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:
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
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?
I'm sorry for being tinyurl illiterate, but that is the address
He doesn't say, but I wonder if Cohen got bounced into the Army Reserve for not showing up at his weekly drills.
This method of getting lost in the paperwork sounds exactly like Bush's move to Alabama and then back to Texas.
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
We'll put another shiitake mushroom on the barbie for you, mate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
To what point? If anything, this all says more about the NG/Reserves than it does about any single serviceman.
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
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,
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.
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
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!"
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.
And Richard Cohen's Guard experience ties into George Bush's Guard experience -- how?
So Cohen's a deserter too? Why does the WaPo employ a deserter? He should be strung up!
Al, is that you agreeing that Bush is a deserter and advocating that he should be "strung up"?
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
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?
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
um that's anti-American, BTW
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.
You have a pretty nice blog. English is not my native language but it
was please to read your site. From Russia with love :)Sincerely yours..