In Memoir, Condi Rice Reveals Disagreements About Iraq War Policy

In her new memoir Condoleeza Rice says that there were significant internal disagreements in the Bush White House over Iraq War policy:

Just days after President Obama declared an end to the Iraq war, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is releasing a memoir providing insight into the turmoil over the war within the Bush administration.

From the beginning, Rice wrote in her new book “No Higher Honor,” she had concerns about the United States’ post-war plans for Iraq. Her attempts to broach the subject before the 2003 invasion “always led to uninformative slides and a rather dismissive handling of the question,” she wrote, according to a preview of her book in Newsweek magazine.

“When I finally arranged a briefing on the issue before the President in early February, he started the meeting in a way that completely destroyed any chance of getting an answer,” Rice wrote. “‘This is something Condi has wanted to talk about,’ he said. I could immediately see that the generals no longer thought it to be a serious question.”

That incident, Rice wrote, revealed the weakness of her position at the time, as the president’s national security adviser. “Authority comes from the President,” she wrote. “If he wasn’t interested in this issue, why should they care?”

By 2006, when Rice served as secretary of state, she was concerned the U.S. would become mired in Iraq’s civil war. According to a review of the memoir in the New York Times, Rice told Mr. Bush she opposed a plan to increase troops there to protect Iraqi civilians.

“So what’s your plan, Condi?” the president retorted, Rice wrote. “We’ll just let them kill each other, and we’ll stand by and try to pick up the pieces?”

She responded, “if they want to have a civil war we’re going to have to let them.”

A harsh response, but perhaps not the incorrect one. Obviously, as is usually the case with these political memoirs, Rice is likely recounting events in a manner that puts her in a good light. Nonetheless, the fact that she was one of the few people in the Bush Administration in 2003 who was trying to talk about post-war planning, which is largely where the entire war plan fell apart, and that she was basically ignored shows just how tightly controlled the group think within the Administration was back then. It was clear to me, for example, that the decision to go to war had been made some time in 2002 and that all of the pageantry we went through with the Congressional vote, the inspectors, and United Nations hearings and the like was simply window dressing to legitimize something that was going to happen anyway.

Some will criticize Rice for not speaking up sooner, of course, but I’m not sure what that would have accomplished. With the President, Vice-President, and the Secretaries of Defense and State all arguing for war, it doesn’t seem likely that the National Security Adviser, more likely former National Security Adviser since dissent on a topic like this would have required resignation, could have changed much of anything.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, National Security, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Franklin says:

    I eagerly anticipate the PR releases from Cheney and Rumsfeld that leave no question about Rice’s shortcomings. That’s the best they can do at this point, the history is being written and it is not flattering to them.

  2. So…the claims from Democrats that Bush had absolutely no plan were correct then? I have a feeling that Rush Limbaugh is feeling especially stupid today.

  3. Moosebreath says:

    “That incident, Rice wrote, revealed the weakness of her position at the time, as the president’s national security adviser. “Authority comes from the President,” she wrote. “If he wasn’t interested in this issue, why should they care?””

    I think she should have resigned right then. If her authority comes from her relationship with the President, and the President undercuts her in such a manner, what is the point in continuing to serve?

  4. john personna says:

    Her stay or leave dilemma is kind of well known. I think in retrospect, leaving would have been better.

  5. Hey Norm says:

    If I had allowed 9/11 to happen on my watch, failed to bring those responsible to justice, instituted a torture program in violation on International Law, and made Iran stronger by invading Iraq for no plausible reason…I’d be furiously trying to re-write history too!!!

  6. Rob in CT says:

    This isn’t news, is it?

    Hell, during the run-up to the war, *I*, a mere private citizen, could clearly see they had no plan after “smash Iraqi Army.”

    The only news here is, I suppose, that Condi Rice is distancing herself from the mess. But… are we to see this as admirable?

    Rice told Mr. Bush she opposed a plan to increase troops there to protect Iraqi civilians.

    “So what’s your plan, Condi?” the president retorted, Rice wrote. “We’ll just let them kill each other, and we’ll stand by and try to pick up the pieces?”

    She responded, “if they want to have a civil war we’re going to have to let them.”

    Wait, what? Having invaded and toppled the government, we should just stand back and let ’em kill each other (after all, they WANT to, so you see it’s really the right thing to do)??

    Am I missing something?

  7. MBunge says:

    This is one of the few times I can recall Rice admitting she did anything as NSA other than taking what other people said and presenting it to the President like she was the world’s most highly paid fax machine.

    Mike

  8. Kit says:

    You ever read the book Speech-less that one of Bush’s speechwriters wrote? It was interesting because he basically said that Rice was the master of political PR theater – something goes wrong and she’s got a dozen aides anonymously sourcing quotes on how it was someone else’s team that screwed up while everyone else is trying to figure out what is even going on in the first place.

  9. @Moosebreath: Would it have matter if she had resigned? Paul O’Neill, who served as Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury, resigned and wrote an unflattering book about the Bush administration which was promptly ignored by the media.

  10. Moosebreath says:

    Timothy Watson,

    Would is have mattered as to what? As to invading Iraq, of course not. That ship had sailed on January 21, 2001. The issue is whether she could actually serve the government, and my view is that she had been so undermined that she could not.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Jesus these people were stupid. And I was stupid for not knowing earlier just how stupid they were. It literally never occurred to me that they could be quite this f–ing dumb. I knew Mr. Bush was dim but I still didn’t grasp the depth of it. All those people killed, all those men in VA hospitals or in cemeteries, orphans and widows, all that money, and the people running the show were nothing but a bunch of f–ing clowns.

    I said from the start it was a 51/49 thing for me, so I was dubious, I was suspicious, but I grew up during Vietnam, I should have known better. I should have seen the stupid.

  12. A voice from another precinct says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, those who don’t learn are doomed to repeat. On the other hand, we had lots of guys on both sides saying that there were no similarities between the ME and VN because the ME isn’t a jungle, among other things.

    That shoulda been our first clue.

  13. Anderson says:

    @Moosebreath: Bingo. How many lives might she have saved by resigning? I hope she lies awake wondering about that.

  14. anjin-san says:

    How many lives might she have saved by resigning?

    A well timed resignation can change history. Ask Elliot Richardson.

  15. Neha says:

    actually USA, is the only Country who has used bombs in the second world war, on hiroshima and nagasaki, and has seen the destuction caused by these bombs, it has totally destroyed the hiroshima and nagasaki. it only advocates that other country should not have bombs, but never destroyed its bombs and kept on increasing its bomb arsenal and military equipments. it has invaded vietnam, it attacked cuba and libya, and on the pretext of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)it attacked IRAQ, and ruined the whole country, which was once a very prosperous and avanced. it has killed millions of people there including old and children and women, even the women were brutally raped by the soldiers, then comes the osama bin laden, the al-qaida-leader. he was brought and traind by CIA and british agencies and used to fight against the russians on behalf of american in the name of jihad in afghanistan, but it was the americans fighting russians by sending osama like people in front. CIA, and americans do all such types of activities and blames other and killed billions of innocent people on false pretext. the biggest lie of this century was that it attacked IRAQ on the pretext of WMD, and when it was proved that there were no WMDs in IRAQ at all, these people simply said it was a mistake.i hope and wish that americans should have used their power in a good and better way as to help the mankind.

  16. Matt says:

    We can do that in Libya because we are not in the middle of it, that could have take 10 to 15 years in Iraq so for a strategic withdrawal we had to increase troop numbers. It could take 10 to 15 years in Libya, but we are not in the middle of it, if al-Qaida turns up we go hunting.