Media outlets generally have given George W. Bush a pass on his controversial military record, overlooking that the presidential candidate not only used his family's political connections to avoid duty in Vietnam, but also apparently skipped out on his minimal obligations to the Air National Guard.
An investigation by the Boston Globe last spring turned up a one-year gap in the future governor's duty record from 1972-73, and while the mainstream press generally has ignored the story, Iowa farmer Marty Heldt spent the summer poring over the governor's military file before writing a story for TomPaine.com, which The Progressive Populist published in our 11/1/00 issue. Later Democrats.com published a piece written by a former Air National Guard officer noting that in April of 1972 the military services began taking random samples from the ranks to test for alcohol and drugs. Bush apparently was suspended from flight duty after missing a scheduled August 1972 physical that presumably would have included a drug test.
George magazine in mid-October posted a story on its web site alleging that Bush successfully completed his Texas Air National Guard duty for the years 1972-1973. It cites three newly found documents, the main one being a fragment of an ARF Statement of Points Earned -- an attendance document that tracks when an Air National Guardsman has served, and whether he has fulfilled his annual duty. However, the upper left portion is torn, removing the name of the soldier, with the exception of the apparent middle initial W. Also obliterated by the tear are the year and months of service, leaving only the date (for example, for service from 2000 Oct 15 to 2000 Oct 18, only the 18 would remain). The documents are unsigned and undated as well as partially obliterated and questions remain about how they got into Bush's file after the Boston Globe perused it this past spring.
In a lengthy response to the George article, David Case of TomPaine.com wrote that questions remain. "The missing year on these official documents have been further verified by the Boston Globe, the New York Times and other papers, in interviews with Bush's former commanding officers. More recently, several $1000 rewards have gone unclaimed for anyone who can come up with proof that Bush fulfilled his duty during 1972-1973.
Case also noted that Albert Lloyd [a retired Guard personnel officer and friend of Bush] apparently was able to alter Bush's file by introducing the two special orders and the torn document, causing Case to wonder if the governor's friends also were able to take documents out. Among other things, Bush's file could be expected to hold a report on his 1972 suspension from flying.
"No one questions that George W. Bush enjoyed considerable favoritism during the Vietnam War era. He catapulted in front of a long waiting list to get into the Air National Guard, enabling him to soar over the Texas skyline rather than fighting Viet Cong in the sweltering Asian jungle," Case wrote.
"But a new question needs to be raised: given the contradictions and inconsistencies in Bush's record, is it possible that he has benefited more recently from special handling of his military record? The case hasn't been cracked yet. It should be."