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CBS recently created a firestorm when it released documents questioning George Bush?s service in the Texas Air National Guard. The documents were said to be authored by squadron commander Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian;:One of them claimed that Bush ignored orders from a superior to take a medical exam; another said that Killian?s superior pressured him to give Bush good ratings due to Bush?s status as the son of a Congressman. Soon after these documents were released, questions were raised as to their authenticity. Republicans immediately claimed that the document had features that only a word processor could make, despite the fact that there existed an IBM typewriter at the time that had these features. Legitimate doubt was cast upon the documents when Killian?s secretary claimed that she didn?t type the documents; she said that the information in them was correct and accurately reflected real documents written by Killian at the time. She suggested that someone who had seen these other documents had tried to recreate them. Still, all of the debate over the documents has obstructed the true nature of Bush?s National Guard service.
Looking over all available evidence from the period, it becomes crystal clear that Bush received special treatment, and it suggests that Bush did not fulfill his duties in the Guard. In 1990, George W. Bush said that ?I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes.? Many others at the time also wanted to get into the Guard to avoid duty in Vietnam, and there were very long waiting lists, but luckily for Bush, his father was an influential Congressman. Ben Barnes, who was the Speaker of the Texas House at the time and later became the state?s lieutenant governor, recommended Bush for the Guard at the behest of a Bush family friend. So, in 1968, Bush enlisted for a six-year tour.
In early 1972, Bush decided to go to Alabama to work on a Senate campaign of a family friend. After leaving for Alabama in mid-May, on May 24 he sought permission to transfer there. On May 31, he was denied his transfer request, as a transfer would have been inappropriate given his $1 million training. In July, he missed his annual flight physical, which was notably the first in which drugs were being tested for. In September, Bush had his pilot status suspended, and in the next April his commanding officers in Texas wrote that Bush had ?not been observed at this unit? during the previous year. Five months after Bush had been in Alabama, his Texas commanders finally gave him written permission to transfer, but none of the 20??25 members of Bush?s Alabama unit can recall serving with him, and according to Bob Mintz, another man in the unit, ?[i]t would be impossible to be unseen in a unit of that size.? Finally, in late 1973, Bush received permission to end his duty six months early.
Recently released documents do in fact show that Bush showed up for a dental exam and for a small number of hours here and there, mostly spent reading flight manuals. Yet there is a six-month gap in which there is no evidence that he was there. Documents that would explain his absence are missing, and Bill Burkett, a former lieutenant colonel in the Guard, has said that ?[a]s 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 G.W.?s presidential announcement.?
Despite the evidence suggesting that Bush was absent without leave for some time in Alabama, that hasn?t stopped him from attacking other veterans. In a debate in the 2000 primary campaign, John McCain chastised Bush for having an event with a spokesman of a ?fringe veteran?s group? that criticized McCain?s commitment to the troops, telling Bush, ?Now I don?t know if you can understand this, George, but that really hurts.... That really hurts.? Four years later, friends of Bush are funding a group that has run ads with well-documented lies and distortions about decorated veteran John Kerry?s military record. And four years later, we have seen Bush?s lack of commitment to the troops after he failed to equip them with body armor for the war with Iraq, and sent them into harm?s way in a war with a country that posed no immediate threat to us. It appears that George W. Bush failed to fulfill his duty in the National Guard, and also needlessly squandered the lives of over 1000 U.S. troops; for that, he deserves to be dishonorably discharged from the Presidency.