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February 09, 2004

HONORABLE DISCHARGE....George Bush says that all the fuss over his National Guard records is ridiculous. After all, he got an honorable discharge and that means he must have showed up for all his drills and fulfilled all his obligations.

Is this true? Richard Cohen joined the National Guard to avoid the Vietnam draft and he's not buying:

I did my basic and advanced training (combat engineer) and returned to my unit. I was supposed to attend weekly drills and summer camp, but I found them inconvenient. I "moved" to California and then "moved" back to New York, establishing a confusing paper trail that led, really, nowhere. For two years or so, I played a perfectly legal form of hooky. To show you what a mess the Guard was at the time, I even got paid for all the meetings I missed.

In the end, I wound up in the Army Reserve. I was assigned to units for which I had no training -- tank repairman, for instance. In some units, we sat around with nothing to do and in one we took turns delivering antiwar lectures. The National Guard and the Reserves were something of a joke. Everyone knew it. Books have been written about it. Maybe things changed dramatically by 1972, two years after I got my discharge, but I kind of doubt it.

Read the whole column.

Posted by Kevin Drum at February 9, 2004 10:38 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Don't have the link but the Wash Post (Dana Millbank) just did a story on how the DoD is getting Bush's records from Colorado. Apparently they are stored on microfiche? If Cohen got paid without showing, did Bush get paid without showing, and what would the DoD be doing getting these records? Did someone ask them to do this? Why?

Posted by: Boggs at February 9, 2004 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26843-2004Feb9.html

I'm sorry for being tinyurl illiterate, but that is the address

Posted by: Boggs at February 9, 2004 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

He doesn't say, but I wonder if Cohen got bounced into the Army Reserve for not showing up at his weekly drills.

Posted by: Steve Smith at February 9, 2004 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

This method of getting lost in the paperwork sounds exactly like Bush's move to Alabama and then back to Texas.

Posted by: boloboffin at February 9, 2004 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

It looks like Cohen blasts your whacked theories about ARF right out of the water. Whether he was in a Reserve force or Guard, Bush was serving as he said he was. The documents you've posted prove it.

The George Magazine piece was right all along... Bush wasn't AWOL, but he was hardly heroic either.

What a waste of freakin' time.

While I don't agree with your opinions on Iraq and the economy, at least they're issues that are actually relevant to the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Posted by: Right-Wing Vegetarian at February 9, 2004 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

We'll put another shiitake mushroom on the barbie for you, mate.

Posted by: bad Jim at February 9, 2004 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Cohen is overreaching a bit there. A combat engineering role can hardly be compared to flying combat aircraft. The Guard surely took a whole lot more care over pilots.

Posted by: am at February 10, 2004 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

If Bush is any example, the Guard didn't take much more care over pilots. Perhaps they were intent on weeding out the bad ones.

Posted by: bad Jim at February 10, 2004 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Cohen just moved up in my book for telling the truth. If you happen to read this, thank you Sir.

I'd like to suggest that the readers here write an e-mail to the White House and CC various news outlets. We have to make it unpalatable for them to gloss over this like they did in 2000.

This is going to be a year of reckoning for the GOP.

Posted by: Tim B. at February 10, 2004 03:27 AM | PERMALINK

I think that what happens if Dems really push this is that Bush releases some records and it's more of the same inconclusive stuff you have now. I've read where guys were in the reserves and got paid even though they didn't show up. So, you guys are going to hee and haw until he releases, but then you're going to look like an idiot because his records show he was paid.

I would not want to play poker with George Bush. I think he'd be good at getting you to throw all in on a losing hand.

Posted by: Chad Peterson at February 10, 2004 06:04 AM | PERMALINK

Chad,

I think that could be true. I'd advise the dems, including myself, to shift the issue from "AWOL" to "Cowardly, drug addicted, liar" and leave it at that. THen when they produce whatever records they produce we can say, in the immortal words of GW "what's the difference?" and keep right on slanging him. I recommend the same strategy for dealing with the inevitable "we caught osama bin laden's toe nail". The dems should start campaigning on "after osama is captured, then what?" so that the october surprsie will be no surprise at all.

aimai

Posted by: aimai at February 10, 2004 06:41 AM | PERMALINK

So what? I've been reading, and posting in some places, link after link to anecdotal evidence from former guardsmen/reservists that closely mirror and/or corraborate the experience of Bush and even Mr. Cohen here.

To what point? If anything, this all says more about the NG/Reserves than it does about any single serviceman.

Posted by: Paul in AZ at February 10, 2004 07:55 AM | PERMALINK

In 1991, a former friend of mine refused to report for duty to go to Saudi Arabia with his National Guard unit, saying that he had joined the Guard to get tuition money for college, not to go fight for Exxon in Kuwait. The official term, I believe, is "mutiny".

What was his punishment? Well, after he got arrested by the MP's at his mother's house and frog-marched to barracks at Fort Polk for a couple of weeks, he was sent back home -- honorably discharged for "medical reasons".

There was nothing honorable involved, just ass-covering by his commander. No commander would want to admit that he was such a poor commander that a mutinous soldier could be under his command for years without being weeded out or properly motivated, and same deal goes with a commander whose airman was missing for months without being noticed. This shows just how bogus the "Bush got an honorable discharge so he must have served with honor" meme is. If a tank mechanic (a very high-demand specialty) can mutiny and get an honorable discharge, the much lesser charge of AWOL is unlikely to get anything tougher, even for a fighter jock -- whose intercepter was being phased out of service, remember?

Posted by: BadTux at February 10, 2004 08:37 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Paul: I agree, in isolation Bush's conduct regarding his ANG commitment is nothing unusual for the era. Frankly, in 2000 I dismissed it entirely as a reason to vote against Bush, because pretty much everybody in that era was doing anything they could do to get out of being drafted into the Army and going to 'Nam, and as far as we know Bush didn't ask for special treatment -- people gave him special treatment unasked because his father was rich and powerful, but that's hardly Bush's fault.

The problem is twofold -- Bush continues to lie about his service (or lack thereof), which implies that there's something even more worrisome being covered up (like crashing a fighter jet while drunk? That was one rumor going around Texas back in '98... but why would he want to cover that up, given that we all know he was a drunk back then and nobody really cares?!). Secondly, it's minorly important as an indicator that Bush's current dishonorable conduct of lying our nation into an unnecessary war in Iraq that is destroying the U.S. Army (2/3rds of our combat soldiers are in Iraq, as is every stitch of equipment in the Asian theater other than two combat brigades' worth in South Korea) reflects upon his basic character. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in 2000 when he said he'd changed, and dismissed the AWOL charges then as meaningless. But today... uh uh.

Posted by: BadTux at February 10, 2004 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

Paul in AZ: "To what point? If anything, this all says more about the NG/Reserves than it does about any single serviceman."

Sure. But here's the difference: why doesn't George W. Bush explain the situation as thoroughly as Cohen does, even if the facts are as unflattering as in Cohen's case?

Given the immense pressure being placed on today's National Guard, it seems only fair to use his personal experience to talk about reforming the system.

Posted by: Grumpy at February 10, 2004 08:57 AM | PERMALINK

I inadvertantly slipped out of my Army Reserve obligation in a way similar to Cohen's. In 1962 I moved (really) to NYC from Los Angeles and duly reported my move to the California unit where I'd been assigned and had been attending drills. A month or so later I received notice of my reassignment to a unit in New Jersey. Nothing was said about drill attendance and that was the only communication I received from the New Jersey unit. A couple of months later I returned to California and duly notified the New Jersey unit. There was no reply and I never heard from the Army Reserve again.
Of course this was a decade before Bush's enlistment and Vietnam had occurred since. But no one should be surprised that the USAR was unable or uninterested in keeping up with the travels of one of its members. A standard slogan of peacetime soldiers in those days was: "The Army: conceived by geniuses and run by idiots!"

Posted by: fyreflye at February 10, 2004 09:01 AM | PERMALINK

Cohen's experience is certainly a contrast to Bush's, given that Bush not only showed up, he flew dangerous aircraft and easily exceeded his required service time for the 3-4 years up until the point where they were phasing out his aircraft. Everyone I've read who was in the Guard in those days seems to tell stories that amount to it being bloated, disorganized and demoralized. If it turns out that Bush was short a drill here or there, it really doesn't reflect all that badly on him; while you can't put his service record in the same frame as people like McCain, Kerry, Clark, Dole, etc., he clearly did a good deal more than the bare minimum once he was in the Guard, and by 1972 his skills were obsolete and his presence in the Guard a mere formality.

Posted by: Crank at February 10, 2004 09:26 AM | PERMALINK

And Richard Cohen's Guard experience ties into George Bush's Guard experience -- how?

Posted by: Tongue Boy at February 10, 2004 09:30 AM | PERMALINK

So Cohen's a deserter too? Why does the WaPo employ a deserter? He should be strung up!

Posted by: Al at February 10, 2004 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Al, is that you agreeing that Bush is a deserter and advocating that he should be "strung up"?

Posted by: Jesurgislac at February 10, 2004 02:27 PM | PERMALINK

Having served as a lieutenant in Vietnam, I found it difficult even to serve in the Reserves because they, like the National Guard, were full of men whose father's were influential enough to get them into the reserves.

I guess there's nothing wrong with dodging the draft, though it does explain why my platoon was made up of one white sergeant and a number of blacks and Mexican-Americans, doesn't it?

Dodging combat, though, hardly puts you on the moral high ground when it comes to sending our troops to war where you've manufactured the causes of war.

What is this, "Do as I say, not as I did?" Is that all that we ask of our leaders?

Posted by: Loren at February 10, 2004 05:03 PM | PERMALINK

All of you who make such disrespectful remarks about a sitting president who has tried his very best to keep us safe are nothing but ant-American losers.

Posted by: melanee moon at February 13, 2004 08:50 AM | PERMALINK

um that's anti-American, BTW

Posted by: melanee moon at February 13, 2004 08:51 AM | PERMALINK

melanee,
those who call a sitting president a lier (which he is), or a chickenhawk (which he is too), are not anti-american
to think that a sitting president must be obeyed, believed, followed, and respected by the people without questioning his (or hopefully one day "her") honesty, his/her reasons and his/her true motives is to make the case for the demise of democracy and america alltogether.
if the future of americanism is held by those who share your point of view, that future will lead to less freedom, less democracy, and it will look more and more like the dictatorships and absolut monarquies that your ancerstors fled one day when they set sail for america.

think about it.

m

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