In these days of guys who never fought in Vietnam advocating a tricky engagement in Iraq, it is interesting to see what George W. Bush did in the military, how he misrepresented it, and what's been done recently to make sure no one notices. Mr. Bush, whose permission to fly was revoked by the military (he was suspended, assigned to a disciplinary unit and not allowed to fly military assignments again) liked to portray himself to voters as a fighter pilot. But his embellishments didnt stop there:
Date: 08/19/88 Houston Chronicle article by R. G. Ratliffe
"Asked how he got into the Air National Guard, Bush said, They could sense I was going to be one of the great pilots of all time.
Date: 1999 autobiography A Charge to Keep by George W. Bush
Among the questionable claims in Mr. Bush's autobiography is that he tried to volunteer for service in Vietnam "to relieve active-duty pilots." He did not volunteer for service in Vietnam; in fact, he failed to report for duty in his Air National Guard Unit and skipped off to Alabama to work on a political campaign.
In his book, Mr. Bush offers a lovely-sounding (but bald-faced) lie to describe his F-102 fighter pilot experience: "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years," he writes, but in fact he was suspended from flight duty in August 1972 and didn't fly at all for the last two years of his service. (He also didn't show up for duty.)
Further along in his autobiography, Mr. Bush says his military service "gave me respect for the chain of command." Well, that is an odd way to describe ignoring two direct orders to appear for duty. He was then assigned to a disciplinary unit in Denver, and he didn't show up for that either.
During September 2002, CNN aired a prepared set of videotapes glorifying the elder George Bush's military career. Well, they certainly couldn't glorify anything about the younger Bush's aborted military career. But were these tapes also embellishments? In one of the tapes, the elder George Bush describes being shot down, companions killed, floating in the ocean until a submarine luckily popped up next to him, and in a remarkable coincidence, it "just happened" to have a film crew on board. That's why, the commentator explains without flinching, CNN is able to show the actual footage of George H.W. Bush's rescue.
No one is claiming that the elder George Bush was not shot down, nor that he was not a hero. But...rescued in the middle of the ocean by a submarine that just coincidentally happened to be carrying a film crew? Like the military record for the younger George Bush, described below, (last name torn off, with only the "W" proclaiming that it is the record belonging to George W. Bush...or is that Mortimer W. Snerd?) one could wonder about the authenticity of the lucky film captured by the lucky submarine, which shows only a pilot in a helmet.
CNN (whose parent company, AOL Time Warner, had just learned that it was the target of a new SEC investigation) also spent an entire week running a series of "just discovered" Osama bin Laden tapes murkily explained to be from a trove of over 70 bin Laden tapes that a CNN reporter "found." Both the Bush Senior military tapes and the hand-picked bin Laden tapes provided a Texas-sized helping of White-House-friendly sound bytes, repeated dozens of times a day. Happily for CNN, news of the SEC report quieted down, not just on CNN but everywhere. And, except for the Bush military and bin Laden tapes and the fanfare surrounding them, CNN's news was balanced.
"What distinguishes the New Right from other American reactionary movements and what it shares with the early phase of German fascism, is its incorporation of conservative impulses into a system of representation consisting largely of media techniques and media images. Philip Bishop: "The New Right and the Media"
But we digress: Below, you will find photocopies of documents (obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, which the Bush Administration is now busy gutting) showing that George W. Bush failed to report for Air National Guard duty, was disciplined, and was booted out as a pilot for refusing to take a drug test.
In fact, George W. Bush evaded military duties while thousands of Americans more patriotic and less privileged than George W. Bush were dying in Vietnam.
Senator Daniel Inouye: "'During my service, if I missed training for two years, at the least, I would have been court-martialed.' Senator Inouye (Hawaii) has demanded that George W. Bush account for missing two years of National Guard Service. (see transcript).
Senator Bob Kerrey: Governor Bush made a six-year commitment...Well, if he's going to do what's right, he ought to release his military records, as John McCain did and let us know where he was during that six year period of time..." (see transcript)
Where's Waldo George?
News Release: Help George W. Bush find 1972, 1973
George Bush has lost a year of his youth and needs your help to find it. Between May 1972 and October 1974 George W. Bush seems to have lost:
1) A year of his service in the Air National Guard (ANG) 2) His eligibility to fly F-102 jet fighters (See photocopy, footnote 1) 3) The directions to his military doctor's office 4) The means to travel to his punishment detail (2) to which he apparently never reported, although he claims to have served the final months of his enlistment there.
Lots of people didn't see George Bush, including retired General William Turnipseed (3) to whom young 1st Lt. Bush was ordered to report, and the commanders of the Texas Air National Guard Unit (4) in which he was supposedly serving. You can imagine how disturbing this must be to our unelected Commander-in-Chief to have so thoroughly lost a year of his own military service (5) when he plans to ask young Americans to stick to the terms of their military enlistments so he can send them to Iraq.
In October, 2000 two different Vietnam veterans groups put up a total of $2000 in rewards for anyone who could find George W. Bush's missing year of National Guard service. (6) So far no one has claimed the reward.
But this was a long time ago. Any recent misbehavior?
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Bush leaned on his self-described experience as a fighter pilot to get himself elected governor of Texas. See archives for Austin Statesman and Houston Chronicle to read his embellishments about his service as a fighter pilot.
In 1999, just prior to Mr. Bush's announcement that he planned to run for president, a record-scrubbing detail was dispatched to Camp Mabry to make sure records in the archives matched those in the autobiography published in 1999. ([synopsis: record scrubbing]
In 1999, during his presidential campaign, Mr. Bush produced an autobiography (7) containing several untruths about his military service. He bragged about volunteering to go to Vietnam (not true), tried to impress voters saying he was a fighter pilot and "continued to fly for several years" after training (not true), and asserted that his military training taught him to respect the chain of command (if so, he had a peculiar way of showing it).
In 2000, reporters unearthed the facts and published them in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, AP wire service and other print media outlets to howls from Bush's people that it was unfair and "unethical" to reveal facts just before the election. No television news programs covered the story until nearly a year after the election.
In October 2000, when the document photocopies were posted on this web site, the site was hacked out and the documents were made inaccessible to the public (and the press) until after the election news cycle ended, the weekend before Election Day.
("How dare you bring these documents up in a time of war?") Hmmm. If this web site hadn't been hacked out to block media access to documents before the election, voters would have known about this; if George W. Bush had then been elected it would have been with full disclosure and there would be no point in bringing it up now. But then, that would be protecting free speech.
In November 2000, during the vote counting (or more accurately, vote not-counting), an unauthorized monitoring system started gathering data on Bush military document photocopies posted at this web site. Using an automated program, a "visitor" cycled from military document to document on a prescribed schedule, every few minutes for two weeks. The "visitor" never disengaged until a technician from our web hosting company manually dislodged it, at our request. The technician said he'd never seen anything like it before.
In December 2000, after dislodging the first "visitor," another unauthorized monitor appeared. This lurker cycled from Bush document to document at regular intervals, then broke the connection. After 60 seconds it would reconnect and repeat the process. This continued for a week, when Talion.com dislodged it by changing all the page addresses for Bush photocopy documents.
It's frustrating: At least when you're looking for Waldo, you know he'll be somewhere in the picture. George Bush didn't seem to have been anywhere during his military years, but he seemed to be everywhere when photocopies of his military record appeared around election time. We must ask:
Is his a stealth military program? Does he fly below the radar?
Of course, this could be all wrong. Although there's no proof that President Bush showed up for military duties between May 1972 and May 1973 (8), there's a simple way for him to clear this up before he asks young Americans to step into the line of fire in Iraq. Simply release the records, as John McCain did.
Private military records can only be released with permission, but they contain the most essential information about how he served the records of commendations, comments by superiors about the quality of service and the records of any disciplinary actions or boards of inquiry. Public military records, which have been released under a FOIA request (9) indicate that George W. Bush did not satisfactorily complete his duties, was suspended and assigned to disciplinary duty, which he also did not show up for.
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"As the State Plans Officer for the Texas National Guard, I was on full-time duty at Camp Mabry when Dan Bartlett was cleansing the George W Bush file prior to GW's Presidential announcement. For most soldiers at Camp Mabry, this was a generally known event.
The archives were closely scrutinized to make sure that the Bush autobiography plans and the record did not directly contradict each other. In essence it was the script of the autobiography which Dan Bartlett and his small team used to scrub a file to be released. This effort was further involved by General Daniel James and Chief of Staff William W. Goodwin at Camp Mabry.
Bill Burkett contact: (915-673-0429) [Transcript of Bill Burkett interview]
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The facts about George W. Bush military record:
1) On September 29, 1972 Air National Guard orders "suspending 1st Lt. George W. Bush from flying status are confirmed...Reason for Suspension: Failure to accomplish annual medical exam." (10)
2) Bush's initial temporary transfer to Alabama was denied because "An obligated Reservist can be assigned to a specific Ready Reserve position only. (11) Therefore, he is ineligible for assignment to an Air Reserve Squadron". Nonetheless, Bush reapplied, was accepted by the commander of the mail unit in Alabama, and moved to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign, instead of completing his military duties. He claims no one exerted any influence.
3) According to a Boston Globe Story on May 23, 2000. "In his final 18 months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all. And for much of that time, Bush was all but unaccounted for (12) For a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen...From May to November 1972, Bush was in Alabama working in a US Senate campaign, and was required to attend drills at an Air National Guard unit in Montgomery. But there is no evidence in his record that he did so. And William Turnipseed, the retired general who commanded the Alabama unit back then, said in an interview last week that Bush never appeared for duty there."
4) The tattered piece of attendance record (which lists no months, years, or last name) which the Bush campaign presented as evidence of attending Air National Guard training is not even from the Air National Guard. This incomplete scrap of paper is from the Air Force Reserve punishment unit, not the Air National Guard. (13) Note the ARF (Air Reserve Force) listing at the top, rather than the ANG designator, which would indicate it was from the Air National Guard.
5) In the fall of 1973, as an automatic disciplinary action, Bush was reassigned to the Obligated Reserve Section in Denver, because he disobeyed orders to show up for a mandatory flight physical and therefore was unable to fulfill the last two years of his six-year obligation as an Air National Guard jet fighter pilot.
Boston Globe 11/5/2000 "APPARENTLY, BUSH BELIEVES THE RULES DON'T APPLY TO HIM" By Thomas Oliphant:
"WASHINGTON IMAGINE YOU WANTED to be George W. Bush's running mate back in July One of the very first questions on the disclosure form presidential campaigns supply is always a simple, "Have you ever been arrested?" And another demands from those with military records the places and dates of every chunk of that service. In fact, an accounting for every month of your life (as with any job carrying a Top Secret clearance) would be required.
" you tell Bush that you and your advisers had made a conscious decision to withhold the fact of a drunken-driving conviction when you were 30 from the public. You say you had only acknowledged a heavy drinking problem in the past, and that while continuing to booze for a decade after the arrest you had quit completely 14 years ago. You add that you had decided to dodge all details because you didn't want your twins to do what you did.
"Now imagine further...the relentless Bush lawyers had picked apart your military record (in the National Guard) like crows on road kill, exposing white lies and big gaps like whether you did a lick of anything for the last year-and-a-half of your obligation. As for the untruths and gaps in your National Guard record and even your resume and autobiography, you tell Bush that you've said all you're going to say before the election on this subject, that the records and your memory are hazy, but that you're certain your obligation had been fulfilled properly."
Sunday Times London (11/05/2000): "The Bush camp was equally dismissive of a claim by Bill Burkett, a former lieutenant colonel in the Texas National Guard, that the governor's aides had doctored his military record.
"Burkett said Bush aides had visited the National Guard headquarters at Camp Mabry 'on numerous occasions' to make sure that records available to the public about his military service would tally with his autobiography's version of his time as a reserve pilot during the Vietnam war."
Air National Guard Commanding Officer Alleges Bush Military Records Cleansing
SUBJ: Military Records of George W. Bush Clarification Bill L. Burkett LTC (ret)
Within the morning press reports in the London Sunday Times and other publications, I am stated to have alleged that the staff of George W. Bush doctored [the key term] the military files of George W. Bush in whatever attempt to cover his military record.
Let me answer questions about my responses within a chronological pattern:
Was this politically motivated and coordinated with the Gore Campaign?
No. Not whatsoever. In no way did any member of the Gore Campaign or any election official, Republican or Democrat know my comments. My observations were responses to questions of how the file was developed; disseminated under the Freedom of information Act (FOIA) and what was missing within the files which would resolve the question of satisfactory participation. These were my personal responses to the asked questions that were not sanctioned by anyone, nor shared with anyone. They were made on the basis of my 28 year career, my working experience within the senior staff at the Texas National Guard headquarters and my knowledge of the operational procedures of the US military including the subject of personnel files of retired or discharged soldiers and airmen.
Why, do you believe, you were contacted?
Question 3 will background how this occurred which should be self-explanatory. The context of the DUI story indicated the mishandling or failure to fully disclose a past criminal record of Governor Bush. I believe that the military record and the irregularities that point to a possible extended period of nonperformance and early release may have also indicated a pattern of lack of full disclosure by the Governor and his campaign. This issue of military records had been highly visible on at least two previous occasions within the campaign, however, Senator Kerrey as an honored and decorated SEAL most recently focused on this issue within the last ten days I would guess that within the eleventh hour and following the revelation of the DUI story, the media and voters were waiting for the next shoe to drop. This issue may have been viewed as the next shoe.
In June of 1998 and with the full and personal knowledge of Dan Bartlett and the Governor, I reported problems of force structure, readiness operational efficiency personnel and procedures within the Texas National Guard. At that time, and periodically thereafter, I have been in contact with various [audio, video and print]news writers and publishers. In 1998, I provided sufficient detailed information including documentation of severe irregularities within the Governors own chain of command in an effort to correct those deficiencies which I believe undermined the Texas National Guard and in some cases broke the law.
How did your reference in this story develop?
I contacted a website that outlined the Governor's personal military career irregularities and suggested that there were two official documents that would resolve the issue of satisfactory and honorable service. Suddenly on Friday afternoon, my telephone became barraged with media calls and messages including those who had known of my previous whistleblowing but had failed report it. I explained my background and personal observations to each of them in minute detail, often repeating the entire process for clarity. I was extremely careful not to point an accusing finger, but rather shape a question which could resolve this allegation of integrity that had clouded the Bush campaign since June of 1999 the issue of his personal military service.
Did you allege that the governor's staff doctored the records?
No, instead I stated that the way this had been handled by the Bush staff including knowledgeable military officials at the Texas national guard, that it left the implication that the Bush staff had first incompetently provided an incomplete military file for the Governor which was consistent with his autobiography. I further observed that they probably did not anticipate that the file would be scrutinized to the level that it was. Whenever someone determined holes is service big enough to drive a Mack truck through additional information [all of which was unofficial and some in pencil notations] were then submitted to the press to answer questions. I further observed this "Trust me, I'm the Governor" approach had worked throughout Texas for George W. Bush within his tenure and the media had give the Governor a free pass without the same scrutiny as the Vice President until the eleventh hour revelation of the DUI. But this still left the basic question Why didn't Governor Bush simply release his military pay files and retirement points accounting records, which are the only OFFICIAL records that will show that he satisfactorily and honorably completed his service commitment?
Were there other issues that you discussed?
Yes. In each call, I, in essence scolded media representatives for not doing their homework and reviewing this information before the eleventh hour. When asked if I would go on record, I said, yes, I have nothing to hide even though I knew that the mention of my name with the Bush campaign would immediately strike a personal response because of my whistleblowing in 1998.
Again, was this a Democratic ploy as stated by Karen Hughes of the Bush staff?
No. Absolutely not.
Karen Hughes has again skirted the real issue and question. Dan Bartlett and the Governor have also refused to answer the basic question and furnish the OFFICIAL files that will resolve this issue. I am in no way linked to the Democratic Party. I am simply an energized citizen and retired soldier who would like to have the issues of each possible commander-in-chief resolved prior to the election, in order that we can escape holding another American Presidency hostage to actions and allegations by the opposing party in Congress. We have suffered from this partisanship for the past eight years. George W. Bush says that he is the only candidate who can bridge this impasse. This is his opportunity to start that process. This is what I believe other Americans share with me a sincere belief that they have the right and capacity to make educated decisions; but that candidates have the responsibility for full and complete disclosure.
If you would like to speak with me personally on the record I can be reached at (915) 673-0429 in Abilene, Texas.
Please call in order to verify my signature.
Bill L. Burkett LTC (Ret)
More source information and interviews: For a remarkable show or news story, interview former Air National Guard pilot Robert A. Rogers and researcher Marty Heldt as they lead you through the 160 pages of documents uncovered in their Freedom of Information inquiries into bush's official military records. Find out why they think it is imperative that Bush gives permission for the release of his personal military records before the election. Both Rogers and Heldt say their research shows such huge holes in his National Guard record Bush should release his personal military records before he commits young Americans to wartime conditions.
Go to http://users.cis.net/coldfeet/document.htm to view Bush military documents released under the Freedom of Information Act which show the conflicting information that produced requests to release his private military records. Voluntary release of personal military records for the period of his enlistment from 1968 through 1974 will provide information to assess the following events:
1. A September 29, 1972 Air National Guard confirming orders suspending 1st Lt. George W. Bush from flying status are confirmed...Reason for Suspension: Failure to accomplish annual medical exam.
2. Bushs initial temporary transfer to Alabama was denied because An obligated Reservist can be assigned to a specific Ready Reserve position only. Therefore, he is ineligible for assignment to an Air Reserve Squadron". Nonetheless, Bush reapplied, was accepted by the commander of the mail unit in Alabama, and moved to Alabama where, instead of fulfilling his military duties, he worked on a Senate campaign. http://users.cis.net/coldfeet/doc5.gif
3. According to a Boston Globe Story on May 23, 2000: In his final 18 months of military service in 1972 and 1973, Bush did not fly at all. And for much of that time, Bush was all but unaccounted for: For a full year, there is no record that he showed up for the periodic drills required of part-time guardsmen.
Bush, who declined to be interviewed on the issue, said through a spokesman that he has ''some recollection'' of attending drills that year, but maybe not consistently.
From May to November 1972, Bush was in Alabama working in a US Senate campaign, and was required to attend drills at an Air National Guard unit in Montgomery. But there is no evidence in his record that he did so. And William Turnipseed, the retired general who commanded the Alabama unit back then, said in an interview last week that Bush never appeared for duty there.
4. In Fall 1973, as an automatic disciplinary action, Bush was reassigned to the Obligated Reserve Section in Denver, because he disobeyed orders to show up for a mandatory flight physical and therefore was unable to fulfill the last two years of his six-year obligation as an Air National Guard jet fighter pilot.
View Document photocopies:
First: Document about George W. Bush, redacted for "administrative reasons"
Second: Document: Agreement signed by George W. Bush to accept military flying assignments after training (reneged on after disobeying orders)
Third: Document: Order to suspend George Bush from flying for failing to obey an order
Fourth: Document: Evidence that George W. Bush was allowed to substitute civilian duties (working on a senate campaign) for flying duties following his refusal to take physical and drug test
Fifth: Document: Statement specifying disciplinary measures, signed by George W. Bush
Sixth: Document: Assignment of George W. Bush to disciplinary unit in Denver
Footnotes 1 George W. Bush suspended by military order. Official document
2 Enlistment papers specifying punishments for not fulfilling Air National Guard obligations
3 Boston Globe Article Oct 31 2000
4 Two Texas Commanders statements: they never saw him during the 5/72-5/73 period. He was assigned, perhaps through political influence, to a civilian unit (during the war; his civilian duties consisted of helping with a political campaign) after disobeying an order.
5 May 2000 Boston Globe article One Year Gap In Bush's Guard Duty
6 Vets Want Proof of Bush Service, Birmingham News October 2000 [article has been archived or removed from web]
7 New York Observer: George W.'s Troubling Flights of Fancy
8 Bush's Service Record, go to archives for Oct. 24, 2000 in the Arizona Daily Star
9 Lots more document photocopies: To look at 30 pages of Bush's FOIA records go here
11 Order Bush was not eligible for transfer, tried again, perhaps with political influence, and left for civilian duties before his term was completed.
12 Another Boston Globe article Oct 30 2000
13 Purported proof of Bush's military service for 1972-73. Document is nearly blank and does not identify who it belongs to. Note that most of the dates and Bush's name (except for the "W") have been torn off.
Other sites with information, some more partisan than others...
Washington Post article, Nov 3, 2000
"The Bush campaign points to a torn piece of paper in his Guard records, a statement of points Bush apparently earned in 1972-73, although most of the dates and Bush's name except for the "W" have been torn off..." The article goes on to say that the torn sheet of paper is shown as evidence by the Bush people that he satisfied his requirements, but that is contradicted by a written report signed by two superiors.
Martin Heldt's Home Page on Bush's Missing Years
Martin Heldt's Chronology
Veterans that have requested proof of Governor Bushs service during the years of 1972 to 1973 include the Alabama Vietnam Veterans and Viet Vets for the Real Truth, and Senators Inouye and Kerrey. In addition the Arizona Daily Star, TomPaine.com and The New York Observer have questioned whether Bush actually served his required time during the last half of 1972 and into late May 1973.
More Background: George W. Bush served five years of his six-year Air National Guard obligation between 1968 and 1973. However, 1972-1973 records were redacted "for administrative reasons" and have not been released. After undergoing two years of expensive jet fighter training at taxpayer expense, in April 1972, during the Viet Nam War, George Bush simply quit flying. He did not show up to take his required annual flight physical, and the penalty he received was automatic suspension of his right to fly and a final 15 months of disciplinary action, for which he was demoted to the Obligated Reserve Section in Denver.
Connecting the dots:
In April 1972, random drug testing was implemented in the military.
Bush has previously stated that he had not used drugs since 1974.
Official verbal answer from Bush campaign: Governor Bush decided to not fly any longer so he did not take the required military flight physical. However, as anyone in the military knows, one does not simply decide to give up a military assignment.
What difference does it make? Depending on the nature of whats in those records, significant problems could result if certain kinds of information surface, including congressional investigations of misconduct or influence peddling, or problems enforcing disciplinary measures with soldiers who commit infractions that may surface in the records. But maybe there is nothing there. The only way to find out is for Governor Bush to voluntarily authorize the release of his private military records.
What kind of records and procedures can be released? Under ordinary military circumstances, the suspension of a pilot is directed through a military board of inquiry. In Bushs case, if such a body was convened, the records of its findings are not in the public record. However, Governor Bushs private records, which include disciplinary actions and other relevant commentary, would provide clear answers to the persistent questions.