Still unreported: The pay-off in the Air Guard fix
Greg Palast - GregPalast.com
08.30.04 - In 1968, former Congressman George
Herbert Walker Bush of Texas, fresh from voting to send other men's sons to Vietnam, enlisted his own son in a very special
affirmative action program, the "champagne" unit of the Texas Air National Guard. There, Top Gun fighter pilot George Dubya
was assigned the dangerous job of protecting Houston from Vietcong air attack.
This week, former Lt. Governor Ben Barnes
of Texas 'fessed up to pulling the strings to keep Little George out of the jungle. "I got a young man named George W. Bush
into the Texas Air Guard -- and I'm ashamed."
That's far from the end of the story. In
1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left office to become a big time
corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth its weight
in gold -- or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret.
Barnes appears to have made lucrative use
of his knowledge of our President's slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollar contract for
a client. That's the information in a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department that fell
into my hands at BBC television.
Here's what happened. Just after Bush's election,
Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license to print money: its contract to
run the Texas state lottery. Barnes, says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected governor's office
and saved GTech's state contract.
The letter said, "Governor Bush ... made
a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the
In that close race, Bush denied the fix was
in to keep him out of 'Nam, and the US media stopped asking questions. What did the victorious Governor Bush's office do for
Barnes? According to the tipster, "Barnes agreed never to confirm the story [of the draft dodging] and the governor talked
to the chair of the lottery two days later and she then agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid."
And so it came to pass that the governor's
commission reversed itself and gave GTech the billion dollar deal without a bid.
The happy client paid Barnes, the keeper
of Governor Bush's secret, a fee of over $23 million. Barnes, not surprisingly, denies that Bush took care of his client in
return for Barnes' silence. However, confronted with the evidence, the former Lt. Governor now admits to helping the young
George stay out of Vietnam.
Take a look at the letter yourself -- with
information we confirmed with other sources -- here.
Frankly, I don't care if President Bush cowered
and ran from Vietnam. I sure as hell didn't volunteer... but then, my daddy didn't send someone else in my place. And I don't
march around aircraft carriers, talking about war and sacrifice, with parachute clips around my gonads.
More important, I haven't made any pay-offs
to silence those who could change my image from war hero to war zero.
"TIME WARNER WON'T LET US AIR THIS"
By the way: I first reported this story in
1999, including the evidence of payback, in The Observer of London. US media closed their eyes. Then I put the story on British
television last year in the one-hour report, "Bush Family Fortunes." American networks turned down BBC's offer to run it in
the USA. "Wonderful film," one executive told me, "but Time Warner is not going to let us put this on the air." However, US
networks will take cash for advertisements calling Kerry a Vietnam coward.
The good news is, until Patriot Act 3 kicks
in, they can't stop us selling the film to you directly. The updated version of "Bush Family Fortunes," with the full story
you still can't see on your boob tube, will be released next month on DVD. See a preview here.
For more on our president's war years and
the $23 million payment, read this excerpt from the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.