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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
US officer banned for Bush 'joke' jibe
Military academy graduate presents President Bush with gift
Presidents expect greater respect from the military
An officer in the United States Air Force has been relieved of his current duties for writing a letter to a local newspaper describing President George W Bush as a "joke".

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Butler said the president knew about the 11 September attacks on America and did nothing to warn the American people.


His daddy had Saddam and he needed Osama, his presidency was going nowhere, this guy is a joke

Colonel Butler's letter
His suspension comes under a law dating back to the American War of Independence which forbids insults directed by military officers against the president or other political leaders.

Colonel Butler was serving as vice chancellor for student affairs at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, when he wrote the letter, published in the Monterey County Herald.

He has spent 24 years in the air force, which include duty as a combat pilot in the 1990 Gulf War.

'Unelected'

The letter suggested that Mr Bush had not come to power by legitimate means, and the war on terror was merely part of a strategy to improve his position.

"His presidency was going nowhere," it read. "He wasn't elected by the American people, but placed into the Oval Office by the conservative Supreme Court... the economy was sliding into the usual Republican pits and he needed something to hang his presidency on."

Bill Clinton
Clinton: "Womaniser" and "draft-dodger"
Colonel Butler's wife Stella told the newspaper he had been given a "lot of grief" over the letter by the military and planned to retire in a few weeks.

Article 88 of the code of military justice states that any commissioned officer who uses "contemptuous words" against the president, vice-president, members of Congress or state governors should be punished by court-martial.

Military sources say the last court-martial came in 1965, when an army second lieutenant was prosecuted for taking part in an anti-war protest in Texas.

But under President Bill Clinton, several army officers were disciplined - including one Air Force general who was forced into early retirement for describing the president as "gay-loving", "womanising", "draft-dodging" and "pot-smoking".

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