'Chickenhawk' charges dog Bush

US President George Bush has released his Vietnam-era military records to counter Democrats' suggestions that he shirked his war-time duties.

    Democrats have accused Bush of shirking war-time duties

    The embattled president, trying to stamp out a political storm, released all his National Guard files during the Vietnam war on Friday.

    However, the documents offered no new evidence to place Bush in Alabama during the latter part of 1972, the period when Democrats

    claim he was absent without leave.

    White House officials handed out thick packets containing hundreds of pages of documents retrieved from a National Guard records centre

    in Denver.

    A group of reporters was given 20 minutes to review dozens of pages detailing Bush's medical exams during his service.

    "We received the entire file this afternoon and the president felt everything should be made public," spokesman Scott McClellan said.

    "There were some who sought to leave a wrong impression that there was something to hide when there is not."

    The White House hoped to put an end for good to accusations from Democrats that the Republican president shirked Vietnam war-era

    military duties.

    Republicans are worried about Bush's recently falling job approval ratings.

    No new evidence

    Several veterans did not recall
    airman Bush serving in 1972

    There was no new evidence, however, to show that Bush spent a lot of time on duty for the National Guard in Alabama during the latter

    part of 1972, the murky period Democrats have seized on to describe him as AWOL.

    Bush had transferred to the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, in Montgomery, Alabama, in order to be in the state to help the Senate

    campaign of Republican Red Blount.

    Records released by the White House earlier in the week showed Bush had a dental exam there and was paid for some stints of duty, but

    also had long absences from service.

    The new stack included an evaluation form from his Texas unit that said he could not be evaluated because "Lt Bush has
    not been

    observed at this unit during the period of report".

    It said Bush "has been performing equivalent training in a non-flying status" in Alabama.

    Democrats sceptical

    The New York Times said it interviewed 16 retired officers and service personnel who served during that time in the 187th, and none could

    remember Bush.

    The Washington Post, however, quoted John Calhoun, who was an officer with the Alabama Air National Guard at the time, as saying Bush

    used to sit in his office and read magazines and flight manuals as he performed weekend duty at Dannelly Field in Montgomery in 1972.

    Bush: All posture and no action?

    Democrats were sceptical. "If these are all the documents, it has taken the president more than four years and one week after he told the

    American people he would release them.

    "Hopefully these are all the documents," said Democratic National Committee communications director Debra DeShong.

    "Each revelation of material from the Bush White House has raised more questions than it has answered.

    "It remains to be seen if these newest documents will provide any answers," she said.

    Bush was the son of a US congressman at a time when National Guard service was seen as a way for the privileged to avoid being drafted

    for Vietnam war duty.

    Questions over his record resurfaced this year as Bush seeks to cast himself as a "war president" for his effort to win re-election in

    November.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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