Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Bush and AWOL
Friday, October 13, 2000

(Note: This Vox Populi refers to Mr. Berg-Andersson's 12 October 2000 Commentary LET THE NASTINESS BEGIN! As Bush and Gore Debate like Perfect Gentlemen, the Political Worms crawl out from under the Rocks - Ed.)

Dear Mr. Berg-Andersson:

I read your commentary regarding the Bush AWOL story as gathered by Martin Heldt.

Quite frankly, your commentary was about as garbled as any George W. Bush response to a simple question, but beyond that perhaps it would interest you to know that this story first broke on May 23 of this year, in a story authored by Walter V. Robinson of the Boston Globe.

The story brought forth some very simple, thus far UNDISPUTED facts:

1) During a period between May 1972 and May 1973, George W. Bush's whereabouts are unaccounted for.

2) FOUR officers in both the Texas Air National Guard and the Alabama National Guard have stated for the record that they do not remember George Bush reporting for duty.

3) Records in TANG indicate that "...[Bush] was not observed" serving duty

during the period he was supposed to be there.

4) Bush failed to complete a required Guard physical, given by the approved physician.

5) The Bush campaign, and Bush himself, have yet to provide ANY satisfactory answers to these charges. Logic dictates that were there a simple, innocent explanation for Bush cutting out of duty for a year, we would have heard it long before now.

6) The Bush campaign has yet to locate records that prove beyond a doubt that Bush WAS serving duty during that missing year--but the military is known for keeping excellent records.

7) The Bush campaign has yet to locate a SINGLE PERSON who can report he or she remembers seeing George W. Bush ACTUALLY SERVING duty in TANG or ANG. The two "witnesses" the Bush camp came up with claim they only heard Bush "talking about serving"--neither were in the Guard with him, never saw him serve, and one was an old girlfriend. In other words, NOT ONE WITNESS who can say s/he SAW Bush serving his duty during that missing year.

There is PLENTY of documentation to support the claim that Bush deserted his military duties for a year. The lack of answers from the Bush camp to this serious charge, backed up with documentary evidence, only underscores the fact that they CAN'T account for the missing year, b/c Bush really was AWOL!

The Boston Globe broke this story, and what little follow-up it received in the corporate owned, mainstream media, came in the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek (Newsweek, incidentally, shaved the missing year down to a missing three months).

It is easy to fall into the trap that thinking because this story is so shocking--a man running for President who could so easily ditch his cushy state-side duties for a year while tens of thousands of American men and women were dying, losing limbs, being tortured in prison camps, etc.--that it is surely not true, the product of conspiratorial minds. But this story is documented, and the ONLY thing wrong with it is that the mainstream press is largely ignoring it.

The only "crap" I see here is yours.

Nicole E. Coelho

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

As a matter of fact, I DID know the story about Bush's AWOL broke back in the late Spring (I remember reading it toward the end of the Primary/Caucus season on the 'Net, so late last May seems to be about right) and you and I have absolutely no disagreement- or, at least SHOULD have no disagreement!- about the importance of the legitimate newsworthiness of that story. As I wrote (and I presume you read, though your very comments suggest that you missed this particular portion of my most recent Commentary even though it was among the earliest paragraphs of my piece), that e-mailed forwarding I received from "Democrats Press" "opens with a reference to media outlets that 'at least around the fringes' have 'finally started covering' the long-standing rumor that Governor George W. Bush of Texas, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, not only allegedly more or less weaseled out of service in Vietnam but also reneged on ANY service to his country after his country taught him how to fly. Fair comment? Yes, so far... as to... Governor Bush (for, if these allegations be true, they are legitimate fodder for the campaign- since the Governor's heavy emphasis on military readiness flies in the face of his own military background: of course, assuming- but only for the sake of this particular argument, that these allegations ARE true)."

It seems that what I wrote and which I have again quoted above was fairly plain English, but- just in case it wasn't- let me repeat so that you fully understand my position on Bush's AWOL as a NEWS story: "legitimate fodder for the campaign- since the Governor's heavy emphasis on military readiness flies in the face of his own military background"... I do not see what could be more clearer than THAT! Certainly I can't see how it's "garbled"- nor can I see how you can call it "crap" (considering that you yourself seem to agree with what I wrote!!).

Furthermore, considering that I DO think the Bush AWOL story is a legitimate news story as well as legitimate fodder for the election campaign, I also don't see how I could have fallen "into the trap that thinking because this story is so shocking--a man running for President who could so easily ditch his cushy state-side duties for a year while tens of thousands of American men and women were dying, losing limbs, being tortured in prison camps, etc.--that it is surely not true, the product of conspiratorial minds" as you so claim to be my mind set.

What I was impugning in my Commentary (a full two-thirds of it, mind you- in which I did not focus AT ALL on Bush's AWOL per se, despite the conclusion to which you apparently came) was the way this legitimate story was then twisted solely for political purposes- without any evidence presented at all to back up the claims which were then made- in the "TomPaine.com" piece that made up the bulk of that "Democrats Press" forwarding- and it was that forwarding which I was so impugning; if "Democrats Press" excerpted a larger piece from "TomPaine.com", thereby leaving out the documentation behind it, they didn't tell its recipients: but- if they didn't tell its recipients- they shouldn't have sent it out in the first place!

If you found my Commentary "garbled", it was only because I was quoting extensively from that "Democrats Press" forwarding (though I have no doubt whatsoever that, had I not so quoted it extensively, someone disagreeing with me as strongly as you would have jumped on me for being "unfair"; I have been doing this political writing long enough to know that one of the requirements of the job is being "damned if you do; damned if you don't"... I hope no one much minds that I don't worry about this particular aspect of the job-- nor take it all that seriously). However, since you- evidently- think that my recitation of this forwarding- as I quoted from it in my Commentary- WAS, in fact, "garbled", I will- for your benefit- excerpt from my response to a "Vox Populi" earlier today to make my point as clear as day:

"The 'TomPaine.com' "Update" I quoted from... had the following (allegedly) logical sequence: a.) '"crucial evidence"' revealing 'the true reason for Bush's suspension... "is missing from the records" '; b.)'in April of 1972, "all the overseas and stateside military services began subjecting a small random sample in their ranks to substance abuse testing for alcohol and drugs" '; c.)' "If Bush reported for his scheduled physical in August 1972, he could have been subject to selection for a random substance abuse test." ' "

Now, here's why I rightfully impugned it (as quoted from my response): "HOWEVER, the author of this thing didn't know what that 'true reason for Bush's suspension' was, anymore than I... do ['Where did this report go?', the author opined. 'Were incriminating documents pulled from his file during his tenure as governor?'- I don't know... however, more important to my point, neither does the author- but did he do anything further to enlighten me before I was sent this drivel?... NO!]; he is correct that- at a certain point in time- random drug testing was instituted by the military and that, had Governor Bush reported for his physical only a few months later [and note that the author doesn't even know THAT!!], he might have been randomly sampled [but, apparently, the author doesn't know whether he- indeed- was or what the results were]. 'crack investigatory work"'? Hardly! Shoddy journalism? DEFINITELY!"

If THAT is your idea of good journalism, that's up to you; it is most assuredly not MY idea of good journalism- and I sincerely doubt it is the idea many people have in their minds when they hear the phrase "good journalism". But here is the nub of my complaint- again, from my response to that earlier "Vox Populi": "So, why did "Democrats Press" (which, I assume- though I don't know for sure- supports DEMOCRATS!) forward this information on... in the form in which it was presented. To reverse a possibly bad policy which sends mostly African-American young men to hard time down in Texas? NO! Rather it was sent out merely to attempt the undermining of the efforts of Governor Bush to win the election without regard to the issue of Drug Policy in Texas (or, for that matter, Bush's Military Record in relation to his own proposed military policies nationally- for, despite the headline to the 'Update', this was not a Military Record story in the least, it was a DRUG story from the get-go! ... that is, even the 'Update''s headline was a product of journalistic fraud!!)"

I then went on in my response: "Political writer E.J. Dionne calls this type of politicking 'the Politics of Moral Annihilation'- in which the goal is not merely to win an election, but to destroy one's opponent utterly. It is this very 'Politics of Moral Annihilation' which poisons political discourse, alienates the average voter and actually plays into the hands of the professional politician; always remember the adage that, in Electoral Politics, 'Low Turnout is the Politician's Best Friend'. The type of 'pushing the story' of which I wrote is just one tool of such 'Politics of Moral Annihilation' (which is precisely why I used it to illustrate the technique in my most recent Commentary); but, as (alleged) Journalism, it is both reprehensible and unacceptable within the confines of political discourse in a Free Society and, once again, illustrates why a site like 'The Green Papers' is so sorely needed to counteract those of you out there who practice it and, thereby, stray so widely from the fair and critical search for Truth that Journalism is supposed to be."

If one wants to have election campaigns that, in the main, focus primarily on the issues rather than mud-slinging, this kind of stuff- which I outlined in the quotes above from my own response to the earlier "Vox Populi"- MUST be scored... and scored but good [!], regardless of WHO it is written about. If the people at "Democrats Press" want to have this stuff distributed (and I don't even have the slightest idea of whether or not "TomPaine.com" was even aware that "Democrats Press" had so forwarded it onto others), they should clearly and fairly document their claims before they do so. To do otherwise is irresponsible and that was, despite your own focusing on the Bush AWOL piece, the main thrust of my Commentary (that and my contention that, if the Democrats now stray from being "on message" by focusing too much on "attack ads", Al Gore risks blowing this Election over the next 3 1/2 weeks).

No- my piece wasn't "garbled"; I know this because the e-mails I have been receiving about my Commentary so far are running more than 4-to-1 in favor of people who understood, unlike yourself, that I was focusing on the issue of Bush's alleged drug abuse (and how it was used politically in the "Democrats Press" forwarding) NOT the Bush military record per se. And- no- attacking shoddy politically-driven journalism is not "crap", either... and I will not shy away from doing so in future should I receive any more examples (as I fully expect I will).

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