Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Bush AWOL story isn't dead 

(via And Then...) Here's a fascinating new development in the story of Bush's national guard service. Bill Morlin and Karen Steele of the Spokane Spokesman-Review have discovered that Bush's flight privileges may have been revoked under a program designed to keep unreliable pilots away from nuclear weapons:
Human reliability regulations were used to screen military personnel for their mental, physical and emotional fitness before granting them access to nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
Did these regulations apply to Bush? Although Bush's plane, the F-102, routinely carried conventional weapons, it did have the capability to carry nuclear weapons. This means that Bush was legally subject to the Human Reliability Program (HRP) regulations. The fact that National Guard planes didn't routinely carry nuclear weapons is probably the weakest point in Morlin and Steele's argument. But HRP rules were used to ground two National Guard pilots in 1974:
Under the rules, pilots could be removed immediately from the cockpit for HRP issues, which happened in the 1974 Washington Air National Guard case. The two Washington airmen were suspended on suspicion of drug use, but eventually received honorable discharges.
Hmm, suspended for drug use but received an honorable discharge anyway. Sounds a lot like something that could have happened to Bush. One thing's for sure, the White House sure is fond of bringing up that honorable discharge! Bush may have been grounded under HRP, or he might have stopped flying for fear of being grounded. The timing is certainly interesting:
In April 1972, at the same time the military began drug and alcohol testing for the first time, Bush stopped flying the F-102, and according to White House documents, did not take a required physical in May. He was formally suspended in September 1972 for failing to take the test.
To be fair, the argument is pretty speculative. It basically boils down to 1. The Air Force had a regulation, HRP, which also applied to the Air National Guard, allowing unreliable pilots to be grounded; 2. Bush had a history of drinking and using drugs during that period; 3. Two guardsmen were grounded under HRP around the same time for suspected drug use; and 4. The timing of Bush's failure to show up for his physical coincides precisely with the military's decision to undertake drug testing under HRP. Certainly not conclusive evidence, but it's a new angle to be investigated further.
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