Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the American invasion of Iraq, but said that the U.S. could have “done better” without a cycle of distrust and dysfunction among Bush administration officials.
When George Stephanopoulos of ABC News asked Rice whether the cost of the war in Iraq had been worth it, she responded that “every international-relations class starts with the Middle East as the most volatile region in the world. We also now know that it was the cradle of al-Qaida and extremism.”
Stephanopoulos interrupted her there: “Al-Qaida wasn’t in Iraq--you know that now.” Rice replied: “Well, Osama bin Laden was a Saudi. [Ayman] al-Zawahiri was an Egyptian.” To this, Stephanopoulos quipped: “Not Iraqi, though.”
“This came out of the Middle East,” Rice said, referring to al-Qaida. “Now, we didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to the Iraqis…. This was a security threat, and I as much as anybody understand and really regret the cost. Particularly in lives. But I also know that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice…. I don’t think that Saddam [Hussein] was removable by any other means.”
Still, Rice said, the U.S. “could have done better” in Iraq without what she describes in her new book as a cycle of distrust and dysfunction within the Bush administration. “As I’ve looked back on this, I think, well, if it had been a more smoothly functioning team, might we have gotten some issues out [from] under the table and resolved," she said.
Rice’s remarks follow a spate of recent 'he said-she said' comments between former Bush administration officials. Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney in his memoir condemned Rice's handling of nuclear negotiations with North Korea, among other things. In his own memoir, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld slammed Rice for her lack of experience in government.
Rice goes into more detail in her new book, No Higher Honor. On ABC, she described a spat with Rumsfeld, whom she finally confronted outside the Oval Office. “I said to him, 'I don't know what's gone wrong between us,' " Rice said. "And he said he didn't, either. And he said something about my being bright.... It’s one of those words you don’t use about a colleague … not condescending. Just a term of inequality.”
Rice also told ABC about the time she accompanied President Bush on a trip to China just a few weeks after 2001—during which Cheney appeared on a video conference to inform them that White House detectors found botulinum toxin, a poisonous and lethal substance, and that all those exposed were going to die. "I remember everybody just sort of freezing, and the president saying, ‘What was that? What was that, Dick?’ ” said Rice, who was the National Security adviser at the time. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and Chief of Staff Andy Card were also at risk, ABC reports.
Rice’s deputy, Steven Hadley, ran the tests. According to Rice, Hadley said: “Let me put it this way. If the mice are feet up, we’re toast. If the mice are feet down, we’re fine.” For 24 hours in Shanghai, though, Rice said they did not know if the president and key members of his staff were poisoned.
When Hadley called to give the results, Rice went to Bush, who was meeting with Chinese officials. “I said, ‘The mice are feet down.’ And the president said, ‘That’s a good thing,’ and I’m sure the Chinese who probably got a translation thought it was some sort of code,” Rice said.