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Friday, September 17, 2004

Bush's National Guard absence still unexplained

"A months-long investigation, which includes examination of hundreds of government-released documents, interviews with former Guard members and officials, military experts and Bush associates, points toward the conclusion that Bush's personal behavior was causing alarm among his superior officers and would ultimately lead to his fleeing the state to avoid a physical exam he might have had difficulty passing. His failure to complete a physical exam became the official reason for his subsequent suspension from flying status. "

Sidetracked by the debate about whether CBS broadcast a forged memo has been the substantive issue: just what was Bush doing in 1972 and 1973 as many of his fellow Americans were dying over in Vietnam?

It begins with an interesting historical note: the year Bush skipped his physical and disappeared for months at a time was also the year the National Guard began widely administering drug tests to its pilots, according to investigative journalist Russ Baker.

In an article for the Nation, Baker asks a lingering question: Did Bush abruptly take off for Alabama because he was in trouble in Texas? The circumstantial evidence to suggest this may have been the case is strong.

First, in the weeks before he left for Alabama, Bush was suddenly unable to fly a plane.

Baker notes, "Last week, in response to a lawsuit, the White House released to the Associated Press Bush's flight logs, which show that [George W. Bush] abruptly shifted his emphasis in February and March 1972 from his assigned F-102A fighter jet to a two-seat T-33 training jet, from which he had graduated several years earlier, and was put back onto a flight simulator. The logs also show that on two occasions he required multiple attempts to land a one-seat fighter and a fighter simulator."

Second, Bush's arrival to assist with an Alabama campaign was evidently a surprise both to campaign staff members and to Bush's friends back home.

Baker writes, "Campaign staff members say they knew nothing of Bush's interest in participating until days before he arrived in Montgomery. Indeed, not one of numerous Bush friends from those days even recalls Bush talking about going to Alabama at any point before he took off. "

Third, Linda Allison, widow of campaign manager Jimmy Allison, says flat out that Bush fled to Alabama to escape trouble back home.

Baker reports: "Allison said that the younger Bush's drinking problem was apparent. She also said that her husband, a circumspect man who did not gossip and held his cards closely, indicated to her that some use of drugs was involved. 'I had the impression that he knew that Georgie was using pot, certainly, and perhaps cocaine,' she said. "

Fourth, Bush was known as a wild hell-raiser.

Baker writes, "The family that rented Bush a house in Montgomery, Alabama, during that period told me that Bush did extensive, inexplicable damage to their property, including smashing a chandelier, and that they unsuccessfully billed him twice for the damage--which amounted to approximately $900, a considerable sum in 1972. Two unconnected close friends and acquaintances of a well-known Montgomery socialite, now deceased, told me that the socialite in question told them that he and Bush had been partying that evening at the Montgomery Country Club, combining drinking with use of illicit drugs, and that Bush, complaining about the brightness, had climbed on a table and smashed the chandelier when the duo stopped at his home briefly so Bush could change clothes before they headed out again."


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