George Bush went AWOL, so ABC News attacks Michael Moore. What?
By Frederick Sweet
ABC-TV's Peter Jennings didn't know that Bush had been AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard, in his shameless display of ignorance before millions of American viewers during the Democratic debate.
I witnessed ABC-TV's moderator Peter Jennings bullying a debater, the retired Gen. Wesley Clark on prime time TV about one of his supporters, Academy Award filmmaker Michael Moore. Jennings characterized Moore as a “controversial filmmaker” and then called him "reckless" for shouting "deserter Bush" during a rally for Clark in New Hampshire.
Jennings Doesn’t Know?
During the Democratic debate last Thursday debate moderator Jennings demanded that Clark tell him how he can accept the endorsement of the "controversial filmmaker." Keeping his cool, Clark simply said, "Mr. Moore is entitled to his opinion. I may not have expressed it the same way. But I certainly accept his endorsement for me as the Democratic presidential candidate."
The next day, Michael Moore posted his response at MichaelMoore.Com: “I would like to apologize for referring to George W. Bush as a ‘deserter.’ What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants. In fact, he shot a man in Tucson ‘just to watch him die.’”
Moore continued: “Why wasn't it obvious to them, I was pointing out how Bush had deserted our constitution and Bill of Rights as he tries to limit freedom of speech and privacy rights for law-abiding citizens?”
MoveOn.org promptly wrote: “… Jennings' own charge [of ‘recklessness’] is contrary to the reports of major newspapers. Whether or not the legal designation of ‘deserter’ applies to Bush, he failed to appear for duty for months -- possibly a year -- while a member of the [Texas] Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, according to the Boston Globe, New York Times, and the Washington Post, [and The New Republic]. To what was Jennings referring when he claimed, ‘there are no facts to support the charge that Bush was absent from his military service’?”
How can Jennings allow himself to be so ignorant about something so well established? How can a TV journalist with his immense research resources not know what the rest of us have known? George W. Bush was AWOL for over seven months while on duty at the National Guard between 1972 and 1973.
Last year, President Bush got himself dropped onto an aircraft carrier dressed in full Air Force pilot's flight gear. Then he sneaked into Iraq to serve a plastic turkey to GIs in Baghdad on Thanksgiving Day. But he will never discuss his military record. There are good reasons for this and Peter Jennings, calling himself a journalist, should have known what they are long before lashing into Clark for Moore's comments.
During his presidential campaign in 2000, George W. Bush promised to restore honor and integrity to the White House, to strengthen the military, and to speak the plain truth on the campaign trail. Obviously, if Bush had received a dishonorable discharge from the military, then he would never have been made the Republican candidate for President.
But what we do know is that during the early months of the 2000 presidential race, The Boston Globe and the Washington Post had published investigative reports on George W. Bush's military deportment during the Vietnam War. That year, additional Bush military records had been obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by U.S. Air Force pilot Robert A. Rogers (ret. 1st Lt. Mission Pilot) and published by him as, "Bush's Military Record Reveals Grounding and Absence for Two Full Years." Rogers had served in the Air National Guard for eleven years, from 1954 through 1965. Indisputably, Bush had been AWOL while assigned to Guard duty during the Vietnam War.
On November 3, 1970, while Bush's father was being re-elected to Congress from Houston, Brig. General Rose promoted George W. to 1st Lieutenant. That's the same man who spirited Bush into the Texas Air National Guard at the request of the Bush family's influential businessman friend.
Bush claimed, he wanted to become a fighter pilot like his dad, who had flown combat missions in the Pacific during World War II as the youngest American airman. "I wanted to fly, and that was the adventure I was seeking," he told the New York Times in July 2000. Denying that he was trying to avoid combat in Vietnam, presidential candidate Bush said, "One could argue that [I] was trying to avoid being the infantryman but my attitude was I'm taking the first opportunity to become a pilot and jumped on that and did my time," he said.
By July of 1970, Lt. Bush had earned his wings by racking up about 300 hours of training flight time in the F-102. This had qualified him to fly the F-102 without an instructor, but it was far short of the 500 hours required to volunteer for active duty combat operations in Vietnam. He'd never have to worry about fighting overseas.
First Lt. Bush had been credited with 46 days of flight duty from June 1970 to May 1971, the expected Guard weekend duty and "extra" runway standby alert time for that year. However, that would be the last time Bush had fully met his qualified jet fighter pilot obligation to serve four complete years as a fully trained and qualified fighter pilot.
After May 1971, Bush abandoned his sworn obligation to the Texas Air National Guard and America. By May of 1972, he had only 22 flight-duty days to his credit, 14 days short of the minimum 36 he owed the Guard for that year. Then it got worse.
Bush flew for the last time in an F-102 fighter-interceptor in April of 1972. He never flew again, in spite of the fact that he still had two full years remaining of his six-year pilot service commitment. On May 15, 1972, Bush simply "cleared this base" wrote Lt. Col. William D. Harris Jr., one of Bush's two Squadron supervising officers in his official report. Bush had flown the coop.
Bush's Military Records
During the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary campaigns, fellow Senators spread rumors about Senator John McCain's mental health stemming from his imprisonment in Vietnam as a POW. McCain immediately put an end to those rumors by releasing his entire military record, officially confirming no indications of adverse physical or mental conditions.
Long ago, Bush could easily have put to rest accusations that he had been AWOL and a deserter by simply releasing his complete military service record. This record cannot be released by the Air Force without Bush's signed consent.
National Guard records available to the public show that on September 5, 1972 Bush had been ordered to start serving three months in an active but non-flying administrative Guard unit, the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Alabama. He had been assigned to four certain duty days in October and November. Bush's new orders had been cut over three months after his transfer request to an inactive Alabama Guard unit was denied.
“I was there on temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time. I made up some missed weekends. I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations,” he told the Dallas Morning News while campaigning in Alabama on June 23, 2000.
But there is no official notation in Bush's service record that he ever showed up for duty, despite his written orders. General William Turnipseed and Lt. Col. Kenneth Lott, who commanded the base at the time, told the Boston Globe, they were certain that Bush never appeared. "To my knowledge, he never showed up," Turnipseed told the Boston Globe in May 2000.
It's time to revisit Bush's military record.
Moore says, “… they [TV news personalities] have created the brouhaha over Bush's military record, often without telling their audience what the exact charges are. It seems all they want to do is to get Clark or me -- or you -- to shut up. ‘We have never investigated this and so we want you to apologize for bringing it up!’”
Moore continues, “Well, I'm glad they have gone nuts over it. Because here we have a Commander-in-Chief --who just took off while in uniform to go work for some Republican friend of his dad's -- now sending our kids over to Iraq to die while billions [of dollars] are promised to Halliburton and the oil companies. Twenty percent of them are National Guard and Reserves (and that number is expected to double during the year). They have been kept in Iraq much longer than promised, and they have not been given the proper protection. They are sitting ducks.”
Clark and Kerry, two combat veterans are running for the presidency of the United States. Now is a good time for an open, public, and repeated review of Bush's disgraceful military record. The American people have the right to know what kind of cowardly Commander-in-Chief occupies the White House. And if the likes of Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw lack the moral fiber and journalistic integrity to tell our fellow citizens the truth about those in power then, friends, it is up to the rest of us to do their jobs for them!
Breaking news story (02/01/04):
The New York Times website posted "Democratic Party Chief Attacks Bush on Military Record" --. Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is quoted at an interview on the ABC News program “This Week,,” saying, “I look forward to that debate when John Kerry, a war hero with a chest full of medals, is standing next to George Bush, a man who was AWOL in the Alabama National Guard. George Bush never served in our military in our country. He didn't show up when he should have shown up. And there's John Kerry on the stage with a chest full of medals that he earned by saving the lives of American soldiers. So, as John Kerry says, ‘Bring it on!’”
(Posted Monday, February 2, 2004)
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