Condoleezza Rice discusses Bush White House tensions in new book

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice writes about her disagreements with the Bush administration, her thoughts on the war in Iraq, and her own response to Hurricane Katrina.

Photo by Dennis Brack/Newscom
In former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's new book, she says she regrets going on a shopping trip in New York during Hurricane Katrina.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defends the war in Iraq and details tensions within the Bush White House team in her new book “No Higher Honor,” scheduled for release on Nov. 1.

Rice’s memoir, which follows her years in the Bush White House, comes after books by former Vice-President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and former President George W. Bush.

According to a review in The New York Times, Rice says in “No Higher Honor” that she regrets going on a shopping trip in New York as Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath were engulfing New Orleans, calling the decision “tone deaf,” and she states that she believes the Arab Spring uprisings are the result of Bush’s agenda to bring democracy to other areas of the world. Rice also discusses perceived threats to the US after 9/11 that the public didn’t know about at the time, including the possibility of radioactive and smallpox attacks on Washington D.C.

In “No Higher Honor,’ Rice details how she threatened to resign when Bush issued an order – an order which had been the work of White House counsel Albert R. Gonzales – that authorized military commissions, without notifying her first.

“If this happens again, either Al Gonzales or I will have to resign,” Rice says she told Bush, according to the New York Times. The president apologized, and Rice writes that she doesn’t think it was Bush’s fault.

But Rice also recounts a disagreement she had with Bush over sending more troops to Iraq. Rice told the president they should pull troops out of cities.

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

“If they want to have a civil war, we’re going to have to let them,” she says she retorted.

But Rice says she told the president no one had been more committed to winning in Iraq and that Bush replied, “I know.”

Rice also writes of her encounters with foreign leaders, including Muammar Qaddafi, whom she says had an “eerie fascination with me.” Rice also says that Qaddafi made a strange video that had pictures of her with a song titled “Black Flower in the White House” that played in the background.

“It was weird, but at least it wasn’t raunchy,” Rice writes of the video.

Rice says in her book that Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, looked “as though he was on drugs” and that she felt like she needed a shower after shaking hands with the president of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud.

Rice says she often argued with Cheney and that they had a particularly heated exchange over the issue of whether to publicly acknowledge keeping Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other suspects secretly imprisoned. Rice writes that Rumsfeld said, “I don’t do detainees” at one point and that he tried not to get involved in arguments over the subject.

Rice says she also had disagreements with Rumsfeld and that she once asked him what was wrong in their relationship.

“You’re obviously bright and committed, but it just doesn’t work,” she says Rumsfeld told her.

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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