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Why I did what I did

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Message Bill Burkett
Lt. Col. Bill Burkett, Texas National Guard, retired, caused a firestorm in September, 2004, when he was involved in a 60 Minutes segment which dealt with President Bush's service in the National Guard. While CBS ultimately retracted their story, the basic truth of the revelations is unchallenged. Peabody Award winner Mary Mapes, who produced the segment of 60 Minutes and was fired after CBS apologized for it, maintains the authenticity of the documents and claims that the attacks against her were orchestrated by a right-wing Internet smear campaign. She wrote a book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power about the scandal. Lt. Col. Burkett has been attacked and maligned for his involvement in this episode. In my eyes, Lt. Col. Burkett served his country honorably and in this instance tried to do the right thing, at great personal cost. He is a true 'local hero' in a time sorely lacking many. This OpEd piece is in response to my request that he write about why he did what he did. Below is his reply.
Joan Brunwasser

Why did I do what I did" First let me say what I did and didn't do. I did finally decide to share these documents which were passed to me along with other archives with those that could enter them within an ongoing debate concerning a resume that was obviously fudged, had absolute gaps and unanswered questions big enough to drive a truck through. The President could have honestly answered those questions, but chose not to after obviously fabricating a media message within his autobiography that was false. He wisely decided to stop lying, so he went silent.

I did not falsify or fabricate these documents in any way, nor the backgrounds given concerning them.

I saw no meaningful purpose in sharing them until the summer of 2004 because I felt the Vietnam debate was counterproductive to the nation. But once the issue became integrity and truthfulness, the documents took on a different level of importance, and I relinquished them.

There were lots of strange things and facts that no one wants to report because they undermine the theories that have been launched. For example, at least one major media person who was at the front of exposing my identity withheld key and critical information in his possession that would have proven my credibility. Not only the Republicans, but the Democrats were working this story and not from a factual perspective on either side. And the talking points on the memos that ended up while the piece was playing came from a leak within the CBS team and their consultants.

It was contentious and lost its credibility no sooner than it was released because the same people fighting this issue were part of the multi million dollar Swift Boat campaign.

What did it cost me? Most everything except my integrity and my spirit.

None of that was for sale and therefore could not be eroded by anyone other than me.

For 28 years I served in uniform; took an oath that said I would protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic; and placed America first.

I don't think that's any different calling than any stockholder of this country must take.

What must we all do?

Our educators have done us a disservice over the past 25 years. Most of our citizens under the age of 35 have never read the Declaration of Independence which defines WHY we became a free and sovereign nation and what sets America apart.

I believe that less than 10% of all Americans under the age of 35 have ever read the Constitution of the United States and understand the "VALUES" of America.

That's why they could invent, substitute and otherwise overlay CONSTITUTIONAL AMERICAN VALUES with more sectarian ones through the last seven Presidential campaigns.

So I have no doubt that once these two basic steps are taken by Every American, we will find a renewed soberness and intensity within this land.

How do you change the mindset of putting myself first - the selfish mindset - with "selfless mindsets" or putting the nation first?

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