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 Day 19

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"This Guy's Got a Lot of Nerve"

What Qualifies Bush to Lead Iraq War?

by EVELYN PRINGLE

The tax dollar funded photo op of Bush landing on an aircraft carrier all dressed up in a flightsuit to announce Mission Accomplished was a desperate attempt to give the illusion that Bush actually did serve his country in the military and to bolster his image as a self-described "war president."

This country is now paying a heavy price for Bush’s lack of military experience, and his taunting invitation of "bring it on," that has resulted in a never ending stream of challengers traveling to Iraq to teach our loudmouth President a lesson.

When evaluating Bush’s performance as the Commander-in-Chief leading the Iraq war, it might be helpful to take another look at his years of service in military, or lack thereof.

The story of the draft-dodger in the White House who keeps sending more troops off to die in Iraq began in 1968 while the Viet Nam war raging and his student deferment ended, meaning it would only be a matter of time before he would be drafted.

However, his father jumped in to save him from that certain fate by lining up a slot in the Texas Air National Guard to make sure that sonny boy remained far away from Nam.

Of course for his part, Bush, the honest guy that Americans have come to know, has always denied that he received any help. "There was no special treatment," he said when running for governor in 1993. "They were looking for pilots and I was honored to serve."

"I can just tell you," he mumbled to reporters during campaign 2000, "from my perspective, I never asked for, I don’t believe I received special treatment."

To put the whole special treatment debate in perspective, it should be noted that at the time Bush was accepted in the Texas Air National Guard, there was a waiting list of roughly 500 men and it usually took about a year and a half to get to the top of the list.

When asked about the waiting list issue, Bush spokesman at the time, David Beckwith, claimed that Bush was more qualified. "A lot of people weren’t qualified" he said, "so special commissions were offered to those willing to undergo the extra training required."

However, Charles Shoemake, chief of personnel at the Texas Guard from 1972 to 1980, publicly denied that there was a shortage of pilots or qualified applicants. "We had so many people coming in who were super-qualified," he said.

Any claim that Bush was more qualified than 500 other men is laughable being he only scored 25% on the Pilot Aptitude Test, which happens to be the lowest score permitted for a wannabe pilot at the time.

The truth was finally revealed in 1999, when Ben Barnes, former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, said that he helped Bush get in the Guard at the request of Bush family friend, Sid Adger, according to an account of the events in a statement released after Barnes testified in a deposition for a federal lawsuit in September 1999.

Barnes also testified that he had met with a top Bush adviser to discuss the matter of rebutting rumors that Bush got special treatment, and to prove that the meeting took place, Barnes produced a note from Bush himself thanking him for his help in rebutting rumors that Bush’s father had helped find a slot for his son in the Guard.

And true to form, with full knowledge that he wrote the note, on September 9, 2000, that pathological liar Bush still claimed, "No Bush ever asked Sid Adger to help."

Bush also claims that he got no special treatment when he received a direct appointment to Second Lt right out of basic training without having to go through officer candidate school which cleared the way for a slot in pilot training school. "Our information is there was absolutely no special deal," said Bush spokesman Beckwith.

However, in the September 1999 deposition Barnes testified that after receiving a request from Adger, he called Gen James Rose and recommended Bush for a pilot position.

When Bush joined the Guard his stated goal was "making flying a lifetime pursuit," and he signed a document that stated: "I understand that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed 24 months for unsatisfactory participation."

Based on that statement alone, Bush should have been shipped to Viet Nam in 1972 when he was permitted to move to Alabama to work on a political campaign and was ordered to attend drills at Dannelly Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama from May 1972 to November 1972, and went AWOL.

There is no record that Bush ever showed up. During the 2000 campaign, Bush claimed he attended drills at Dannelly and said, "I was there on a temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time."

"I made up some missed weekends," he said, "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 stated.

His spokesman Dan Bartlett also vouched for the tall tale. "He specifically recalls pulling duty in Alabama," Bartlett said, "he did his drills."

Although there is no record of Bush being at Dannelly, there is plenty of evidence to prove that he was supposed to be. For instance, military records show a September 15, 1972, order stating: "Lt Bush should report to Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, DCO, to perform equivalent training," on "7-8 October, and 4-5 November."

In later interviews, Turnipseed and his administrative officer, Kenneth Lottsaid, said Bush never showed up. "Had he reported in I would have had some recall, and I do not," Turnipsee said. "I had been in Texas, done my flight training there, If we had a 1st Lt from Texas, I would have remembered," he stated.

When questioned by reporters about Tunispeed’s interview, the truthful and honest coward now sitting in the White House, brushed him off by saying: "I read the comments from the guy who said he doesn’t remember me being there, but I remember being there."

By far the most colorful comments about Bush being AWOL were quotes in the February 13, 2004 Memphis Flyer, from interviews with 2 former guardsmen, Bob Mintz and Paul Bishop, who were members of the Alabama unit when Bush claimed he was there.

These men did attend drills in the summer of 1972 and both said they were certain Bush was not there. "I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas," Mintz said. "And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence."

"I was a young bachelor then," he recalled, "I was looking for somebody to prowl around with."

Mintz said the squadron only had 25 or 30 pilots and told the Flyer, "There’s no doubt I would have heard of him, seen him, whatever."

He said, at the time he assumed that Bush had "changed his mind and went somewhere else" to do his duty. Previously a Republican, Mintz also discussed his reaction to outright dissembling by Bush. "You don’t do that as an officer," he said, "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," Mintz said.

Mintz told the Flyer that no members of the Alabama unit remembered Bush being there. "I talked to one of my buddies the other day" he said, "and asked him if he could remember Bush at drill at any time, and he said, ‘Naw, ol’ George wasn’t there.’"

That buddy was Paul Bishop, who at the time of the interview was a pilot for a charter airline that was flying war supplies into Iraq. He was also a veteran of the first Gulf War and voted for Bush in 2000. "I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush," Bishop said.

He told the Flyer that he did not pay much attention to Bush’s claims in the 2000 campaign, but he had since the Iraq war started. "It bothered me," he said, "that he wouldn’t ‘fess 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," he stated, "I take great exception to that. I spent 39 years defending my country."

This interview with the Flyer is 3 years old and back then Bishop was already saying that he disapproved of the way Bush was handling the war and believed the problem was due to Bush’s lack of combat experience. "I think a commander-in-chief who sends his men off to war ought to be a veteran who has seen the sting of battle," he said.

"In Iraq we have a bunch of great soldiers," he stated, "but they are not policemen. … right now it’s costing us an American life a day. … We’ve got an over-extended Guard and reserve."

It would be interesting to hear what Mr Bishop has to say about Bush these days.

In light of his obviously low IQ, it could honestly be said that Bush simply can not remember the name of every guardsman in Alabama, but according to a spokesman for the Alabama Guard, there were 600 to 700 members in that unit and Bush can not remember one name, and amazingly, not one Alabama guardsman has come forward to proudly announce that he served his country right along side the current President of the US.

In any event, first hand sitings would be impossible to find because Bush’s own military records prove he was AWOL in Alabama and Texas. In the fall of 1972 after the election Bush reportedly did return to Texas but not to Ellington Air Force Base.

On May 2, 1973, his Superior Officers at Ellington, Jerry Killian and William Harris, stated they were unable to complete Bush’s "yearly" evaluation because: "Lt Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of this report."

Which means a year after he trotted off to Alabama, and 7 months after he returned to Texas, Bush’s commanding officers in Texas still thought he was in Alabama. The report said Bush "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."

Americans should tell members of Congress to consider the military service record of the man deciding the fate of our young men and women in Iraq before granting his next request for funding to keep them there until hell freezes over apparently.

EVELYN PRINGLE can be reached at: evelyn-pringle@sbcglobal.net