Vice President George Bush said for the first time Wednesday that in the presence of others he voiced reservations about the secret Iran arms sales that went beyond his previously stated concerns about the role of Israel in the covert operation.
"I also had the concerns that I have when any covert action is undertaken--how will it be interpreted if the cover is blown? Will lives be lost? Will our credibility be damaged? Unfortunately, my reservations turned out to be well-founded," Bush said.
His comments came in written responses delivered Wednesday to questions posed by Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory in her column Tuesday. Bush did not say when he voiced reservations or who heard them.
He has said repeatedly in recent campaign appearances that he stood "solidly" with the President and would not reveal what advice he gave President Reagan privately. Bush again vowed Wednesday not to disclose his advice to Reagan but said the additional reservations were made in a "setting with others present."
The vice president also said for the first time that records show he "probably" was a participant in the critical Jan. 7, 1986, meeting with Reagan and other senior Cabinet officials who raised objections to the arms sales, including Secretary of State George P. Shultz and then-Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger.
However, Bush said: "I do not recall any strenuous objection. Had there been any strenuous objection, I am sure I would have remembered it." The vice president noted he was absent at several key meetings in 1985 on the Iran arms sales, including one on Dec. 7 in the White House when "objections were apparently forcefully stated" by others.
Bush said he did not ask Shultz or Weinberger for their views. "Nor do I recall their soliciting my views, again in large part because the usual NSC (National Security Council) process for sharing views had not been invoked," Bush said.