Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 09, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: AWOL Bush? Not Exactly
Back before I decided that it was mostly a waste of my time to read the most popular far-left blogs, I used to be bothered by the incessant accusation that George W. Bush had been AWOL from his service in the Texas National Guard and had thus essentially gotten away with avoiding his commitment to serve. This bothered me for two reasons:
1. I considered the charge a serious one, if true. Military commitments must be kept. Maybe it doesn't evince the sort of anti-military cast of mind as Clinton's adventures in draft avoidance and protest on foreign soil, but it doesn't speak well of a commitment to keep the most important sorts of promises to soldiers.
2. Nobody who I viewed as having any credibility ever addressed the accusations (positively or negatively), which makes it hard to get a fix on whether it has any substance (although that's usually a clue).
The issue came to life again recently following Bush's much-ballyhooed jet flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln; Bush made references to having been a pilot, and The Krug (who's often indistinguishable from the anonymous far-left bloggers in terms of venom and disregard for the facts), sprang into action with a column repeating the charge.
Now, spurred on by an item on Andrew Sullivan, Bill Hobbs has looked into the question in some detail, reviewing the major media reports as well as some of the purported primary sources, and come up with a pair of posts here and here that fairly well lay to rest the idea that there's anything to the charges but, at best, wild speculation and conjecture premised on a lack of good recordkeeping on the part of the Texas National Guard. You've probably read Hobbs' posts already - they've been linked to all over the blogosphere - but if you haven't, I'd suggest you do. Some things I hadn't known:
1. Gore was discharged early, leaving his and Bush's service time basically the same. Wonder why he didn't press this issue? He made vague references to Bush's service record, but never openly made the charge.
2. When Bush volunteered for the TX Guard, they were actually being sent to combat in Vietnam. He joined what looked, at the time, like potentially a combat unit. (It was still a better deal than getting drafted into the infantry, to be sure).
There are two other sources that are worth reading on this point, and I'll quote from them at length here because they didn't appear on the front pages of these sites and you might have missed them:
First, Sparkey over at Sergeant Stryker (all the bloggers there are military veterans), had a post following up on Hobbs. Beyond the post itself, Sparkey also had some lengthy followups responding to leftist trolls in the comments section that are worth reading:
Because he had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract. And that, tbogg, is the reason why the story got no traction from the NYT, Globe, George, etc., and why the insulting and insipidly brainless little ad you link to is so useless. With Bush being "Non-Obligatory" what does it matter if he was there or not? BTW: I spent a year on a similar list/unit for the exact same reason. There is no shame in meeting or exceeding your contractual obligations. That's why I find this whole smear campaign so insulting, especially since the lies come mostly from those who never served and who generally look down on those who do.
By the way, don't you find it funny that you can use the New York Times to back up your arguments, but when I do, I'm ridiculed as using an "unbiased" source.
No I don't, it's rather sad and disturbing. Note that George Mag, the Boston Globe, and the NYT were looking to spin the story as negatively as possible. It's also not funny when some of the leading newspapers in the country begrudgingly admit that the facts don't measure up to their expectations. Plus, what you have to understand is this: it's one thing to quote statements of fact out of a news article (from a source that you consider to be traditionally hostile) that bolsters your case, it's quite another to quote editorials which are in fact opinions and therefore by definition, biased; from sources which you consider to be traditionally friendly.
As to the poor records well, all I can say is welcome to the world of the United States Guard & Reserves. Everyone must realize that being at the bottom of the DoD food chain, the Guard/Reserves have had, and still have massive paperwork and record keeping problems. It was bad when I was in the Navy Reserves in the late 80's. And everyone who'd been there agreed that things had greatly improved from the 70's!
The Navy Reserve officers I drilled with spent 75% of their drill time on paperwork - and never caught up. What would happen is this, if someone didn't squawk for something, it got put on the back burner until forgotten. So gaps and other problems with Bush's record don't surprise me in the least. Look at it from the unit's perspective, being non-Obligatory, why go to the effort to keep accurate records when he (Bush) wasn't worried about the year counting for retirement? If Bush wasn't going to push, the unit certainly wouldn't. As to the Cornel not remembering Bush, well why would he? With Lt. Bush being Non-Obligatory, he wasn't someone he (the Col.) really needed to keep track of. Bush would have simply dropped off the Colonels radar screen.
Also, I don't blame Bush one bit for not wanting his records released, I wouldn't either. We have no dea what's really in those records. There are portions of a service member's records one never gets to see. I don't want to know.
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Bush was suspended for not going to a physical he was not "Obligated" by the contract he signed with the United States Government.
If I refused to go to the DMV for an eye test my drivers license would be suspended.
Once Bush had completed his compulsory duty days, (which he did more than required as the Globe admitted in earlier reports but conveniently left out of their op/ed - isn't that special?) The government could not force or otherwise punish him for not doing something he wasn't obligated. And even if that were not the case, the kinds of records needed are frequently lost in the Guard Reserves - deal with it. And If those records were not with the Units, you can bet your next paycheck they are not in his records. The most reliable location for record protection would be the unit's files, not the service record.
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From the 5/23/2000 Boston Globe:
Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called "weekend warriors."
Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service.
Hey, and guess what, under the contracts written at that time, the servicemember were obligated to attend X number of duty days, after that you could transfer into the inactive guard/reserve which is what he did.
Address the contract issue, please, or shut up. I'm tired of dealing with people who won't face facts. Like martin posting that Globe piece, yet he still doesn't address what Bush's contractural obligations were.
BTW: I have at least three "not been observed" entries in my record, no doubt. Even after I received notification of my IRR (Inactive Ready REserve) status, every three months I'd get a very polite letter from the local drill center (they had to be polite because they knew I was non - obligatory). They weren't even in my chain of command anymore. I still have my good conduct pin from my reserve time and my honorable discharge.
Second, an anonymous letter-writer at Andrew Sullivan's site (4th letter down; all letters to Sullivan are posted anonymously, but take this for what it's worth) adds some valuable insights into the context the Guard was operating in in 1972-73:
ON BUSH'S GOLDBRICKING:
It should also be recalled that, by 1972, the F-102 that Bush's unit operated was a frightfully obsolescent, maintenance-intensive aircraft and weapons platform powered by a fuel-gobbling old-tech turbojet. Designed in the early 50's to intercept, by flying in a beeline at supersonic speed, Soviet bombers arcing ponderously over the North Pole to attack the U.S.A., the turn and roll rates of the delta-winged F-102 were terrifyingly inadequate: F-102 pilots shuddered at the notion of dogfighting in the beast, especially after the Vietnam air war had shown that America's unmaneuverable 1950's-era jets got routinely outmaneuvered by the VPAF's nimble MiG-21's.
Okay, obsolescent, gas-guzzling, MiG-fodder F-102's in a post-Vietnam scarcity of defense spending, right? Vital then to know what came next: the Great Oil Crisis of 1973. Suddenly the cost of operating and maintaining this single-mission, fuel-craving aircraft of dubious effectiveness went through the stratosphere, at the same time as the cost of keeping thousands of discharged-from-active-duty reservists and guardsmen was already straining the constrained fiscal capacity of the Pentagon. F-102 units had become nearly superfluous to America's defense, especially since the nuclear threat from Soviet bombers had taken a distant back seat to the threat from ICBM's and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Nobody wanted to know; nobody cared. America's war weary polity wanted to not see, to not think about anything military, and to continue slashing defense spending ruthlessly. And this was before Saigon fell in 1975; but Congress had already slashed defense spending so drastically that reserve and guard units, already and always in those days the low men on the funding totem pole, had to "get creative": they had to allow lots of sailors and soldiers and airmen to "get lost in plain sight." It was an unspoken policy, but it was necessary because the traditional mindset of the military could not shift itself to granting thousands of unnecessary, superfluous, badly trained, poorly equipped, scarcely funded reservists and guardsmen early releases from their reserve commissions and enlistments. So people like me and George Bush muddled through our time in badly managed, dreafully underfunded, flabbily overmanned reserve and guard units.
I don't blame President Bush one bit if he'd gone with the flow that was sweeping away and eroding America's reserve and guard serviceability and readiness. It's easy nowadays - now that our military is again efficient, effective, respected, and honored - to point fingers at what post-Vietnam reservists and guardsmen "got away with". But in those days Americans just wanted the war, and anything and anybody that had anything to do with the war, to just go away. Indeed, funding parsimony made much of the old military go away: this experience gave a huge impetus to the Pentagon's subsequent, breathtaking improvement of the reserves and the guard to augment active duty units - the very system that guaranteed American victory in the 1991 and 2003 mideast campaigns. Thus no one should imagine that President Bush didn't learn valuable lessons from his service in an underfunded, underequipped, undertrained Air National Guard unit.
So what if President Bush didn't volunteer for the regular Air Force? Compared with what Bill Clinton did not do, George Bush did alright by me and by the standards that applied in reserve and guard units of that period. In a time of widespread ingratitudeand hostility toward the services and their men and women, George Bush paid his service dues as the powers-that-were in that time saw fit to exact, or inexact, those dues. From his guard experience President Bush learned the value of keeping the reserves and the guard up to snuff. Just ask whatzisnameitz...oh yeah: Saddam.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 07:47 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)