President Top Gun: Affirmatively Missing In Action
By Greg Palast
And here’s a taste, from the files of BBC Television’s just-broadcast one-hour special, “Bush Family Fortunes.”
President Top Gun: Affirmatively Missing in Action
Forty-eight hours before ordering our troops into Iraq, our President told us, “There’s no certainty in war but the certainty of sacrifice.” For most of us, yes, but not, however, if your name is ‘Bush.’ According to discomforting information my BBC investigative team reported last week. In 1968, former Congressman George Herbert Walker Bush of Texas, fresh from voting to send other men’s sons to Vietnam, enlisted his own son in a very special affirmative action program, the ‘champagne’ unit of the Texas Air National Guard. There, Top Gun fighter pilot George W was assigned the dangerous job of protecting Houston from Vietcong air attack.
BBC thought it worth a look into our Commander-in-Chief’s Vietnam war record after the White House staged our President’s dramatic landing by fighter jet on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abe Lincoln to announce our victory over Iraq. Hey, Churchill never did that. (And kudos to Tom Brokaw and the other US network performers for maintaining their patriotically solemn expressions -- even when our President, unlike experienced flyers, kept his parachute clips fastened under his crotch, making him look a little less like Tom Cruise and more like that first chimp in space.)
In 1968, to qualify for the single available pilot spot in the Air Guard, young George took a test. He scored, out of a possible 100, only 25. (Word is that the chimp scored 26.) How then, did our future President – opponent of affirmative action, who believes no one should get their post except through merit -- leap over thousands of other applicants and cinch the get-out-of-‘Nam post?
Here’s what you won’t see on US TV: Years back I got my hands on a copy of a document languishing in Justice Department files in Austin, Texas. In it, a tipster fingers two political friends of Bush Senior who, the source claimed, made the call to get young Bush out of the war and into the cockpit at the Air Guard. But the Feds could not act without corroboration. Now we have it. To the BBC crew, one of those named confessed to making the call – at Bush Senior’s request – to help George W dodge the draft. (I’ve posted the letter at http://www.gregpalast.com/ulf/documents/draftdodgeblanked.jpg ).
Look, I don’t care if President Bush cowered and ran from Vietnam. I sure as hell didn’t volunteer … but then, my daddy didn’t send someone else in my place. And I don’t march around with parachute clips around my gonads talking about war and sacrifice.
But what the heck, Bush’s supporters respond that the man did at least he ‘ serve his country’ in the Air Guard. Or did he? Questions have been raised over the years about whether the younger George, having nailed the cushy pilot seat, failed to report for duty. On camera, I spoke with Texas cattle rancher Bill Burkett, formerly a Lieutenant Colonel in the air guard. Seems that Burkett was in the office of the Guard’s Adjutant General when a call came in from then-Governor George W. Bush’s office. As is normal procedure, the call was put on the speaker box, but the request was not so normal. The Governor’s office was sending over an official biographer … and the Governor’s minions wanted to make sure the files did not contain not-so-heroic info. Burkett told me:
“I was in the General’s office, General Daniel James …. He gets a telephone call from Joe Albaugh, who was the Governor’s chief of staff, and Dan Bartlett … on the voice box … and they wanted General James to assemble all of the Governor’s files, that [Karen Hughes, Bush’s aide] was going to write a book…. But Joe told General James, ‘Make sure there’s not anything in there that’ll embarrass the Governor.’”
And there wouldn’t be. Burkett asked if the general’s staff really intended to purge the files; and sure enough, as evidence of the affirmative reply, he was shown the piles of pay and pension records in the garbage pales destined for the shredders. Colonel Burkett did not run off with those files so we can only conclude this: the only evidence that Bush showed up for duty during the war is now missing. Military pay records are public records – and now they are conveniently unavailable.
By the way, the White House, where Messrs. Albaugh, Bartlett and, of course, Mr. Bush, work, turned down BBC’s offer to deny the charges of the draft-dodge fix and the purging of Dubya’s files.
That’s far from the end of the story. There are only two men alive today (outside the Bush family) who knew exactly how George Bush ducked the draft. Both men became high-powered Texas lobbyists. To an influence peddler, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth it’s weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret. One of the lobbyists, former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes, appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to obtain a multi-billion dollar contract for a client. The happy client paid Barnes, the keeper of Governor Bush’s secret, a fee of over $23 million. Barnes, not surprisingly, denies that Bush took care of his client in return for Barnes’ silence. However, confronted with the evidence, the former Lt. Governor now admits to helping the young George stay out of Vietnam.
For the full story of our president’s war years and the $23 million payment, read the title chapter of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, nominated last month by the California State University’s for a Project Censored Award – and excerpted in this month’s Hustler Magazine. (To read the story with less lubricated illustrations, go to http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=233&row=1 .)
This week, on July 6, George W. Bush turned 57. William White was born the same day in 1946. I mention this because, if you’re old enough, you’d remember that young men were drafted for Vietnam based on a grim lottery – if your birthday was picked out of a hat, you went. I got White’s name off a black wall in Washington. He went to Vietnam when George W went to the Air Guard in Houston. White never came back. Happy birthday, Mr. President.
Greg Palast is author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Penguin 2003) available at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0452283914/qid=1057790706/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/103-3431210-9288650?v=glanc e&s=books&n=507846 . Read his comments and view his reports for BBC TV at www.GregPalast.com
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