ABC News’ Bret Hovell reports: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stepped away Friday from seeming to suggest earlier in the day that the Iraq War was motivated by U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
At a town hall meeting in Denver Friday morning, McCain was discussing the war in Iraq, and comments about how long the United States will be involved in that region, when he pivoted quickly to energy policy.
“And I just want to promise you this: My friends, I will have an energy policy, that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East,” McCain said. “That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”
After landing in Phoenix later in the day, McCain told reporters that he was not saying that the conflict is about oil.
“We went to Iraq because we believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he was going to use them,” McCain said, reiterating what he has said before on numerous occasions.
He said that he was actually referring to the first Gulf War when he talked about how a new energy policy would allow the Untied States never to have to “send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”
“I was talking about that we had fought the first Gulf War for several reasons,” McCain said, noting primarily that Iraq had invaded its neighbor Kuwait.
“But also we didn’t want them to have control over the oil, and that part of the world is critical to us because of our dependency on foreign oil. And it’s more important than in any other part of the world.”
But he did not mention the first Gulf War during his town hall meeting in Denver. His comments then came in the context of a conversation about the latest Iraq struggle, and how his plans for Iraq differ from that of his Democratic opponents, who want to begin withdrawing troops quickly from Iraq.
“I believe that that would lead to catastrophe and chaos,” he said of the Democrats’ plans. “And that we would have the whole region, including the country, in such turmoil that we would be required to come back to the region.”
In the very next sentence, McCain said that he wanted to promise Americans that his energy policy would prevent future conflict in the Middle East, as noted above.
In Phoenix, McCain acknowledged how he might have created the impression that oil and the Iraq war were connected, and he sought to correct it.
“I’m sorry if there was a misconception of that. And I hope I cleared that up. … I’m sorry that the word ‘again’ somehow caused an upheaval.”
McCain said that even though he did not vote for war with Iraq because of the vast oil reserves in that region, he does believe that dependency on foreign oil is something that is taken into account.
“I think that if we’re dependent on anything outside the United States of America, it has to, it has to enter into any calculations that we make,” McCain said.
He said that his comments in Denver related only to his desire to be completely independent of foreign oil.
“It’s obvious that we are dependent on oil from the Middle East and that is something that we have to become independent of, because it’s a very unstable part of the world.”