WASHINGTON - Alone in the Oval Office three months before the U.S. led-invasion of Iraq, President Bush asked Condoleezza Rice whether she believed war was the proper course, a new book about the close presidential adviser said.
"Yes," the book quotes Rice as telling Bush, the United States would have no choice unless Saddam Hussein suddenly yielded to international pressure over his supposed weapons of mass destruction.
"Everybody knew what the consequences meant," Rice said in an interview for "Condoleezza Rice, an American Life." "We would have to carry through."
Rice, then Bush's White House national security adviser, is often portrayed as a go-between or neutral broker before the war, keeping her opinions to herself while managing the differing prewar views among Bush's advisers.
The biography, published yesterday, makes clear that Rice was on board. The book says Rice was surprised by the sudden question from Bush. Despite months of White House discussions about Iraq, Bush had never asked her opinion point-blank, the book said.
" 'Do you think we should do this?' " Rice quoted Bush as saying.
Rice told author Elisabeth Bumiller that she knew Bush meant war.
As Bush's second-term secretary of state, Rice has struggled to make a mark apart from the war, which has ground on far longer than she or other first-term advisers envisioned, and which has not produced the functioning democracy that she and Bush championed.
The book, the third about Rice this year, revisits Rice's power struggles with Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the war and other issues.
Rice appears as almost an extension of the Bush family, routinely spending weekends with Bush and his wife, Laura, at Camp David or tagging along when the first couple dined alone or with another couple. Rice doesn't care for the weather at the Bush ranch in Texas, but likes the opportunity for long walks with Laura Bush, the book said.
The biography covers Rice's upbringing as a child of middle-class black privilege and offers a glimpse into the personal life of the reserved diplomat.
It says she had a serious romance with a Denver Broncos football player, Rick Upchurch, in her 20s and has dated casually in Washington. Rice has never married. *