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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
"Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member
of the Bush family asked [for] Barnes's help,"
insisted the 1999 Republican statement.
Did Barnes Get It Done?
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.
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.
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
"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
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
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
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."
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.
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.
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."
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
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%.
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."
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?
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.
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
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.
Guardsmen: Bush a No Show, Liar
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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,"
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.
sources for this article:
Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes Former Texas
Lieutenant Gov. Ben Barnes," by George Lardner
Jr., Washington Post, September 21, 1999, page
moves to block questions about Bush, Guard," by
Ken Herman, Austin American-Statesman, September
Barnes was asked to help get Bush in Guard," by
George Kuempel and Pete Slover, Dallas Morning
News, Sept. 8, 1999
Speaker Reportedly Helped Bush Get into Guard,"
by George Lardner, Jr., Washington Post, September
21, 1999, page A04
Says He Helped Bush Join the Guard in Vietnam
War," by Jim Yardley, New York Times, September
Height of Vietnam, Graduate Picks Guard," by George
Lardner Jr. and Lois Romano, Washington Post,
July 28, 1999, page A01
asked Barnes to recall Guard details before Bush
joined race," by Pete Slover and George Kuempel,
Dallas Morning News, September 26, 1999
remain on Bush's service as Guard pilot," by Walter
V. Robinson, Boston Globe, October, 3, 2000, page
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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