[Amended at 22:05]
Forget your highpowered TV networks, with their big staffs that fall for phoney documents. Enter Paul Lukasiak, a lone researcher—not even a trendy blogger—just a guy with some web pages. A guy who has been doing detailed archival work reconstructing GW Bush's service records. A guy who may have found something, and who's put it up on the web.
And what a set of web pages. I've linked to the AWOL Project often in the past, because it's meaty and detailed and explains its reasoning. So far as I'm aware, Mr. Lukasiak's conclusions have held up well. Admittedly, much of the Project, especially in its early days, was written in a detailed, quirky style that isn't all that media-friendly. Which is why, I think, the press has only lately begun to appreciate the AWOL project for what it is.
Today the AWOL Project unveils what may be its biggest blockbuster. [Regrettably, the site works much better in IE than in Firefox — in IE you can see excerpts of all the key documents, but in Firefox you cannot.]
Back in February I started blogging about the mystery of GW Bush's missing separation codes (also known as SPN codes). In the saga of the Bush National Guard career, the absence of any mention on any of the documents of the separation codes that normally give the reasons for a military discharge have always struck me as the biggest and strangest hole in the story, especially because during the period in which Bush served, Army SPN codes were remarkably detailed and chatty—and often very derogatory. Were the same or similar codes used in the National Guard? It seemed at least possible.
Now it seems as if Lukasiak has found and partly decoded Lt. Bush's separation code. The records released to date include Bush’s NGB-22 (.pdf), his “Report of Separation and Record of Service in the Air National Guard of Texas and as a Reserve of the Air Force.” That document has a section called “Reason and Authority for Discharge” (section 31, near the bottom). And therein is found a mysterious code, PTI 961.
Mr. Lukasiak theorizes that PTI 961 was a code which
indicates that he was being thrown out of the Air National Guard for failing “to possess the required military qualifications for his grade or specialty, or does not meet the mental, moral, professional or physical standards of the Air Force.” In other words, despite the fact that Bush had an unfulfilled six year Military Service Obligation, he was discharged from the Air National Guard not because he moved to Boston, but because he failed to meet his obligation to maintain his qualifications as an F102 pilot.
Getting to that conclusion takes a little bit of work.
“PTI” stands for “Personnel Transaction Identifier”, a code which “identifies the controlled personnel management action being accomplished the personnel data system.” And although the particular meaning of “PTI 961” remains unknown, all “900” series PTIs mean that someone is no longer considered part of “Air Force strength.”
…when an “action is reported by the 9xx PTIs” it represents a “loss to the Air Force strength.” In other words, despite the fact that Bush had almost eight months left on his six year Military Service Obligation at the time, Texas Air National Guard officers were signaling that Bush was essentially worthless to the Air Force, and should not even be retained in the “Ready Reserves” for call up in the event of a national emergency.
…This interpretation is fully consistent with the fact that Bush was placed in an “Inactive Status” retroactively, effective September 15, 1973. “Inactive Status” meant that Bush was no longer eligible to accrue time served toward “gratuitous” membership points.
In fact, under Air Force regulations, someone like Bush, who had an outstanding Military Service Obligation, could only be placed in an “Inactive Status” if he was being “completely severed from military status.”
This “complete severance” was an extraordinary event. … The fact that Bush was discharged from the Texas Air National Guard under a Personnel Transaction Identifier used to denote a reduction in total Air Force strength means Bush was considered not merely “useless” under present circumstances, but of no possible use to the Air Force at any point in the future. PTI 961 meant that Bush was unfit for service in the United States Armed Forces, and that there was no point in keeping him around in case of a national emergency.
This can be established through examining the relevant regulations. ANGR 36-05, which was the “authority” cited in Bush’s discharge papers, has a limited number of “separation criteria” that are consistent with a “900 series” Personnel Transaction Identifier, all of which could only be the result of Bush being thrown out because he wasn’t doing his job. (see Appendix 2). The most likely of these criteria is that Bush was discharged for “standby screening”, and an examination of the rules under which discharges could be accomplished (see Appendix 3) in this fashion lead to only one conclusion—-that Bush was thrown out of the Air National Guard because he was “unfit to serve.”
If this analysis is correct, it follows that ex-Lt. Bush's current claim that he did everything he was asked to do has some serious problems.
That leaves us with two big questions: First, is Mr. Lukasiak right about what PTI 961 means. Someone, somewhere must know. Second, even if he is right, now that the public has been partially innoculated against the Bush National Guard issue by the CBS scandal, will anyone care.
For my money, the important issue isn't so much what either candidate did 30 years ago. No, the big issue is how the candidates deal with reality. As I've said about the National Guard service questions previously,
This incident demonstrates the major reason why the issue of 30-year-ago National Guard service is relevant today. Not because someone pulled strings in order to put some poor person’s kid at risk in Vietnam instead of Jr. Not because Bush gamed the system to get out of flying just when his unit was going to a genuine mission to patrol US airspace. Not because the ill-minded of the world speculate that substance abuse lead to his being grounded, and meant he would have flunked the physical. Not because someone falsified the official records to record credits that were never actually earned. Nor even because the records were later sanitized to remove the critical separation codes that would tell us something about what really happened.
No. The reason this incident matters most is because GWB still can’t come clean about it. And that sort of stubborn denial of facts is digging us deeper into holes in Iraq and at home.
To those of us left in the “reality based community,” the modern reception of the National Guard story is a trope for much larger, pressing—even disastrous—contemporary problems.
Just recently, Bush was quoted as saying,
that after flying more than 570 hours in the Guard, he asked permission to work on a political campaign. “I was granted permission by my superiors,” he said. “I did everything they asked me to do and met my requirements and was honorably discharged. I’m proud of my service in the Guard.
We already knew that was a false claim, since Bush failed to take his physical as he was asked or ordered to do. PTI 961 suggests that this failure had a knock-on effect, and that the Guard discharge was not a matter of administrative kindness, but rather an administrative device to dump out a useless former pilot, a shirker.
In other words, if Lukasiak is right, we've been lied to in matters small, just as we've been lied to in matters big. Sounds like a consistent M.O. to me, one that has worked remarkably well for the perpetrator, if not so well for us, the victims.