Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Can We Call Him a Deserter Now?
President Bush claims that in the fall of 1972, he fulfilled his Air National Guard duties at a base in Alabama. But Bob Mintz was there - and he is sure Mr. Bush wasn't.

Plenty of other officers have said they also don't recall that Mr. Bush ever showed up for drills at the base. What's different about Mr. Mintz is that he remembers actively looking for Mr. Bush and never finding him.

Mr. Mintz says he had heard that Mr. Bush - described as a young Texas pilot with political influence - had transferred to the base. He heard that Mr. Bush was also a bachelor, so he was looking forward to partying together. He's confident that he'd remember if Mr. Bush had shown up.

'I'm sure I would have seen him,' Mr. Mintz said yesterday. 'It's a small unit, and you couldn't go in or out without being seen. It was too close a space.' There were only 25 to 30 pilots there, and Mr. Bush - a U.N. ambassador's son who had dated Tricia Nixon - would have been particularly memorable.'
...
Another particularly credible witness is Leonard Walls, a retired Air Force colonel who was then a full-time pilot instructor at the base. "I was there pretty much every day," he said, adding: "I never saw him, and I was there continually from July 1972 to July 1974." Mr. Walls, who describes himself as nonpolitical, added, "If he had been there more than once, I would have seen him."

The sheer volume of missing documents, and missing recollections, strongly suggests to me that Mr. Bush blew off his Guard obligations. It's not fair to say Mr. Bush deserted. My sense is that he (like some others at the time) neglected his National Guard obligations, did the bare minimum to avoid serious trouble and was finally let off by commanders who considered him a headache but felt it wasn't worth the hassle to punish him.

"The record clearly and convincingly proves he did not fulfill the obligations he incurred when he enlisted in the Air National Guard," writes Gerald Lechliter, a retired Army colonel who has made the most meticulous examination I've seen of Mr. Bush's records (I've posted the full 32-page analysis here). Mr. Lechliter adds that Mr. Bush received unauthorized or fraudulent payments that breached National Guard rules, according to the documents that the White House itself released.[Nitpicker emphasis]
Why exactly would it not be fair? I always thought that Clark should have questioned Brokaw's assertion that Moore's desertion charge was baseless - maybe someone finally will. I wonder if news of this being released has anything to do with the WH backing down from their position on Korean War deserter Charles Jenkins? What's good for the goose and all ... For the applicable military codes and consequential punishment, see this previous post by The Left Coaster. Personally, I would have gone for the "W" standing for 'weak'.

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