National Review “let themselves be turned into the propaganda wing of the neo-conservative movement” during the George W. Bush administration, while ignoring the ethnic cleansing of Iraq’s Christian communities under Bush’s watch, said John Zmirak, Senior Editor of The Stream and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism.
Zmirak made his comments during an interview with Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour Friday on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight.
National Review, said Zmirak, refused to countenance debate over the wisdom of invading Iraq during the Bush administration’s lead-up to the Iraq War, further refusing to publish criticisms of Bush’s prosecution of the Iraq War. He contrasted National Review’s editorial opposition to debate over the Iraq War with that of David Horowitz’s Frontpage Mag, which published competing views – both supportive and opposed – toward the Iraq War.
“I was sort of a budding conservative columnist [in 2002 and 2003],” he explained. “I wrote every week for David Horowitz, who is a wonderful guy, and a solid real conservative. He favored the Iraq War, I opposed it, but he let me write articles on Frontpage Mag critical of the Iraq War because he believed there was a legitimate debate about the wisdom of invading Iraq given that we didn’t really have a good succession plan; a good plan for what would happen afterwards.”
But Horowitz’s attitude was not shared by the writers at National Review.
“National Review did not believe there was a legitimate debate [about the invasion of Iraq],” explained Zmirak. “They actually ran an article, a cover story by David Frum — who people might not remember used to be a conservative, or present himself as one — called “Unpatriotic Conservatives,” which denounced and explicitly read out of the conservative movement as anti-American and unpatriotic most of the leading writers who were critical of the Iraq War.”
Zmirak said he “lost a lot of respect” for some of the writers at National Review during the Bush years.
“I’m not going to list names because some of them have gone on to do good things,” said Zmirak. “But I lost respect for a lot of people because people who made good arguments against what Bill Clinton did in Yugoslavia … flipped when George Bush tried to do the same thing in Iraq.”
Zmirak framed Saddam Hussein as a lesser of several evils with respect to competing forces – namely Islamists – vying for control of Iraq. Toppling Hussein, he added, facilitated subsequent persecution and ethnic cleaning – including mass rape, sex-trafficking, and murder campaigns – of Christians by Islamist groups such as ISIS.
“Saddam Hussein was a sponsor of terror against Israel, he was a brutal dictator, but he was a secular ruler,” Zmirak explained. “The ancient Christian communities of Iraq … were safe under him. Part of his bolstering of his secular reputation was protecting those communities.”
“The Bush administration showed absolutely zero concern for the Christian communities of Iraq,” said Zmirak. “And we’re not talking five or six hundred people; 1.3 million Christians lived in Iraq when the Iraq War started, and they have lived there for two thousand years. They were some of the earliest Christian communities in the world. Way before there were Catholics in Rome, or before Constantinople existed, there were Christians in Iraq.”
“Seventy-five to eighty percent of [Iraq’s Christian communities] were ethnically cleansed while George Bush was president, while he was commander-in-chief, while he ruled that country as absolutely as Kim Jong-un rules North Korea. He didn’t care,” Zmirak stated.
Zmirak mocked conservatives who expressed outrage over Donald Trump’s “vulgar” comments on the Access Hollywood tape, but were silent during the Bush years while ancient Christian communities were ethnically cleansed.
“When people tell me, ‘How can you support Donald Trump? He said vulgar things on Access Hollywood.’ I say, how can you support the Bush family, which has never apologized for just sitting on their thumbs with a stupid grin on their faces while a million Christians were driven into the desert, were killed, were ethnically cleansed; they didn’t even get to go to refugee camps because the Muslims control the refugee camps. They’re living in unheated shipping containers to this day,” said Zmirak.
“Never Trump” Republicans — including many National Review pundits — who focus on Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape comments, but did not criticize Bush’s failure to protect the Christians in Iraq are without political credibility, said Zmirak.
“Any Republican who is horribly upset about Donald Trump’s tweets, I want to know where they were and what they were saying while the Bush administration let a million Christians be sent into the jaws of hell,” he said.
“What I can’t stand is people who were licking the mud off of George W. Bush’s boots [and] who treat Donald Trump with contempt, when in fact Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been more conservative, more pro-America, more prudent, and more intelligent on every level than the bumbling, self-righteous, intellectually lazy, callous idiocy of the Bush administration,” Zmirak said.
“Anybody who was involved with the Bush administration who has not apologized for that and learned from it ought to be kept as far away from our government, as possible,” he concluded.
Mansour concurred with Zmirak’s assessment of National Review’s sycophantic approach to the Bush administration. “The reason I lost respect for that once venerable magazine is because week after week after week throughout the Bush administration, they kept assuring us, ‘Don’t worry! Everything is wonderful! He’s got it all figured out! It’s gonna be great!’ They never held this guy to account. Never,” said Mansour
Zmirak compared what he described as National Review’s reflexive support for Bush’s management of the Iraq War with Chip Diller (played by Kevin Bacon) in the 1978 comedy film Animal House, insisting “all is well” amidst chaos.
Zmirak and Mansour noted the left-wing core of neo-conservative figures such as David Frum and Max Boot. Partial transcript below:
ZMIRAK: I think we need to continue to see this globalist, neo-conservative, utopian ideological view of the world that we see embodied in Max Boot and David Frum, and other people who’ve…
MANSOUR: They’ve all gone back to the left, by the way. They’re going back to their roots.
ZMIRAK: That’s right. They present as conservatives when it seems convenient, and now they’re admitting, “Yeah, we were leftists, all along. We just wanted to invade Iran. We just wanted to occupy Iraq. We just basically want war.”
MANSOUR: “We just want to invade another country.” They always want to send the Deplorables’ sons and daughters to fight another war. It’s just ridiculous.
ZMIRAK: They’re still 18-year-olds sitting in their Yale dorm rooms playing Risk, but instead of little plastic pieces, they’re American soldiers.
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Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.