He said it in the context of discussing Iraq so naturally it’s being taken as some sort of confirmation at last of the great neoKKKon war-for-oil conspiracy that’s resulted in cheap energy to the tune of $3.50 a gallon at the pump:

At the end of his Friday town hall meeting in Denver, Colorado, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., seemed to imply that an energy policy less dependent on Middle Eastern oil might have prevented fighting in the region.

“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 told a crowd of 300 at a Jewish Community Center in Denver.

“That will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.”

McCain’s comments came as he was discussing his Democratic rivals’ plans to remove troops from Iraq immediately, which he opposes.

He’s not describing why the war was fought, as I read this, he’s using the hardships of the war as motivation to get right on energy so that we don’t have to relive them. The only ambiguity is whether the future conflict he has in mind stems from a fight for scarce resources or from jihadist elements leveraging the region’s oil wealth to finance aggression. Either way, it’s a sound point. The sooner we’re off crude, the sooner the Ahmadinejads and Wahhabis of tomorrow have to find a new revenue stream to pay for their toys. As for the prospect of a true war for dwindling oil supplies, that’s not a uniquely conservative worry: A bipartisan bill proposed last year called for the CIA and Pentagon to start gaming out war scenarios resulting from resources diminished by, er, global warming, and CNN once devoted a whole special to the consequences of a hypothetical energy crisis. Sample quote:

MATTHEW SIMMONS, OIL ANALYST & AUTHOR, “TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT”: I hear a gong. I heard a ticking clock during the 90s.

SESNO: And if we don’t act, if something doesn’t change? SIMMONS: Well, our life could get a lot darker fast.

SESNO: What is your worst case scenario?

SIMMONS: My worst case scenario is so bad that you don’t want to go there.

SESNO: Tell me?

SIMMONS: We would basically end up having a series of energy wars over who gets oil. And they are wars between you and your neighbor, and they are wars between one town and another, and ultimately one country and another.

Exit question: What exactly is ABC’s issue here?

Update: A brief reminder of how “seriously” Maverick takes this issue.

Update: Checking the Tivo, Chris Matthews was predictably pushing the “Iraq war for oil” interpretation on Hardball about 20 minutes ago.