Condoleezza Rice's memoir reveals clashes over Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gestures during a news conference, on Aug. 13, 2008, at the State Department in Washington. AP PHOTO

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."

Rice recounts her clashes with other members of the Bush administration, including then-Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Both Cheney and Rumsfeld have criticized Rice in their own respective memoirs.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson said Rice's memoir reveals that "actually the most important things that the president does have a direct control over happens in small room with a small group of national security advisers."

"And so the ability to have a team that works well together, that doesn't get involved in group-think, that's what a president really-- that's an important attribute for a president," he said. "And that's the kind of thing that doesn't get talked about much on the campaign trail."

Rice's memoir touches on a range of issues from the Bush era, including the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She recounts making the "tone-deaf" decision to go to the theater and go shopping in New York City as the hurricane was hitting New Orleans.

"I wasn't just the secretary of state with responsibility for foreign affairs; I was the highest-ranking black in the administration and a key advisor to the President," she wrote. "What had I been thinking?"

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