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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bush suspended from flight duty for failing to meet National Guard standards

[Note: Since this story was published, it has become widely acknowledged that the documents quoted by 60 Minutes, the AP, and others, were unreliable.}

The White House released memos today showing George W. Bush was suspended from flying fighter jets in 1972 and 1973.

"On this date I ordered that 1st Lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination ... as ordered," states an Aug. 1, 1972, memo by Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, as quoted in the Associated Press.

Later, after Bush failed to show up for flight duty for months at a time in Alabama, Killian wrote of outside pressures to keep Bush's clean, according to the documents released by the White House.

"Staudt has obviously pressured Hodges more about Bush," Killian wrote in another memo, dated Aug. 18, 1973. "I'm having trouble running interference and doing my job — Harris gave me a message today from Grp (Bush's unit) regarding Bush's OETR (officer evaluation) and Staudt 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."

The memo concludes: "Harris took the call from Grp today. I'll backdate but won't rate. Harris agrees."

As has been previously reported, Bush entered the National Guard in 1968 to avoid serving in Vietnam. At the time, the National Guard had a long waiting list. With the help of his father's political connections, Bush was admitted into flight school. For more information on Bush's National Guard service, see today's USA Today article.

Dave Moniz and Jim Drinkard write:

"The Boston Globe reported in 2000 that Bush vaulted over hundreds of applicants to get a coveted slot in the Guard during the Vietnam War and was immediately awarded a competitive pilot position despite low qualifying scores on aptitude tests and four misdemeanor citations.

Bush's military records show gaps in drill attendance from May 1, 1972, to April 30, 1973, when his Texas supervisors could not account for his whereabouts and said so in his last written evaluation."

What was Bush doing during this time? Moniz and Drinkard continue:

"During that time, Bush lived briefly in Alabama, where he worked for the Senate campaign of Winton 'Red' Blount...C. Murphy Archibald, who worked on the Blount campaign, said that in the fall of 1972, Bush frequently was late for work on the Alabama campaign and often bragged about how much he drank the night before.

'I was bowled over by the competence of this guy Allison, but perplexed by how he had brought this young guy along who seemed to have so little interest in the campaign,' Archibald recalled. On most days, Archibald said, Bush arrived at campaign headquarters around noon or 1 p.m. and left around 5:30 or 6 p.m., leaving assigned duties unfinished."

Postscript: It is how odd how quickly this debate shifted from a debate about Bush's Guard service to a debate about the authenticity of the Killian memos. If the underlying information of the memos was not correct, then why were they released by the White House? What exactly was George W. Bush doing in 1972? We know he wasn't flying. I say Bush still has a lot of answering to do, and it is time someone held him accountable... particularly after the hatchet job his team pulled on John Kerry, echoing the hatchet jobs they had pulled on John McCain and Max Cleland, also war heroes. For those who are only interested in the documents, though, and not the underlying story behind them, you can read a summary of the back-and-forth arguments at Slate. While CBS now acknowledges it was the victim of a clever hoax, all indications at present are that the actual information contained in the documents is true, as corroborated by Killian's secretary in a subsequent interview. In other words, the forged documents appear to have been a clumsy attempt to mimic actual documents written by Killian in 1972 and subsequently, and inexplicably, destroyed.


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