Bush received 'special treatment to avoid Vietnam'

US President George Bush was given special treatment to avoid being sent to war in Vietnam as a young man, it was claimed today.

US President George Bush was given special treatment to avoid being sent to war in Vietnam as a young man, it was claimed today.

As the US election campaign grew increasingly bitter, it also emerged that Mr Bush was suspended from the Air National Guard because he failed to meet standards and ignored an order to take a physical.

In addition, senior military officials put pressure on one of Mr Bush’s officers to “sugar coat” his military evaluations, according to an unearthed memo.

The “special treatment” came at the time Mr Bush’s father, who later rose to become CIA director and then President, was a congressman in Texas.

The latest revelations follow claims that Mr Bush failed to turn up for duty when he transferred his service from Texas to Alabama where he worked as a political campaigner.

In May 1968, more than 2,000 US troops had been killed in Vietnam.

More men were being drafted into the military to fight the war, and Mr Bush, who had just graduated from Yale, was likely to be among them.

But former Texas House Speaker and state Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes said he intervened so Mr Bush could remain in the US.

He said he was approached by the late oilman Sid Adger, a friend of the Bush family.

“It’s been a long time ago, but he said basically would I help young George Bush get in the Air National Guard,” Mr Barnes told CBS.

A posting in the national guard would mean Mr Bush could stay in the US, avoiding Vietnam.

Mr Barnes, who is now an adviser to Mr Bush’s presidential challenger John Kerry, said he contacted his friend General James Rose, the head of the Texas Air National Guard.

“I would describe it as preferential treatment,” Mr Barnes said.

“While I understand why parents wanted to shield their sons from danger, I abused my position of power by helping only those who knew me or had access to me.”

CBS obtained documents from the personal files of the late Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian, Mr Bush’s squadron commander in Texas.

One document, from May 1972, recorded that Lieutenant Bush was trying to avoid “coming to drill” for a six month period.

Col Killian wrote that he had tried to come up with options but added he thought Mr Bush was “talking to someone upstairs”.

In another memo Col Killian wrote that he ordered Lieutenant Bush “suspended from flight status” because he failed to perform to standards of the Air Force and Texas Air National Guard.

It also accused Mr Bush of a “failure to meet annual physical examination as ordered”.

Col Killian wrote that his superiors were putting pressure on him to give Lieutenant Bush a favourable review.

He wrote that one senior officer was “pushing to sugar coat it”.

The Vietnam issue has been important in recent presidential races.

Allegations of “draft-dodging” clung to Bill Clinton throughout his time in the White House, but fellow Democrat Senator Kerry, volunteered for service as a Navy Swift Boat captain.

He returned after two tours of duty with three purple hearts for injuries in combat and bronze and silver stars for bravery.

A campaign group called Swift Boat Veterans For Truth recently launched adverts questioning Mr Kerry’s Vietnam record, claiming he did not deserve his medals.

In response, Democratic supporters have launched “Texans for Truth” which claims Mr Bush was missing for much of the time he was supposed to be serving with the Air National Guard in Alabama.

Former Lieutenant Colonel Bob Mintz said he never saw Mr Bush in the period he transferred from the Texas Air National Guard to the Alabama Air National Guard.

“I heard George W Bush get up there and say, ‘I served in the 187th Air National Guard in Montgomery, Alabama’. I said, ‘Really ? That was my unit. And I don’t remember seeing you there’.”

Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, pointed out that Mr Bush received an honourable discharge from the national guard.

“Every time President Bush gets near another election, all the innuendo and rumours about President Bush’s service in the national guard come to the forefront,” he said.

But Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence McAuliffe said “relentless negative attacks” on Senator Kerry by Republicans “made the President’s service, or lack thereof, completely fair game”.

:: The Bush campaign today launched a pre-emptive strike on a book which claims the president took cocaine at Camp David when his father was president.

Media outlets were contacted about the forthcoming book by celebrity author Kitty Kelley, calling it “fiction”.

The book, The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, is due for publication next week.

Claims that Mr Bush took cocaine are largely believed to have come from Sharon Bush, the former wife of the President’s brother Neil.

She said in a statement: “I categorically deny that I ever told Kitty Kelley that George W Bush used cocaine at Camp David or that I ever saw him use cocaine at Camp David.”

White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said: “It is a book filled with garbage, garbage that was discredited, disavowed and dismissed years ago.”

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