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  •   In His Own Words: 'I, Like Others, Became Disillusioned'

    The Washington Post
    Wednesday, July 28, 1999; Page A11

    The following are excerpts of interviews with George W. Bush conducted by Washington Post reporters. The interviews took place May 11 and June 7, 1999, in Austin.

    What'd you think about the war?

    Well initially I supported the government. My first reaction was ... I'll support my government.

    Did you differentiate between supporting the government and supporting the war?

    I didn't differentiate at first. I then, as you know, went in the service and over time, though, I, like many others, became disillusioned. I must confess I was not disillusioned right off the bat.

    Did you defend the war? People recall that you argued both sides.

    I don't remember debates. I don't think we spent a lot of time debating it. Maybe we did, but I don't remember.

    We understand your father felt the war should be supported, and that he was put off by the tactics of the anti-war protesters.

    I probably felt the same way at the time ... I do remember I think it was the Cambodian bombing, where I began to become, it became apparent over time that decisions were made not in the best interest of our military. It became evident that this was a political war, not a military war. There was a certain predictability and so the military mission was not paramount. It was a political mission. And there was no clarity of purpose ... and it took awhile for that to sink in my way of thinking.

    Did you ever consider enlisting in active duty?

    Yeah, I did but I got into Guard as a pilot. I got a pilot slot.

    Why did you do the Guard instead of active duty?

    I was guaranteed a pilot slot. I found out – as I'm sure you've researched all this out – they were looking for pilots. I think there were five or six pilot slots available. I was the third slot in the Texas Guard. Had that not worked out no telling where I would have been. I would have ended up in the military somewhere.

    You meant to join the Guard when you took the pilot's qualifying test?

    Or the regular Air Force. I was just looking for options. I didn't have a strategy. I knew I was going in the military. I wasn't sure what branch I was going into. I took the test with an eye obviously on the Guard slot, but had that not worked out I wouldn't have gotten into pilot training. I remember going to Air Force recruiting station and getting the Air Force recruiting material to be a pilot. Then I went home and I learned there was a pilot slot available.

    Were you avoiding the draft?

    No, I was becoming a pilot.

    You wanted to serve?

    Yes I did.

    But when you were asked do you want to go overseas, you said no.

    I didn't know that. But I actually tried to go on a Palace Alert program.

    That was later.

    It was. After I became a pilot.

    Palace Alert program was being phased out.

    Not really, a couple of my buddies got to go. ...

    ... But they'd already graduated.

    That's true. I couldn't go until actually I'd gotten my –

    I was curious about the sequence. You got out of combat school on June 23, 1970. Palace Alert programs were all closed down overseas as of June 30. So could you have gone even if you signed up for it?

    I guess not if that's the case, but I remember going to see [the supervisor] to try to get signed up for it. You just ask the commander to put you in. He said you can't go because you're too low on the totem pole. I'm not trying to make this thing any grander than it is. ...

    © 1999 The Washington Post Company

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