March 03, 2004

Bush’s Selective Service

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Election 2004 is all about the combat stripes. Considering that George W. Bush already faces stiff challenge from Vietnam veteran John Kerry, the last thing Mr. Mission Accomplished needed was to have his military records scrutinized. The National Guard’s slogan is “You Can!” But if Bush’s service records prove anything, it’s that “You Don’t Have To!”

Whenever badgered about Bush’s service, the White House has consistently pointed out that Bush fulfilled his obligations from 1968 to 1971. They conveniently leave out that he was not discharged until 1973. And while much speculation has surfaced about what exactly he was doing for those two missing years, Bush has been mum on the issue. Call it Operation Deserter Shield.

Facing intense pressure in the wake of full disclosure from Wesley Clark and questions about his own dubious stint, however, Bush finally announced that he would fully release his own records. And just to show how fully he released his records the first time, he released some more a few days later. Kind of like DVD bonus features.

In all, the records totaled more than 400 pages. Among the revelations: Bush had a tonsillectomy at age five, an appendectomy at age 10, a fatty cyst removal at 14 and a hemorrhoid during his tenure with the Guard. Hey, 400 pages is a lot to fill.

So what are the facts of this incredibly strong evidence that, once and for all, will show that Bush was ready when needed? Pay stubs from six days of service in 1972 and a receipt for dental service on Jan. 6, 1973. These documents are undeniable proof that Bush was in Alabama for at least a week.

Records show that, however obsolete his planes might have been, Bush did his job with the Texas National Guard. The disputed two years coincides with Bush transferring from Texas to the Alabama Guard. While the cause for this transfer remains up for debate, a likely explanation is that Bush moved camp in order to work on a political campaign. Such transference, while odd, was in itself not a huge deal; Bush could have reported for duty without incident. His records, however, show that he did no such thing.

Eager to correct (or confirm) this, packs of journalists and military officials are looking for Alabama Guardsmen from the period who would remember Bush in their company. So far, they haven’t found anyone. But understand, this was 31 years ago; who would possibly remember some famous rich son of an influential Congressman and UN ambassador working with them?

Defenders are calling this attack on Bush’s service hypocritical, saying that liberals are always the first to criticize war. What exactly is hypocritical here? It’s one thing to criticize a war and choose not to join the military or fight. It’s another entirely to pimp the war like it was your new pet shark and then use your family connections to make someone else feed themselves to it.

Kerry, critics say, has dishonored the Guard members who defend the country by allegedly comparing them to draft-dodgers and deserters. But it’s highly unlikely that Kerry, who chucked privilege to fight in Nam, would deliberately disparage the Guard the way Bush has with his dishonorable actions.

The problem that needs resolving is not the integrity of the National Guard, but the ethics of a man who thinks nothing of starting wars for unclear reasons. If Bush is going to strut on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and declare “mission accomplished,” then he should have accomplished his own mission.

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