:: The Fred Willard Fan Site ::


:: Wednesday, February 18, 2004 ::

Not the Firmest of Denials

In response to this Therese Raphael oped on the United Nations' Oil for Food program corruption, UN flack Shashi Tharoor has a letter in today's WSJ (no link):
As for the more general allegations about the program, it is important to understand that the U.N. Security Council, which created the program in 1995 in an attempt to ease the pain caused to ordinary Iraqis by the sanctions it had imposed on Iraq since 1990, continued to treat Iraq as a sovereign state, free to choose who it sold its oil to (provided it was a company duly registered through the national authorities of a U.N. member state), and also to choose from whom it would purchase food and other commodities that it was allowed to import

You can smell see where this is going, can't you?
The oil buyer had to pay the price approved by the Security Council Sanctions Committee into a U.N. escrow account, and the U.N. had to verify that the goods purchased by Iraq were indeed those allowed under the program. But the U.N. had no way of knowing what other transactions might be going on directly between the Iraqi government and the buyers or sellers. Perhaps inevitably, in these circumstances, it was more and more widely suspected that the Iraqi government was extracting illicit premiums from oil purchasers and illicit kickbacks from suppliers. As Ms. Raphael notes, from 2001 the Security Council introduced a system of retroactive oil pricing, which at least made the illicit premiums harder for Iraq to negotiate.

It is thus entirely possible, indeed probable, that Saddam Hussein's regime used loopholes in the Security Council's resolutions and operating framework for the Oil-for-Food Program to extract illicit funds from both purchasers and suppliers. However, these funds did not pass through the U.N. The program itself was managed strictly within the mandate given to it by the Security Council and was subject to nearly 100 different audits, external and internal, between 1998 and 2003 and, as the secretary-general has said, this produced no evidence of any wrongdoing by any U.N. official.

No wrongdoing. Matter of fact, no type of doing at all.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 6:57 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, February 13, 2004 ::


Not only do we have a witness who does remember Bush at the Alabama Guard unit (who, as I am hearing him attest on CNN right now, actually approached the Bush campaign with his story back in 2000 but was actually dismissed and forgotten), but the White House has finally agreed to stop giving the appearance of Something To Hide by releasing all of Bush's service record.

Still no word from Richard Cohen, I must sadly report.

Happy now, Josh and Kevin?

Josh Marshall said pretty much what everyone has been thinking, even many of us who think this whole issue is a pile of fetid dingo kidneys (apologies to Jurjen Smies:
Can't come clean. Won't release the records he said he would. Sorta seems like there's a problem lurking in there, don't it?

But if this were a Democratic administration, would Josh and other Liberals simply be lamenting the fact that the president was needlessly giving the impression of guilt through his actions?

It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to come to the conclusion that stonewalling=guilt, but I can tell you from personal experience that this usually isn't the case. Too many people in the public communication arena simply clam up at the first sign of trouble, thinking that not responding is the safest bet, even when your side of the story is rock solid. Few journalists understand this, and even fewer will accept it in their copy.

I've been dealing with this mindset for a few years now, and I don't even understand it.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum continues to display his profound ignorance on this issue:
FULL RELEASE AT LAST?....Ah, Associated Press is reporting that the White House will shortly release George Bush's entire service record. Hopefully this will include even the DD-214 separation report that everyone keeps saying should be able to settle everything.

Is that a promise, Kevin? Or will you still try to find something else to keep this nonsense alive?

As it happens, the president's discharge papers -- which were actually an NGB Form 22, which is what most Guard members get instead of a DD-214, has been on the internet for all to see for quite sometime.

Of course, you'd have to know what it is first to evaluate it. Remember, this is the guy Josh Marshall proclaimed to have done more than anyone in the blogosphere to shed light on the issue, and make sense of what all these documents mean.


:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:06 PM [+] ::
:: Thursday, February 12, 2004 ::

It Never Ends

The misinformation concerning the Bush AWOL story continues to propagate ...

Oliver Willis:
I got in contact with Bill Campenni, known as the witness (possibly) to George W Bush's missing year.

Uh, no. Campenni vouched for his honorable service in the TANG, and explained why so much of the allegations surrounding that missing year are bogus.

Willis goes on to inaccurately state the said "missing year" was "'71-'72."


Then, there is this comment to Bill Hobbs' latest:
Well, don't break your arm patting yourself on the back just yet...

Tonight's paper quotes the former commander of the squadron in Montgomery:

"He never did come to my squad," said retired Lt. Col. Reese Bricken, who lives in Montgomery. "He was never at my unit".

Bricken reviewed documents Tuesday showing Bush's transfer request to his squad and his response to the request. He said he remembered sending approval back for him to serve in the small squad, made up of reserve members who met weekly.

"He was looking for a place to hang his hat, but he never came by", Bricken said.

Quickly doused by other commenters, including LT Smash:
LCOL Bricken was CO of the 9921st Air Reserve Squadron, and it is indeed true that GW Bush never served with that unit.

He never claimed to. His application to perform equivalent training with the 9921st was rejected, because it was only a "postal unit" whose members could not drill for pay.

Instead, Bush drilled with the 187th Tactical Recon Group. The CO of that unit doesn't remember seeing Bush, probably because he didn't. Bush didn't attend the regular drill weekends with the rest of the unit, because it interfered with his campaign schedule (the Nov 72 drill, for instance, was the weekend before the election). The records show that Bush drilled in late October, and again in the middle of November that year. Only a handful of active duty support personnel would have been present at the time. As Bush was just another guy "flex drilling" from an out-of-town unit for a couple of weekends, it's unlikely that anyone would remember him three months later, much less three decades.

Finally, there's Phil Carter's latest, which cites this AP story that quotes numerous former Alabama Guard members who do not remember Bush attending any drills there -- but also notes that the unit was some 800 strong. I would add that in such units, they certainly don't drill at the same time.

Carter has been pretty level-headed on this, but I take issue with his analysis of this story:
Squadrons are like battalions, and people tend to know each other in them. This is especially true for the officers in a squadron, which form more of a tight-knit and insular group within the organization; and it's even more true of the pilots who are officers. Although then-Lieutenant Bush was just on temporary duty, he was an officer who wore flight wings, and it's a little hard to believe that he wasn't noticed. After all, he was out of the ordinary as a TX officer in an AL Guard unit. And there aren't that many officers in a squadron that he would get lost in the crowd. The only plausible explanation, if he did actually show up, was that he was so lackluster and quiet that no one noticed him. Not exactly exemplary service for the guy that we now look to for leadership as Commander-in-Chief, but maybe he's a late bloomer.

Let's start with the last part. Yes, it's possible -- even likely -- that Bush's Guard service was less than stellar. Despite his resume inflation in his autobiography, I don't think Bush himself has even claimed otherwise.

As Carter admits, Bush wasn't a member of that AL Guard unit, so I'm not sure where he gets the idea that he would have been included in the "where everybody knows your name" ethos. He was an outsider, and someone who did not share the same experiences (such as performing the same mission) as his Alabama hosts. And I don't know where Carter gets the idea that the oddity of a visiting officer (even one with wings) would make a lasting impression.

The idea that a unit would allow a visiting officer who was only going to be drilling on a few weekends and then leaving (and serving no active duty training with them) to perform vital missions or tasks during his stay is ridiculous. He wasn't trained on their equipment, probably had no idea of how they really did things. Hence, to say that Bush probably did not peform meaningful work during that stint is not a reflection on his own abilities or character. Period. Reservists in that situation are usually stuck in a corner some where to perform menial tasks, regardless of their competence. There just isn't enough time to train them to do more, and few people can act as what we call a "full-up round" the moment they report to a unit.

Carter should know that.

UPDATE: And the most absurd claim on this issue I've seen this week, from Josh Marshall:
In general, Drum's site, Calpundit.com, continues to be the invaluable source in making sense of all the different moving parts of this story -- which documents mean what, who says the president did what when, etc.


Actually, Drum's work on this story reminds me of the opening scene of 2001: A Space Oddysey, with all the monkeys trying to figure out what that black monolith was.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 9:11 AM [+] ::

Showing My Cards

If anyone cares, I did vote in the VA primary this week.

For Edwards.

Presuming he is not to be the Democratic nominee, I am still undecided in the general election.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 8:51 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 ::

Crushing of Dissent, Canadian Style

Looks like the Toronto Star doesn't take too kindly to thoughtful criticism.

I wonder if they realize it's a lawyer they've threatened.
:: COINTELPRO Tool 3:47 PM [+] ::

It's Official: The Bush/AWOL Story is Now a Conspiracy Theory

First, some more context for those of you who are unfamiliar with military bureaucracy (and judging from the comments on the storied Calpundit post, there are quite a few of you):
Army chief of staff is notified of his death

An official Pentagon notice of the death of the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, recently arrived at his home in Tampa, Fla. "It actually said I'd died," he said. Explanation: Schoomaker came out of retirement to be Army chief, so when the Pentagon's accounting staff saw his name was dropped from the retired officers payroll they figured it was for the usual reason: death.

But, of course, there are still many people -- no longer limited to the indymedia/buzzflash contingent, I'm disappointed to say -- who find it inconceivable that there could be gaps, flaws, and inconsistencies in George W. Bush's service records from 30 years ago.

The burden of proof on this issue has been ass-backwards from the beginning. There has never been any substantive evidence that Bush was "AWOL" (and kudos to Andrew Olmsted for pointing out to the masses that missing weekend drills in the Guard or Reserves does not constitute an absent without leave status), only an absence of proof that he wasn't.

Even Richard Cohen's column confessing his own dereliction, in which he testifies to the ease at which one could simply vanish from Guard duty and not be punished for it, proves nothing, apart from the notion that Bush could have been absent for an entire year, and still get an honorable discharge. Cohen's testimony could just as easily be offered as a defense of Bush's version of events -- if record-keeping and discipline in the Guard at that time were so sloppy that someone like Cohen could get away with not showing up at all, then why is it so hard to believe that the same bureaucracy would have trouble keeping track of those who did their duty faithfully?

With the release of Bush's pay records, the bar has been raised even higher for him to prove his innocence: now he needs eyewitnesses:
John Kerry has appeared at numerous campaign events with the fellow veterans who served along side him in Vietnam (and made it home alive).

Anyone seen Bush's band of brothers?

Me, neither.

And neither has Scott "Tissue of Lies" McClellan ...

Oh, please. What an asinine comparison, to suggest that Bush must have established the same camaraderie with the Alabama Resservists with whom he was "stashed" for a few months, performing various administrative tasks and odd jobs because they probably had no meaningful work for him to do, as Kerry did with his Vietnam shipmates, with whom he fought and bled.

I worked with Reservists during my time as an active duty Naval officer, including a few who came from across the country, because their own Reserve units had nothing for them to do. They often showed up without warning, and we usually didn't have much for them to do, either. But we'd look for some task, usually administrative drudgeries that we had ourselves been putting off for months, and found a broom closet or some other space where they could do their work.

And I'd be hard pressed to remember many of these poor souls, either by name or face.

It's clear to me that this issue has reached the point at which no further revelations will persuade anyone on either side. The accusers asked for records, and they were provided. Now, that isn't good enough, as such records, we are told, could easily have been altered or falsified. So just what can Bush do to finally convince the believers in the Bush AWOL meme? Probably nothing.

It's bad enough that Bush was required to prove his innocence, but now his innocence has effectively been deemed unprovable by those who choose to believe in his guilt.

If it quacks like a conspiracy theory ...

UPDATE: You know, the Cohen column really annoys me the more I think about it. What if we were to apply the same standard of evidence to his claims that he and so many others have applied to the president.

Sure, he says he was able to duck out of his drilling responsibilities and still get an honorable discharge, but how can we be sure? Mr. Cohen himself could assist in clearing up this matter ...
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2004 06:35:02 -0800 (PST)
From: "Bill Herbert"
Subject: Bush's Guard status
To: cohenr@washpost.com

Regarding your column yesterday, have you released, or
would you be willing to release, your own service
records, in order to ascertain that you were given
credit for drills that you did not attend?

Bill Herbert
Falls Church, VA

I'll let you know if I hear from him.

Finally, it is fitting to give Bill Hobbs, who has owned this story from the beginning, the last word:
It's worth noting that those "two new documents" the Globe touted were also breathlessly hyped this week by blogger Kevin Drum, a/k/a the CalPundit, as if they were smoking-gun proof that Bush shirked his duties. Other Bush-hating bloggers then hyped Drum's post. South Knox Bubba, for example, called it "Pulitzer Prize stuff."


The records Drum hyped as proof instead proved only that he knows too little about the military's recordkeeping to be writing about this stuff. I handled the documents differently. I posted a link to Drum's blog post here at HobbsOnline and invited my readers to assist me in figuring out what they really meant. And through collaborative blog-journalism we found the truth.

:: COINTELPRO Tool 12:13 PM [+] ::

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