Bush: Al Qaeda is in Iraq, stealing our oil
I had a lot of fun at the White House Wednesday afternoon, and not because I made Dana Perino mad. In fact, I felt a little sorry for her today. It's not her fault that Bush's speechwriters put ludicrous statements into his speeches.
It all started when I came across the following line in the President's Iraq War Birthday speech:
"An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations."
I almost started salivating.
Bush first used a more modest variant of that argument while campaigning for Republicans during the 2006 Congressional elections. Back then, the threat was that "extremists and radicals" would "pull a bunch of oil off the market". While it was refreshing to hear him finally acknowledge the blood-oil nexus, I don't think the threat resonated with many voters, judging from the election results.
A couple of months later, during his surge announcement, Bush upped the ante. Now it was "radical Islamic extremists" who were going to "use oil revenues to fund their ambitions."
And finally, today, Bush threw in "al Qaeda" and "weapons of mass destruction" for good measure. But did he go too far? Here's the transcript of my discussion with Dana:
Me: The President warned of the danger that al Qaeda could gain access to Iraq's oil resources. But I don't understand how a fragmented, clandestine, non-Iraqi terrorist organization could produce and sell Iraqi oil on the global market, especially when the majority of Iraqis have turned against al Qaeda. Could you describe a plausible scenario?
Dana: The purpose of what the President said is that al Qaeda should not be allowed to have safe haven in Iraq and take over --
Me: How can they take over Iraq's oil reserves?
Dana: Well, if we were to leave we would certainly ensue chaos and not be able to -- if we were to leave too soon, it would certainly be chaos and it would be terrible for not only the innocent Iraqis, but the entire region and, in fact, our own national security. That's what the President --
Me: So the Iraqis would let a foreign terrorist organization take over their oil?
Dana: You're missing the point, and I think that you should go back and read --
Me: No, I --
Dana: Yes, actually, I think you are missing the point. And I call on you because I see what you write about how you come here and you really want to have questions asked. And I'm calling on you and I'm providing it to you, but I suggest that you read the President's speech and read it in context, because that's -- what you're suggesting is not what the President said.
Me: That's what he said.
Increasingly for the Bush administration, "al Qaeda" has become shorthand for "anyone in the Middle East who doesn't like us." That's why John McCain got into trouble on Tuesday. I know they have to simplify things for their base, but they're running the risk of alienating anyone with a brain.
At the end of the briefing, a man who'd been sitting in back came up to me and said, "That was great, what you just did. That was brilliant." I asked him who he was. He said, "Just visiting. I'm military."
The preceding article was a White House report from Eric Brewer, who will periodically attend White House press briefings for Raw Story. Brewer is also a contributor at BTC News. He was the first person to ask about the Downing Street memo at a White House briefing.
Think Progress has video of the exchange between Brewer and Perino at this link.