Bush’s military career lacks ‘shared sacrifice’

I don’t eat turkey because growth hormones and antibiotics don’t agree with my system, but I got pretty nauseated on Thanksgiving anyway.

The continuous cable-news coverage of President (you’ll never know how hard that is for me to write) Bush’s sneak attack on Baghdad almost had me heading for the porcelain throne. Seeing him endlessly serving up slabs of white meat to a few carefully screened grunts for the cameras ultimately proved too much for even a news junkie to endure, so I turned it off and concentrated on counting my blessings. (One of which is that even in the worst-case scenario he’ll be forced into retirement in five years, should America survive that long.)

But still, that photo-op and the earlier “Mission Accomplished” landing on the aircraft carrier, which was intended to give the impression that he might actually have been flying the fighter plane in which he arrived, annoyed me so greatly that I went on a Google search to explore the Shrub’s own military service. What I found greatly enhanced my growing appreciation for the Internet and the Freedom of Information Act. Here it is:

In 1968, while war raged in Vietnam, Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard to avoid being drafted and getting sent into combat. Back then, joining the Guard was an extremely popular way for young men to ensure their personal safety, of course, and many were denied the opportunity.

But just like former Vice President Dan Quayle, Bush had no problem getting accepted. Of course, most guys eligible for the draft didn’t have a Congressman for a father and a Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives for a friend, both putting in a good word where it counted.

“I wasn’t prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun to get a deferment, nor was I willing to go to Canada,” Bush said in 1994 while explaining the upper limits of his aversion to the draft, “so I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes.”

And for a while, that is what he did, protecting the U.S./Mexican border from the laughable threat of invasion from the south.

A 1970 press release from the Guard touted Bush as a real hotshot: “George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn’t get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed. Oh, he gets high alright, but not from using narcotics.” (Presumably this was before he started snorting coke.)

Bush commented in the release that his first solo “was really neat. It was fun and very exciting. I felt really serene up there.”

But then a funny thing happened. In May 1972, Bush all but disappeared from the Guard unit’s radar screen for more than a year. This highly trained jet pilot — whose similarly trained comrades were being shot down frequently over North Vietnam — decided he had different priorities and moved to Alabama to work on a Republican candidate’s Senate campaign.

Oh, he asked for a transfer to do “equivalent duty” at a Guard unit there that had no planes or pilots, but that request was denied by the national Air Reserve office, so he did no service in the Guard for months. That September, no doubt again with help from his higher powers, Bush finally gained permission to train with a unit in Montgomery. The only trouble is that neither the commander or the administrative officer of that unit can recall him ever reporting for duty.

And, during the 2000 presidential campaign, when a reporter asked if he remembered what duties he’d performed in the Alabama Guard unit, Bush replied, “No, I really don’t.” Neither does retired Gen. William Turnipseed, who commanded the unit at that time and told the Boston Globe Bush had never appeared for duty there.

In fact, even when he returned to Houston after the 1972 election, he apparently didn’t report for duty with his original unit. His superior officers at Ellington Air Force Base were unable to do his annual evaluation the following spring because, “Lt. Bush has not been observed at this unit during the period of report (May 1972 through April 1973).”

Moreover, our commander-in-chief-to-be was suspended from flying status in August 1972, because of “his failure to accomplish annual medical examination.”

Finally, he welshed on his pledge to serve for six years in return for his expensive flight training by asking for and receiving permission to end his Guard service nearly a year early so he could attend Harvard Business School.

Meanwhile Sen. John McCain, Bush’s future opponent in the 2000 Republican primaries, was locked in a tiger cage and being tortured in North Vietnam because he actually had the balls to fight for what he believed in.

But Bush the chicken hawk, like so many top members of his current administration, paid only lip service in support of the war while comfortably advancing his own career at our country’s most prestigious university.

But never mind all that. That was the old Bush.

Last Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery, where so many of the fine young men who did have the gumption and love of country to die for it are buried, the new Bush had the temerity, the absolute gall, to spout the following:

“Every veteran understands the meaning of personal accountability and loyalty and shared sacrifice. From the moment you repeated the oath to the day of your honorable discharge, your time belonged to America; your country came before all else.” (Unless you wanted to attend business school or help a politician get elected, that is.)

It’s enough to make anyone sick.

David Grant Long lives in Cortez and is a counselor at the Durango Detox.

From David Long, January 2004.