A Piece of Cake

In response to:

The Rocky Ascent of Condoleezza Rice from the December 22, 2011 issue

To the Editors:

In Joseph Lelyveld’s excellent review of Condoleezza Rice’s memoir [NYR, December 22, 2011], he discusses her explanation of the erroneous statement in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address of the already discredited intelligence about the Niger yellowcake. She first takes the blame herself, then shifts some to George Tenet, who failed to read the advance text of the speech, and then allows her deputy Stephen Hadley to take the blame. The sentence was: “The British Government has learned that Sadam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

I was a senior staff member in the president’s science adviser’s office from 1961 to 1967. Then, and I am sure, now, every word of each advance copy of the State of the Union speech is meticulously reviewed by agency heads and their senior staff. In this case, note the peculiar unnecessary beginning, “The British Government has learned.” It seems obvious that the phrase was added after the bald statement was objected to by the CIA. Since the British had not yet discredited the information, their endorsement was added, probably by Hadley, and the CIA was off the hook.

The sentence was crucial to the promotion of the invasion, and we still do not know who drafted that peculiar beginning phrase and why it was there.

David Z. Robinson
New York City