Cheney's bogus oil argument

Vice president warns against al-Qaida taking Iraq's oil, despite all evidence to the contrary.

By Steve Benen

Published April 11, 2008 5:52PM (EDT)

There are probably some grounded, halfway reasonable arguments against withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, but the fact that the White House keeps relying on sheer nonsense suggests the Bush gang can't think of any, either.

Consider Dick Cheney's remarks on Sean Hannity's radio show yesterday.

HANNITY: If we pull out too early, what do you believe the consequences would be? [...]

CHENEY: For us to walk away from Iraq I think would have at least that bad an effect, probably worse, because if al Qaeda were to take over big parts of Iraq, among other things, they would acquire control of a significant oil resource. Iraq has almost 100 billion barrel reserves, producing 2.5-3 million barrels of oil a day. If you take a terrorist organization like al Qaeda and give it that kind of revenue, there's no telling the amount of trouble they could get into.

It's hard to overstate how far-fetched this is.

What's especially striking about this is that the president, about three weeks ago, emphasized the same point. Bush insisted that if we withdraw, there will be chaos in Iraq, which would lead al-Qaida to acquire Iraq's oil. At that point, the president said, the terrorist network "could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction and to attack America and other free nations."

Just how groundless is the argument? After Bush's comments, a White House reporter asked Dana Perino, "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-Qaida. Could you describe a plausible scenario?" As it turns out, she couldn't.

It fascinates me that even now, as the war begins its sixth year, the White House is still struggling to come up with arguments that make sense and can withstand even cursory scrutiny. It fascinates me further that Dick Cheney, weeks after the White House couldn't defend Bush's bogus claim, believes he should repeat the same debunked argument.

Steve Benen

MORE FROM Steve Benen

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room