Woops, my bad

This is how the Guardian described a comment Paul Wolfowitz made:

The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz – who has already undermined Tony Blair’s position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a “bureaucratic” excuse for war – has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is “swimming” in oil.

The latest comments were made by Mr Wolfowitz in an address to delegates at an Asian security summit in Singapore at the weekend, and reported today by German newspapers Der Tagesspiegel and Die Welt.

Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: “Let’s look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil.”

I initially took this at face value. But this is what Wolfowitz actually said:

“Look, the primarily difference — to put it a little too simply —
between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic
options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the
case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic
collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the
military picture with North Korea is very different from that with
Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the
solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very

This space is no friend of Paul Wolfowitz, but bad information really annoys me. These guys do enough, it’s not like anyone has to make up stuff about them to make them seem worse.

Afterthought: not meaning to indicate that Wolfowitz’s argument is defensible, or even particularly plausible — i.e., we simply had to attack Iraq because their vast wealth made them otherwise invulnerable, unlike North Korea, which has a weaker economy, and um, nukes, not that that plays into our decision in any way…

One more addition: the eminently reasonable Calpundit weighs in:

It’s just dumb to see a supposedly damning quote from Wolfowitz made in a public forum and accept it uncritically. Even if Wolfowitz does think the whole war was about oil, there’s not a reporter in the world who could trick him into saying it. So just give up on the idea that it’s going to happen.

I suspect that what we’re seeing at work in this particular case is the real bias of the press. What reporters really want is not a liberal or conservative take on things, what they really want is to see their byline above the fold on the front page. They don’t care who they’re interviewing or what side of the aisle they’re on, if they see a chance to print something that seems like an attention grabber, they’ll go with it. This out-of-context quote looked good, so someone went with it. That’s all.

…Oh, and was the war all about oil? This is tiresome. Of course it was about oil. The reason we care about the stability of the Middle East in the first place is oil, and if it weren’t for that we’d just lend our support to Israel and otherwise stay out of things there. On the other hand, was it about taking direct control of Iraq’s oil and pumping it straight into our Strategic Petroleum Reserve? No. We just didn’t want Saddam threatening the Mideast oil supply.

(Entry revised for clarity and accuracy.)