Bernard Weiner: Bush's AWOL Scandal
Bush's AWOL Scandal:
Let's Break Through
the Media Barrier
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
For its own political purposes last year, the Bush Administration compromised a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, by revealing her name and job; outing a covert agent is a felony. For its own political purposes last weekend, the Bush Administration revealed the name of a double-agent it had turned and placed inside the high echelons of al-Qaida; by doing so at that particular time (hurridly, in the midst of a domestic terror alert, to gain more cred as the guys who should remain in charge), they compromised one of the CIA's few agents on the inside of the terrorist network.
It's even more clear now that Bush&Co., for short-term gain, will do anything to try to win an election, including selling out the long-term national interests of the United States.
It isn't surprising, then, that many citizens all over this country, anxious to return their government to a saner, less-extreme course, are organizing to affect the outcome of the election. Many are manning phone banks or writing personal letters to undecided voters in the swing states. Some are even visiting or moving to those key states to talk to folks directly. Famous pop-musicians are working together to present concerts in the toss-up states, to help raise consciousness and register young voters. Many ordinary citizens, normally cynical about politicians in general, are donating again and again to the KerryEdwards campaign, to good local candidates, or to effective activist groups, such as MoveOn.org .
Below are some additional ideas about we we all might become involved on a specific project -- namely, trying to get the updated story of Bush's AWOL Scandal into the mainstream media.
UNDER-REPORTING BUSH'S AWOL PROBLEM
From the very beginning, the mainstream media neglected to adequately report on Bush's failure to complete his six-year obligation to the Texas Air National Guard. They gave the story a superficial glance, but there was virtually no deep investigative reporting. In short, Bush got a free pass by the Guard and by the mass media, presumably because his father was a political heavy.
Although the circumstantial evidence certainly seemed to point to Bush being AWOL from duty -- key payroll and medical records went mysteriously missing, no comrades in arms stepped forward to verify that Bush had completed his tour of duty (even when thousands of dollars were offered to anyone who could provide evidence of such), etc. -- there seemed to be no definitive proof, one way or the other. "This story is Old News," the Bush Campaign kept saying, hoping that incantation would work its disappearing magic.
But the scandal was still out there, simmering, threatening to boil over again, right in the middle of the presidential election campaign. So Karl Rove, Bush's chief political operative, wanting to nip this one in the bud before any more damage erupted, did a documents dump: He released hundreds of pages of old Guard records (after it was first claimed that no such records existed), which pages he said should answer the question once and for all. They didn't, but the story sort of petered out in the major media.
It seemed that Bush would glide by this potentially dangerous iceberg, just as he had escaped so many other scandals, because of lack of definitive proof.
But, hold on a minute. Not everyone had given up on the possibility of unearthing the facts. Not all writers looked at that huge pile of documents and simply accepted the common wisdom that they contained not much of interest.
A RESEARCHER UNCOVERS THE FACTS
As it turned out, the key was a willingness to dive deep into these documents, and knowing how to read them. Rove counted on the essential laziness and ignorance of ordinary mainstream reporters, who wouldn't be aware of what all those military codes and numbers and jargon-terms meant.
Once again, as in so many other areas, the "underground" journalists -- in our time, those working on the internet -- rode to the rescue. On this issue, the energy and laser-like focus came from one Paul Lukasiak of Philadelphia.
It turns out that, unlike the great majority of ordinary journalists, Lukasiak was undaunted by the hundreds of pages of dry military records distributed by the White House. He was a bloodhound on the hunt. And, he possessed some experience in working with old documents, especially old military punch-card records from 30 years ago.
In a recent email, Lukasiak described how he pieced the story together: "I spent a couple of months reading the statutes, DoD regulation, and Air Force policies and procedures, and spent a great deal of time figuring out the rest of the payroll records and 'points records' themselves. Having acquired a certain amount of knowledge, the nature and the meaning of the pattern in the payroll data became self-evident....Just by looking at the data lines found in the payroll records, there are obvious patterns that anyone could detect."
And so, piece by piece, Lukasiak pulled together the jigsaw puzzle that was George W. Bush's long-ago, much-abbreviated military service. And, lo and behold, he figured it out. His four months of research led him to a number of incendiary conclusions, documented with his meticulous research, which were picked up by a relatively small number of online websites -- Corrente , Kevin Drum, Democrats.com, The Crisis Papers .
For example, here's what Lukasiak furnished The Crisis Papers, as a way of summing up his four months of research; the emphasis is supplied:
BUSH'S SERVICE WAS "MISREPRESENTED"
"An examination of U.S. Statutory Law, Department of Defense Regulations, and Air Force policies and procedures from the early seventies PROVES THAT GEORGE W. BUSH AND HIS SPOKESMEN HAVE CONSISTENTLY MISREPRESENTED THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF HIS OBLIGATIONS AS A MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
"When considered within their proper legal and policy context, THE BUSH RECORDS EFFECTIVELY REBUT THE WHITE HOUSE CLAIM THAT BUSH 'FULFILLED HIS DUTY.' When considered as a whole, these documents reveal that Bush spent the last two years of his six-year Military Service Obligation in an ACTIVE EFFORT TO AVOID FULFILLING THE OBLIGATIONS AND COMMITMENTS HE INCURRED UPON ENTERING THE TEXAS AIR NATIONAL GUARD.
"They also show that while some Texas officials aided and abetted Bush's efforts (and others apparently acquiesced to what was happening), there is no reason to question the character of Alabama officials, or Air Reserve Forces personnel as a whole. Finally, the only conclusion that can be reached from an examination of Bush's records for the period after he quit the Air National Guard is that THE AIR FORCE ATTEMPTED TO TAKE PUNITIVE MEASURES AGAINST BUSH, BUT THAT POLITICAL PRESSURE PREVENTED THOSE MEASURES FROM BEING CARRIED OUT.
Lawrence Korb -- who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations and Logistics under Reagan from 1981-85 -- appears to agree ( www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=176 ) with the conclusion based on the key five-month period of Bush's service when there are no records that he reported for duty: "If you don't show up, you're absent without leave, by definition."
Dynamite stuff, yes?
With that political bombshell out there in the cyberether -- and occasionally in liberal magazines, such as Joseph Nobels' research, laid out in The Nation ( http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040816&s=williams ) -- one would have thought that the mainstream press would have picked up those new AWOL revelations and run with them, bigtime. But, you guessed it: virtual silence.
As a result of this effective marginalization of the story, the Kerry Campaign was forced to hint at Bush's service-record problems, insinuating that he "didn't show up" when his country called, but not going at Bush frontally as an AWOL during the Vietnam War. (Perhaps knowledge of this story, roiling just beneath the mainstream surface, helped the Kerry Campaign decide to devote the Democratic National Convention to establishing their candidate's military bona fides -- Kerry "showed up" when his nation called. Nudge, nudge, hint, hint.)
Here's where you and I come in. We need to create so much pressure on our local and national media outlets that they will feel forced to begin to cover this story in a major way, thus giving the issue mainstream "respectability" that will provide the foundation for Kerry and Edwards to confront Bush frontally on his incomplete service record.
POSSIBLE DEBATE SCENARIO
And, if we do our job well, we will provide incentives for mainstream reporters to raise this issue during the upcoming debates between Kerry and Bush. Can't you just see it now?
Reporter: My next question is directed at President Bush. Sir, your opponent, citing stories in the New York Times and Washington Post and on the major TV networks, has accused you of not completing your required military service during the Vietnam War and then trying to cover up your absence, thus making you AWOL during that time. How do you respond?
Bush: This issue is old news. It came up during my run for Texas governor, it came up when I first ran for President. We have responded as fully we can, providing copies of all sorts of decades-old military service records. I received an Honorable Discharge for my service. That should prove that I fulfilled my obligations. It's the same old charges leveled by my enemies -- it's just politics. I served my country. They can't prove otherwise. Let's move on.
Reporter: But those stories claim that the records you released do not prove definitively that you completed your service. On the contrary, they seem to show that you did not complete your military service as required, that there are many months when you were not present. And none of your purported military buddies from those days have stepped forward to validate your claims that you were there. That seems to be what your opponent is saying.
Bush: He'll say anything. These are sensitive national security matters. It is important to stay the course. Tearing down the Commander in Chief in times of war is dangerous. You reporters and Mr. Kerry better watch what you say. Giving comfort to the terrorists -- they hate us, you know, for our freedoms -- may even be treasonous. I will not answer any more of these type questions.
Well, OK, I may have exaggerated a bit there in concocting that scenario. But you can well imagine Bush hemming and hawing and tripping over his words when trying to explain his way out of the dilemma that he, by his own actions, brought on himself. The American people would be able to draw their own conclusions as to whether he is telling the truth about that sorry episode in his past -- and measuring it against Kerry's exemplary service record.
But the American people won't get the opportunity to make that comparison unless we all can convince the mainstream media outlets to investigate, or at least run, the AWOL story, and Paul Lukasiak's research that nails Mr. Bush on this explosive issue.
OUR JOB IS TO GET THE WORD OUT
So here's what I suggest is our job for the next several weeks. Each of us needs to:
* Write a letter-to-the-editor of our local newspaper, urging coverage of the updated revelations about Bush's not completing his required military service during the Vietnam War. (They are devoting so much time and energy running the GOP-financed Smear Boat accusations against Kerry, they could at least balance things out by focusing on Bush's AWOL problem.)
* Write letters to the editors of the major mainstream newspapers and TV networks -- New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, 60 Minutes, et al. -- urging them to pick up the ball on this AWOL issue, citing Paul Lukasiak's new research and conclusions.
* Contact progressive organizations such as MoveOn.org and demand that they make this a priority issue. MoveOn, for example, if they chose to do so, could contact their two million email members and urge them to start pressuring the media outlets to cover this story, or could take out large ads bringing the issue to the forefront of the election campaign. (Just recently, MoveOn did an online voter-registration pitch, and raised more than a million dollars in one day.)
* Contact your elected representatives and demand a full-scale investigation into the AWOL coverup. Official military records were fiddled with and/or destroyed, and someone must be held accountable.
* Contact bloggers and progressive website editors and urge them to jump on the story and urge their readers to contact CNN and MSNBC and the major newspapers and networks; if the bloggers and progressive website would do so, it would help build the public pressure on maintream networks and newspapers to pick up the story.
* Contact the KerryEdwards campaign and urge them to step out even more on the AWOL issue. They've successfully made the case that Kerry served our country honorably -- even volunteering to do so -- and now they need to pound home the contrast between Kerry and George W. Bush on this issue.
NO CASH, JUST COMMITMENT
No money is being asked for here. You don't need to write a check to anybody in order to move this AWOL issue forward. All you need to do -- and it may well affect the outcome of this election, and thus the future of our country for the next decade -- is to devote an hour or so of your time, and some 37-cent stamps, in the service of your country.
Will you join Paul Lukasiak, Joseph Nobels and others of us publicizing this AWOL issue for the internet and small liberal magazines to help take our country back from the extremist, incompetent, greedy Bush&Co. group? This is the Adminstration that is endangering our national interests and helping create more terrorists rather than fewer, spending us into huge deficits and thus robbing our social programs and states and counties (and our children!) of much-needed funds, shredding our Constitutional guarantees and civil liberties, creating a Big Brother-style government, ruining our environment and air and water, and on and on.
Rather than only donating money and hoping and waiting for political candidates and activist groups to do it, let's start the ball rolling ouselves, in our own small ways adding to the momentum that will help restore our government to a more sane, middle course where we all will benefit. We can do it.
We CAN do it.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught American government at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). He's a contributing author to "Big Bush Lies," available though bookstores and Amazon.com .