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Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 
The Paper Trail

“If you can find 'em, their all yours, chump.”


That was pretty much how the President put it the other day, when
he was asked by Tim Russert during his Meet
the Press
interview
as to whether or not there was any
concrete proof to support his National Guard service claims.


Of course Dubya's people
would release the information, if it exists. And of course
anybody can have a look at it, if it's still around. Oh, and of
course
you realize that they released all that stuff back in 2000
— you know, the stuff that doesn't exist.


The Pentagon has finally decided to get to the heart of the matter
themselves. According to today's Washington Post, they're
going to make a game attempt at taking
Bush up on his offer
:


The Defense Department has
requested that President Bush's payroll records from his service in
the National Guard be sent to Washington from a DOD archive in
Colorado, to ascertain whether they can be released to news
organizations and public interest groups that have formally requested
them in recent days, according to DOD officials.


The Bush people intend to have the payroll records into
the memepool
by the end of the day; looks like that “torn
document
” may finally be getting some company, eh?


During the 2000 campaign, you remember, it was that strategically
mangled document which performed quite a bit of heavy lifting for the
salvation of Bush's military reputation. Here it is, almost four
years later, and an uncrippled
version of it
has finally shown up:


President Bush received credit for
attending Air National Guard drills in the fall of 1972 and spring of
1973 -- a period when his commanders have said he did not appear for
duty at bases in Montgomery, Ala., and Houston -- according to two
new documents obtained by the
[Boston] Globe.


The personnel records, covering
Bush's Guard service between May 1972 and May 1973, constitute the
first evidence that Bush appeared for any duty during the first 11
months of that 12-month period. Bush is recorded as having served the
minimum number of days expected of Guard members in that 12 months of
service time.


It turns out a guy named Bob
Fertik
(co-founder of the highly partisan democrats.com
website) had been in possession of the document for years — he
had acquired it as part of a massive FOIA request on Bush back in
2000. The first person to cover this new development was widely-read
blogger CalPundit; his most recent post on the ongoing
developments is here.


Fertik's revelation just takes things
in a curiouser direction. While the untorn document does
confirm the Bush camp's protestations of time made up, it opens up a
whole new can of worms for the President by exposing to the world how
he made it up.


This was apparently done at
neither of the Guard units that he claims (Alabama or Texas); rather,
it was with a problematic unit of the Reserves known as the “ARF.”
Here, once again, is CalPundit's
take on what that means
:


ARF is a “paper unit”
based in Denver that requires no drills and no attendance. For active
guard members it is disciplinary because ARF members can
theoretically be called up for active duty in the regular military,
although this obviously never happened to George Bush.


To make a long story short, Bush
apparently blew off drills beginning in May 1972, failed to show up
for his physical, and was then grounded and transferred to ARF as a
disciplinary measure. He didn't return to his original Texas Guard
unit and cram in 36 days of active duty in 1973 — as Time
magazine and others continue to assert based on a mistaken
interpretation of Bush's 1973-74 ARF record — but rather
accumulated only ARF points during that period. In fact, it's unclear
even what the points on the ARF record are for, but what is clear is
that Bush's official records from Texas show no actual duty after May
1972 ...


As this oft-referenced
document
points out, Lt. George W. Bush was finally suspended
from flying status on September 29, 1972, for failing to show up for
his required physical examination. The now-confirmed “torn
document” shows him accumulating ARF points exactly one month
later.


So, here's the short version of the
story so far: Dubya, after putting in years of training and service
with the Texas National Guard, suddenly disappears in May, 1972. On
paper, he spends the next five months or so in some grey area between
the Alabama and Texas National Guards. In reality, however, no one
can actually remember seeing him in any of these units during the
time in question. When he finally does get drummed out of bed to show
up for duty, it's with some “Sweathog”-esque disciplinary
wing of the military.


This does mean that Bush, as he once
put it, “fulfilled” his “obligation” —
technically. But while technically true, the record bears not
even a passing resemblance to the Heroic Knight of the Air career he
and his sycophants love to trumpet.


Most critically, it does nothing at all to document the six-month
void in his life from May to September 1972. Odds are, this is an
intentional
omission
, and we may never be allowed to nail down exactly what
that extremely
sensitive
period of his life was all about. It's doubtful the
upcoming release of his pay stubs will help much, either.



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