Sixteen Words

By Doug Patton

“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

President George W. Bush

State of the Union Address

Jan. 29, 2003

In the tradition of President Bill Clinton, who asked us all to contemplate the meaning of the word “is,” let us analyze the sixteen words that have caused a virtual meltdown on the left this week. We will begin with the dictionary definitions for each word and see where it goes from there.

THE…A word placed before nouns to limit or individualize their meaning. Mind you, there is a great deal more that Webster and the others have to say about this little word, but this is its essence, as in the weapons of mass destruction, the mass graves, the rule of law or the evil Iraqi dictator.

BRITISH…Of, or pertaining to, Great Britain or to its inhabitants. Of course, this could denote the courageous and forthright Tony Blair, the brave UK troops working alongside ours in Iraq or the whiners in London calling for their prime minister’s political head on a plate. At the moment, it seems to define the latter.

GOVERNMENT…The act or process of governing, especially the control and administration of public policy in a political unit. Ask yourself this: Would you feel better with Al Sharpton or Dennis Kucinich as commander-in-chief?

HAS…Third person singular present tense of have: The evil Iraqi dictator has been removed from power before he could have any more time to produce the WMD we know he had.

LEARNED…To have gained knowledge or information of; ascertained by inquiry, study, or investigation; to have received instruction, acquired understanding of or to have learned a lesson. Example: Wouldn’t you think that we would have learned from the infamous tyrants of the 20th Century that dictators must be crushed, not coddled?

THAT…Used to refer to the one designated, implied, mentioned or understood: What kind of soup is that? Or perhaps more to the point: What kind of Anthrax is that?

SADDAM…Unfortunately, Webster can’t find him either.

HUSSEIN…Aha! There he is: Hussein, Saddam. Born 1937. Iraqi military and political leader. The president of Iraq since 1979. (Not any more.)

RECENTLY…In the recent past. Would since September 11, 2001, qualify?

SOUGHT…To try to locate or discover; to search for; to endeavor to obtain or reach; to go to or toward; to inquire for; request; to try; endeavor. Does anyone but Howard Dean and Dan Rather really believe this doesn’t describe Saddam Hussein’s behavior in pursuit of WMD?

SIGNIFICANT…Fairly large in amount or quantity: significant (Iraqi) casualties; no significant opposition (to Saddam’s regime) was allowed.

QUANTITIES…The measurable, countable or comparable property or aspect of a thing. Remember Colin Powell’s little slide show at the United Nations?

OF…Denoting that from which anything proceeds; indicating origin, source, descent, and the like: There was dancing in the streets of Baghdad and weeping in the halls of the DNC when the statue of Saddam came down.

URANIUM…A heavy silvery-white metallic element, radioactive and toxic, easily oxidized, and having 14 known isotopes of which U 238 is the most abundant in nature. The element occurs in several minerals, including uraninite and carnotite, from which it is extracted and processed for use in research, nuclear fuels and nuclear weapons. ‘Nuf said?

FROM…Used to indicate a specified place or time as a starting point, or to indicate a specified point as the first of two limits: Saddam Hussein had from 1991 until 2003 to come clean with weapons inspectors. He didn’t.

AFRICA…The second-largest continent, lying south of Europe between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Africa has vast mineral resources, many of which are still undeveloped. Also known as the continent in which the president was pandering all last week – but that’s another column.


Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter and public policy advisor at the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns can be read in newspapers across the country, and on, where he serves as the Nebraska Editor.

He also writes for Talon News Service (

Readers can e-mail him at __________________________________________________________________