Dear Mr. Bush,
Thank you for providing the illegible Xeroxed partial payroll sheets (or whatever they were) yesterday covering a few of your days in the National Guard. Now we know that, not only didn't you complete your tour of duty, you were actually paid for work you never did. Did you cash those checks? Wouldn't that be, um, illegal?
Watching the press aggressively demand the truth from your press secretary -- and refusing to accept the deceit, the dodging, and the cover-up -- was a sight to behold, something we really haven't seen since you took office (to watch or listen to the entire press conference, or to read the full transcript, go here).
More than one reporter pointed out that those pieces of paper your press secretary waved at them yesterday mean nothing. Even if they aren't forged documents, getting paid does not necessarily mean you showed up to do your duties. As retired Army Col. Dan Smith, a 26-year veteran, told the AP:
"Pay records don't mean anything except that you're in or you're out," said Smith. "It doesn't necessarily reflect what duty you've actually performed because pay records simply record your unit of assignment and then all of your pay and benefits per pay period."
Mr. Bush, this issue is not going to go away -- and I think yesterday's actions just dug you into a deeper hole. You're probably wondering why the heck this story won't just die. You probably thought that after I brought it up last month and then got slammed by Peter Jennings for uttering the "d" word, the whole matter would just disappear as fast as a bag of blow being thrown out the window of a speeding car on a deserted Maine highway.
But your "desertion" didn't go away -- and here's the reason why. You have sent countless numbers of our sons and daughters in the National Guard to their deaths in the last 11 months. You did this while misleading their parents and the nation with bogus lies about weapons of mass destruction and scary phony Saddam ties to al Qaeda. You sent them off to a never-ending war so that your benefactors at Halliburton and the oil companies could line their pockets. And then you had the audacity to prance around in a soldier's uniform on an aircraft carrier proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" -- while the cameras from your re-election campaign ad agency rolled.
THAT is what makes this whole business of your being AWOL so despicable, and makes the grief-stricken relatives want to turn away from you in disgust. The reason your skipping-out on your enlistment didn't matter in the 2000 election was because we were not at war. Being stuck in a deadly, daily quagmire now in 2004 makes your military history-fiction and your fly-boy costume VERY relevant.
You still have not answered the questions surrounding your National Guard "service." Let me repeat them as simply as I can for you (all of them based on the investigative work of the Associated Press and the Boston Globe):
1. How were you able to jump ahead of 500 other applicants to get into the Texas Air National Guard, thus guaranteeing you would not have to go to Vietnam? What calls did your father (who was then a United States Congressman representing Texas) make on your behalf for you to get this assignment?
2. Why were you grounded (not allowed to fly) after you either failed your physical or failed to take it in July 1972? Was there a reason you were afraid to take the physical? Or, did you take it and not pass it? If so, why didn't you pass it? Was it the urine test? The records show that, after the Guard spent years and lots of money training you to be a pilot, you never flew for the rest of your time in the Guard. Why?
3. Can you produce one person who can verify that he served with you in the Guard during the year that your Texas commanders said you did not show up? Why have you failed to bring forth anyone who served with you in the Guard while you were in Alabama? Why hasn't ONE SINGLE PERSON come forward?
4. Can you tell us what you did when you claim to have shown up in Alabama for Guard duty? What were your duties? You were grounded, so what did they have you do instead?
5. Where are the sign-up sheets that would have your name and service number on them for each weekend you showed up? Aaron Brown on CNN told us how, when he was in the reserves, he had to sign in each time he reported, and his guest from the Washington Post said, that's right, and there would be "four copies of that record" in the files of various agencies. Will you ask those agencies to release those records?
6. If you were in fact paid for that time when you apparently went AWOL, will you authorize the IRS to release your 1972-73 tax returns?
7. How did you get an honorable discharge? What strings were pulled? Who called who?
Look, I'm sorry to have put you through all this. I was just goofing around when I made that comment about wanting to see a debate between the general and the deserter. I had no idea that it would lead to this. And there you were, having to suffer through Tim Russert on Sunday, saying weird things like "I'm a war president!" I guess you believe that, or you want us to believe that. Americans have never voted out a Commander-in-Chief during a war. I guess that's what you're hoping for. You need the war.
But we don't. And our troops in the National Guard don't either. I know you see the writing on the wall, so why not come clean now? We are a forgiving people, and though you will not be returned to White House, you will find us grateful for a little bit of truth. Answer our questions, apologize to the nation, and bring our kids home.
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