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Palast the Iconoclast
by Ed Rampell,
AlterNet, July 17, 2003
(We excerpted this portion on Bush's military records from this piece written about Greg Pelast)

Greg Palast, author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and investigative reporter for the UK's The Guardian, The Observer and the BBC, is once again raking the muck for the truth about our current leaders, using English media platforms to report stories the mainstream American press won't touch. His latest foray, a one-hour BBC3 special, "Bush Family Fortunes," which first ran June 19th, allowed British audiences to watch reportage virtually forbidden to American viewers -- but revealed, in part, here.

With a tongue-in-cheek film noir-ish style, the documentary discloses damning new information regarding President Bush's dubious Texas Air National Guard stint. Wearing a private eye's trench coat and fedora, Palast went to the Lone Star State, "To find out how George Bush got the cushy job of defending Houston, Texas from Viet Cong attack..."

Palast interviews retired Lt. Colonel Bill Burkett of the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), who states on camera that shortly after George W. became Texas' governor in the 1990s, he witnessed a speakerphone call from the Texas governor's office to TANG, and overheard the caller tell Guard officers to "clean [Bush's] records from his files." Palast says that after the call, Burkett "asked the officers if they'd carried out the questionable orders, and they said 'absolutely.' They pointed, and Burkett saw in the [shredding designated] trashcan George W. Bush's ... pay [and retirement points] records."

Controversy has simmered for decades over George W.'s Vietnam era service record; critics have long charged he went AWOL from the Guard for long periods of time. The allegedly trashed documents, which had been undisclosed for years, could have proved whether or not G.W. had been absent without leave while he was in TANG.

If Bush went AWOL, this would have been desertion during wartime. "Punishment for Air National guardsmen who missed two days of work was to be sent to Vietnam," Burkett also said, according to Palast, interviewed in Santa Monica, California, before flying to London to broadcast the expose.

Bush detractors also contend that back in 1968, his father, wealthy oilman and then-Rep. George Herbert Walker Bush, pulled strings to cut a behind-the-scenes deal ensuring Junior was not sent to Vietnam -- Palast says he received a rare, coveted Texas Air National Guard spot "12 days before G.W. was to be drafted."

Palast adds he recently interviewed "an extremely well-known Texan at the center of" President Bush's alleged draft-dodging, who was a key participant in maneuvers to get him into the Air Guard. This source not only confirmed that getting G.W. into the Texas Air National Guard "was a fix," but that "it was Daddy Bush himself who made the initial call to get his son out of the war," Palast says. Although the figure would not agree to go on camera or be named, Palast said he interviewed the source in front of a high-ranking BBC producer.

Previously, says Palast, he had considered G.W.'s draft evading story unverified. However, he now believes he has confirmed it.

Ed Rampell is a fulltime L.A.-based freelance writer named after CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow. He writes the "Friend of the People" column for L.A. Alternative Press, and co-wrote "The Finger" column for New Times L.A. Rampell has reported for ABC News' "20/20," The Nation, Mother Jones, In These Times, Variety, L.A. Times and many other publications, and co-authored several film history books.

Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Penguin 2003), which you can purchase by clicking on the book link on the left. This book is highly recommended by our staff.

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