In which the Monkey adjusts his tinfoil hat and Peers into the Past.
In 1971, a young man who would later become President of the United States, traveled to Guatemala on Business. The trip, one of the few he had made outside the borders of the US, must have made quite an impression on him, since Guatemala in 1971 was a Very Interesting Place. Here's picture of what the capitol, Guatemala City, looked like that year:
Amnesty International later stated that Guatemalan sources, including the Committee of the Relatives of Disappeared Persons, claimed that over 7,000 persons disappeared or were found dead in these two years. "Foreign diplomats in Guatemala City," reported Le Monde in 1971, "believe that for every political assassination by left-wing revolutionaries fifteen murders are committed by right-wing fanatics."
During a curfew so draconian that even ambulances, doctors and fire engines reportedly were forbidden outside ... as American police cars and paddy wagons patrolled the streets day and night ... and American helicopters buzzed overhead ... the United States saw fit to provide further technical assistance and equipment to initiate a reorganization of Arana's police forces to make them yet more efficient.
"In response to a question [from a congressional investigator in 1971] as to what he conceived his job to be, a member of the US Military Group (MILGP) in Guatemala replied instantly that it was to make the Guatemalan Armed Forces as efficient as possible. The next question as to why this was in the interest of the United States was followed by a long silence while he reflected on a point which had apparently never occurred to him."
Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? I don't think it's "venturing into tinfoil hat territory" to wonder what the Young Bush thought of what was going on in Guatemala while he was there. The Monkey thinks, in fact, that it's a damn good question, and Wonders why the mainstream press has never asked it of him. What did he Do, while in Guatemala? Where did he Go? What Business was he there For?
Stratford of Texas had a finca or plantation in Huehuetenango, just outside of a little town called, appropriately, La Democracia. That, to me, sounds like a perfect backdrop to set one of those touching little anecdotes that campaigns like to manufacture for their candidates. "Gov. Bush, as a young man, saw firsthand the horrors of civil war while visiting a little town called Democracy, and it Changed him Forever." That sort of thing. But no, nothing, hardly a peep out of the campaign about the trip. One Wonders Why.
* Was it because the region was rife with guerrilla activity during that period? Because it was. * Was it because the US was funding the counter-insurgency effort that eventually murdered over 200,000 people in Guatemala? Because we did. * Was it because Stratford's finca may well have been on land forcibly expropriated from the indigenous peasants? Because plenty of land was. * Was it because the region was known for narcotrafficking and large coca plantations? Because it was. * Was it because the people he went there with had long ties to a known CIA front company run by his Dad? Because they did.
Or maybe Karl Rove, supposed genius political operative, while courting the Latin Vote, simply forgot to mention that Bush made a trip to Guatemala during this formative period of his youth.
But to mention it, you'll need a tinfoil hat, apparently. Oh, OK, the Monkey Sees how this Works.
In which the Monkey shakes his head Ruefully at what his Country has Done
George W. Bush visited Guatemala, according to the Washington Post, while working for the agricultural company Stratford of Texas. He was accompanied by Peter C. Knudtzon, his immediate boss. The thing is, Guatemala was in what came to be called a "state of siege" at that time.
In November 1970, shortly after taking office, President Arana suspended constitutional guarantees by declaring a state of siege that would last through February 1972. In the countryside, the siege transferred authority from elected officials to the military commissioners. This siege undermined civilian authority and contributed to political tensions that would erupt in the early 1980s.
Clicking on the above link will take you to a page with a nifty graph on it. Take a few minutes to stare at that graph, and ruminate on the role the US government played in Central America over the past forty years. If you're ignorant of the facts, familiarize yourself with them. They're quite Interesting, if you like tales of murder, torture, and terrorism sponsored by a federalist superstate. You might be surprised at what your country has done in your name.
Stratford of Texas may very well have been run by honest businessmen, and conducted nothing but honest business. Robert Gow, the President and founder, was formerly the President of Zapata Petroleum, a well-known CIA front company with ties going back at least to the Bay of Pigs. Stratford supposedly had a large plantation in Guatemala, but no records seem to exist that can say where it was. Aside from a few records on the Net, the company, which Gow brags later morphed into Green Thumb and became the largest of it's kind in the world, seems to have vanished. Gow claims it failed in such a spectacular fashion that the Harvard Business School did "case studies" about it, but their online records don't seem to have that listed either. That the Monkey can find, at least.
The Monkey doesn't believe the story that George W. Bush went to Guatemala at the height of a martial law crackdown on leftist insurgents to look at plants. If he went at all, the Monkey feels it was for some other reason. A brief flirtation with Daddy's real line of work, perhaps? Not out of the realm of possibility, if you asked the Monkey. He would scratch and nod sagely.
Now, this is, quite simply, a lie. Bush's documents clearly show that he did NOT volunteer for Vietnam when he signed up, and his own statements give us a pretty clear idea of where his head was at at the time. See Part 3 for more detail on what he actually said regarding his joining the Guard.
There is some talk that Bush told his Flight Instructor, Maurice Udell, that he wanted to go to Vietnam as part of the Palace Alert operation. Udell claims he deterred him from applying, citing his lack of experience. If true, that is laudable. Unfortunately for Bush, expressing interest in Palace Alert is not the same as requesting to apply. When someone provides a document with Bush's signature on it asking to go to Vietnam, then we can talk about how he valiantly volunteered for duty overseas.
Yo Queiro, Stratford?
During Bush's stint at the National Guard, he worked for 9 months in 1971, at a company called Stratford of Texas. They were an agricultural importer of tropical plants, founded by Robert H. Gow. Gow was a former President of Zapata Oil, the company founded by George HW Bush. Zapata Oil was long known for it's ties to the CIA, and was rumored to have been a front for the Agency from the early days of it's founding, and having played a role in the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, which was named, surprisingly, Operation ZAPATA. Stratford is listed in the GOP timeline for Bush's career as an "agricultural and mining company."
So Bush went to work for two ex-Zapata executives. On this job, his responsibility was to evaluate nurseries that Stratford was interested in acquiring. This entailed trips to Florida, and at least one trip to Guatemala with his boss, Peter C. Knudtzon.
The Monkey finds it interstice that George Bush Sr., a CIA agent at the time, would allow his son to accompany his boss, (who may very well have been CIA) to Guatemala, in the same year that hundreds of peasants were being murdered by the death squads supporting the President Arana.
The Monkey Wonders where they Went? Where in Guatemala? Stratford allegedly had a finca (plantation?) in Guatemala. Where was it? Was it located on the site of any of the old CIA built training camps?
Another interesting episode in Bush's Military Career is the claim that, while working at Stratford, he flew his F-102 Delta Dagger from Houston to Orlando, FL, so he could do his "nursery evaluations." And that he did this several times a month.
Huh? He was allowed to take a multi-million dollar portion of the USAF's arsenal on a private joyride several times a month, without this ever being mentioned in his military records? Why on earth not? There would be fuel costs, maintenance costs, flight plans, approvals to take off, land, and refuel. Not to mention a hundred other details that seem to be lacking. But, the Washington Post reports this matter-of-factly, as if it were an ordinary occurrence.
The Monkey doesn't find it Ordinary. He finds it extremely Odd, and Wonders if the story is True. Seems to me that this could be a question a reporter might be interested in. At the very least they would get to go to Florida to investigate it.
Until next time, when we bring you another exciting episode of (organ music, please) Look Back in ANGR.
In which the Monkey Sighs and Decides to Move On, for Now.
It seems that Bush is going to get off the hook for his shoddy Guard record after all, unless someone manages to find a smoking gun of some sort.
So, despite the fact that he clearly got help getting into the Guard, and he clearly entered the Guard in order to avoid Vietnam, and he barely managed to perform the requirements the Guard asked of him, and it seems there was odd interest from the Governor of Texas in his discharge, the Monkey has decided to let this one go, for now. With a few minor recaps:
Bush Got Help Getting In
Bush clearly got help getting into the Guard. The former Speaker of the House of the Texas Legislature and former Lt. Governor (under Dolph Briscoe, btw), testified under oath in 1999 that a longtime Bush family friend asked him for help getting Bush into the "Champange Unit" of the TexANG. Barnes said he did make some calls, in a sort of "see what you can sort of way". That, to me, is string pulling and political influence, not getting in soley on merit.
Bush Joined to Avoid Vietnam
Here, he is dammned out of his own mouth:
"I'm saying to myself, 'What do I want to do?' I think I don't want to be an infantry guy as a private in Vietnam. What I do decide to want to do is learn to fly." Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 1989
"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." Dallas Morning News, Feb. 25, 1990
"I don't want to play like I was somebody out there marching when I wasn't. It was either Canada or the service. ... Somebody said the Guard was looking for pilots. All I know is, there weren't that many people trying to be pilots." Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Nov. 29, 1998
Sounds like the words of someone eager to serve his country any way he can, eh? I don't blame Bush for not wanting to go to Vietnam; it was a stupid, needless war. I don't blame Bush for trying to get into the Guard, either. But it's pretty clear why he joined the Guard, rather than the Army or the Air Force. So he wouldn't have to go and fight a war he claimed to support, as long as somebody else was going to fight in it.
His flight instructor, Maurice Udell, now claims that Bush wanted to volunteer for Vietnam, but that Udell discouraged him from doing so, citing his lack of experience. This may be so, but the fact remains that Bush checked the box "Do Not Volunteer" for service in Vietnam when he applied for the Guard, and never did volunteer, despite talking about it.
Bare Minimum Effort
Bush, while in the Guard, apparently was a model officer for several years, and then, as the war was winding down, lost interest in flying. A normal occurence, perhaps, although many pilots would vehemently disagree. The war was ending, and Bush apparently was determined to enter politics, as witnessed by his abrupt move to Alabama to work on the racist Roy Blount campaign. Civilian life was calling, and the Guard, apparently, had done all it could for Bush.
He was never going to make a career out of flying, so not taking a physical, despite being ordered to, was a no brainer. The Champange Unit, also known to some as Air Canada, had served it's purpose, which was to keep him out of Vietnam. Now that Vietnam was no longer a threat, it could be discarded easily and without regret.
On to Politics, apparently.
One last Question: Why did James Bath leave the Guard the same time, and for the same reason, that Bush did? Bath allegedly became involved with the CIA at the behest of George Bush Sr., recommended by George W.
Was Bath involved in the Blount campaign as well? Did he and Bush Jr. work together after the Guard? What happened there?
The Monkey Wonders, but Doubts we will ever Find Out.
Due to an over-zealous fit of editing, I accidentally deleted (actually cut and pasted over) the first installment of Look Back in ANGR.
Sad, but true, the Monkey blames himself. It was not, as some have implied, an attempt at some sort of censorship or anything like it. It was a complete and utter Accident.
As best as he can Recall, the Monkey remembers the post having to do with some issues involving:
James Bath's Suspension Order
Why James Bath's name was deleted from the set of documents released in 2004 (Page 10/19) , but not from those released in 2000.
Some have argued that this was simply the slip of the pen of an over-zealous White House aide, who, bleary-eyed from redacting, accidentally blacked out James Bath's name from the form. This is possible, and Occam's Razor would require us to consider this quite carefully. Let's examine what we know for sure...
*Bush and Bath were friends. "Drinking buddies" is the quote I recall.
*Bath supposedly became CIA after his National Guard days, at the request of George Sr.
*Bath was involved, allegedly, in financing Arbusto (George W.) with a $50,000 Saudi infusion of cash.
*Bath had ties to the infamous BCCI scandal.
*Bath had ties to the BinLaden family (yes, that Bin Laden family)
*Bush, confronted by Bath's name after 9/11, initially denied even knowing who Bath was, and then (ahem) clarified his statement. (Interesting reaction to an old Drinking Buddy's name, eh? Instant denial of any knowledge.)
So, Occam's Razor might be sufficient to abscribe mere bureaucratic over-efficiency the redaction of Bath's name from the Guard records most recently released from the White House, but in light of the history of shady dealings Bath seems to have been involved in, I feel that it is safe to assume that at best the White House redacted his name because they KNOW he is a liability. Simply put, he has got a history of being surrounded by shady shit, and they wanted to shield the President from questions about James Bath.
But why redact his name from documents released in 2004, when ones released in 2000 don't cover his name. That seems to indicate that they don't mind his name and the Presidents being seen in close proximity. Ah, but the release in 2000, was not, as far as I know, coordinated by the Bush campaign. Those documents were obtained through the FOIA, via a request, and may not have had the pen of Karl Rove making the redactions.
Or, it could be, as some have argued, a simple slip of the pen. You decide.
On another interesting and probably unrelated note, the base Bush was transferred to in Alabama was the same one that housed the unit used by the CIA to fly B-26 bombers in the Bay of Pigs in the early 60s. Interesting, huh? Especially since George Bush Sr. was alleged to have played a pivotal role in that operation, and delivered 2 ships (the Houston, and the Barbara J.) to the rebels in Guatemala. The whole operation was, in fact, called Operation Zapata.
Zapata was the name of Bush's oil company, which was based in Houston, and we have a pretty good idea who Barbara J. was. Interesting, eh? Especially since Barbara Bush doesn't seem to have a middle name. Somewhere on W's induction papers, he types her name, with a "(XXXX)" through her (presumably) middle name.
The Monkey Suspects that the people who were doing the 2004 redactions were under the gun timewise, and didn't bother to check online with the documents that people already had in their possession. They saw Bath's name, made the connection that "Hey, we don't want this guy's name near the President's." and blacked it out.
The Monkey Wonders why, is all. He is Sad that he might never Know.
Late Edit: It appears that USA Today has taken the documents off their site, obviously in an attempt to keep the story from being investigated further. (This was a joke. The Monkey Believes that they took them down because lots of people were linking to them, and they noticed it.)
In which the Monkey Wonders, do they treat all Lieutenants equally?
BevD over at Calpundit noticed something the Monkey, in a fit of grooming, must have overlooked.
Special Order 158, in which young Lt. Bush is Honorably Discharged from the TANG and assigned to a paper unit in Denver, seems to be a rather strange document.
The verbal orders of the CinC, TexANG on 1 October 1973 directing the relief of FIRST LIEUTENANT GEORGE W BUSH [blacked out SSN] from Pilot, Ftr Intcp, AFSC 1125D, UDL grade vacancy 1st Lt, ....
Huh? The verbal orders of the CinC, TexANG? Now, the Monkey was never in the service, so he could be mistaken, but is it standard practice for the Commander in Chief of the Air National Guard of a state the size of Texas to verbally order that a lowly 1st Lt be discharged from the National Guard? Seems to me that that is a trifle...odd. I mean, I could see his name being invoked on a discharge order, but SO 158 makes it sound like he ordered Bush be discharged personally and verbally. On all the other Special Orders in Bush's file, it says things like "FOR THE GOVERNOR", not "BY THE ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR". Could be interchangeable phrases, but there is that pesky "verbal orders" thing in the first line that lead one to believe that indeed the Governor of Texas interceded in Bush's discharge.
This could be Standard Operation Procedure. I sort of doubt it, though. Especially since the CinC of the TexANG was the Governor of Texas, Dolph Briscoe. One would think that the care of a largish state like Texas might preclude Governors from taking an interest in the day to day routines of the Air National Guard. Did he do the same for other officers? Mighty interesting question.
Dolph Briscoe, a Democrat, is still around. He even recently endorsed Gen. Clark for President. You'd think that a reporter might be interested in asking him about this order, as he might very well remember it.
HD TR TexANG per ANGR 36-05, SO ANG-A 158, State of Texas AG, Dept, Austin, Tx and transfered to
ARPC (ORS), 3800 York Street, Denver CO 80205 effective 2 October 1973 (DOS TexANG 1 Oct 1973)
Looks like he got the "Honorable Discharge" he claims he did. Yay for Bush!
But, the regulation that he was discharged under, reads, in part:
Officers who are substandard in performance of duty or conduct, deficient in character, lacking in professional qualifications or status, or otherwise unsuited for continued military service are not to be retained in the Texas National Guard.
Hmmm. Frowns for Bush! Was he substandard in performance of duty or conduct? Was he deficient in character? Or lacking in professional qualifications or status? What does "otherwise unsuited" mean?
This may be the regulation that everyone is released under. It would be interesting to hear from people who were in the Guard, and may have recollections of the procedure. All I could find of the Regulation was this.
But what is SO ANG-A 158? Why, it seems to be Special Order 158 from Bush's unit. And it is in the documents, here. (Page 9/26)
It lists the same regulation as well, but also lists (PTI 961).
What is PTI? I *think* it stands for "Personnel Transaction Identifier", but I can't be sure. What is the number? Seems to be either a code of some sort, or perhaps a form number. Hard to tell for sure.
Speaking of Codes, the infamous SPN Code is not present on his NGB-22 form. These codes were used (and presumably still are) on discharge papers in the Vietnam era, but they became notorious because employers were using them to screen veterans for hiring purposes. The National Guard supposedly had a similar system, but it hasn't come to light. In fact, the DoD has NEVER released a full list of the codes that were (and perhaps still are) used to classify reasons and character of a veteran's discharge. There are some codes floating around out there, but the full list was supposedly 530 codes long, and there are at most 100 or so loose on the net.
But wait, there's more! A veteran can request their DD-214, but if they don't specifically request the UNDELETED version of their file, they will not get the one with their SPN code. The undeleted version is known as Copy #4, and it must be asked for specifically, or you won't get it.
Did Bush release the #4 copy of his NGB-22? Good Question! We don't know.
So, to recap the Monkey's Questions:
What does ANGR 36-05 say in full? Was it SOP for veterans to be released under this Regulation?
What does "PTI 961" stand for? Is it a form? A code? SPN code, perhaps?
Did the President release the Copy #4 of his NG-22?
Why was the line blacked out in 2000, but not blacked out in 2004?
What was Bush's SPN Code? Was it one on the lists floating around on the Net? Did he ever ask for it to be removed from his record, via the official channel for such requests?
Any info from current or former Guardspeople is appreciated. All of this stuff may fully exonerate the President. It would be great if it did, but I sort of doubt that it will. My mind remains, as always, open.