Move over, Swift Boat Vets

By Mark Follman

Published September 7, 2004 9:45PM (EDT)

Austin-based nonprofit group Texans for Truth, an offshoot of Drive and partially funded by, has launched a new television ad regarding the black hole that is George W. Bush's record of service in the National Guard.

"That was my unit. And I don't remember seeing you there," Lt. Colonel Robert Mintz (Ret.), who served in the 187th Tactical Squadron of the Alabama Air National Guard, says of Bush in the new 30-second spot titled "AWOL." Others who served in the 187th didn't recall Bush showing up to serve either, adds Mintz, noting that "it would be impossible to be unseen in a unit of that size."

Mintz, along with fellow Guardsmen and Gulf War veteran Paul Bishop, has spoken out before. Last February he told the Memphis Flyer in a lengthy interview that he had a "negative reaction" to what he saw as "out-and-out dissembling on President Bushs part" about having served in the Guard during Vietnam. According to the Flyer, Mintz was at one time a registered Republican, but in recent years cast votes in presidential elections for independent candidate Ross Perot and Democrat Al Gore. Bishop, who voted for Bush in 2000, told the Flyer in February that he "never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush" in Alabama in 1972.

"I think a commander-in-chief who sends his men off to war ought to be a veteran who has seen the sting of battle," Bishop said. "It bothered me that he wouldn't 'fess up and say, Okay, guys, I cut out when the rest of you did your time. He shouldnt have tried to dance around the subject. I take great exception to that. I spent 39 years defending my country."

As Salon reported last week, President Bush's murky military record may again become a major campaign issue when Ben Barnes, a former Texas official who says he pulled strings to get Bush into the Air National Guard, speaks out on CBS' "60 Minutes" in an interview scheduled to air on Wednesday.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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