Bush Barred From Iran Talks, He Writes
Vice President George Bush concluded last December that he had been “deliberately excluded” from crucial White House meetings in which the Iran arms-for-hostages deals were secretly conceived and executed, Bush says in an book to be published this month.
In brief comments on the Iran- contra affair, the vice president writes that he did not “see the picture as a whole” until nearly two months after the arms sales became public, when Sen. Dave Durenberger (R-Minn.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, briefed him on a Senate inquiry into the scandal.
“What Dave had to say left me with the feeling . . . that I’d been deliberately excluded from key meetings involving details of the Iran operation,” Bush says in “Looking Forward,” an autobiography written with longtime adviser and political speech writer Victor Gold.
Safeguards Held Ignored
Bush later decided that “it wasn’t simply that the vice president had been excluded” from deliberations, but that “all safeguards in the White House decision-making process” had been ignored in proceeding with the arms sales.
The vice president’s eight-page recounting of the Iran-contra affair places no blame and contains no major new revelations. In it, he repeats earlier statements that he was troubled by the policy and expressed “misgivings” to other officials, whom he does not name.
Bush does not say who he believes made a decision to exclude him from a role in the Iran arms dealings, and he does not indicate from which “key meetings” he was deliberately excluded.
White House documents and congressional testimony indicate that Bush was informed of many details of the secret Iran initiative at least as early as Jan. 7, 1986, when he was present at a heated Oval Office discussion of the policy.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz testified to Congress last month that he and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger forcefully argued at that session against selling more arms to Iran. Shultz testified that Bush joined National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter and CIA Director William J. Casey in urging President Reagan to continue the arms sales.
Bush’s chief of staff, Craig L. Fuller, has said Bush does not recall the debate and may not have been present during part of the meeting.
The vice president writes that he was aware of the May, 1986, mission to Iran undertaken by former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North.
Briefing by Nir
Bush also recounts a detailed August, 1986, briefing on the Iran arms sales by Israeli counterterrorism expert Amiram Nir, after which, he writes, he decided that the “main thrust” of the arms sales had shifted from influencing Iranian officials to freeing American hostages.
The vice president states that his misgivings about the affair grew after that meeting, but he does not disclose whether he told others. Bush states that he was unaware that Shultz and Weinberger had been vigorously opposed to the policy for more than a year at the time of his meeting with Nir.
“If I’d known that and asked the President to call a meeting of the NSC, he might have seen the project in a different light,” Bush writes. “I later questioned whether I’d done everything possible to make my doubts known” as the secret arms deals began to unravel last fall.