The Glorious Return of Condi Rice

Exclusive: The failure to impose meaningful accountability on the Iraq War’s architects allows them to return as “wise” advisers to be consulted by media outlets and today’s politicians, as with Condoleezza Rice, notes James W Carden.

By James W Carden

Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Adviser at the time of the Iraq invasion and then President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, has returned to the public eye, out promoting her new book, entitled Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld listen to President George W. Bush speak about the Middle East on June 24, 2002. (Photo from

In late March, Rice met at the White House with President Donald J. Trump, who she previously had said “should not be president.” Rice’s return to the public eye would seem to prove the truth of Professor Stephen Walt’s axiom that being a neocon means never having to say your sorry.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but there was a time when Rice’s star was ascendant. An August 1999 profile of Rice in National Review dubbed Rice as “George Bush’s foreign policy czarina” and described her in rapturous terms. Rice, according to the NR’s Jay Nordlinger, was the “very picture of American overachievement”; “If she becomes secretary of state or even something lesser, she will be big. Rock-star big”; “She is, all agree, an immensely appealing person: poised, gracious, humbly smart”; “Her television appearances have prompted marriage proposals”; “And she is very much a jock.”

Nordlinger was also of the opinion that Rice was on the cusp of becoming “A major cultural figure, adorning the bedroom walls of innumerable kids and the covers of innumerable magazines.”

But it was not to be. By the end of the Bush years, Rice’s reputation lay largely in tatters. “There was a time when,” New York Times correspondent Helene Cooper wrote in September 2007, “perhaps more than Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice seemed to have the best shot at becoming the first woman or the first African-American to be president.”

Accounts of the early Bush years, particularly following 9/11, showed that Rice was an incompetent manager of the National Security Council process, unable or unwilling to withstand the onslaught of wondrously reckless and short-sighted advice provided by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.

Seeking Redemption

Rice’s new book would seem to be (yet another) shot at redemption. (Rice had previously toured the country in support of her memoir, No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington.)

Ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Writing in the New York Times, Walter Russell Meade, the editor of the neoconservative American Interest, called Rice’s Democracy an “important new book.”

“Her faith in the benefits and strategic importance of democracy promotion,” writes Meade “is as strong as, or stronger than, it was when she joined the George W. Bush administration in 2001.” Meade, a sympathetic reviewer who shares many of Rice’s assumptions about the beneficent power of the U.S. military, approvingly observes that her new book is an “attempt to hammer home the idea of democracy promotion as a key goal for American foreign policy.”

A child of segregated Alabama, Rice says that her foreign policy views are shaped by the ideals that animated the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. For Rice, U.S. foreign policy should be a continuation that movement, i.e., the U.S. should use its power to advance a global struggle for human and civil rights. It’s an idea that has intuitive appeal, yet when put into practice, the results have been little short of disastrous.

A Devastating Death Toll

The period of the last 18 years – from NATO’s ill-conceived intervention on behalf of Kosovar Muslims in Serbia in 1999 through to the present day – has been marked by an optimistic and at times unshakable faith on the part of the American political establishment in its duty and right to intervene in foreign civil conflicts under democratic or humanitarian pretexts.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands after a joint White House press conference on Nov. 12, 2004. (White House photo)

The intellectual framework for this “golden age of intervention” was set forth not by an American, but by a young, dynamic British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, during the course of NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999. In April of that year, Blair traveled to Chicago and attempted to justify the war on humanitarian grounds. In some ways, Blair’s speech heralded the era of humanitarian intervention and global democracy promotion in which we still find ourselves.

Blair declared that “We are all internationalists now, whether we like it or not. …We cannot turn our backs on conflicts and the violation of human rights within other countries if we want still to be secure.” The Prime Minister continued, stating his belief that “if we can establish and spread the values of liberty, the rule of law, human rights and an open society then that is in our national interests too.”

Initially, Rice was slow to sign on to such a transformational project; after all, according to the author James Mann, Rice “had risen to prominence as heir to the foreign policy traditions of Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft. At Stanford and during the first Bush administration, she had been an avowed proponent of the doctrine of realism.”

In an essay entitled “Promoting the National Interest” in Foreign Affairs in January 2000, Rice wrote presciently that “an overly broad definition of America’s national interest is bound to backfire.” As late as 2002, her Stanford colleague and fellow Russia specialist Michael McFaul (who served as Ambassador to Russia under President Obama) said of Rice, “She believes in realpolitik, that the main driving force of international relations is balance of power politics and that what happens internally [sic] inside a country should not be part of foreign policy.”

Creeping Neoconservatism

Yet even before 9/11 and the emergence of George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” Rice had slowly been inching away from the realism of her mentor Scowcroft towards a conception of international affairs not markedly different from that of Tony Blair or the neoconservatives like William Kristol who once distrusted her.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

It was during the period between 9/11 and commencement of the Iraq war that Rice’s transformation from realist to a kind of “soft” neoconservative became complete. Thereafter, she became, like Bush, Blair, Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power, an emblematic figure of the age of intervention.

By mid-2003, Rice had become a true believer. In a speech in London that June, Rice asked “Why would anyone who shares the values of freedom seek to put a check on those values? Democratic institutions themselves are a check on the excesses of power.” “Power in the service of freedom,” said Rice, “is to be welcomed.”

A valedictory piece in Foreign Affairs in July 2008, showed what a long way she traveled in eight years, from warning, on the eve of Bush’s presidency, that an “overly broad definition of America’s national interest is bound to backfire” to now expressing her belief that “cooperation with our democratic allies … should not be judged simply by how we relate to one another. It should be judged by the work we do together to defeat terrorism and extremism, meet global challenges, defend human rights and dignity, and support new democracies.”

For Rice, “Democratic state-building is now an urgent component of our national interest.” Indeed, it is “America’s job to change the world, and in its own image.”

Today, when Rice talks about Iraq, or foreign policy in general, as she did recently with NPR’s Rachel Martin, she is given a respectful hearing. Apparently it would be a breach of decorum or the rules of the game to ask Rice whether she was concerned, embarrassed (or aware) that the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq was ultimately responsible for the rise of ISIS.

Unchallenged, Rice is allowed to paint the war and its aftermath in the most anodyne of terms. Today, according to Rice, Iraq “has a legislature that tries to function. It has a prime minister who is accountable. … They have a very free and functioning press.” In her telling, Iraq is in many ways better now because “it’s not an authoritarian state any longer, and it’s not a totalitarian state in the way that it was under Saddam Hussein.”

And in perhaps the most astoundingly obtuse statement since Gary Johnson’s “what’s an Aleppo?” Rice told the apparently somnolent Martin that “It’s very different to be Iraqi today than to be Syrian.” Tell that to the residents of Mosul, the Iraqi city that was overrun by Islamic State extremists in 2014 and is now the scene of a bloody assault by Iraqi forces backed by U.S. and allied airstrikes.

The point here is that Rice shouldn’t be let off the hook so easily; after all, the costs of Bush’s Middle East adventures have been staggering. Ten years after the 2003 invasion, Brown University’s Cost of War project estimated that the war had killed roughly 190,000 people and cost $2.2 trillion. By 2016, the costs of the combined military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan had grown. According to the latest figures from the project:

“  Over 370,000 people have died due to direct war violence, and at least 800,000 more indirectly

–200,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting at the hands of all parties to the conflict

–10.1 million — the number of war refugees and displaced persons

–The US federal price tag for the Iraq war is about 4.8 trillion dollars”

Excusing Wars of Supremacy

Through the years – from her time as a NSC staffer for Bush the Elder, through her disastrous tenure as NSC adviser (followed by a marginally less-bad tenure as Secretary of State) during the administration of Bush the Lesser – Rice has developed what I have called a “soft-neoconservatism” which attempts to disguise and excuse the American will to global supremacy by camouflaging it in the “soft” language of human rights.

Her approach to global affairs marries a credulous belief in the power of “democracy promotion” with a belief in the efficacy of U.S. military power. Rice’s embrace of “democracy promotion” is no doubt wholehearted and genuine. But it is all the more troubling and dangerous because of it.

One wonders: is there really any difference between the vacuous, happy pieties of “soft-neoconservatism” of which Rice, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright are such ardent adepts, or the “hard” neoconservatism of Beltway Caesars like Sen. Tom Cotton, Robert Kagan and Elliot Abrams, or the outright militarism of the current crop of Trump appointees like Defense Secretary James Mattis and NSC adviser H.R. McMaster?

An equally urgent question as concerns Rice in particular and the Bush crowd generally: why have they suffered no serious consequences for the disastrous decisions that were made on their watch?

James W Carden is a contributing writer for The Nation and editor of The American Committee for East-West Accord’s He previously served as an advisor on Russia to the Special Representative for Global Inter-governmental Affairs at the US State Department.

52 comments for “The Glorious Return of Condi Rice

  1. William
    May 14, 2017 at 18:20

    I never dreamed we would hear anything else from this evil, lying bitch. But I was wrong! Why is this possible that she can even show her face anywhere near government? Who’s next? Cheney? Rumsfeld? Who opened the ‘monster’ door and let these evil people out? Just goes to prove; In America, you can get away with anything and still do it all over again!

  2. Polly Ester
    May 13, 2017 at 11:23

    And how about the Rendition Programs: “Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heralded the rendition program on December 5, 2005, as “a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism,” to be employed when, “for some reason, the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect and traditional extradition is not a good option.” The following day, Secretary Rice, responding to a press inquiry about El-Masri’s allegations, said “When and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possibly to rectify them. Any policy will sometimes have mistakes and it is our promise to our partners that should that be the case, that we will do everything that we can to rectify those mistakes. I believe that this will be handled in the proper courts here in Germany and if necessary in American Courts as well.”

  3. Brian W
    May 13, 2017 at 10:41

    Sep 11, 2011 General Wesley Clark: Wars Were Planned – Seven Countries In Five Years

    “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

  4. Mark Thomason
    May 13, 2017 at 10:39

    It is worse than this says.

    They never left. They remained in power in the permanent state organization. They were never purged. Their ideological leaders went to think tanks and just kept up the flow.

    The security state held its line against Obama, and now is doing the same against Trump. Libya and Syria are the exemplars of the old ideas continuing.

  5. Liam Hutchinson
    May 13, 2017 at 10:07

    Sounds good to me

  6. Operation Dinner Outlaw
    May 13, 2017 at 04:31

    You might want to welcome a return to clipboards as the internet of things turns into the internet of Thing and Gomez looking for payola. Russia is in the lurch.

  7. Kozmo
    May 13, 2017 at 00:40

    Lock up this war criminal, with all the shoes she famously bought while people were dying.

  8. Justin
    May 12, 2017 at 23:39

    Dr. Condoleezza Rice to you asshole.

  9. tina
    May 12, 2017 at 23:24

    Why is beautiful condaleezza rice teaching at Stanford? I was taught that only lefties. commies, socialists teach at prestigious universities. Someone, enlighten me, because is not Stanford completely liberal/ left/ communistic?

  10. May 12, 2017 at 23:24

    Angela Davis would be good for interesting conversation with Condoleezza Rice.

  11. Taras77
    May 12, 2017 at 23:21

    Excellent article!

    I think Walt nailed it when he said that “being a neo con means never having to say you are sorry!” In that sense, I offer this link in which Jaresko will manage the Puerto Rico bankruptcy project for her bankster backers-the woman is connected:

    However, Sputnik came up with a different story as to how successful she was in Ukraine-she wasn’t other than expanding her personal bank account significantly:

    Robert Parry wrote some excellent articles on Jaresko’s track record and her evident corruption.

  12. May 12, 2017 at 20:05

    Oh yes, what would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have had to say about her civil rights movement concerns to bringing “democracy” to countries with guns, bombs and IEDs?!

  13. Why?
    May 12, 2017 at 19:43

    Why have they suffered no serious consequences for the disastrous decisions that were made on their watch? Because Barack Obama also was a neocon. And because congress is bought!!

  14. DMR
    May 12, 2017 at 19:00

    “An equally urgent question as concerns Rice in particular and the Bush crowd generally: why have they suffered no serious consequences for the disastrous decisions that were made on their watch?”

    Because in an oligarchic plutocracy amoral technocrats like Ms. Rice are rewarded for any misdeed that advances the hegemonic interests of the ruling class, not punished.

    • Why?
      May 12, 2017 at 19:44


  15. May 12, 2017 at 15:48

    During her 9/11 commission testimony, she said “we never imagined anybody using planes as missiles.” Funny, back in Genoa, Italy in July, 2001 before the G8 summit, the US military ringed the city with Patriot missile batteries because intelligence chatter was about hijacked planes being crashed into the summit meeting. A more apropos name for her would be “Kindasleazy Rice”.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 12, 2017 at 16:05

      In March of 2001 Vince Gilligan piloted a TV show called the ‘Lone Gunman’. The original episode featured a father and son who use a computer to overcome a remote autopilot of a passenger jet as it was going to slam into the World Trace Center, The show didn’t stay on the air long, which I guess was due to poor ratings, but who knows. Apparently Condi should have spoke with Vince Gilligan prior to her making her remarks…then again who watched that unreal show.

  16. Miranda Keefe
    May 12, 2017 at 15:33

    I remember Rice before a Congressional inquiry and she indignantly responded to a question by saying, “Are you questioning my integrity?”

    I remember wishing that I’d been the one there she said that to. I would have said, “Ma’am, there is no question about your lack of integrity on this. You lied to the American people and the direct result is the death of many Americans and Iraqis. You have no integrity.”

    • Skip Scott
      May 12, 2017 at 15:49

      Exactly, Miranda. She had so much integrity Chevron named a super tanker after her.

    • Bill Bodden
      May 12, 2017 at 20:04

      I remember Rice before a Congressional inquiry and she indignantly responded to a question by saying, “Are you questioning my integrity?”

      On the other hand, what congressional committee is in a self-righteous position to question the integrity of other people after giving Bibi Netanyahu 29 standing ovations in the U.S. capitol?

      • Charles Homsy
        May 12, 2017 at 23:02

        Amen brother!

  17. mike k
    May 12, 2017 at 14:58

    The Dragon Lady. One of the ugliest most evil women in modern history. She was one of those I could not bear to watch on TV. It was like even watching her for a second polluted one’s consciousness.

    • May 12, 2017 at 18:46

      “One of the ugliest most evil women in modern history.”
      Agree. She is a shameless and rapacious opportunist. A self-promoter and veritable war criminal.
      At least Rutgers’ students had enough common sense to shoo her away from giving a paid inspirational talk.
      Condi is an exhibit one for illustrating “a suspended state of moral decadence” in the western world. The Cheney scoundrels.

      • Charles Homsy
        May 12, 2017 at 23:01

        So accurate, you are!!

    • john wilson
      May 13, 2017 at 04:57

      Mike, I thought Cheney and Rumsfeld were even more horrible to watch and don’t get me started of the ‘snake of Westminster’ Tony Blair !!

  18. F. G. Sanford
    May 12, 2017 at 13:51

    I’d like to know just what it is about Condi that makes people think she’s so “smart”. I have no doubt that she’s a highly capable, motivated and focused individual. But nowadays, people are easily credentialed by consensus. It is the socially and politically correct thing to do. Universities stay in business by cranking out worthless Ph.D’s, and it’s practically an epidemic. I’d like to have seen the rough draft of her thesis – the one she had to get “fixed up” my her academic advisors before it passed muster. Yes, I’ve heard all the stories: “She read ‘War and Peace’ in the original Russian, and she’s a conservatory trained classical pianist.” Keep in mind, thousands of Russian truck drivers have probably read ‘War and Peace’ in the original Russian. And, I personally know two “classically trained” pianists. One is unemployed, and the other plays gigs in bars for tips – but only during the tourist season. From what I can ascertain based on her public appearances, they’re both smarter than Condi.

    Has anyone ever raked Condi over the coals in a penetrating interview? Asked her some tough questions, and demanded coherent answers? I can’t ever recall such a scenario. Everything I’ve heard her say in public is shallow boilerplate drivel. I know somebody will come up with something to defend her, but until I’ve seen otherwise, my “take” is that she’s a manufactured academic counterfeit and an intellectual fraud. She served a useful role as a compliant figurehead in an administration based entirely on a manufactured image. There were no dissenters, least of all Condi. One must wonder. Are her pronouncements regarding liberal democracy and humanitarian intervention framed as a national security strategy really the distilled essence of a profound understanding of international relations…or merely the culmination of a limited understanding expressed within a cautious layman’s ability? It’s pretty hard to tell.

    Anyone who has read “22 Cells in Nuremberg” by Douglas M. Kelley must realize that, under the right circumstances, a rendezvous with a rope is not an impossible addition to Condi’s impressive curriculum vitae. Personally, I’d hate to see her hang, but as smart as she’s supposed to be, she should have known better than to cavort with Bush and Cheney.

    • May 12, 2017 at 14:37

      F.G. Sanford- Beautifully observed and well written.

    • Bill Bodden
      May 12, 2017 at 20:00

      I’d like to know just what it is about Condi that makes people think she’s so “smart”.

      For some people rank is the only criterion they need. Morality, ethics, integrity and similar qualities don’t count.

      • Realist
        May 13, 2017 at 02:43

        Upon perusing her biography on wiki, it seems that she had a genius for ingratiating herself with powerful men who would later appoint her to important posts.

        If she ever did immerse herself in Russian history, culture and language during her graduate studies, she never learned to admire the people, as for example, the way Stephen F. Cohen did. Of course, I note that her first mentor was Madeleine Albright’s father. As an eastern European (Czech) he would have reflexively loathed Russia. She did make herself very useful, through her international connections, to the American oil industry, getting a supertanker named after her. With Rex Tillerson as Trump’s SOS, I can see her once again angling for influence in Washington.

    • Kozmo
      May 13, 2017 at 00:42

      Excellent. Maybe someone should ask her “husband”, too?

  19. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    May 12, 2017 at 13:32

    People like Condi, Cheney, Dubbia, Rumsfeld, Old Bush, The Clintons, Obama, Trump, Etc etc etc make me feel that America is getting what it deserves……….Much of Humanity will continue to suffer till that nightmare is over…………

    • Bill Bodden
      May 12, 2017 at 19:57

      Much of Humanity will continue to suffer till that nightmare is over…………

      The current nightmare may end when Afghanistan’s graveyard of empires claims the American.

      • Chris Reed
        May 14, 2017 at 08:44

        With the integration of China and Russia through the One Belt One Road we may have a template to replace our decrepit empire.

  20. Ol' Hippy
    May 12, 2017 at 13:18

    Here we have an example of what’s old is now new again or the criminals get out of exile. Is Rice’s sudden appearance to promote her book or to stir the pot of an incompetent administration now run by generals, the family, and Wall Street? As if it needs stirring. Remember Ben Carson became a presidential candidate to promote his book and now he’s head of HUD!? Is Rice seen as a rising star again after a disastrous first try? Those of us paying attention are left wondering; how much worse can it get before it implodes? At least for me anyway.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 12, 2017 at 16:06

      Hillary has encouraged a lot of little girls with her attempt to shatter the glass ceiling, so maybe this is where Condi gets it from?

      • Realist
        May 13, 2017 at 02:04

        Both Hillary and Condoleezza can kiss my asteroid.

  21. Brian
    May 12, 2017 at 12:09

    WMD LIES – Bush Cheney Rumsfeld – THE ULTIMATE CLIP

    Who buys this stuff? 99% of America doesn’t pay attention to the news enough to know our politicians are akin to actors and actresses. Only they’re not very good at it. They just depend on you not paying attention. So pay attention!

    • john wilson
      May 13, 2017 at 04:50

      Frankly Brian, I would say they are very good actors and actresses because the bulk of the American people believe just about everything they say. The mark a a good actor or actress is believing in the part one is playing. They really DO believe in the part and they really DO believe they right and God’s chosen children.

      • Brian W
        May 13, 2017 at 10:39

        A very good and educated observation Mr.Wilson!

  22. Brian
    May 12, 2017 at 12:08

    December 15, 2016 A History Of Lies: WMD, Who Said What and When

    June 12, 2003 – “Information Clearing House” – Updated December 15, 2016

    Intelligence leaves no doubt that Iraq continues to possess and conceal lethal weapons

    George Bush, US President 18 March, 2003 Saddam’s removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction

  23. arnaud
    May 12, 2017 at 11:57

    Nelson Mandela’s Autobiography is also named “Long Walk to Freedom”. Hope Ms. Rice’ prison spell is still to come.

  24. exiled off mainstreet
    May 12, 2017 at 11:31

    Rice earns her status again as war criminal in this latest work. Another commentator revealed that she knew the “weapons of mass destruction” was a phony war pretext issue which further confirms her war criminal status.

    • Tired and Retired
      May 15, 2017 at 10:15

      Could it be that after review of the information gathered at the time she truly believed there were WMD’s? And what commentator revealed that she knew they didn’t exist? Sounds as though you were exiled off main street and joined the ranks of the media who reports “news” based on secret sources. I’m sick of this stuff. Second, third and forth hand information is ruining this nation.

  25. Bill Bodden
    May 12, 2017 at 11:26

    As someone who was impressed as a teenager by the noble sentiments and principles that came out of the post-World War Two war crimes trials at Nuremberg I have continually found it mind-boggling that people like Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, and many others who would be considered war criminals by Nuremberg’s standards are regarded and treated as distinguished citizens. The only conclusion that appears to explain this bizarre scenario is that the United States and some of its satrapies are in a suspended state of moral decadence.

    • Bill Bodden
      May 12, 2017 at 12:59

      The only conclusion that appears to explain this bizarre scenario is that the United States and some of its satrapies are in a suspended state of moral decadence.

      And, if Rice’s book makes it to or near the top of the New York Times’ best-seller list that evidence will support this conclusion.

    • Sunset
      May 12, 2017 at 19:13

      And Colin Powell, who knew better.

    • Charles Homsy
      May 12, 2017 at 22:57

      Not “suspended”, but very active

    • Kozmo
      May 13, 2017 at 00:44

      Yes. Thank you for this!

  26. Tom Welsh
    May 12, 2017 at 11:18

    “An equally urgent question as concerns Rice in particular and the Bush crowd generally: why have they suffered no serious consequences for the disastrous decisions that were made on their watch?”

    Although I’m only British, that’s a question I can answer easily. It’s because the USA is a nation governed by neocons, not laws.

    • Bart in Virginia
      May 12, 2017 at 13:05

      Our national motto which should be stamped on the currency is “Look forward, not backward”

    • Stephen Sivonda
      May 14, 2017 at 00:31

      Tom Welsh…. that NO calling to account has not happened can be laid at the feet of Bush2’s successor, Barack Obama. He’s never even made a point of the agenda driven by Bush’s time in office as much as he gave the Wall St. CEO’s a pass on the financial peccadillos . There’s a thin line between Neoliberals and Neocons and the Corporate war machine hums on well with both of them. As to your last line…I would not have used the word “only” …the British are much the same as most Americans as to family and country. But what description would you give to Blair, Brown and Cameron as they were in thick with all the foreign interventions . Partners in crime no less.

Comments are closed.