military obligation, coming dangerously close to desertion, but that he
attempted to cover up his absenteeism through swindle and fraud.
Lukasiak's findings, detailed on his Web site the AWOL Project,
<http://www.glcq.com/> have since been bolstered and augmented by
independent research by the Boston Globe and the Associated Press. On
Wednesday, CBS News
reported what may be among the most damaging details yet: that Bush's
squadron commander, the late Col. Jerry Killian, complained he was being
pressured by higher-ups to give Bush a favorable evaluation after he
suspended him from flying for failure to take his annual physical exam.
Titled "CYA," Killian's memo concluded, "I'm having trouble running
interference and doing my job."
But for the last several months, Lukasiak has practically had the AWOL
story to himself, as the mainstream media mostly seemed silenced by the
big February document release, the daunting task of decoding military
personnel records, and the repeated refrain from the Bush White House
that the president was honorably discharged. Among the three most
compelling conclusions reached by Lukasiak in his new, meticulous
# Bush's request to transfer to an Alabama Guard unit in 1972, in order to
work on the Senate campaign of a family friend, Lukasiak found,
<http://www.glcq.com/trans.htm#_Toc81268477> was not designed to be
temporary, but rather was Bush's attempt to sever ties completely with
the Texas Air National Guard and find a new, permanent unit in Alabama
for which he was ineligible, where he wouldn't have to do any training
during his final two years. His superiors in Texas essentially covered
for Bush's getaway. However, the Air Reserve Personnel Center (ARPC) in
Denver, Colo., which had final say, uncovered the attempted scam, put an
end to it, and admonished Bush's superiors for endorsing Bush's bogus
request. (The CBS News report shows that the locals were chafing at
interference from "higher-ups" presumably connected to the powerful Bush
family). In the interim, Bush simply ignored his weekend duties for
nearly six straight months, not bothering to show up at military units
in either Alabama or Texas.
# The White House has conceded that Bush missed some required weekend
training drills, but insists Bush promptly made up those drills and
earned enough annual credits for an honorable discharge. In fact,
according to Lukasiak's research,
<http://www.glcq.com/fraud_text.htm#_FRAUDULENT_PAY_AND> based on the
procedures in place at the time requiring that makeup dates be completed
within 15 days before or 30 days after the date of the drill date
missed, between half and two-thirds of the points credited to Bush for
substitute training were fraudulent. Some of the points credited to Bush
were "earned" nine weeks beyond the date of the missed drill. According
to Air Force policy, Bush could not have received permission for
substitute training that far outside the accepted parameters. The
evidence is also overwhelming that Bush failed to get authorization for
substitute training in advance, suggesting the points were awarded by
the Texas Air National Guard retroactively and without any supporting
paperwork. The fraudulent points are key, because without them Bush
would have fallen far short of meeting his annual obligation, which
meant he should have been transferred to active duty for 24 months and
made eligible for service in Vietnam.
# On Oct. 1, 1973, Bush received an honorable discharge from the Texas Air
National Guard in order to move to Boston and attend the Harvard
Business School, where he was still obligated to find a unit in
Massachusetts to fulfill his remaining nine months of duty, or face
being placed on active duty. Once again, Bush made no such effort. But
the Air Force in Denver, acting retroactively, in effect overturned
Bush's honorable discharge and placed him on "Inactive Status" effective
Sept. 15, 1973. When Bush left Texas, his personnel file was sent to
Denver for review. The ARPC quickly realized Bush had failed to take a
required physical exam, his Texas superior could not account for his
whereabouts covering nearly a 12-month period, and due to absenteeism
Bush had failed to "satisfactorily participate" as a member of the Texas
Air National Guard. Bush's "Inactive Status" meant his relationship with
the Air Force (and the Guard) was severed and he was therefore eligible
for the draft.
Soon afterward, large gaps began appearing in Bush's paper trail.
Lukasiak concludes that only last-minute intervention, likely from
Bush's local Houston draft board, saved him from active duty, as well as
finally securing his honorable discharge, removing his "Inactive
Status." Ironically, that means strings were pulled to get Bush out of
the Guard in 1973, just as they were pulled to get him enrolled in 1968.
The AWOL Project's conclusions are bound to give Dan Bartlett concern.
He's the White House director of communications and has served as Bush's
point person over the last five years regarding inquiries about National
Guard service. Dating back to the 2000 campaign and right up to this
day, Bartlett has routinely changed his stories regarding Bush's service
depending on what information was available to the public. As more and
more documents trickle out and it becomes increasingly obvious Bush
received wildly favorable treatment during his Guard days while doing
his best to skirt his duties, Bartlett is left trying to stake out
explanations that haven't already been discredited. And those options
Bartlett's latest flip-flop surrounds Bush's failure to locate a new
Guard unit and fulfill his duty while attending Harvard Business School.
In 1999, Bartlett said Bush had reported for duty at a Massachusetts
Guard unit as required. This week Bartlett conceded to the Boston Globe
he must have "misspoke," because it's clear Bush made no effort
whatsoever to serve out his term while living in Boston. That answer is
reminiscent of Bartlett's response during the 2000 campaign when asked
about Bush's failure to take a required military physical in 1972: "As
he was not flying, there was no reason for him to take a flight physical
exam." But that response is directly contradicted by the Air Force
Specialty Code, which required a physical regardless of flight status.
On Wednesday, Bartlett told CBS News, in response to Jerry Killian's
memos, "It's impossible to read the mind of a dead man." He then
reverted to his usual refrain: "The official files tell the facts," says
Bartlett. "And the facts are President Bush served. He served honorably.
And that's why he was honorably discharged."
The shifting explanations and obfuscations coming from the White House
are one reason why the Guard story remains dangerous for Bush. The
controversy, after all, is not merely about how he received a million
dollars' worth of free pilot training and then stiffed the government
when it came time to pay it back in service. It's also about how, for
the last decade, Bush and his advisors have done everything possible to
distort, if not erase, the truth about Bush's service record in order to
advance his political career.
The detailed research from Lukasiak, a Philadelphia caterer, deals
strictly with the contents of Bush's military service documents,
particularly those after April 1972, when Bush decided -- on his own --
to stop flying. But what's fascinating is that when recent news reports
from Salon, the Associated Press, CBS and the Boston Globe are layered
on top of the AWOL Project research, they fit together almost
seamlessly, revealing a vivid portrait of Bush as a young man whose
military service was evaded.
# Last week Salon reported
<http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/09/02/allison/> that in late
1972 George H.W. Bush phoned a longtime Bush family confidant in
Alabama, Jimmy Allison, to ask if there was room on the local campaign
he was managing for Bush's troublesome son George, or "Georgie" as he
was called. "The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of
hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and
they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's
wing," Linda Allison, his widow, told Salon. "After about a month I
asked Jimmy what was Georgie's job, because I couldn't figure it out. I
never saw him do anything," said Allison. Asked if she'd ever seen Bush
in a uniform, Allison said: "Good lord, no. I had no idea that the
National Guard was involved in his life in any way."
# This week a new advocacy group calling itself Texans for Truth announced
that it will air a television commercial featuring a former Alabama
National Guard pilot who insists he never saw Bush in 1972 at the small
Guard unit at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Montgomery, where the
president claims he served. The pilot, Bob Mintz, has told a consistent
tale. In February, he told the Memphis Flyer newspaper: "There's no way
we wouldn't have noticed a strange rooster in the henhouse, especially
since we were looking for him." Mintz was referring to the news on the
base that somebody from Texas with political influence was coming to
train with the unit. "I was /looking/ for him," said Mintz.
# On Wednesday night, on CBS's "60 Minutes," in an interview with Dan
Rather, former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes went public for the first time
about how he pulled strings to get young Bush a coveted slot, at the
height of the Vietnam War, in the Texas Air National Guard. "I've
thought about it an awful lot and you walk through the Vietnam memorial,
particularly at night like I did a few months ago and, I tell you, ...
reflecting back, I'm very sorry about it, but you know, it happened and
it was because of my ambition, my youth and my lack of understanding.
But it happened and it's not ... something I'm necessarily proud of."
CBS also reported on four documents from the personal files of Col.
Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander. One memo ordered Bush to take
"an annual physical examination" -- an order he refused. CBS reports:
"On August 1, 1972, Col. Killian grounded Lt. Bush for failure to
perform to U.S. Air Force/Texas Air National Guard standards and for
failure to take his annual physical as ordered. A year after Lt. Bush's
suspension from flying, Killian was asked to write another assessment.
Killian's memo, titled 'CYA,' reads he is being pressured by higher-ups
to give the young pilot a favorable yearly evaluation; to, in effect,
sugarcoat his review. He refuses, saying, 'I'm having trouble running
interference and doing my job.'"
# This week, the AP reported that a thorough analysis of Bush's military
documents indicate obvious gaps in his service along with equally
gratuitous gaps in his paperwork. Specifically missing are: "A report
from the Texas Air National Guard to Bush's local draft board certifying
that Bush remained in good standing." "Records of a required
investigation into why Bush lost flight status." "A written
acknowledgment from Bush that he had received the orders grounding him."
"Reports of formal counseling sessions Bush was required to have after
missing more than three training sessions." "A signed statement from
Bush acknowledging he could be called to active duty if he did not
promptly transfer to another guard unit after leaving Texas."
# In February of this year, Salon interviewed Bill Burkett,
<http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/02/14/burkett/> a retired
lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard, who claims he observed
aides to Bush going through his military file in 1997 to remove any
embarrassing information, tossing documents in the trash, allegedly the
types of documents that might help answer many of the unanswered
questions surrounding Bush's Guard service. "Activities occurred in
order to, in my opinion, inappropriately build a false image of the
governor's military service," Burkett told Salon. Burkett first went
public with his accusations in 1998 and has told the same story
consistently for six years.
# Also last February, Salon reported
Bush's mysterious decision in the spring of 1972 to stop flying and
subsequently refuse to take a physical exam came at the same time the
Air Force announced its Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program,
which meant random drug testing for pilots, including Guardsmen.
Meanwhile, the White House has not been able to produce anything or
anybody with any credibility to contradict the growing body of evidence
that suggests Bush deliberately walked away from his duties and that
Bush and his handlers continue to lie about his military service.
Retired Lt. Col. John Calhoun was the one witness who was brought
forward this year to back up Bush's story that he actually showed up in
Alabama. He recalled seeing Bush at training sessions between "eight to
ten times from May to October 1972." Yet not even Bush's own payroll
records suggest he did drills in Alabama at the time Calhoun allegedly
spotted him. (Amazingly, ABC News on Wednesday used Calhoun as a
credible witness to bolster Bush's account, despite the fact that the
dates Calhoun cites don't even match up with Bush's.)
There's also no paper trail to support Bush's claim that he completed
any service following 1972. As Lukasiak notes, each substitute training
Bush completed, and there were many, should have generated authorized AF
Form 40a's: "All told, Bush performed 'substitute training' on at least
20 days. Thus there should be, at the very least, 20 AF Form 40a's with
the name of the officer who authorized the training in advance, the name
and signature the officer who supervised the training, and Bush's own
signature." But not one such form exists.
A similar absence of information surrounds Bush's dubious explanation of
his attempted transfer to Alabama. The move should have generated a
small mountain of paperwork. Under normal circumstances, 10 steps are
required to transfer:
1) The Guardsman announces that he will need to relocate.
2) His personnel officer explains the relocation policies and procedures
3) The Guardsman signs an acknowledgment that he has received the
4) The personnel officer gives the Guardsman a certification of
satisfactory participation, which he will need to get approval for a
5) The Guardsman locates an appropriate Ready Reserve position with a
new unit, and submits a "Transfer Request Form" (Form 1288) and a new
"Ready Reserve Service Agreement (Form 1644), along with the
certification of satisfactory participation, to the "receiving unit."
6) The receiving unit "indorses" the request on the back of the Form
1288, and provides the Guardsman with certification that an appropriate
position is available in that unit.
7) The Guardsman gives Form 1288, Form 1644, the certification of an
appropriate position, and a letter of resignation to his current unit
8) The unit commander indorses the request, and forwards it to the state
9) The adjutant general approves the request, and discharges the
Guardsman from the Air National Guard to the Air Force Reserves.
10) The Air Force Reserves assigns the former Guardsman to his new unit.
In Bush's case, according to Lukasiak's research, "There is no statement
of counseling, no certification of satisfactory performance, no
certification of a suitable vacancy, no letter of resignation, no
discharge papers, no discharge orders, and no reassignment orders."
There are also indications that Bush -- unwilling to fly, take a
physical or report for duty -- was trying to mislead Guard officials
with his transfer application. When asked for his permanent address,
Bush listed the P.O. box for the Alabama campaign headquarters he worked
for temporarily. When asked to note his Air Force Specialty Code, Bush
wrote down 1125B, the designation for F-89 or F-94 pilots. At the time
of his transfer request, both of these planes had been retired from
service in all components of the Air Force, including the Guard and
Reserves. Bush's accurate code was 1125D, designing an F-102 pilot. At
the time, F-102 planes were still very much in use. It was an error Bush
made more than once on the application. Lukasiak writes: "The odds of
Bush being able to scam his way into a non-training unit [in Alabama]
would be enhanced if his specific skill set was one which was no longer
useful to the Air Force."
In May 1972, Bush was informed that the unit in Alabama he requested was
clearly unsuitable for a pilot of his stature, yet he pressed on, and
his Texas superiors endorsed the transfer request and submitted it. But
the Denver headquarters caught the scam and rejected it. The Texas chief
of military personnel sent a curt warning to Bush's unit about the
clearly bogus request: "Attention is invited to basic communication."
Lukasiak's work has created a storm in the blogosphere. (He's also a
Salon Table Talk member, and an active thread
<http://tabletalk.salon.com/webx?13@@.7739b7ad> is devoted to his
research.) He makes no secret of his conviction that Bush used his
family connections to evade the draft. The AWOL Project concludes: "Bush
simply blew off his last two years of required service, and was able to
get away with it because he came from a politically influential family.
There is no other explanation for Bush's records. None."
Of course none of that stopped Bush from hyping his military service as
he launched his political career. In 1978, during an unsuccessful run
for Congress in West Texas, Bush produced campaign literature that
claimed he had served "in the US Air Force and the Texas Air National
Guard." In 1999, when asked by an A.P. reporter why Bush had claimed to
have served specifically with the U.S. Air Force when he'd only been in
the National Guard, Bush's spokesperson Karen Hughes insisted the claim
was accurate because when Bush attended flight school for the Air
National Guard he was considered to be on active duty for the Air Force.
That was plainly false, as the A.P. noted, citing Air Force policy,
which stated Guardsmen are never considered to be members of the Air
Force active duty.
Just four years after escaping his military obligations, Bush was
already trying to rewrite his military record for political gain. Bush
said he strongly supported the Vietnam War, obscuring how he spent
several years, after securing a safe spot in the National Guard, evading
his military obligation. Now President Bush orders Guardsmen and
Reservists to shoulder an unprecedented load -- physically, financially
and emotionally -- in the war in Iraq. As new information at last begins
to emerge about what he really did, Bush and his aides are still at work
covering up the record. His ultimate war is with the truth about his past.
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