August 20, 2004
As the Bush GOP Swift Liars Continue Their Campaign of Character Assassination, BuzzFlash Interviews the Author of "Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans, and His Past"
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Ian Williams wrote the just-released "Deserter: George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past" for Nation Books, the publishing arm of the venerable Nation Magazine. And what could be more timely, as George W. Bush lets loose the Bush GOP Swift Boat Liars to impugn the integrity of war hero John Kerry?
Of course, the Bush GOP Swift Boat Liars are, like the Bush administration itself, highly suspect partisans. On August 19th, the Washington Post revealed that the citation on the Bronze Star received by one of Kerry's accusers contradicts a primary charge by the Swift Boar Liar, that Kerry's boat never came under fire:
Like Bush, the Swift Boat Liars lie with such impunity, their own medal citations out them as prevaricators. (Of course, Bush doesn't have any medals to prove him a liar, because he was too busy being AWOL in the non-combat zone of Texas to earn a medal.)
Which brings us back to "Deserter: George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past."
Is the American population the victim of mass hysteria when all semblence of common sense vanishes in nearly half of its citizens?
It would certainly appear so after reading "Deserter." Bush, as any BuzzFlash reader knows, evaded service in Vietnam by using family connections to leapfrog over a waiting list to get into the Texas Air National Guard. Then, among other improprieties, he didn't show up for his annual physical one year and was permanently grounded, thus wasting millions of taxpayer dollars spent on his training. Of course, then there's the AWOL thing, which was long enough to be considered desertion if....well, if his name were Juan Gonzalez instead of Bush!
Oh boy, but don't get the author of "Deserter" going! The above paragraph is just for starters in making the case that Bush is a military fraud, a rich kid popinjay who showed his support for the Vietnam War by making sure that he didn't get any closer to risking his life than a swimming pool in Corpus Christi.
We interviewed author Ian Williams to find out why the Swift Boar Liars are a calculated distraction from the real story of AWOL/Deserter Bush.
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BuzzFlash: You make quite a dramatic statement in calling your book, "Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Past." Some GOP stalwarts would say that it's blasphemy to call Bush a deserter. What's your reaction to that criticism?
Ian Williams: Well, since they seem to think he is so close to God, no wonder that they think itís blasphemy! Sadly, so much of his support is fundamentalist: no amount of evidence will ever convince them that he is less than perfect. But what is really frightening is the general obsequiousness of the American media, who, even if they may not think itís blasphemy, do think it is a form of lèse-majesté [a crime against the sovereign] to question this President with any degree of thoroughness.
Itís puzzling really, since it was OK to ask Clinton about semen stains, but somehow impolite to ask George W. Bush why he canít remember with any degree of precision what he was doing from May 1972-1973.
BuzzFlash: Let's get to a recent issue germane to your book. Bush was asked to repudiate the slimy, gutter attacks of the surrogate "Swift Boaters" on John Kerry's service record in Vietnam. But Bush refused to call off the dogs. Are you a bit astonished that a rich kid who chose to avoid service in Vietnam, while supporting the war, is letting low-lives loose to slander a Vietnam combat veteran honored with three medals?
Ian Williams: Well, Senator Joe McCarthyís career was brought to a halt because someone asked him "have you no shame?" The question would not work with Bush, Karl Rove and the rest of the team. They clearly have no shame whatsoever. My first reaction was that the "Swift Boat Veterans for Recovered Memory Syndrome" were at least testifying that Kerry was in Vietnam. No one can produce a veteran who saw Bush there. Indeed no one can produce a veteran who saw Bush on a military base in Alabama during the year he was missing either! But they are getting away with it!
BuzzFlash: Speaking of service in Vietnam. Various Bush defenders, including the chairman of the GOP, have indignantly asserted that Bush volunteered to go to Vietnam if his unit was called, but your book indicates that he indicated to the Guard that he did not want to serve overseas -- and that he admitted as much to Tim Russert. Tell us more about this discrepancy.
Ian Williams: He has wriggled and squirmed on this one. He ticked a box on entering the service to say "no" to Overseas Service. He has admitted on occasion that he joined the Guard precisely to avoid going to Vietnam. At one point they tried to spin it that he had tried to join a program, Palace Alert, that took the Air National Guard to Vietnam. But that program ended a week after he finished flight school. More honestly, while memories were fresh, in 1994 he told the Houston Chronicle, "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes." In fact, the Air National Guard unit he joined was known as Air Canada Ė because it was as good as a flight north of border, but with none of the political or meteorological drawbacks. And he most recently agreed with Tim Russert that he had not volunteered.
BuzzFlash: One of the under-discussed blemishes on Bush's Guard record is that after millions of dollars of taxpayer money were spent training him to fly, he one day didn't show up for his annual physical, which required a drug test, and he was grounded from thereon, wasting our money. Is this true?
Ian Williams: Indeed, it is. It was during the twelve months that he cannot explain what he was doing with the Guard. It was the equivalent of letting off that shotgun next to his ear. No one, least of all the Bush campaign has explained why he did not turn up. There should have been a Board of Inquiry, since after several years of highly expensive training he grounded himself. Once again the excuses tumble out. He would have had to go to Texas for the exam. Not true. His plane was being phased out, so he felt he did not need to take the examination: just imagine an officer in Iraq now deciding that the occupation is being phased out, so he neednít return from leave!
It leaves it open to speculation. The test should have included drug use. And he has only denied using narcotics after 1974. His plane was nuclear capable, so there was an additional Human Reliability Program, to ensure that pilots did not fly nukes with impaired cognition from substance abuse.
BuzzFlash: As far as the AWOL period, when did this occur? Also, can you explain the charges, first made by the late Jim Hatfield -- and then most recently pursued by Helen Thomas -- that Bush was performing community service for a drug conviction during the AWOL period.
Ian Williams: In May 1972, he went to Alabama to work on a Republican campaign. At first, his Texas buddies tried to get him a no-show sinecure at a postal unit there, but because it was in another state, it became a Federal case, and he was ordered to turn up at an actual air base, Dannelly in Alabama. No one remembers him showing up. The records for that year that have just been rediscovered show a few non-active duty drills, but no details of what, where or with whom. In fact, it has been suggested that this was defrauding the taxpayers!
BuzzFlash: The Q and A from February of this year, between the intrepid Helen Thomas and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan (that you include in the appendix) certainly leaves the reader believing that the community service issue is something that the Bush protectors are mighty scared of addressing. Although no one can prove it, you argue that it is certainly a believable possibility. Why haven't reporters scoured this theory with more vigor?
Ian Williams: The failure to answer, or even acknowledge, Helen Thomasí questions should have alerted the press that this was a big story. It should have been headlines. But it was hardly reported at all. But as we mentioned, the general obsequiousness of the media is part of the reason. Access in return for compliance is the rule Ė- which is why Helen isnít getting much access lately!
But in fairness this story has been partially worked over in so many forms that editors probably think itís like archeology on a site that has been looted by tomb robbers. In fact, there is an amazing amount on the public record. What editors have been too polite to do is to assemble all the different angles. Then it becomes clear that there is a huge hole in the middle of his National Guard record. Bush never had a charitable deed on his preppy resume and suddenly, after being missing for most of a year, and while he is supposed to be doing his Guard service, here he is working with inner city kids in Houston.
BuzzFlash: Could Bush have gotten into the Texas Air National Guard, just days before he was due for a visit to the induction center, if his name had been Juan Gonzalez?
Ian Williams: Well yes, if Juan Gonzales was a quarterback in the Houston Oilers -Ė seven of them were in the same unit. But George W. Bush jumped a line of 500 applicants to get accepted on the same day he applied. And nationally there were over a 100,000 waiting to get in Ė- in fact Bill Clinton says he would have considered it, but he did not have the clout. But he disagreed with the war, unlike Bush, and indeed Dan Quayle, who both had the clout to get into the Guard Ė- and the chutzpah to support the war they were dodging.
BuzzFlash: You go beyond Bush's checkered National Guard service -- or non-service -- into showing how Bush betrays the GIs who serve our nation, while using the military as props for his political career. How has he betrayed the military?
Ian Williams: How shall we count the ways? Letís begin with a thousand dead soldiers and ten or twenty times that many dead Iraqis. This was a war of his contriving for reasons that I do not think anyone has adequately explained Ė certainly he never has. Even assuming that it was justified (and after all Saddam Hussein was an evil guy, even when Bush Senior and Reagan were supporting him) then what type of civilian "commander in chief" overrules his professional diplomats and his generals to produce such a level of incompetence as we saw? There were not enough US troops; allies were alienated from joining in. All of this was predictable, and predicted, by the military, by the State Department and our allies. And he would not listen. Not only did he try to camouflage the returning dead, as far as I know, he has not attended one funeral for any of the casualties.
And then while he prates about his support for our military and veterans, he has been cutting back in VA hospitals, base schools, and tried to stop increases in the grants for families of the dead, while holding down military pay for the living. If any of the military believe he supports them, let just hope they donít get jobs in intelligence!
BuzzFlash: How has the White House been so successful in throwing up enough flack to keep pushing Bush's highly questionable record as a Chickenhawk off the front pages, whenever periodic questions emerge?
Ian Williams: I have to say that they really do run a smart media operation. Mean, unscrupulous, and effective. When you read the exchanges with the media, with the honorable exceptions like Helen Thomas, it is amazing how they can be fobbed off with evasions and half answers. There is very rarely any follow-up questioning, and even when a story falls apart, the press are, understandably, a bit reluctant to detail how they were played for suckers.
BuzzFlash: What was that strange incident a few weeks back when the Pentagon announced on a Friday that records for the time period Bush was allegedly AWOL were lost. Previously, they had claimed that they were at a warehouse somewhere out West. Which brings up the question of whether or not the White House has followed through on its promise to release Bush's complete Guard Records? Have they?
Ian Williams: Well, maybe they have released all the records that have survived [or maybe not]. But why not produce W2 forms for his pay from the period? Where are the crucial medical records? What do they say? I think I remember detailed exegesis of Reaganís polyps up his intestines. What did they discover up Bushís nose thatís private, one cannot help wondering?
BuzzFlash: Is Bush just a great military poseur, a walking, talking GI Joe Doll who is all talk and no cattle when it comes to guts and courage?
Ian Williams: He just loves to dress up. He has appeared in uniform more often than anyone but Fidel Castro since September 11, since about one-third of his policy speeches were in front of military or veteran audiences, and he often dons some item of military gear, usually with "Commander in Chief" emblazoned on it. In fact, the only time he ever engaged in combat as far as we know was during that missing year. He drove to his fatherís Washington home drunk and dared him to take it to the street when he was reprimanded. Indeed, it has been suggested that this was incident that may have led to the Community Service order that has been suspected.
BuzzFlash: Finally, we have a GOP ticket of two guys who intentionally avoided service in Vietnam (Cheney got four or five deferrals and never served) ganging up on a guy who volunteered to do his duty. Why would anyone in the military support these phonies?
Ian Williams: The two guys on the ticket have no shame. No one would have a problem with them not serving if it werenít that they had actively supported the war they dodged, and if their campaign did not have a sleazy record of attacking the patriotism, not just of Bill Clinton for not going to war, but also for impugning the patriotism of McCain, Kerry, Cleland and others who did go. This is hypocrisy, and I think the prime duty of any journalist is to attack hypocrisy in public figures. Itís what weíre for!
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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