Matthews Rants: 'Should We Put Exxon Signs Up Over Arlington Cemetery?'

Chris Matthews might as well have chanted "No Blood For Oil" throughout the Monday edition of MSNBC's "Hardball" as he sounded like an anti-war protestor as he charged that U.S. servicemen and women were spilling blood for Big Oil, as he questioned: "Are we fighting for the American oil companies for Mobil and Exxon? And they are making these enormous profits because of access to oil over there...Should we put Exxon signs up over Arlington Cemetery and Mobil signs up there, like they have at baseball stadiums?"

Pivoting off a David Shuster report that claimed Alan Greenspan "provided evidence" that the Iraq war has been "fought for oil," Matthews devoted much of the September 17 edition of "Hardball" to that conspiracy theory. The following is Shuster's report followed by Matthews's various "No Blood for Oil," rants:

David Shuster: "No blood for oil has long been a rallying cry for activists against the Iraq war and as the marchers demonstrated again this weekend a top Washington insider, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan provided evidence that bolstered the controversial argument the Iraq war was launched and continues to be fought for oil. In his book, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures In A New World, Greenspan writes, quote, ‘I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows, the Iraq war is largely about oil.' It's a huge problem for the Bush administration when there's any evidence to suggest 3800 American soldiers have died to keep oil prices down. Former Fed chair Alan Greenspan is one of the most respected and influential voices in the country. So administration officials are speaking about the Iraq war and are trying to re-frame the issue."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "I think that it's really about stability in the Gulf."

Shuster: "On the Today show, this morning, Greenspan tried to help the administration by offering a clarification. But it only seemed to reinforce his original point."

Alan Greenspan: "I'm not saying that they believed it was about oil, I'm saying it is about oil and that I believe it was necessary to get Saddam out of there."

Shuster: "Greenspan then spoke about a crucial transit point for oil in the Persian Gulf and fears of economic chaos."

Greenspan: "Saddam Hussein was obviously seeking to get a choke-hold on the Straits of Hormuz where about 18 million barrels a day flow from the Middle East to the industrial world."

Shuster: "That more nuanced argument from Greenspan, today, is similar to what was said 16 years ago when Iraq invaded Kuwait and paused within striking distance of Saudi Arabia. Bush41 and his top cabinet officials said America needed to push Iraqi forces back and protect regional oil supplies for the sake of America's economic stability. But four-and-a-half years ago on the eve of the second Gulf war, officials working for the second Bush administration, seemed to go much further by talking not just about stability but about economic gains. President Bush's own economic adviser, Larry Lindsey told the Washington Times that invading Iraq and gaining access to Iraqi oil would be a huge boost. Quote, ‘Under every plausible scenario, the negative effect will be quite small relative to the economic benefits that would come from a successful prosecution of the war. They key issue is oil, and a regime change in Iraq would facilitate an increase in world oil.' Then Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz offered similar testimony to Congress. Quote, ‘It's got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports, which can finally, might finally be turned to a good use instead of a building Saddam's palaces.' And Wolfowitz told lawmakers that Iraqi oil would not only be accessible to West but could be used to pay for whatever rebuilding in Iraq might be necessary. Quote, ‘We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.' When the war began American special operations forces raced ahead to secure Iraq's oil fields. Then, after Baghdad fell, American troops guarded America's oil ministry, the one ministry that was protected from looters. For the last four-and-a-half years the Bush administration has insisted the war was not being fought to gain access to Iraqi oil, but keeping oil supplies and transit point safe continues to be a White House talking point. Last week President Bush listed several potential problems if U.S. troops withdrew, including."

George W. Bush: "Extremists could control a key part of the global energy supply."

Shuster: "So it is blood for oil, at least in part. The argument is whether it's about strictly protecting economic stability as Alan Greenspan now suggests, or whether it's something far more nefarious as White House critics increasingly believe. I'm David Shuster for Hardball in Washington."

...

Matthews: "Are we fighting for the American oil companies for Mobil and Exxon? And they are making these enormous profits because of access to oil over there. Jim [Cramer] are we over there getting killed and maimed so that these guys can make the $32 billion in profits in the first quarter? I mean look at the money they made in the first quarter this year."

...

Matthews: "So if you're in the European left and never liked Bush, to start with, now you got his Fed chairman say it's all about oil, you love it, right? This is the old Marxist analysis."

Howard Fineman, Newsweek: "Well it is but I, I think, to some extent it's unarguably true. And there are various times, as David Shuster said earlier in the show, we reported earlier in the show when these arguments were being made by administration officials it wasn't the number one reason. Number one was mushroom cloud. Number two was Saddam and Osama Bin Laden, etc, etc."

...

Jill Zuckman, Chicago Tribune: "I think this is one of the reasons why what Greenspan says has so much resonance because this is the Texas oil crowd in the White House and so-"

Matthews: "The oil patch crowd."

Zuckman: "-people assume that a lot of what they do is motivated."

Matthews: "Okay let me ask you this. Exxon, Mobil, making tens of billions of dollars in profits this year. So the war worked out well for them right?"

Zuckman: "Yes and we can pay crazy amounts of money at the pump."

Matthews: "Should we put Exxon signs up over Arlington Cemetery and Mobil signs up there, like they have at baseball stadiums?"

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.