US President George W Bush has challenged his European partners to get more of their troops killed in Iraq if they want a bigger share of the beleaguered country's reconstruction contracts.
"Not enough European soldiers are getting blown up to warrant their countries getting these contracts," he told a meeting of the South Texas War Appreciation Society. "I'd like to see a few more British, Italian and Spanish military in the firing line. Don't even speak to me about the French."
US government plans centre on directly linking nations' death tolls in Iraq to the number of contracts awarded.
"We still have to polish around the edges but basically the ratio will be for every five soldiers killed at a checkpoint, the grieving country will get to rebuild an oil-well," said a US government official.
Bush also told the packed meeting he would be celebrating' the fact that US defence spending would top $400bn next year by launching the government driven Buy a bullet' campaign.
"Our message is clear: we want more guns, more tanks and more missiles to defend our proud nation," he said. "Only by investing in death and destruction will we pursue the course of freedom."
Bush dismissed claims that new forms of international terrorism such as Al-Qaeda warranted a new kind of defence policy involving global intelligence and international allies rather than conventional weapon spending.
"Al-Qaeda is a rogue state ruled by a madman and we will set its people free - with good old fashioned shooters," he proclaimed before a presidential aide hurriedly intervened to whisper something in his ear.