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.

The president, standing against a backdrop of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s fleet, said terrorists would be denied their goal of making Iraq a base from which to recruit followers, train them, and finance attacks. ~The Boston Globe

This has to take first prize for the most pathetic excuse-making Mr. Bush has thrown at us yet. Let us suppose that we were out of Iraq tomorrow–what then? Does any serious person believe that the oil fields, deep in secular Kurdish and Shi’ite-controlled territories, will fall into the hands of fanatical Sunnis? Is Zarqawi likely to get into the oil business when Sunni insurgents are more concerned to blow up pipelines, as the oil fields are firmly in the hands of non-Sunnis? Will Bin Laden somehow magically receive revenues from Iraqi oil when Sunni politicians in Iraq today are unable to gain sufficient control over the proceeds from the oil fields, because the other communities control them, such that they are hostile to the new constitutional settlement? Will Sistani start funneling cash to al-Qaeda? Does Bush take the public for complete fools?

None of these things listed above will substantially change if we leave. The bogey of al-Qaeda controlling Iraqi oil is as bogus and absurd as the earlier bogey of Hussein aiding al-Qaeda–Bush has no trouble spinning whatever yarn will suit the moment! The exclusion of the Sunnis from control of the oil will likely be exacerbated once we leave, as the people in control of the oil fields will feel little pressure and have no incentive to share those revenues. In fact, ironically, our continued presence affords the best chance the Sunnis have to gain any concessions, as the Sunnis have no leverage with the Kurdish-Shi’ite coalition arrayed against them. Mr. Bush’s latest excuse is beyond pathetic, in fact, and reveals a new level of desperation in the administration that only confirms that we should stop wasting our soldiers in this fruitless war and bring them home.