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Article & Essay: Bush Keeps Lying About Military Record
by Frederick Sweet
Intervention Magazine
August 30, 2004

An August 2004 Republican smear campaign launched national attention on John Kerry's Vietnam War record, thus distracting voters from America's pressing issues. Meanwhile, the Associated Press released the following story about the Texan who was the main fixer who helped George W. Bush evade combat service in Vietnam:

Former Texas House Speaker (1965-1969) Ben Barnes said, "[I'm] more ashamed at myself than I've ever been" because he had helped Bush Jr. and the sons of other wealthy families get into the Texas National Guard to avoid service in Vietnam.

Barnes was among the most powerful politicians in Texas during the 1960s and 1970s--"the next LBJ"--until a scandal connected with his being a fixer derailed his political career. His consolation prize was to become a Texas tycoon. Sid Adger, an oil magnate and friend of the Bush family, initiated getting George W. into the Guard by calling up Barnes.

"I got a young man named George W. Bush into the National Guard ... and I'm not necessarily proud of that, but I did it," Barnes confessed to a group of John Kerry supporters in Austin, Texas in a video clip recorded on May 27th.

Barnes's mea culpa didn't get much attention in the media, even though it was posted June 25th on a Kerry-supporting Web site, austin4kerry.org. But when Jim Moore, an Austin-based author of books critical of Bush, sent out e-mails calling attention to the Barnes video just days before the GOP National Convention started in New York on August 30th, the Associated Press and other outlets picked it up.

Bush and his father, the former president, both have repeatedly said they did not ask for help in getting the young George W. into the National Guard.

Bush spokeswoman Claire Buchanan told the Houston Chronicle, "It is no surprise that a partisan Democrat is making these statements. This was addressed five years ago, and there's nothing new."

Five years ago, Barnes was at the center of questions about Bush's Vietnam-era service record when the then Texas governor emerged as the Republican presidential front-runner.

At that time, Barnes's lawyer issued a statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, Houston oilman and friend of Bush's father, who was then a U.S. congressman. It was Adger who had first asked Barnes to get Bush a pilot position with the Texas Air National Guard, and Barnes complied, the lawyer's statement said.

However, "Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member of the Bush family asked [for] Barnes's help," insisted the 1999 Republican statement.

How Did Barnes Get It Done?

It all began on May 27, 1968, twelve days before Bush would lose his student draft deferment upon his graduating from Yale. That week, like every week in 1968, hundreds of Americans were killed and thousands wounded in combat in Vietnam. That week, the National Guard was seen by many as the most respectable way to avoid becoming a casualty in the Vietnam War.

During the week of May 27th, the Guard had a huge waiting list: those days in Texas, it took a year and a half to get into the Guard, and over 100,000 men nationwide were on that list. But that was no problem for Bush because his family's powerful friends pulled strings and he was admitted the same day that he signed his application for the Texas Air National Guard. The Guard waiting list was irrelevant for young Bush and his family.

Were the news media sleeping? The American press cannot be criticized for concealing details of George W. Bush's military record during the Vietnam War either before or after the 2000 presidential election. But the press tragically let the American people down by not effectively communicating how Bush consistently and shamelessly sought and received favorable treatment to avoided service in Vietnam, and how he consistently and shamelessly lied about it.

Col. "Buck" Staudt, Bush's unit commander in 1968, was so excited about his VIP recruit that he staged a special ceremony for the press so he could have his picture taken administering the oath (after the official oath had been given by a Guard captain earlier.)

Ignoring Bush's weak qualifications, Col. Staudt was excited about the direct appointment because at his staged ceremony, Bush's father, the congressman, was standing prominently in the background. Two years later, as fighting in Vietnam became even more intense, such direct Guard appointments had been discontinued.

Republicans have tried to deny Bush's special treatment by constantly changing their stories. But even Bush himself admits lobbying commander Staudt, who approved him; and court documents confirm that close family friend and oil magnate Sid Adger called then Texas Speaker of the House Barnes. Barnes, in turn, called General James Rose, the head of the Texas Air National Guard, to get Bush in ahead of 500 others on the Guard's waiting list.

Rose, who is now dead, boasted to his friend and former legislator Jake Johnson that "I got that Republican congressman's son from Houston into the Guard."

The 147th, Col. Staudt's Texas unit, was infamous as a way out of Vietnam combat for the politically well connected and celebrity draft avoiders: Both of Sid Adger's sons, Democratic Senator Lloyd Bentsen's son, Republican Senator John Tower's son, and at least seven players for the Dallas Cowboys had been signed into the unit.

What made Bush's unfair, favored Guard appointment doubly reprehensible was his total lack of qualifications. Rapid selection into the Guard was reserved for applicants with exceptional experience or skills such as prior Air Force ROTC training, or special engineering, medical, or aviation skills.

Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, had reviewed the Guard's records on Bush for a special exhibit on his service after Bush became governor. Asked about Bush's direct appointment without special skills, Hail said, "I've never heard of that. Generally they did that for doctors only, mostly because we needed extra flight surgeons."

Charles Shoemaker, an Air Force veteran who later joined the Texas Air National Guard and retired as a full colonel, said that direct appointments were rare and hard to get, and required extensive credentials. Asked about Bush, he said, "His name didn't hurt, obviously. But it was a commander's decision in those days."

When Bush completed basic training, his commander approved him for a "direct appointment." That made him a 2nd Lieutenant without having to go through the usual (very difficult) Officer Candidate School. This special procedure also got Bush into flight school, despite his very low scores on aptitude tests: 25% on a pilot aptitude test (the absolute lowest acceptable grade) and 50% for navigator aptitude. Bush did score 95% on the easier and subjectively graded officer quality test, but the class average is generally 88%.

The records prove that Bush's superiors in Texas thought he was in Alabama during most of 1972. 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."

In 1998, Bush hired Col. Albert Lloyd to review his Guard records and "correct" them if need be. 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. So if Bush wasn't in Texas and he wasn't in Alabama, where was he?

Bush's supporters say that he never ran on his military record. He's not asking Americans to vote for him based on that. So Bush supporters say that they don't really care about that.

In 2004, Bush and his supporters attacked Kerry's military record to smear his integrity. The issue is not so much about medals, but rather who Americans can rely on as commander in chief to tell them the truth.

Recently, Bush claimed that he can prove his attendance at one Alabama Guard drill on Nov. 29, 1972. But the document used to "prove" his claim clearly seems bogus. The document is undated, unsigned, and doesn't even have Bush's name on it. It was "discovered" by Lloyd in 1998, and it 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 out of the entire year in question.

Alabama Guardsmen: Bush a No Show, Liar

According to a February 13, 2004 article in the Memphis Flyer, Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop attended regular drills in 1972. They are both absolutely certain that Bush was never there.

Mintz told the Flyer 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."

After not showing up, Mintz thought Bush had "changed his mind and went somewhere else" to do his duty. Wrong! In Campaign 2000, Bush had referred to Mintz's unit, and, amazingly, he's sticking to the same story in 2004.

Mintz has had a "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 to the Memphis Flyer.

The veteran Guardsman said there were only 25 or 30 pilots in his 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 had "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, ŚNaw, ol' George wasn't there.'"

Mintz's buddy is Paul Bishop. Bishop voted for Bush in 2000, but is now upset that Bush is lying about his Alabama Guard service. "I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush," Bishop said.

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 Śfess 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 well if Mintz and Bishop represent a majority American consensus. Both were asked by the Memphis Flyer for whom they planned to vote in November. Will Bishop vote for Bush? "Naw, this goes to an integrity issue," he said. And, who will Mintz be voting for? "Not for any Texas politicians!" Mintz said emphatically.


Pre-2000 sources for this article:

"Former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes Former Texas Lieutenant Gov. Ben Barnes," by George Lardner Jr., Washington Post, September 21, 1999, page A4

"Barnes moves to block questions about Bush, Guard," by Ken Herman, Austin American-Statesman, September 9, 1999

"Friends: Barnes was asked to help get Bush in Guard," by George Kuempel and Pete Slover, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 8, 1999

"Texas Speaker Reportedly Helped Bush Get into Guard," by George Lardner, Jr., Washington Post, September 21, 1999, page A04

"Ex-Lawmaker Says He Helped Bush Join the Guard in Vietnam War," by Jim Yardley, New York Times, September 27, 1999

"At Height of Vietnam, Graduate Picks Guard," by George Lardner Jr. and Lois Romano, Washington Post, July 28, 1999, page A01

"Adviser asked Barnes to recall Guard details before Bush joined race," by Pete Slover and George Kuempel, Dallas Morning News, September 26, 1999

"Questions remain on Bush's service as Guard pilot," by Walter V. Robinson, Boston Globe, October, 3, 2000, page A14

"2 Democrats: Bush Let Guard Down," by George Lardner Jr. and Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, November 3, 2000, page A22 Frederick Sweet is Professor of Reproductive Biology in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. You can email your comments to Fred@interventionmag.com


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