Sddam Hussein almost got nuclear weapons... in 1990? 

Well, the debate over WMDs in Iraq will surely continue. But today's Washington Post suggests that if Saddam didn't have WMDs, he certainly tried hard to acquire them:

As troops massed on his border near the start of the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein weighed the purchase of a $150 million nuclear "package" deal that included not only weapons designs but also production plants and foreign experts to supervise the building of a nuclear bomb, according to documents uncovered by a former U.N. weapons inspector.

The offer, made in 1990 by an agent linked to disgraced Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, guaranteed Iraq a weapons-assembly line capable of producing nuclear warheads in as little as three years. But Iraq lost the chance to capitalize when, months later, a multinational force crushed the Iraqi army and forced Hussein to abandon his nuclear ambitions, according to nuclear weapons expert David Albright, who describes the proposed deal in a new book.

If this is true, I suppose the interesting question now is to what extent did containment work? Few Americans now seem to remember or grasp the military investment in containing Iraq after the first gulf war, with a near continual presence in the skies above the country and even ongoing military operations 100s of miles inside the country.

Feb 11



I suppose it says volumes about the man that I had become that The Dark Night of My Soul was The Day the Ratings Came In.


The thing is, I'd even been feeling my oats that day. The taping had gone extraordinarily well. The show began with a the same ritual it always did; I leaned back in my chair and propped my feet up on the cheap studio desk, trademark New Balance kicks resting comfortably. Then I shifted a bit awkwardly in my seat so I could tug the tails of my sportcoat down underneath my ass for cleaner, less rumpled lines on the camera. One might say the overall sartorial effect was that I looked like a studious version of the young David Letterman or perhaps a hipper, impish version of George Will. One might also say I have too high an opinion of myself.


I coolly drummed a pencil with the theme music. It was a close facsimile of rock music, a carefully selected cultural signifier -- we were chasing a slightly younger demo, as the average cable news viewer was born somewhere in the late Cretaceous period. It faded out mercifully enough, and the guy at camera number one began either signaling me to steal second or began silently counting down the last few seconds until air time with his hands -- I was never quite sure. At the last possible instant before we went live, I made a command decision. I swung my sneakers to to the floor and pivoted to the side of the desk. My gaze fixed on the black depths of the waiting lens like I was trying to seal the deal on prom night and camera two and I had only been going steady for three months. In 1080p my pores looked sincere.


'This ... is ... FIRING SQUAD!'


I stuck the intro, and it felt good. When you're repeating a phrase like that night after night, it's real easy to get caught up in the thrill of live TV. But if you don't temper your enthusiasm you'll end up sounding more like Jack Nicholson than Ed McMahon.


The opening segment, “Bullet Points”, was a breeze. The day before, the Vice-President, who's rhetorical incontinence was already the stuff of legend, had admonished a racially diverse group of school children that they should be 'niggardly in their studies.' While niggardly is a perfectly fine word orginally of Norse origin and commonplace in English usage for some five centuries, the word's phonetic similarity to a certain other word tracing its origins all the way back to the accusative case of the Latin word for black -- was unfortunate in the extreme. (An atypically competent intern had provided me with copies of the relevant OED entries in preparation for the show.)


Naturally, the less than hyperliterate portion of the American public -- and by that I mean most everybody -- heard the veep's remark and went Nucking Futs. The more literate portion of the American public, who might otherwise be inclined to defend niggardly as a perfectly legitimate word, couldn't wrap their head around the fact that the vice president had employed the word -- which means parsimonious or miserly -- in such away it was obvious he had no idea what it meant, making the comment both indefensible and tragically ironic given the educational context. And thus, with one errant comment the dumbest man in American public life also became the most hated. Rumor had it that the Saturday Night Live writing staff had temporarily doubled in the aftermath.


Well, we weren’t about to let SNL have all the fun, so for “Bullet Points” we did Things The Vice-President Can Do to Top This: ‘Give speech to AIPAC, refer to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as “one heckuva beach read”’; “Lock down the feminist vote by promising an end to suffrage of Women”; “Ask Mexican ambassador if he’s interested a lucrative landscaping contract at the Naval Observatory” and so on. Lacking a live studio audience, the punchlines seemed a bit wan, but we covered for it with some zoo crew sound effects and some well-placed eye-rolling on my part.


When we returned from commercial, my first guest was, well, come to think of it I can picture her face but don't remember her name. She was one of these bottle blonds with a law degree that seem to proliferate on cable news at a rate that would make coliform bacteria jealous.

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