Bush Verses Kerry - Questions About Military
August 10, 2004
by Evelyn Pringle
That's it. I've had it. Questions about Bush's military service
in the Air National Guard would in all likelihood be history by
now if not for the constant Republican attacks on Kerry's patriotism
and war record, along with a steady stream of accusations that he
is weak on defense and national security.
Due to their own stupidity, the spotlight will now be on the military
records of our deserter-in-chief and Top VP Chickenhawk for the
duration of the campaign. I hereby intend to remind voters that
while Kerry was in Vietnam putting his life on the line, Bush was
a drunken AWOL deserter roaming around somewhere in between Alabama
and Texas, every time I get the chance.
Lets start at the beginning of Bush's military career. There is
no doubt that he received special treatment to get in the Texas
Air National Guard. When he was accepted, there were over 100,000
guys on waiting lists all over the country, and there were 500 on
the Texas list alone.
Bush denies receiving any help, "I can just tell you, from my
perspective, I never asked for, I don't believe I received special
treatment," he told reporters. When running for governor in 1993,
he said "There was no special treatment. They were looking for pilots,
and I was honored to serve."
Bush spokesman, David Beckwith, inferred he was accepted because
he was more qualified than other guys: "A lot of people weren't
qualified," he said, "so special commissions were offered to those
willing to undergo the extra training required."
What a joke. Did they really think people would buy a story
that Bush was more qualified than others, when he only scored 25%
on the Pilot Aptitude Test (the lowest score allowed for would-be
In any event, Charles Shoemake, chief of personnel in the Texas
Guard from 1972 to 1980, denies there was a shortage or that Bush
was better qualified. "We had so many people coming in who were
super-qualified," he said. Tom Hail, historian for the Texas Guard,
also said that records do not show a pilot shortage at the time.
Bush only joined the Guard because his student deferment was set
to run out. In January 1968 he met with Colonel Walter Staudt, then
commander of the Texas Guard. Shortly thereafter, he was accepted
ahead of everyone else on the list.
Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives,
also helped Bush get in at the request of a Bush family friend,
Sid Adger. Barnes said he was contacted by Adger and asked to help
Bush get in, and so he called Gen. James Rose and did it. Barnes'
account of events is contained in a statement released after he
testified under oath in a deposition in a federal lawsuit in September,
Barnes also testified that he had since met with a top Bush adviser
to discuss how to rebut allegations that Bush got special treatment.
Barnes proved that the meeting took place, by producing a note from
Bush himself, thanking him for his help in rebutting rumors that
Bush's father helped his son find a Guard slot.
The Bush gang also claims he got no help when he received a direct
appointment. "Our information is there was absolutely no special
deal," said Beckwith. The truth is, both Barnes and Staudt recommended
him for a direct appointment, which allowed him to become a second
lieutenant right out of basic training, without having to go through
officer candidate school, and which guaranteed Bush a spot in the
pilot training program.
Military records released so far contain no explanation for Bush's
strange behavior during his final 18 months in the Guard, when he
failed to show up for a physical, was suspended from flying, and
went for five months without attending a single drill.
Questions about these issues gained momentum a while back when
Michael Moore called Bush a deserter, and DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe
pointed out that Bush went AWOL after taxpayers invested a quarter
of a million dollars training him to be a fighter pilot.
When Bush joined the Guard he said he had a goal of "making flying
a lifetime pursuit." He also signed a document stating he understood
the penalty of not measuring up to Guard standards: "I understand
that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed
24 months for unsatisfactory participation," it said.
Yet, even under the threat of being ordered to active duty, Bush
seemingly had no fear when he allowed himself to be suspended. The
1972 suspension order stated:
Verbal orders of the Comdr on 1 Aug 72 suspending 1STLT George
W. Bush.from flying status are confirmed.Reason for Suspension:
Failure to accomplish annual medical examination. Off will comply
with para 2-10, AFM 35-13.
AFM 35-13 specifies that "When a Rated Officer Fails To Accomplish
a Medical Examination Prescribed by AFM .(1) The local commander
... will direct an investigation ... (2) will forward the report
along with the command recommendation to USAFMPC/DPMAJD, Randolph
AFB TX 78148 for final determination."
Bush claims he released all his military records. If that's true,
where are the results of the official investigation and the follow-up
report listed in the order above?
Over time at least three different stories have emerged from the
Bush camp as to why he was suspended. At one point he said he did
not take the physical because he was in Alabama and his personal
physician was in Houston. But the Boston Globe quickly put
that notion to rest when it reported that "flight physicals can
be administered only by certified Air Force flight surgeons, and
some were assigned at the time to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery,
where Bush was living."
On another date his people told the London Times that he
didn't have to take an exam, "As he was not flying, there was no
reason for him to take the flight physical exam."
Then Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett told reporters that Bush was
aware that he would be suspended, but that he had no choice because
his paperwork hadn't caught up with him in Alabama. "It was just
a question of following the bureaucratic procedure of the time,"
Bartlett said. "He knew the suspension would have to take place."
So which is it? That (a) his family physician wasn't in Alabama,
or (b) he didn't have to take the exam because he wasn't flying,
or (c) that the suspension was caused by a bureaucratic mix-up of
Bush himself gave yet another bogus reason. He claimed the plane
he trained on was no longer in use. This was a blatant lie. Bush's
Texas unit continued to fly the F-102 until 1974. One of his Texas
commanders, Retired Major Bobby Hodges, is quoted as saying: "If
he had come back to Houston, I would have kept him flying the 102
until he got out, but I don't remember him coming back at all."
Two retired Guard generals told the Boston Globe that it
was almost unheard of for a military pilot to miss a flight physical
and not be investigated. "There is no excuse for that. Aviators
just don't miss their flight physicals," said Major General Paul
Weaver, who retired as director of the Air National Guard in 2002.
Brigadier General David McGinnis said that "Failure to take your
flight physical is like a failure to show up for duty. It is an
obligation you can't blow off," and that regulations would have
required an investigation of the matter.
McGinnis surmised that Bush's superiors may have viewed him as
a liability, and decided "to get him off the books, make his father
happy, and hope no one would notice." But he said there still should
have been a report. "If it didn't happen, that shows how far they
were willing to stretch the rules to accommodate" then Lt Bush.
The documents released contain no record of any such inquiry.
Its perfectly clear that the rules were stretched to accommodate
Bush from the minute he decided to join the Guard in order to dodge
Any suggestion that Bush could simply decide to quit flying, with
two years remaining on his commitment, after a quarter of a million
dollars was invested in his training, is absurd. Bush signed a pledge
to fly for at least five years after he completed his training to
ensure that the tax dollars would be well-spent. He grossly violated
Bush has never satisfactorily explained why he failed to show
up for duty at the Dannelly Base in Alabama or what he was up to
while he was AWOL for five months.
During the 2000 campaign, when asked about Dannelly, Bush said,
"I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends
at one period of time ... I made up some missed weekends ... I can't
remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have
the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations."
Dan Bartlett, his spokesman at the time, said, "He specifically
recalls pulling duty in Alabama, he did his drills."
The official records don't support their versions of events.
In fact, the records show that on September 15, 1972, Bush received
a direct order to report for duty at Dannelly. The order said: "Lt
Bush should report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, DCO, to perform
equivalent training," on 7-8 October, and 4-5 November. Bush apparently
ignored the order because he never showed up.
Dannelly Unit commander, Retired General William Turnipseed, and
his administrative officer, Kenneth Lott, both say Bush was not
there. ''Had he reported in, I would have had some recall, and I
do not,'' Turnipseed said. "I had been in Texas, done my flight
training there. If we had a 1st Lt from Texas, I would have remembered."
But Bush, being the pathological liar that he is, goes right on
saying he served in Alabama. When asked about General Turnipseed's
statements, he said, "I read the comments from the guy who said
he doesn't remember me being there, but I remember being there."
If is memory is so good, then why can't he remember a single name
out of the 700 guard members he served with at Dannelly? And why
hasn't a single guy come forward to say he served with Bush?
The records prove that Bush's superiors in Texas thought he was
in Alabama. Officers Jerry Killian and William Harris said so in
his yearly evaluation: "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit
during the period of report," and a "civilian occupation made it
necessary for him to move to Montgomery, Alabama. He cleared this
base on 15 May 1972 and has been performing equivalent training
in a non flying status with the 187 Tac Recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base,
Alabama." He wasn't in Texas and he wasn't in Alabama. So where
In 1998, Bush hired Col. Albert Lloyd to review his Guard records.
Since then, Lloyd himself has said the record should include evidence
of his service in Alabama. "If he did, his drill attendance should
have been certified and sent to Ellington, and there would have
been a record," he said. No such attendance record exists.
Bush now claims he can prove he attended one drill on Nov. 29,
1972. However, the document used to support this claim is highly
suspect. It is undated, unsigned, and doesn't even have Bush's name
on it. It was "discovered" by Lloyd in 1998 and somehow got added
to the official record. There are also two versions of it. The one
discovered by Lloyd has handwritten notations on it, while the one
obtained from Bush's records does not. It's hardly conclusive proof
of Bush's whereabouts on one day in the year in question.
On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to prove Bush wasn't
at Dannelly. Most interesting are interviews with two actual members
of the Alabama unit. According to a February 13, 2004 article in
the Memphis Flyer, Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop attended regular
drills in 1972 and they are both absolutely certain that Bush was
Mintz told the reporter, "I remember that I heard someone was
coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was
somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then.
I was looking for somebody to prowl around with."
When he didn't show, Mintz thought Bush had "changed his mind
and went somewhere else" to do his duty. His assumption was wrong.
In campaign 2000, Bush was referring to Mintz's unit, and so far
he's sticking to the same story in 2004.
Mintz talked about his "negative reaction" to Bush's dishonesty.
"You don't do that as an officer, you don't do that as a pilot,
you don't do it as an important person, and you don't do it as a
citizen. This guy's got a lot of nerve," he said.
Mintz says there were only 25 or 30 pilots at the unit, "There's
no doubt. I would have heard of him, seen him, whatever," he said.
"And if he did any flying at all, on whatever kind of craft, that
would have involved a great number of supportive personnel. It takes
a lot of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody I can think
of remembers him," said Mintz.
Mintz said he "talked to one of my buddies the other day and asked
him if he could remember Bush at drill at any time, and he said,
'Naw, ol' George wasn't there.'"
Mintz's buddy is Paul Bishop. He voted for Bush in 2000, but is
now upset about Bush saying he served in Alabama. "I never saw hide
nor hair of Mr. Bush," said Bishop.
Bishop said he didn't pay much attention to Bush's lies during
campaign 2000, but he does now since the war in Iraq started. "It
bothered me that he wouldn't 'fess up and say, Okay, guys, I cut
out when the rest of you did your time. He shouldn't have tried
to dance around the subject. I take great exception to that. I spent
39 years defending my country," he said.
How will Bush's dishonesty play out in election 2004? Not too
well if the opinions of Mintz and Bishop are any indication. Both
were asked who they planned to vote for. Will Bishop vote for Bush?
"Naw, this goes to an integrity issue," he says. And, who will Mintz
be voting for? "Not for any Texas politicians," he says.
The latest stunt in the campaign to smear Kerry's war record comes
from a group of guys who call themselves, "Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth. " They recently held a public news conference at which they
attacked Kerry's status as a war hero, questioned the legitimacy
of his combat wounds, and claimed his antiwar activities ought to
disqualify him from becoming President. The founder and co-chairman
of the group is John O'Neill.
Bush's campaign chairman, Marc Racicot, says: "Neither the Bush-Cheney
'04 campaign nor the RNC have coordinated or participated in the
planning of this news conference." O'Neill also denied any affiliation
with the Bush camp.
Yeah right, there's no connection whatsoever. O'Neill organized
the group with the help of Merrie Spaeth, who in 2000 just happened
to be a spokeswoman for a group that spent $2 million on ads attacking
John McCain's record when he ran against Bush.
In addition to being a generous contributor to both of Bush's
presidential campaigns, Merrie is listed on the White House web
site as one of the "prominent public and private sector leaders
who are alumni of the White House Fellows Program from Texas." Texas
investor Sam Wylie is a director of the group. He also has contributed
the maximum amount permitted to the RNC and the Bush's campaign.
Golly gee, I don't know why in the world anyone would link this
group to the Bush campaign.
The group attacked Kerry's war record in Vietnam and O'Neill claimed
he was awarded a purple heart for a self-inflicted wound that was
"trivial" and "insignificant." "I have very serious questions based
on talking to people who were involved in those incidents," O'Neill
said. "It was fraudulently reported and used as the basis for leaving
Vietnam early," he said.
During the news conference, the group read a document written
by a doctor, Louis Letson (also a member of the group) who said
he treated a wound for Kerry in 1968. Letson said that "Some of
his (Kerry's) crew confided that they did not receive any fire from
shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to
some rocks on shore," and, "The crewman thought that the injury
was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when
it struck the rocks. That seemed to fit the injury which I treated."
Oh sure, now I get it. In the dead of night, Kerry knew how to
fire a mortar round toward the shore in a way that would make it
ricochet off a rock and send a fragment of shrapnel back to the
boat to land in Kerry's arm. And even though this brilliant feat
took place in the dark, Kerry figured out a way to make sure that
the shrapnel would hit him just right without hurting him too seriously.
Wow! I wonder if Kerry's real name is "Houdini."
One member of the group, Steve Gardner, served under Kerry. He
claims Kerry was indecisive in combat. "If a man like that can't
handle that six-man boat, how can you expect him to be our commander
in chief?" asked Gardner.
Since Kerry won five medals for bravery I'm not too concerned
about Gardner's opinion of whether Kerry can handle a boat. The
real question that needs to be answered is how did a draft-dodging
coward, who went AWOL for five months in a time of war, and who
couldn't sober up long enough to take a physical once a year, end
David Wade, served with Kerry in Vietnam. He describes the statements
by the group as "a false, lying smear campaign against a decorated
combat veteran," and added, "This is the ugly face of the Bush attack
machine questioning John Kerry's patriotism."
Kerry's favorable evaluations are out there for anyone who wants
to read them. They contradict the allegations made by the group.
One commander wrote: "In a combat environment often requiring independent,
decisive action, Lt. j.g. Kerry was unsurpassed." The citation for
his Bronze Star praises his "calmness, professionalism and great
personal courage under fire."
His heroic actions were described in the Silver Star citation,
"With utter disregard for his own safety and the enemy rockets,"
the citation says, "again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached
his boat only 10 feet from the Viet Cong rocket position and personally
led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the of the enemy. ... The
extraordinary daring and personal courage of Lt. Kerry attacking
a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire were responsible
for the highly successful mission."
The Republican band of chickenhawks have a lot of nerve attacking
Kerry's service to his country. Wade Sanders gave his opinion of
their attacks at a follow-up news conference, "I think it's going
to sicken and repulse the vast majority of the American people,"
and the criticism would "backfire on this president and this vice
Wade is right. This latest stunt guarantees that Bush's records,
and Cheney's five deferments, will be front line issues for the
rest of the campaign. They could have told the group to knock it
off, but chose not to. So now its open season on the military service
records from here on in.
The Vet's demanded that Kerry release more records. I find this
demand laughable being the Pentagon says it is under strict orders
not to discuss anything about Bush's records, and FOIA Officers
say they are under orders from the Pentagon to ignore all requests.
And on top of all that, Officials from the National Guard Bureau,
now headed by a Bush appointee from Texas, said they are under orders
to not answer any questions.
The bureau's historian, Charles Gross, said 'If it has to do with
George W. Bush, the Texas Air National Guard or the Vietnam War,
I can't talk with you." FOIA officer, Rose Bird, said she stopped
accepting requests in February and directs them to the Pentagon.
But the Pentagon records coordinator, James Hogan, said senior Defense
Department officials have directed the Bureau to not respond to
questions about Bush's records.
You know, I am really worried about the number of agencies involved
in guarding Bush's records. I wonder if we have enough employees
left over to guard Fort Knox.
Come November, the voters will decide which candidate they trust
to lead the country in a time of war. A war hero who was awarded
five medals for bravery, or an AWOL deserter who failed to show
up for duty for over five months, in a time of war.