Thursday, May 29, 2008

 

Rice Defends Bush's Lies, Incompetence

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080529/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/rice_mcclellan_book

Rice says Bush clear about Iraq war


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to employees at the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, California May 22, 2008. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)
Reuters Photo: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to employees at the Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain...


By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer Thu May 29, 10:04 AM ET

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday rejected allegations from a former White House spokesman who says the Bush administration misled the American public into going to war with Iraq.

Rice would not comment specifically on charges made by ex-press secretary Scott McClellan in a new book, but said President Bush was honest and forthright about the reasons for the war. She also said she remained convinced that toppling Saddam Hussein was right and necessary.

"The president was very clear about the reasons for going to war," she told reporters at a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm where she is attending an international conference on Iraq.

Chief among those reasons was the belief, shared widely before the war, that Saddam Hussein had or was developing weapons of mass destruction, Rice recalled, suggesting the international community shouldn't have backed harsh sanctions against Iraq if it doubted the threat.

"I am not going to comment on a book that I haven't read," she said, referring to McClellan's scathing memoir, "but what I will say is that the concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the fundamental reason."

"It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said, dismissing suggestions that the administration knew the intelligence was incorrect.

"The story is there for everyone to see, you can't now transplant yourself into the present and say we should have know what we in fact did not know in 2001 and 2002," she said. "The record on weapons of mass destruction was one that appeared to be very clear."

Those who were skeptical should have spoken up at the time and argued against U.N. sanctions such as the oil-for-food program, she said.

"The threat from Saddam Hussein was well understood," Rice said. "You can agree or disagree about the decision to liberate Iraq in 2003, but I would really ask that if you ... believe he was not a threat to the international community, then why in the world were you allowing the Iraqi people to suffer under the terms of oil-for-food."

McClellan writes that Rice, who was national security adviser earlier in Bush's presidency, "was more interested in figuring out where the president stood and just carrying out his wishes while expending only cursory effort on helping him understand all the considerations and potential consequences" of war. Rice "was somehow able to keep her hands clean, even when the problems related to matters under her direct purview," according to McClellan, but he predicts that "history will likely judge her harshly."

The heart of the McClellan book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 — at least a full year before the invasion — if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

However, McClellan wrote that he did not believe Bush or the White House "deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people."

McClellan says Bush's main reason for war always was "an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom." But Bush and his advisers made "a marketing choice" to downplay this rationale in favor of one focused on increasingly trumped-up portrayals of the threat posed by the weapons of mass destruction.

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war — casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

The White House responded with surprise at McClellan's book.

"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. "We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew."

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