I forgot to link to this item back when it was current, but I wanted to mention it in passing. From the Boston Globe on August 31, 2005: Bush gives new reason for Iraq war.
President Bush answered growing antiwar protests yesterday with a fresh reason for US troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country’s vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.
It’s actually fairly impressive that even now, some three years since he first got serious about selling the US public on an invasion of Iraq, Bush is still able to generate a headline like that.
As earlier reasons have been shot down by inconvenient realities, he’s left with little choice but to offer reasons that come closer to being actually true. So Bush ends up lining up with some of his harshest critics (like Viggo Mortensen) in acknowledging that yeah, this war really sort of is about oil.
Bush’s actual quote from the speech:
If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks. They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.
Of course, Bush is playing a dangerous game in resorting to vaguely honest rationales. If the point of our being in Iraq was to keep its oil out of the hands of dangerous extremists like Zarqawi and bin Laden, we could have just left Saddam in charge; he was doing a perfectly good job of maintaining a secular bulwark against radical Islam. That, after all, is why Ronald Reagan supported Saddam in the first place, assisting him during Iraq’s war with Iran.
Bush supporters like to harp on the talking point that “Zarqawi was in Iraq before we invaded.” Well, yes. He was operating in the Northern No-Fly Zone, where we had created a lawless region outside the government’s control. Now that we’ve turned the entire country into a lawless region outside the government’s control, Zarqawi’s freedom to operate has, if anything, been enhanced.
None of this is meant to excuse Saddam. He was a brutal dictator. But just because he was a very bad man does not mean that replacing him with (in effect) no workable government at all is necessarily a positive development in terms of US interests. The recognition of this fundamental problem is, after all, what led Bush’s predecessors to leave Saddam in power. For Bush to cite the argument now as a reason why we must sustain the daily toll in blood and dollars that his inept policy is currently consuming isn’t so much an argument that supports his decision-making, as condemns it.
One final noteworthy thing about this quote of Bush’s: He actually mentioned bin Laden by name. When was the last time you heard that?