by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Although the events of the Iran-contra scandal have faded from the minds of the American press, the unanswered and perhaps the most intriguing question continues to be: “Where was George?”

Despite the vast experience that Bush acquired while serving as U.S. ambassador to China, director of the CIA, and head of the Reagan administration’s task force on combating terrorism, his assertion that he was “out of the loop” has yet to be challenged or explored by the main­stream press.

But new material from North’s diaries, which has yet to be widely examined or dissemi­nated by the mainstream media, combines with previous evidence to paint a different picture of Bush’s role. The new evidence was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and Public Citizen.

The diaries provide additional evidence that Bush played a major role in Iran-contra from the beginning. He passed up repeated opportunities to cut the transactions short or at least make President Reagan think twice. While the secretaries of state and defense were both cut out of the arms-for-hostages deals after objecting to it, Bush attended almost every key meeting.

While publicly stating that, “It never became clear to me, the arms for hostages thing, until it was fully debriefed, investigated and debriefed by (the Senate Intelligence Committee on De­cember 20, 1986),” White House logs show that Bush attended the first key Iran-contra meeting on August 6, 1985. It was at this meeting that Reagan, Bush, Schultz, Weinberger, and Chief of Staff Donald Regan heard National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane present the first deal-a swap of 100 TOW anti-tank missiles to Iran in exchange for the release of four American hos­tages in Lebanon.

Neither the Tower Commission nor the congressional committees elicited from any of the participants in the Aug. 6 meeting any memory of Bush’s position on the issue. Bush’s staff has said he was not present, citing their own records in conflict with the White House logs.

Additionally, the combination of the North diaries, the congressional committee’s report, and White House logs place Bush at key meetings on January 6, 7, and 17; May 29; July 1 and 29; August 6; and October 3rd of 1986.

While mounting evidence continues to thoroughly contradict the President’s disclaimers, the White House sticks by its stock response: “The vice president’s role in the Iran-contra affair was completely examined in the congressional inquiry, and we have nothing to add.”

Evidently, the mainstream press doesn’t either.


SOURCE: The National Security Archive, 1755 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20036, DATE: 7/10/90 (Published in THE WASHINGTON POST “Outlook”)

TITLE: “Where George Was”


COMMENTS: While there was massive coverage of the Iran-contra affair, the media never did ask the most important questions and then considered the scandal finished the day Admiral John Poindexter testified to Congress that he didn’t tell President Reagan about the diversion of cash to the contras from arms to the Ayatollah. As author Tom Blanton points out, the primary bene­ficiary of this press breakdown was Reagan’s heir apparent, George Bush, whose inherently incredible version of Iran-contra events remains almost completely unchallenged in the media. Blanton also comments on why there was a media breakdown. “It’s perhaps understandable that the press, by and large throughout Iran-contra, failed to digest and report the mountains of declassified documents that a reluctant government ultimately disgorged. It’s less forgivable that the press failed even to read each other’s clips or provide the comprehensive overviews of the evidence that would allow the American public to draw its own conclusions. The media’s failure is a systematic one, deriving as it does from excessive dependence upon official sources, often anonymously quoted. Journalists, by and large, are unwilling to suffer the marginalization and red-baiting that, for instance, I.F. Stone endured as a result of his refusal to play the power game – they prefer receiving their journalism awards in their thirties, rather than their eighties. Journalistic advancement in the modern age is predicated not upon expertise but upon access, usually official access. It’s no accident that the White House press corps (elites of the journal­ism world) was the last to report about North and Poindexter’s activities right there in the base­ment. North was a source, a protected source, for many of them. Likewise, many reporters who covered the Iran-contra Congressional hearings switched assignments by the time of the North and Poindexter trials; and it was a rare reporter in either case who came to Iran-contra with any expertise in either Central America or the Middle East. Combined with Congress’s failure to address the fundamental Iran-contra questions, the press’s lack of institutional memory means that articles like this one (`Where George Was’) on George Bush are like pebbles thrown into a pond. Hopefully, Project Censored will raise the ripple rate.” Blanton also warns why it is im­portant to know what happened with Iran-contra: “Knowing Bush’s role in Iran-contra not only provides insights into the President’s personality, it should also alert us all to the dangers inher­ent in his penchant for secrecy, his fondness for covert operations, and his willing participation in secret deals with foreign countries.”