A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
May 24, 2002
I have been connecting some dots myself recently. But they're different. No missed FBI memos, no CIA briefings to George, giving the who and what of the attack to come, no urgent warnings from the governments of Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco . . .
Instead I've been wondering how it is possible that Bush was on vacation for a month on his ranch doing almost nothing in the face of a very real threat to the nation's air travelers. I thought of Bush's past. As many people who read BuzzFlash probably know, George W. Bush dodged his responsibilities in the Air National Guard by failing to show up for a year and a half of his commitment during the time of the Vietnam war. (www.awolbush.com)
I went to an Air National Guard web page, and learned two things: the ANG shoulders 100% of the responsibility for patrolling and defending the airspace over the continental United States, and, given the state and federal roles of the ANG, the president of the United States, as commander-in-chief, has ultimate authority over every fighter wing and squadron.
Now one of the roles of the Air National Guard is to respond to intruders and errant civilian flights by putting up a fighter or two, such as in the case of the private jet that not so long ago flew halfway across the country with an unconscious crew (I have read that ANG had an escort on that plane within ten minutes after a problem was detected). Therefore, scrambling jets in the case of a hijacking would be one of their missions. Nevertheless, getting the alert that a hijacking is in progress and getting a plane up does take time. If, however, one knew in advance that hijackings were a very real possibility (and the August 6th warning had some real meat to it if in made it into the CIA's daily presidential briefing which presumably filters out unsupported threats), a prudent and obvious thing to do would be to put the Air National Guard on high alert to any commercial flights that might stray off course. Had this been done, the al-Qaeda pilots might not have had a clear run at their objectives and the outcome of 9/11 might have turned out quite differently for those on the ground. One cannot argue otherwise.
The supreme and sad irony of the recent revelations that Bush was warned is that he is the one commander-in-chief who should have been most familiar with the capabilities and responsibilities of the Air National Guard. Presumably, before Bush was grounded for failing to take his military physical, he had flown mock intercepts as part of his training. Yet, given this warning while vacationing at his ranch, he did nothing. Even after the attacks began, he did nothing. He was too busy reading the Hungry Caterpillar. He spent the rest of that horrible day worrying about saving his own hide, "getting out of harms way." In effect, George W. Bush, as president, dodged his responsibilities and went AWOL from the Air National Guard a second time!
In the first instance, while he was Governor, he had his aide Dan Bartlett (who will soon be the director of communications at the White House) scrub his files at the Texas Air National Guard and had Karen Hughes ghostwrite a biography laughably entitled "A Charge to Keep" in order to cover up his scandalous service record. More recently he had his staff lie and tell the American people that they had no prior warnings of the attacks.
The last dot that needs to be connected here is the role of our national media in this chain of events. How might things have been different if they had done their job and reported on Bush's lifelong penchant for avoiding responsibility? (The Boston Globe was the only major media outlet to investigate it, while my own hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, declined to run a story on Bush desertion of his ANG duties during the Vietnam War despite, as one of the editors admitted to me, they were aware of "a gap" in his service record.)
I would argue that had the mainstream media done its job, the American public would have been even less enthusiastic about voting for Bush than they were, remembering that he fell a half million votes behind Gore and had to steal Florida. Had they accurately reported on Bush's record as a man, the voters would have been able to draw their own conclusions about his character. They would have known he was the type of man who habitually walks away from his duties and then lies about it. I suspect more than a few of the center to right-leaning voters in many other states would have withheld their support. We would now have a more engaged president who, at the very least, knew something about the domestic threats posed by terrorists prior to 9-11 and took them seriously.
For sometime I have been angry with our press for failing to report on Bush's first AWOL. Not because I wanted them to destroy George W. Bush, but for the simple fact that I believe the American people, for their own good, should know who they are getting when they vote. Now, it is painfully clear why this should be so.
As many have noted before, the fortunes of our nation are utterly dependent on the health of our free and independent press. Never has this been more apparent.
I'll end with a quote from a Republican who I have always admired. As Bill Press noted a recent column, Theodore Roosevelt said it best: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
A BuzzFlash Reader
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