Asked by Tell Me More host Michel Martin if reasonable people could conclude that President George W. Bush's administration came pretty close to lying about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction during the run-up to the Iraq War, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that:
"The intelligence was as clear as any intelligence I've ever seen and I've been in this business a long time. ... When you had intelligence assessments that said Saddam Hussein has reconstituted his biological and chemical weapons and could reconstitute his nuclear weapon in a year if he got foreign assistance — by the end of the decade if he didn't — I've actually never seen clearer indications than that.
"The problem is, the intelligence wasn't right."
And as to whether the Bush administration in which she served (first as National Security adviser) tried to shape the intelligence to fit a decision it wanted to take — to go to war — Rice said, "we had been through 16 [U.N.] Security Council resolutions in which [Hussein had] been considered a threat to international peace and security.
Yuri Cortez /AFP/Getty Images
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Yuri Cortez /AFP/Getty Images
"We tried everything we could think of including strengthening the sanctions prior to 9/11, and then even trying to get him to leave the country because nobody wanted to go to war.
"But we didn't think we could continue to live with the threat of Saddam Hussein, who had used his weapons of mass destruction against his own people ... and was a cancer in the Middle East. ...
"War was for us a last resort."
In a wide-ranging discussion about Rice's new book, No Higher Honor, she and Michel also spoke about why Rice decided to work for then-candidate (and Texas governor) Bush before the 2000 election.
"I very much liked the way he thought about the world," Rice said. "It wasn't just really foreign policy. I liked the way that he thought about education. I was really captured by this idea of 'No Child Left Behind' and the phrase 'the soft bigotry of low expectations.' So we, I felt, had a lot in common on domestic issues too. ... I wanted to work for him and I'm very, very glad I did."
Much more from the conversation is due on today's Tell Me More. Click here to find a station that broadcasts or streams the show.
Rice has been making the rounds to talk about her book. Tuesday night, she was on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As you might imagine, the conversation ranged from the humorous (Moammar Gadhafi's fascination with her) to the serious. The show has posted the video.