erence at his Crawford, Texas ranch with national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney
Duane A. Laverty/European Pressphoto Agency
By PETER BAKER
Published: October 22, 2011
In the book, Ms. Rice provides a vivid account of the tumultuous years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, when the Bush administration struggled to reinvent the national security structure to protect the country from a new kind of enemy. Along the way, she writes, the president’s team disagreed sometimes heatedly.First as national security adviser and later as secretary of state, Ms. Rice often argued against the hard-line approach that Mr. Cheney and others advanced. The vice president’s staff was “very much of one ultra-hawkish mind,” she writes, adding that the most intense confrontation between her and Mr. Cheney came when she argued that terrorism suspects could not be “disappeared” as in some authoritarian states.
In November 2001, she writes, she went to President George W. Bush upon learning that he had issued an order prepared by the White House counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales, authorizing military commissions without telling her. “If this happens again,” she told the president, “either Al Gonzales or I will have to resign.”
Mr. Bush apologized. She writes that it was not his fault and that she felt that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Cheney’s staff had not served the president well.
Ms. Rice’s book, “No Higher Honor,” was obtained by The New York Times in advance of its Nov. 1 publication by Crown Publishing, a division of Random House. It is the latest in a string of memoirs emerging from Bush administration figures trying to define the history of their tenure.
But this volume, at 734 pages, deals only with her time in office, making it the most expansive record of those eight years by any of the leading participants. (Ms. Rice described her family background in an earlier book.)
The flurry of books has underscored in stark terms the tensions within the Bush team. Ms. Rice bristled at memoirs by Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, which criticized her management of the National Security Council in the first term and her efforts to increase diplomacy in the second term. But she writes that the disputes were over substantive issues and were not personal.
She uses the book to remind readers of the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty after Sept. 11 that shaped policy making. In addition to the anthrax attacks that fall, she recounts other scares that were not disclosed at the time, including feared attacks on Washington with smallpox and radiological weapons.
Ms. Rice was perhaps Mr. Bush’s closest adviser, often dining with the first family and spending weekends at Camp David. But she writes of one time that she and the president spoke sharply with each other in a meeting in December 2006 over whether to send more troops to Iraq. He favored an increase in troop levels and a new strategy to protect the Iraqi population, while she instead wanted to pull troops out of the cities.
“So what’s your plan, Condi?” the president asked testily, as she recounts it. “We’ll just let them kill each other, and we’ll stand by and try to pick up the pieces?”
She writes that she was angered by the implication that she did not care about winning in Iraq and retorted that “if they want to have a civil war we’re going to have to let them.”
After the meeting, she writes, she followed Mr. Bush to the Oval Office to press her point, telling him, “No one has been more committed to winning in Iraq than I have.” He disarmed her, saying, “I know, I know,” and she describes his facial expression as pained over a war going badly.
The most intense confrontation came in August 2006 when she urged Mr. Bush to acknowledge holding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas. She and Mr. Cheney argued for several minutes while others remained uncomfortably silent. Mr. Bush sided with Ms. Rice and moved the suspects to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
As for Mr. Rumsfeld, Ms. Rice writes that he tried to avoid such issues, at one point marching out of a meeting and saying, “I don’t do detainees.” Tensions grew so deep that her predecessor as secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, said of Mr. Rumsfeld, “One of us needs to go.” (It would be Mr. Powell, who left after the first term.)
Walking through the Rose Garden portico with Mr. Rumsfeld after another clash, she asked, “What’s wrong between us?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “We always got along. You’re obviously bright and committed, but it just doesn’t work.” She took the word “bright” to mean he did not view her as an equal.
The book recounts her signature diplomatic ventures, including a landmark nuclear accord with India salvaged in a last-minute negotiation and a Middle East peace initiative that came achingly close to bringing Israelis and Palestinians together.
She also bluntly assesses foreign leaders. Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, “looked as though he was on drugs.” After shaking hands with President Émile Lahoud of Lebanon, she writes, she felt as if she needed a shower. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt rejected reform, saying, “Egyptians need a strong hand, and they don’t like foreign interference.”
As for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who was killed Thursday after a revolution, Ms. Rice adds details about his well-known “eerie fascination with me.” She writes that he made a video showing pictures of her while a song called “Black Flower in the White House” played. “It was weird,” she writes, “but at least it wasn’t raunchy.”
Ms. Rice offers several regrets. The way Mr. Bush rejected the Kyoto climate change treaty without promising to seek alternatives was a “self-inflicted wound,” she concludes, while her New York shopping trip during Hurricane Katrina was “tone deaf” for the nation’s highest-ranking African-American.
For the most part, though, Ms. Rice defends the most controversial decisions of the Bush era, including the invasion of Iraq. The wave of popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring this year, she writes, has vindicated Mr. Bush’s focus on spreading freedom and democracy.