Memorable State of the Union Moments

5 / 6

Bush: The "16 Words"


President Bush delivered his 2003 State of the Union address less than two months before the American invasion of Iraq. In this speech, he outlined his justifications for such a step and asserted that “the greatest danger facing America and the world is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.” The worst offender, he said, was Saddam Hussein, Iraq's brutal dictator, who posed an imminent threat to the United States, Bush asserted. The president then claimed that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." 

The accuracy of those “16 words,” as they were later dubbed, led ultimately to a Justice Department investigation when Ambassador Joe Wilson penned a New York Times op-ed claiming they were false; in response, Robert Novak wrote a column opposing Wilson's assertion -- a column that also outed Wilson's wife as a covert CIA agent. "Plamegate" resulted in a criminal investigation of classified information leaks that went all the way to Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted in the leak case. Whether Bush's uranium claim was true is still a matter of contention. Regardless, it was used to justify the U.S. invasion and more than eight years of war in Iraq. 


Text of address

Video of address  (The president begins speaking at 01:06:00 of this video. He addresses Hussein's alleged uranium purchases beginning around 01:52:00)

Return to the beginning



5 / 6
Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles