Truthdigger of the Week: Ivy Ziedrich, Critic of War and the Bush Family
Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.
Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old student at the University of Nevada, made headlines Wednesday when she confronted Jeb Bush, a presumed Republican presidential candidate, over his brother George W. Bush’s role in creating the militant extremist group Islamic State.
At a town hall event in Reno, Nev., Jeb Bush had said that the jihadist group developed as a result of President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. From among a flock of reporters, Ziedrich said to Bush: “You stated that ISIS was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East. However, the threat of ISIS was created by the Iraqi coalition authority, which ousted the entire government of Iraq.”
“It was when 30,000 individuals who are part of the Iraqi military — they were forced out,” she continued. “They had no employment, they had no income, yet they were left with access to all the same arms and weapons. Your brother created ISIS!”
At that moment Bush patted Ziedrich on the arm and said, “All right. Is that a question?”
Ziedrich shot back: “You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir. You could just answer my question.”
Bush returned: “Pedantic? Wow.”
As Bush smiled at the crowd, Ziedrich asked her question: “Why are you saying that ISIS was created by us not having a presence in the Middle East when it’s pointless wars, where we send young American men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism? Why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”
Visibly annoyed, Bush answered: “We respectfully disagree. … We had an agreement that the president could’ve signed that would’ve kept 10,000 troops, less than what we have in Korea, and could’ve created the stability that would’ve allowed Iraq to progress. The result was the opposite occurred because the void was immediately filled.”
He then told Ziedrich, “We can rewrite history all you want, but the simple fact is we’re in a much more unstable place because America pulled back.”
Ziedrich is right, of course. When George W. Bush destroyed Iraq’s physical, political and social infrastructure with the invasion, he created chaos where there was previously order. And into the vacuum rushed people whose lives, personalities, relationships and goals were reshaped by the destruction. Bush gave the push that created the conditions that made the Islamic State group inevitable.
A political science major and member of the Young Democrats at her university, Ziedrich knows this. She was a nationally ranked debater in high school and has campaigned against an open-carry gun law for college campuses.
Ziedrich tweeted after the confrontation: “It’s frustrating to see politicians ignore the origins of our conflicts abroad and use current foes as excuses for creating new ones.” She told The New York Times: “A Bush was trying to blame ISIS on Obama’s foreign policy. … It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger. … I think it’s important when we have people in positions of authority, we demand a dialogue and accountability.”
The exchange between Bush and Ziedrich exemplifies a familiar dynamic in American politics. A critic — typically a young person who has not learned to be deferential to authority — challenges an establishment type passionately, directly and in public. Caught in an unscripted exchange and at risk of losing face, the establishment type responds by belittling the challenger, which signals to his supporters and others in the audience that the challenger is not to be taken seriously. It’s an obstacle faced by nearly everyone who challenges authority.
The presidential election season will bring a lot of muddled reporting on events past and present from talking heads reading from teleprompters. For clarity, the public will thus be dependent on bold, courageous, principled and informed citizens like Ziedrich. For setting the tone, Ivy Ziedrich is our Truthdigger of the Week.
Watch Ziedrich’s exchange with Bush in the first 40 seconds of the clip below.