Bush's AWOL Scandal: Let's Break Through
the Media Barrier
August 12, 2004
by Bernard Weiner, The
its own political purposes last year, the Bush Administration compromised
a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, by revealing her name and job;
outing a covert agent is a felony. For its own political purposes
last weekend, the Bush Administration revealed the name of a double-agent
it had turned and placed inside the high echelons of al-Qaida; by
doing so at that particular time (hurridly, in the midst of a domestic
terror alert, to gain more cred as the guys who should remain in
charge), they compromised one of the CIA's few agents on the inside
of the terrorist network.
It's even more clear now that Bush&Co., for short-term gain, will
do anything to try to win an election, including selling out the
long-term national interests of the United States.
It isn't surprising, then, that many citizens all over this country,
anxious to return their government to a saner, less-extreme course,
are organizing to affect the outcome of the election. Many are manning
phone banks or writing personal letters to undecided voters in the
swing states. Some are even visiting or moving to those key states
to talk to folks directly. Famous pop-musicians are working together
to present concerts in the toss-up states, to help raise consciousness
and register young voters. Many ordinary citizens, normally cynical
about politicians in general, are donating again and again to the
Kerry/Edwards campaign, to good local candidates, or to effective
activist groups, such as MoveOn.org.
Below are some additional ideas about how we all might become
involved on a specific project - namely, trying to get the updated
story of Bush's AWOL Scandal into the mainstream media.
UNDER-REPORTING BUSH'S AWOL PROBLEM
From the very beginning, the mainstream media neglected to adequately
report on Bush's failure to complete his six-year obligation to
the Texas Air National Guard. They gave the story a superficial
glance, but there was virtually no deep investigative reporting.
In short, Bush got a free pass by the Guard and by the mass media,
presumably because his father was a political heavyweight.
Although the circumstantial evidence certainly seemed to point
to Bush being AWOL from duty - key payroll and medical records went
mysteriously missing, no comrades in arms stepped forward to verify
that Bush had completed his tour of duty (even when thousands of
dollars were offered to anyone who could provide evidence of such),
etc. - there seemed to be no definitive proof, one way or the other.
"This story is old news," the Bush Campaign kept saying, hoping
that incantation would work its disappearing magic.
But the scandal was still out there, simmering, threatening to
boil over again, right in the middle of the presidential election
campaign. So Karl Rove, Bush's chief political operative, wanting
to nip this one in the bud before any more damage erupted, did a
documents dump: He released hundreds of pages of old Guard records
(after it was first claimed that no such records existed), the pages
of which he said should answer the question once and for all. They
didn't, but the story sort of petered out in the major media.
It seemed that Bush would glide by this potentially dangerous
iceberg, just as he had escaped so many other scandals, because
of lack of definitive proof.
But, hold on a minute. Not everyone had given up on the possibility
of unearthing the facts. Not all writers looked at that huge pile
of documents and simply accepted the common wisdom that they contained
not much of interest.
A RESEARCHER UNCOVERS THE FACTS
As it turned out, the key was a willingness to dive deep into
these documents, and knowing how to read them. Rove counted on the
essential laziness and ignorance of ordinary mainstream reporters,
who wouldn't be aware of what all those military codes and numbers
and jargon-terms meant.
Once again, as in so many other areas, the "underground" journalists
- in our time, those working on the internet - rode to the rescue.
On this issue, the energy and laser-like focus came from one Paul
Lukasiak of Philadelphia.
It turns out that, unlike the great majority of ordinary journalists,
Lukasiak was undaunted by the hundreds of pages of dry military
records distributed by the White House. He was a bloodhound on the
hunt. And, he possessed some experience in working with old documents,
especially old military punch-card records from 30 years ago.
In a recent email, Lukasiak described how he pieced the story
I spent a couple of months reading the statutes, DoD regulation,
and Air Force policies and procedures, and spent a great deal
of time figuring out the rest of the payroll records and 'points
records' themselves. Having acquired a certain amount of knowledge,
the nature and the meaning of the pattern in the payroll data
became self-evident....Just by looking at the data lines found
in the payroll records, there are obvious patterns that anyone
And so, piece by piece, Lukasiak pulled together the jigsaw
puzzle that was George W. Bush's long-ago, much-abbreviated
military service. And, lo and behold, he figured
it out. His four months of research led him to a number of incendiary
conclusions, documented with his meticulous research, which were
picked up by a relatively small number of online websites - Corrente,
Crisis Papers. For example, here's what Lukasiak furnished The
Crisis Papers, as a way of summing up his four months of research;
the emphasis is supplied:
BUSH'S SERVICE WAS "MISREPRESENTED"
An examination of U.S. Statutory Law, Department of Defense Regulations,
and Air Force policies and procedures from the early seventies
proves that George W. Bush and his spokesmen have consistently
misrepresented the nature and extent of his obligations as a member
of the United States armed forces.
When considered within their proper legal and policy context,
the Bush records effectively rebut the White House claim that
Bush 'fulfilled his duty.' When considered as a whole, these
documents reveal that Bush spent the last two years of his six-year
Military Service Obligation in an active effort to avoid fulfilling
the obligations and commitments he incurred upon entering the
Texas Air National Guard.
They also show that while some Texas officials aided and abetted
Bush's efforts (and others apparently acquiesced to what was happening),
there is no reason to question the character of Alabama officials,
or Air Reserve Forces personnel as a whole. Finally, the only
conclusion that can be reached from an examination of Bush's records
for the period after he quit the Air National Guard is that the
Air Force attempted to take punitive measures against Bush, but
that political pressure prevented those measures from being carried
Lawrence Korb - who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower,
Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics under Reagan from
1981-85 - appears
to agree with the conclusion based on the key five-month period
of Bush's service when there are no records that he reported for
duty: "If you don't show up, you're absent without leave, by definition."
Dynamite stuff, yes?
With that political bombshell out there in the cyberether - and
occasionally in liberal magazines, such as Joseph Nobels' research,
out in The Nation - one would have thought that the mainstream
press would have picked up those new AWOL revelations and run with
them, bigtime. But, you guessed it: virtual silence.
As a result of this effective marginalization of the story, the
Kerry Campaign was forced to hint at Bush's service-record problems,
insinuating that he "didn't show up" when his country called, but
not going at Bush frontally as an AWOL during the Vietnam War. (Perhaps
knowledge of this story, roiling just beneath the mainstream surface,
helped the Kerry Campaign decide to devote the Democratic National
Convention to establishing their candidate's military bona fides
- Kerry "showed up" when his nation called. Nudge, nudge, hint,
Here's where you and I come in. We need to create so much pressure
on our local and national media outlets that they will feel forced
to begin to cover this story in a major way, thus giving the issue
mainstream respectability that will provide the foundation for Kerry
and Edwards to confront Bush frontally on his incomplete service
POSSIBLE DEBATE SCENARIO
If we do our job well, we will provide incentives for mainstream
reporters to raise this issue during the upcoming debates between
Kerry and Bush. Can't you just see it now?
Reporter: My next question is directed at President Bush.
Sir, your opponent, citing stories in the New York Times
and Washington Post and on the major TV networks, has accused
you of not completing your required military service during the
Vietnam War and then trying to cover up your absence, thus making
you AWOL during that time. How do you respond?
Bush: This issue is old news. It came up during my run
for Texas governor, it came up when I first ran for President.
We have responded as fully we can, providing copies of all sorts
of decades-old military service records. I received an Honorable
Discharge for my service. That should prove that I fulfilled my
obligations. It's the same old charges leveled by my enemies -
it's just politics. I served my country. They can't prove otherwise.
Let's move on.
Reporter: But those stories claim that the records you
released do not prove definitively that you completed your service.
On the contrary, they seem to show that you did not complete your
military service as required, that there are many months when
you were not present. And none of your purported military buddies
from those days have stepped forward to validate your claims that
you were there. That seems to be what your opponent is saying.
Bush: He'll say anything. These are sensitive national
security matters. It is important to stay the course. Tearing
down the Commander in Chief in times of war is dangerous. You
reporters and Mr. Kerry better watch what you say. Giving comfort
to the terrorists - they hate us, you know, for our freedoms -
may even be treasonous. I will not answer any more of these type
Well, okay, I may have exaggerated a bit there in concocting that
scenario. But you can well imagine Bush hemming and hawing and tripping
over his words when trying to explain his way out of the dilemma
that he, by his own actions, brought on himself. The American people
would be able to draw their own conclusions as to whether he is
telling the truth about that sorry episode in his past - and measuring
it against Kerry's exemplary service record.
But the American people won't get the opportunity to make that
comparison unless we all can convince the mainstream media outlets
to investigate, or at least run, the AWOL story, and Paul Lukasiak's
research that nails Mr. Bush on this explosive issue.
OUR JOB IS TO GET THE WORD OUT
So here's what I suggest is our job for the next several weeks.
Each of us needs to:
- Write a letter-to-the-editor of our local newspaper, urging
coverage of the updated revelations about Bush's not completing
his required military service during the Vietnam War. (They are
devoting so much time and energy running the GOP-financed Smear
Boat accusations against Kerry, they could at least balance things
out by focusing on Bush's AWOL problem.)
- Write letters to the editors of the major mainstream newspapers
and TV networks - New York Times, Wall Street Journal,
Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe,
ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, 60 Minutes, et al. - urging them to pick up
the ball on this AWOL issue, citing Paul Lukasiak's new research
- Contact progressive organizations such as MoveOn.org and demand
that they make this a priority issue. MoveOn, for example, if
they chose to do so, could contact their two million email members
and urge them to start pressuring the media outlets to cover this
story, or could take out large ads bringing the issue to the forefront
of the election campaign. (Just recently, MoveOn did an online
voter-registration pitch, and raised more than a million dollars
in one day.)
- Contact your elected representatives and demand a full-scale
investigation into the AWOL coverup. Official military records
were fiddled with and/or destroyed, and someone must be held accountable.
- Contact bloggers and progressive website editors and urge them
to jump on the story and urge their readers to contact CNN and
MSNBC and the major newspapers and networks; if the bloggers and
progressive website would do so, it would help build the public
pressure on maintream networks and newspapers to pick up the story.
- Contact the Kerry/Edwards campaign and urge them to step out
even more on the AWOL issue. They've successfully made the case
that Kerry served our country honorably - even volunteering to
do so - and now they need to pound home the contrast between Kerry
and George W. Bush on this issue.
NO CASH, JUST COMMITMENT
No money is being asked for here. You don't need to write a check
to anybody in order to move this AWOL issue forward. All you need
to do - and it may well affect the outcome of this election, and
thus the future of our country for the next decade - is to devote
an hour or so of your time, and some 37-cent stamps, in the service
of your country.
Will you join Paul Lukasiak, Joseph Nobels and others publicizing
this AWOL issue for the Internet and small liberal magazines to
help take our country back from the extremist, incompetent, greedy
Bush&Co. group? This is the Adminstration that is endangering our
national interests and helping create more terrorists rather than
fewer, spending us into huge deficits and thus robbing our social
programs and states and counties (and our children!) of much-needed
funds, shredding our Constitutional guarantees and civil liberties,
creating a Big Brother-style government, ruining our environment
and air and water, and on and on.
Rather than only donating money and hoping and waiting for political
candidates and activist groups to do it, let's start the ball rolling
ouselves, in our own small ways adding to the momentum that will
help restore our government to a more sane, middle course where
we all will benefit. We can do it.
We CAN do it.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American government at various
universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle
for 19 years, and co-edits The
Crisis Papers. He's a contributing author to Big Bush Lies,
available though bookstores and Amazon.com.