Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended on Thursday the Bush administration's record in Iraq after sharp criticism of the war in a new book by a former White House spokesman. "The one thing that I am certain was not a mistake was to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein," said Rice, according to Reuters.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of an international conference on Iraq, Rice conveyed she had not read the book by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, but added that removing Saddam was "the right thing to do."
In his book, McClellan accuses President George W. Bush of using propaganda to sell the Iraq war. Rice said she would not comment on a book she has not read, but said people often did not understand the full implications of events until long after they had happened.
But she said liberating Iraqis from "the monster that was Saddam Hussein" was neither unilateral nor a mistake. "It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said.
"So the story is there for everyone to see. You can't now transplant yourself into the present and say we should have known things that we in fact did not know in 2001, 2002, 2003. The record on weapons of mass destruction was one that appeared to be very clear," Rice 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."
She added: "If the world did not believe that at the time, then I would ask why was Iraq under some of the most severe sanctions that the international community has ever imposed?"