Some facts are stubborn things to check!

In his last post, Varius made the following point:

To question the timing, to speculate about the worst cause of an unclear event (like those who wondered whether Bush 'went AWOL' to avoid drug testing), and to counter a valid argument through an ad hominem attack is part and parcel of the leftist worldview.
My curiosity was aroused, so I poked around and saw that the story about drug testing is based on the following assertions in a piece by Salon.com Senior Editor Eric Boehlert:
Did Bush drop out of the National Guard to avoid drug testing?
The young pilot walked away from his commitment in 1972 -- the same year the U.S. military implemented random drug tests.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By Eric Boehlert

Feb. 6, 2004

One of the persistent riddles surrounding President Bush's disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard during 1972 and 1973 is the question of why he walked away. Bush was a fully trained pilot who had undergone a rigorous two-year flight training program that cost the Pentagon nearly $1 million. And he has told reporters how important it was to follow in his father's footsteps and to become a fighter pilot. Yet in April 1972, George W. Bush climbed out of a military cockpit for the last time. He still had two more years to serve, but Bush's own discharge papers suggest he never served for the Guard again.

It is, of course, possible that Bush had simply had enough of the Guard and, with the war in Vietnam beginning to wind down, decided that he would rather do other things. In 1972 he asked to be transferred to an Alabama unit so he could work on a Senate campaign for a friend of his father's. But some skeptics have speculated that Bush might have dropped out to avoid being tested for drugs. Which is where Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program, comes in. The new drug-testing effort was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense.

The official regulations look very authoritative, and would appear to settle at least the matter of when drug testing was instituted in the Air Force, right down to the date of directive, date of implementation, and the exact regulation number.

Surely these facts were checked and rechecked, I thought.

But the problem is, I lived in Hawaii in 1975-1976, and I knew a number of guys in the military. I got high with some of them (should I say I never inhaled?), and even discussed my own thoughts about possibly enlisting (something I ruled out -- but not because of drug testing).

In fact, I can state from my own memory that a lot of guys in the military in Hawaii in the mid 1970s did drugs. There was no routine drug screening. Drug testing was in its infancy at the time, and drug use was rampant in all branches of the service. All rules were liberalized, and there were even on-base beer dispensing machines. It wasn't until the late 1970s that there was talk of drug testing.

According to what I can discern, drug testing in the military started in 1981.

Here's an article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

When the U.S. Navy thought too many aircraft were crashing into carrier decks during the late 1970s, it instituted mandatory drug testing and found almost 50 percent of those tested were positive for marijuana, according to Carl Linden, scientific director of toxicology for Diagnostic Services Inc. in Honolulu.

Between 1981 and 1986, Linden said, the Navy enforced mandatory, random drug testing on ships and drug use dropped to a few percentage points.

The 1981 date finds confirmation here, here, here, and here. And in an editorial letter to the Washington Times, Retired Air Force Colonel William Campenni says:
...[T]he formal drug testing program was not instituted by the Air Force until the 1980s and is done randomly by lot, not as a special part of a flight physical, when one easily could abstain from drug use because of its date certain.
So who's lying? What about the "official" dates and regulations cited by Eric Boehlert?

I shouldn't have to go to so much trouble, but the idea that official regulations and dates might be made up is a possibility too disturbing to ignore. Surely, I thought, a little research should clear this up.

So I googled "Air Force Regulation 160-23", and found 33 hits -- all pointing not to any actual Air Force regulation, but to Eric Boehlert's language.

Then I googled "Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program", and I got the same 33 hits to the same language.

Same thing for the dates: "April 21, 1972" "drug testing" and "Jan. 11, 1972" "drug testing", as well as when the April and January dates are googled together.

None of this proves conclusively that the regulation wasn't instituted, of course.

How might I confirm something so basic? Are we to assume that the author contacted the Air Force? He lists no Air Force spokesman, links to no official web site, and no matter what I google, it's a closed loop.

NOTE: Considering that Boehlert is said to be a writer of "fiction", even if the story of Air Force regulations proves false, I may be completely overreacting.... After all, these days, a documentary doesn't have to be true, so why should a story in an online news magazine?

UPDATE: I'm sure this could all be cleared up if I just knew the right people. Maybe I should go on this cruise to find out who carries the water. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric on 07.26.04 at 04:12 PM










Comments

An Air Force PDF document on drug testing (18WGI 44-101) makes reference to AFI 44-120 and SGSAL OI 160-23 on page 2.

SGSAL 160-23, whatever it might be, does not seem to be available online.

It's odd that Boehlert names the document then tells us what it's "also known as," and yet we're unable to find anyone who knows of it by either name.

To be also known as necessitates that one is known.

Varius Contrarius   ·  July 26, 2004 10:29 PM

1972. Drugs? Draft-dodging? Long hair? Psychedelic posters? McGovern? Was Bush secretly campaigning for McGovern? Hmmm....

"McGovern ran the dirtiest campaign on record." -Ayn Rand

The goal of the Conspiracy was "to make Richard Nixon the absolute dictator of the total population of the earth, in other words, _the first ruler of the world_." -Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society

Hmmm.... Was Bush secretly campaigning for that dirty McGovern so that McGovern could make Richard Nixon the absolute dictator of the total population of the earth, in other words, _the first ruler of the world_? Hmmm....

1972. What a fascinating year that was. That was when I was first getting into spectrums. The _style_ of it all!


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