Bush National Guard bust unveiling said postponed from December of 2002 because of 'pending war' with Iraq
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Wednesday June 7, 2006
The unveiling of a bronze bust commemorating President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard was postponed initially from December of 2002 due to the "pending war" with Iraq at the time, according to an assistant to the renowned sculptor commissioned for the project.
The unveiling took place before a global war on terror speech given by the president at the National Guard Memorial Museum in Washington, DC this February. The bust is currently on display in the Hall of the States wing of the museum, alongside the sculpted heads of ten other Guard presidents, including the former leader of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis.
"Charles Parks completed the bronze bust of George W. Bush for the National Guard Museum in the fall of 2002," Joanne Cimini told RAW STORY. "The original unveiling was supposed to be in December of 2002."
"However, as it was stated to me, because of the then-'pending war' it was postponed until further notice," Cimini said.
Evidence of "pending war" long denied
The Bush Administration has always insisted that there was no "pending war" in 2002. Congress passed a joint resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq in October of 2002. However, the President has always maintained that no definitive decision had been made at that time.
Memos obtained by British journalist Michael Smith of the Sunday Times last year contained top secret "UK eyes only" minutes taken at a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and some of his senior ministers and advisers (link).
"Military action was now seen as inevitable," said the minutes. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD."
In March, The New York Times obtained another secret memo, written by Blair's then-chief foreign policy adviser, David Manning, which summarized a January 23, 2003 "closed door meeting" between Bush and Blair. Although both leaders would continue to insist for the next two months that a final decision hadn't been reached, a "start date" for the war was recorded in the memo.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Manning's memo said. "This was when the bombing would begin."
In addition, Bob Woodward's 2004 book, Plan of Attack, based on interviews with nearly every administration heavyweight, also reported that President Bush made up his mind to invade Iraq in January of 2003 link.
But in a recent interview with a British journalist, President Bush categorically denied that the decision to invade Iraq had been made months or more in advance. Bush claimed that it wasn't until after the 48-hour deadline passed on March 20 that he made up his mind for certain.
"I took the decision after the ultimatum," Bush said emphatically, according to Con Coughlin.
"I guess in the UK there's all kinds of rumors about, 'We made the decision nine months ahead of time,'" Bush added. "It's just not true."
At the bust's unveiling there was no mention of any postponements, and President Bush only referred to the bust in a few brief remarks at the start of his speech.
As The Washington Post's Peter Baker reported in February, President Bush's National Guard service has remained a "sore spot" ever since "critics questioned whether he manipulated his guard service to avoid having to serve in Vietnam" during his re-election campaign.
"The president made no mention of the contretemps yesterday, and in fact offered virtually no comment on the bust at all," Baker wrote. "His only reference was to thank the man who raised the money for it, retired Chief Warrant Officer Lewis King, and the man who sculpted it, Charles Parks."
A long time (and a lot of money) in the making
"Charles caught me before my hair went gray," the president had joked.
Parks' assistant told RAW STORY that the president didn't model for the bust, so the artist used pictures from the Internet and Time Magazine as a reference.
"These pictures were of a younger George W. Bush in his National Guard uniform," said Cimini. "There were numerous pictures of Mr. Bush from all stages of his life to the present."
According to the Charles Parks Studio website, the artist "has created a body of over 500 sculptures spanning fifty five years," and once served as president of the National Sculpture Society, and on the President's Advisory Committee on the Fine Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Bush isn't the first president Parks has sculpted. Another Parks creation, "Gerald Ford As An Eagle Scout," stands outside the headquarters for Boy Scouts of America in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"With regard to the costs of either one, I cannot divulge or will not divulge that information," Cimini informed RAW STORY when asked about the costs of both the Bush and Ford sculptures.
However, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis King, who helped raise money for the bust working with the National Guard Association of Texas Educational Foundation (NGATEF), told a writer at the National Guard Association of United States magazine that he began working on the project in 2001 and that the total cost amounted to $75,000.
"It took only 12 months for the NGATEF to raise more than the required $75,000, says Chief King," John Goheen wrote. "In all, the foundation collected about $250,000. Most of the remaining balance went to college scholarships for Texas Guardsmen and their families.
But King didn't attribute the delay in the unveiling to the "pending war" with Iraq in the Guard magazine article, and he categorized the delay as "months" as opposed to the more than three years that passed.
"They and NGAUS officials then waited months to secure time on the president's schedule for a formal unveiling," Goheen wrote.
The Guard magazine also revealed that Bush's bust contains authentic unit patches.
"The shoulder patches are the only parts not hand crafted," wrote Goheen. "They are actual unit patches coated with a thin layer of bronze."
The National Guard Education Foundation is currently raising money for an Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom exhibit for the National Guard Memorial Museum to be dedicated in December. The foundation's plan is to collect 100 pledges of $500 each to raise the $50,000 total needed.
One listed donor for the permanent exhibit which "will tell the Guard story in the war on terror through artifacts such as uniforms, ballots from the first post-Hussein Iraq election and shell casings from fired rounds" is Lewis King & Associates, Chief Warrant Officer King's defense industry consulting firm (link).
Upon retiring "as executive director of the National Guard Association of Texas after 15 years with the association," Lewis O. King was honored by Texas Congressman Sam Johnson in 1994.
"Through his untiring efforts, Mr. King was instrumental in establishing and coordinating the Texas Guard Legislative Task Force, whose volunteer members work solely for a better National Guard and for the defense of this great Nation," said Rep. Johnson.
According to the National Guard Association of Texas website, the "task force members' top priority is to secure positive (or negative) congressional response to bills or proposals affecting our military forces." King worked as a lobbyist for the National Guard Association of Texas from 1998 to 2003.
As a lobbyist or "contact officer," King told National Guard magazine in 2000 that part of his job was "to maintain a wide variety of relationships with politicians."
"You have to build up credibility. You want to be able to get the relationship to a point to where [legislators] call up about a Guard issue and ask, `What is this all about?'" Lewis told National Guard magazine's Chris Maddaloni.
Over the last five years, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, King has donated close to $7000 to the Republican National Committee and almost $2,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. King is also listed as a supporter at VetsforBush.com.
On February 9, the day of the bust's unveiling, Bob Cesca at The Huffington Post wondered why the date on the green marble pedestal for the bust was left open-ended in an article entitled "President Bush Forever!"
"The inscription noting the duration of Bush's presidential term doesn't read "2001-2009," wrote Cesca. "It reads '2001-BLANK.' In other words, the statue says he's going to be president from 2001 through infinity!"
"I knew this would slip out somehow, but I never thought the leak would come from a statue," Cesca continued. "Is someone at the National Guard trying to warn us? Does President Bush plan to use his Executive authority under his wartime powers to cancel the 2008 election because a change in leadership here might embolden the terrorists? The statue says 'yes.'"
But the date on the pedestal was left open-ended because it was commissioned during President Bush's first term in office, sometime in the fall of 2001, according to Parks' assistant.
"The bronze bust of Mr. Bush took approximately one year, by the time everything was okayed," said Cimini.
Although they outsourced the marble pedestal work, the Charles Parks Studio was responsible for the entire piece.
Parks' assistant also told RAW STORY - to the best of her knowledge - how the artist was chosen for the work.
"Apparently Lewis King got Charles Parks' name from a friend and that is how the sculpture was commissioned," said Cimini.
When asked if President Bush was aware of Parks' work in the art world, Cimini said she doubted it.
"To be honest, I don't really think President Bush is aware of Charles Parks at all," said Cimini. "He didn't strike me as someone interested in art."