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Colonel Campenni on Bush's Military Record
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So charges of Bush being "AWOL" and "a deserter" are being trotted out again this election year, once again raising the standard of political speech in American campaigns.

One of the comparisons floating around (heard it on NPR just the morning!) asks why, while John Kerry is mugging it up on stage with his old war buddies, no National Guardsmen that Bush served with have come forward to do photo ops with him.

Well, now one of them has written a letter to the Washington Times (via Instapundit):

The winding down of the Vietnam War in 1971 provided a flood of exiting active-duty pilots for these instructor jobs, making part-timers like Lt. Bush and me somewhat superfluous. There was a huge glut of pilots in the Air Force in 1972, and with no cockpits available to put them in, many were shoved into nonflying desk jobs. Any pilot could have left the Air Force or the Air Guard with ease after 1972 before his commitment was up because there just wasn't room for all of them anymore.


The Bush critics do not comprehend the dangers of fighter aviation at any time or place, in Vietnam or at home, when they say other such pilots were risking their lives or even dying while Lt. Bush was in Texas. Our Texas ANG unit lost several planes right there in Houston during Lt. Bush's tenure, with fatalities. Just strapping on one of those obsolescing F-102s was risking one's life.

Critics such as Mr. Kerry (who served in Vietnam, you know), Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore (neither of whom served anywhere) say Lt. Bush abandoned his assignment as a jet fighter pilot without explanation or authorization and was AWOL from the Alabama Air Guard.

Well, as for abandoning his assignment, this is untrue. Lt. Bush was excused for a period to take employment in Florida for a congressman and later in Alabama for a Senate campaign.

Excusals for employment were common then and are now in the Air Guard, as pilots frequently are in career transitions, and most commanders (as I later was) are flexible in letting their charges take care of career affairs until they return or transfer to another unit near their new employment.

There's quite a bit more. Read the whole thing. And if you're still willing to vilify Bush on his National Guard record, you need to come up with answers to a number Colonel Campenni's points.

Look, I don't think Bush is squeaky clean on this one. I think the Straight Dope does a fairly good job of covering the facts. And Cecil's conclusion?

Indeed, when Bush decided to go to business school at Harvard in the fall of 1973, he requested and got an honorable discharge--eight months before his service was scheduled to end.

Bush's enemies say all this proves he was a cowardly deserter. Nonsense. He was a pampered rich kid who took advantage. Why wasn't he called on it in a serious way during the 2000 election? Probably because Democrats figured they'd get Clinton's draft-dodging thing thrown back at them.

Right. And with Kerry's "chest full of medals", as Terry McAuliffe so tastefully puts it, the Dems, now desperate and emboldened, are whipping out this tired-ass canard.

It makes me weary, it does. Because after all, I'm no big fan of Bush's myself. I think he rose to be an excellent leader during 9/11...surprised the hell out of me. And I think reshaping the Middle East, by force, and trying to bring democracy to that dyfunctional reason may very well be the pipe dream that all the detractors want to say it is--but damned if it isn't preferable to the status quo.

But even though I agree with Bush on foreign policy, there are still a fistful of shitty policies and legitimate criticisms to be made. He's cutting taxes (good), but simultaneously signing every pork-stuffed bill that crosses his desk! He pandered like a lap-dog to the most radically socially-Right in his last State of the Union address, advocating social policy more at home in the 50's than in the new millenium. And don't even get me started again on the Missile Defense program.

That's why the dredging up of this lame-ass, decades-old criticism is so pathetic and depressing. Democrats--listen've got plenty of legitimate ammo. Load up and take your shots.

When Michael Moore (who couldn't even physically haul his ass into a cockpit, let alone fly a jet) starts flinging around accusations of desertion, it only makes your side look like a bunch of whining, empty-headed morons.

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