Condoleezza Rice admits mistakes, but not in memoir

NEW YORK Wed Oct 13, 2010 11:18am EDT

Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses a United Nations Security Council meeting convened to discuss the crisis in Gaza at the United Nations Headquarters in New York January 6, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addresses a United Nations Security Council meeting convened to discuss the crisis in Gaza at the United Nations Headquarters in New York January 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Condoleezza Rice admits the Bush administration made mistakes after the September 11 attacks but readers seeking her view on the decisions leading to the war in Iraq will find no such grist in her new memoir.

"We made our mistakes undoubtedly," the former secretary of state told Reuters in an interview to promote her memoir "Extraordinary, Ordinary People," published on Tuesday in the United States.

But Rice remains proud of the achievements of the administration of President George W. Bush.

"For an administration, for which every day after September 11 was September 12, and every day you thought it was going to happen again. I am very grateful that we were able to do what we were able to do," she said.

Unlike former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose recent memoir made headlines for his assertion that he does not regret joining the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Rice does not address her role in helping lead America to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in her memoir.

The memoir is the first of two planned volumes and reflects on her parents raising her as an only child in the race-fueled 1950s and 1960s American South. It also tells the story of how the education promoted by her parents -- both teachers -- led to her becoming the first black woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

The book ends with her appointment as national security adviser nearly eight months before the 9/11 attacks.

Her second memoir due next year will address her political life, but Rice said it will be years before the Bush administration can be fairly judged.

"Since history has a long arc, we will have to come back and see what succeeded and what failed," she told Reuters.

KARZAI CAUTIONED ON TALIBAN

While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have run long after many had hoped they would end, Rice said she was "not surprised it has taken this long."

"Afghanistan was always going to be hard," she said.

"I know we are struggling in Afghanistan but women are not being executed in soccer stadiums today ... and girls are going to school in Afghanistan and al Qaeda doesn't have a stronghold."

She said she was "not close enough" to know all the details of any proposed peace negotiations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban, but urged caution in the talks.

"I sincerely hope that we remember what the Taliban was and is and, if you go down that road, you better be very sure you are doing it from a position of strength," she said.

Instead of defending the war, her memoir finds her recounting being a child piano prodigy, skipping grades in school and struggling with procrastination and figure skating.

One small section of one chapter is devoted to her dating a football player in college -- a vignette that might allay false rumors that the 55-year-old is gay.

She said people often look at unmarried women in their fifties and jump to conclusions.

"The simplest explanation, which is I actually never met anybody I wanted to live with and marry, doesn't seem to be sufficient for people," she said.

"I don't feel unfulfilled it didn't happen. And I have always believed it is better to not have ended up in a bad marriage, which has happened to a lot of my friends who have just wanted to get married."

Rice, now back at Stanford University, is campaigning for the Republican candidate for governor of California, Meg Whitman, ahead of the November elections.

(Editing by Mark Egan and Todd Eastham)

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