High expectations had been placed on the speech leading up to the event. It was well known that the speech would make a case for going to war with Iraq for which Republicans had been beating the drum for many months in the press. Proponents had seen the quick collapse of the Taliban rule of Afghanistan following the 9-11 attacks as an opportunity to broaden the War on Terror to include Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his regime. Opponents argued that officials seemed to hope to convince Americans that Saddam and Osama Bin Laden were somehow in cahoots, possibly so that the U.S. could get another long sought-after foothold in the Middle East.
The pressure was on: Bush had had, not one, but two dress rehearsalsone on Friday, and another on Sunday. In between, he entertained his parents, the former President George Bush and First Lady, Barbara Bush, at the tony Alfalfa Club.
Taking the podium that night, before his wife Laura Bush and flanked by Air Force Reservist Maureen Allen, Bush may have had little expectation that he would unleash a media firestorm with sixteen short words.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
That short sentence launched a political imbroglio that would nearly ruin a family, and seriously damage the case for the Iraq War.