WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she regrets the United States relied on flawed intelligence as the basis for going to war in Iraq and took partial responsibility for mismanaging the post-invasion occupation.
As eight years of the Bush administration come to a close, the president and now one of his longest-serving advisers are acknowledging mistakes in Iraq while steadfastly defending the war and Saddam Hussein's overthrow.
"While it's fine to go back and say what might we have done differently, the truth of the matter is we don't have that luxury," Rice said in a broadcast interview.
"I would give anything to be able to go back and to know precisely what we were going to find when we were there. But that isn't the way that these things work," Rice said. "And I still believe that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein is going to turn out to be a great strategic achievement."
With the support of Congress, President Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It was a decision largely justified on grounds - later proved false - that Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.
Rice made the Sunday morning talk-show rounds for perhaps the last time as secretary of state. The forum provided her an opportunity to reflect on her legacy.
Rice said she was "still really appalled at the inability of the international community to deal with tyrants."
"We're seeing it in Burma," Rice said of the country in Southeast Asia now called Myanmar. "We are now seeing it, I think, in a very, very sad way in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe should have gone a long time ago. And we can't seem to mobilize the international will to do it."
Bush reflected on the war in a wide-ranging television interview last week, saying the biggest regret of his presidency was the "intelligence failure" regarding the extent of Hussein's threat to the United States.
In a second interview, he said the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was "a terrible disappointment."