Wash. Times columnist wrong on Bush's Vietnam record

In an op-ed column in the October 11 edition of The Washington Times, Charles D. Youree, Jr., defended the Vietnam-era Air National Guard service of then-Lt. George W. Bush by citing an irrelevant standard that allegedly proves Bush met his obligation. Recent reports by U.S. News & World Report and The Boston Globe have detailed Bush's failure to fulfill his commitment to the Texas Air National Guard.

Youree incorrectly wrote that “guardsmen were required to accumulate 50 points to meet their yearly obligations.” In fact, no such requirement existed; rather, members could fulfill their service obligation only by attending “drill and instruction ... at least 48 times each year, and participat[ing] in training at encampments ... at least 15 days each year,” according to the statute then governing National Guard obligations. Bush did not attend enough drills to meet his requirement, as both U.S. News and the Globe detailed.

The Times described Youree as follows: “Brig. Gen. Charles D. Youree, Jr., USAF (Ret.) is former Strategic Air Command chief project officer for the B-1 bomber.” From Youree's October 11 column:

According to his military records released this year, he [Bush] earned 253 points in his first year, 340 points the second year, 137 points the third year and 112 points in his fourth year of duty. In other words, Lt. Bush showed up a lot, earning more than four times the required duty points in his first four years.

In fact, the Air National Guard's system of assigning retirement points was entirely unrelated to the completion of duty; retirement points merely signify that the guardsman was accruing retirement pay. Yet, even if one accepts the retirement points as a measure of whether Bush fulfilled his service, Youree relied on a flawed and discredited accounting of the points Bush earned in his final two years of service that was released by the Bush administration in February (as Media Matters for America has noted). In fact, while Bush did receive the points he claims for his first four years of service, he accrued only 36 and 12 points, respectively, in the final two years of his six-year obligation.

Moreover, Youree's offered no support for his assertion that Bush's stateside service was more hazardous than serving in Vietnam. Youree concluded: "[I]t is obvious that Lt. Bush, as a jet fighter/interceptor pilot in the Air National Guard, was more than twice as exposed to fatal danger than he would have been if he had taken his chances on an average tour in Vietnam." But the evidence he provided in support is anecdotal and immaterial. He based his claim on his own West Point class and included deaths occurring in training and during combat over at least a 12-year span; confusing things further, he grouped both “deaths and resignations” in one accounting of losses from his class. Youree then misleadingly contrasted this anecdotal evidence with the total fatality rate among all personnel who served in Vietnam, both combat and non-combat forces. Finally, with no support, he suggested that the danger faced by active-duty Air Force pilots was comparable to that faced by National Guard pilots serving on U.S. soil.