It was January 1991. Half a million U.S. and allied troops were deployed in Saudi Arabia ready to roll north.
Backed by a vote just taken -- or about to be taken -- in Congress and a U.N. Security Council resolution, President George H.W. Bush had delivered an ultimatum to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: Withdraw your forces from Kuwait by Jan. 15 -- or else.
The week before the deadline, Saddam met with his air force commander, Muzahim Sa'b Hasan al Masiri, and his son-in-law, Husayn Kamil -- the minister responsible for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam tape-recorded the conversation. More than a dozen years later, the Iraq Survey Group, headed by Charles Duelfer, a special assistant to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, discovered the recording and translated it.
Annexed to Duelfer's 2004 report on Iraq's WMD programs -- and largely ignored by the establishment media -- the translation is posted on the CIA's website.
What Saddam said is horrifying and instructive.
Like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, the meeting began with the all-too-real Saddam talking about a traditional Arab-style suit he had recently ordered.
"I was talking to Abd, and I told him there is no need to make a big fuss about these suits because we are going to use them in this special occasion," said Saddam.
His lieutenants expressed obsequious concerns about their leader's new clothing. "Then my design is right?" asked Saddam.
"Absolutely right, sir!" said his son-in-law, Husayn.
Saddam then segued from suits to WMDs. "I want to make sure -- close the door (sound of door slamming) -- the germ and chemical warheads, as well as the chemical and germ bombs are available to the 'concerned people,' so that in case we ordered an attack, they can do it without missing any of their targets," he said.
Son-in-law Husayn began a long explanation of how chemical weapons were being deployed. Saddam interrupted: "This is not important to me."
The son-in-law said: "So, sir, regarding the germs and--
Saddam: "And the chemicals."
Son-in-law: "No, we have some of the chemicals available--"
Saddam: "So, we qualify that the missiles, by tomorrow, will be ready on the 15th" -- the day Bush's ultimatum expired.
Son-in-law: "Sir, we don't have the germs."
Saddam: "Then, where are they?"
Son-in-law: "It's with us."