George W. Bush's military service

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The subject of George W. Bush's determined avoidance of military service was called into question during his first presidential race against Democratic candidate Al Gore, and before that during his campaign to replace Ann Richards as Governor of Texas. In 2004, during Bush's bid for reelection, far greater attention is being paid to his record in the context of the U.S. presidential election, 2004.

Bush and military service

In January 1968 Bush was set to graduate from Yale University, making him eligible for the draft and, in all likelihood, service in Vietnam. Bush sought entry into the officer corps of the Texas Air National Guard, which would minimise his chances of being dispatched to Vietnam. Despite scoring low on the entrance exam, Bush was accepted.

The controversy over his military service has concentrated on whether his father, George Herbert Walker Bush who was a U.S. Congressman at the time, exerted influence to ensure his son obtained a 'soft' posting in the National Guard and whether he completed his duties sufficiently to justify his honourable discharge in 1973.

"Bush signed a six-year "military service obligation," he was required to attend at least 44 inactive-duty training drills each fiscal year beginning July 1. But Bush's own records show that he fell short of that requirement, attending only 36 drills in the 1972-73 period, and only 12 in the 1973-74 period." [1]

Bush was assigned serve at the Houston Air National Guard base between 1968 and 1973. Bush graduated from flight school in November 1969 and undertook a further six months training in the F-102 fighter-interceptor. Between June 1970 and April 1972 he flew frequently with his unit.

However, in May 1972 he sought and gained approval to move to Alabama to work on the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Party candidate, Winton Blount. While in Alabama Bush was obliged to continue his duties with another National Guard unit. After failing to have an annual physical examination Bush was removed from flight duty on August 1, 1972.

Bush's military records reveal that he did not do any duty between April 16 and October 28, 1972 and missed training altogether in December 1972 and February and March 1973. There were no records of him having served with any unit in Alabama. It is a requirement of members of the National Guard that they accumulate a minimum of 50 service points in a year. (Each full day of weekend training is worth two points).

On May 2, 1973 one of Bush's superiors noted that "Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report. 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 187th Tac Recon Gp, Dannelly ANG Base, Alabama." However, no records for service in Alabama exist.[2]

Subsequently Bush spent 36 days in May, June and July 1973 on duty, accumulating 41 points. According to the Boston Globe, he was then awarded 15 'gratuitous' service points - enough to get him across the 50 service points threshold. His last service day was July 30, 1973 and - while originally due to serve through to November 1974 - was honourably discharged early to enable him to attend Harvard Business School. [3]

Furthermore, a U.S. News analysis showed that "during the final two years of his obligation, Bush did not comply with Air Force regulations that impose a time limit on making up missed drills. What's more, he apparently never made up five months of drills he missed in 1972, contrary to assertions by the administration."

Questions about Bush's service in 2000

In May 2000 a story by Walter V. Robinson in the Boston Globe raised questions about whether George W. Bush completed his military service in the National Guard. The Boston Globe reported that "there is no evidence that he appeared for duty for a year just before his 1973 discharge from the Texas Air National Guard". [4]

The Globe reported that "based upon extensive records of his service and interviews with former Guard officials, disclosed that Bush, who was a fighter pilot, ceased flying in April 1972 - 18 months before his discharge in October, 1973." While Bush returned to Texas in November 1972 he did not return to his unit.

The day after the Globe broke the story, Bush told Associated Press "I did the duty necessary . . . That's why I was honorably discharged".

While there was a brief flurry of stories following up on the work of the Globe, the story quickly sank from view. In a 2004 interview Robinson told Editor and Publisher that he thought the lack of follow-up coverage by other papers was due to the fact that papers such as The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times earlier that year had looked at Bush's military service and missed the gaps in his service record. "When a newspaper has done a thorough scrub on someone and not found anything, then somebody else reports it, they are not exactly eager to follow up. Other news organizations are not inclined to credit their competition, particularly if they have done their own look at the candidate," he said. [5]

Scrutiny of Bush's record in 2004

During the January 22, 2004, live broadcast of the Democratic Presidential debate in New Hampshire, Peter Jennings from ABC's Nightline program "went after Wesley Kanne Clark -- and Michael Moore -- because" Moore said that he wanted to see Clark debate Bush. [6]

The next day, the Washington Post announced that "George W. Bush's sketchy military record has finally surfaced as a campaign issue in 2004" [7] and BuzzFlash posted Reader Kelley's Commentary [8]

Writing in Salon, Mary Jacoby reported that Bush's role on Blount's Senate campaign was a favour by Texas newspaper owner Jimmy Allison for George Walker Bush. Allison's widow, Linda, said that in the spring of 1972 her husband, who was managing Blount's campaign, was phoned by Bush Senior and asked if he could find a place for his son.

"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 told Jacoby. "And Jimmy said, 'Sure.' He was so loyal."

Kerry campaign vice chairman and fundraiser, Former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes of Texas stated in a video distributed widely on the Internet, "I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard when I was lieutenant governor of Texas[9], and I'm not necessarily proud of that, but I did it" and "I became more ashamed of myself than I've ever been because the worst thing I did was get a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance into the Guard and I'm very sorry about that and I apologize to you and the voters of Texas." [10]

Barnes appeared on the CBS program 60 Minutes in early September 2004 and explained that he had been asked by Sid Adger if he could find a place in the National Guard for Bush. Adger was an oilman and friend of the Bush family.

"I was a young, ambitious politician doing what I thought was acceptable. It was important to make friends. And I recommended a lot of people for the National Guard during the Vietnam era - as speaker of the house and as lt. governor," Barnes told 60 Minutes II.

"I would describe it as preferential treatment. There were hundreds of names on the list of people wanting to get into the Air National Guard or the Army National Guard," says Barnes. "I think that would have been a preference to anybody that didn't want to go to Vietnam or didn't want to leave. We had a lot of young men that left and went to Canada in the '60s and fled this country. But those that could get in the Reserves, or those that could get in the National Guard - chances are they would not have to go to Vietnam." [11]

In a August 18, 1973 memo obtained by 60 Minutes II, Bush's squadron commander, the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, complained about pressure on him and others from Col. Walter B. "Buck" Staudt to "sugar coat" Bush's service records. "Standt has obviously pressured Hodges more about Bush. I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job. Harris gave me a message today from Grp regrading Bush's OETR and Standt is pushing to sugar coat it".

"Bush wasn't here during rating period and I don't have any feedback from 187th in Alabama. I will not rate. Austin is not happy today either. Harris took the call from Grp today. I'll backdate but won't rate. Harris agrees," the memo states. [12]

However, the authenticity of these memos has been challenged by numerous forensic document experts in reports appearing at ABC News, The New York Times, the Washington Post and other media outlets. Family members and coworkers of Lt. Col Killian have also come forward disputing their authenticity while the one of the sources CBS cited in the original reports have subsequently clarified or retracted their story.

The Air Force Times states: Killian's former secretary, Marian Carr Knox, 86, of Houston, has said she believed the memos were fake but their content accurately reflected Killian's opinions.

"I know that I didn't type them," she said in an interview with CBS. "However, the information in those is correct."

While the authenticity of the memos is disputed, what is not is the fact that, From most accounts, Bush appears to have received preferential treatment to get into the Air National Guard and avoid the draft after he graduated from Yale University in 1968. He was initially regarded as a good pilot, but his performance faded over his final two years in the Guard and he was suspended from flight status. He did not fly for the remaining 18 months he served in the Guard, though he was obligated to do so.

And for significant chunks of time, Bush did not report for duty at all. His superiors took no action, and he was honorably discharged in 1973, six months before he should have been. [13].


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