Bush's 'Summer Patriot' Reserve Duty 

The bottom line is that Kerry was a hero while Dubya was AWOL

Oh Camil, tell me how do you feel? / You fought for your country / for God and for war, / now your heart tells you that can't be real.

-- Graham Nash, "Oh! Camil (Winter Soldier)," 1974

There's a murderer sitting on Georgia's death row who in a rather eloquent way demonstrates that George Bush is a liar, not that the matter is much in dispute.

This prisoner was, prior to his incarceration, an officer in the Army Reserve. Jail didn't deter his military career. While killing time awaiting execution, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain. He got credit for his Reserve service, and he received an honorable discharge. All while sitting in a cell.

His lawyers at the Georgia Resource Center, which represents indigent condemned prisoners, asked me not to use his name. They fear retaliation from the state's Republican administration.

But the con's example exposes as more mendacity the Bushies' "proof" -- mainly some barely legible pay stubs -- that their man didn't desert the Air National Guard. Their evidence is so marinated in spin and deception, it has done nothing but justifiably deepen Americans' suspicion about Bush.

Guard and Reserve records are notoriously sloppy. If a killer can get credit for Reserve service while in jail, a privileged and insouciant playboy can certainly be a no-show at drills and still collect pay. (That would, of course, put Bush among one of the Republicans' favorite hate targets, welfare cheats, who suck up tax dollars based on fraudulent claims.)

Beyond that, it's been clear for years (not that most of the mainstream press was anxious to report it) that Bush used his family's influence to dodge going to Vietnam. This wasn't a principled dissent against the war. I respect those who protested against the war, many of whom obeyed their conscience and refused to serve. I honor those who did don a uniform, and then, in the highest tradition of patriotism, courageously took a stand against that illegal, immoral and fraudulent conflict.

Bush? Nope, no conscience and no principles. He epitomized the "Summer Patriot" -- those, who as Tom Paine pointed out, weren't to be found when the going got tough. Bush has said he supported the war. He was just too busying partying to go to Vietnam. For him, it was just fine that the poor, blacks and Chicanos died in the rice paddies. He had beer bashes to attend.

Sort of like today in Iraq. Only one member of Congress has a child in the armed forces. No sons or daughters of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz or the rest of the neo-conservative cabal are in uniform and risking their lives in Bush's quagmire. Ditto with the scions of the execs running Halliburton, Bechtel and other war profiteers.

So you tell me your story from beginning to end / all the blood and the guts and the gore / will you tell all the people / 'bout the people you killed, / not for God, but for country and war?

-- "Oh! Camil"

In recent days, the Republican Party and its barking attack dogs on Fox News and talk radio have been in a panic trying to beat back accusations that in the early 1970s, the then party-hearty Bush went AWOL from his Texas Air National Guard commitment.

By comparison, Bush's likely opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, won a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam (see story, page 31). And one of Kerry's frequent campaign sidekicks is Georgia's ex-senator, Max Cleland, also a decorated hero and a triple amputee from a grenade blast in Vietnam.

The Bush camp, which for years has refused to fully disclose his military records (obviously for good reasons), was cornered and began disgorging documents that purportedly attested Bush had attended Reserve drills.

As Bush said in his recent, pathetic appearance on "Meet the Press," he must have attended drills, "otherwise I wouldn't have been honorably discharged."

Not quite.

Bush trained as a fighter pilot, but intentionally grounded himself by missing a flight physical -- removing any possibility that he would face a dangerous assignment. Almost no one remembers Bush showing up for duty in Alabama, where he moved from Texas in 1972 to work on a political campaign. The only guardsman who claims he did see Bush at Alabama drills recalls him there at times before he had transferred to the state. Oops.

Pay stubs show he did not drill for six months between April and October 1972. He did not have permission to skip Reserve duty; thus, he was AWOL. (Military lawyers I've talked to say few reservists were thrown in the brig for missing meetings -- but a common penalty was to send them to active duty. Not if your daddy was a congressman, it seems.)



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