A college student has gained international fame after confronting Jeb Bush in Reno on Wednesday, criticizing his ideas about the Middle East and telling him: “your brother created Isis.”
Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old University of Nevada student, addressed the former Florida governor and likely presidential candidate after he spoke at town hall event, questioning him amid a flock of reporters about his assertion that the jihadi group developed because President Barack Obama has oversaw the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
“You stated that Isis was created because we don’t have enough presence and we’ve been pulling out of the Middle East,” she said, shifting blame instead on the consequences of George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq. “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. 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!”
Bush patted her on the arm and asked: “Is that a question?”
“You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir,” Ziedrich shot back. “You could just answer my question.”
“Pedantic? Wow,” Bush replied, taken aback by the rebuke.
“When we sent young men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism,” she asked, “why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”
“We respectfully disagree,” Bush answered. “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.”
The likely candidate for the 2016 presidential campaign 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 a political science major and member of the Young Democrats at her university, was a nationally ranked debater in high school and has campaigned against an open-carry gun law for college campuses. She told ABC News , which captured the confrontation on camera, that she did not mean to sound hostile.
“I think he’s telling the truth as he understands it,” Ziedrich said. “I see his response as a lack of perspective. We deserve more than this as voters.”
Ziedrich has emphasized that she wants more accountability from leaders and to get them to interact with a wider range of voters, tweeting that day about the ways “candidates for presidency talk at small ticketed events instead of speaking to university students and getting them involved”.
“It’s frustrating to see politicians ignore the origins of our conflicts abroad and use current foes as excuses for creating new ones,” she added .
“A Bush was trying to blame Isis on Obama’s foreign policy,” Ziedrich told the New York Times . “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.”
Bush has struggled with his brother’s legacy in recent days, particularly with regard to the former president’s hugely unpopular war in Iraq. He first drew criticism by telling Fox News that he would have invaded Iraq even knowing what Americans know today – that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that Iraqis and Americans would pay enormous costs in lives and treasure.
After criticism from the left and the right, Bush then tried to backtrack, saying that he misheard the question as “knowing what you knew then” and that “given the power of looking back, of course anybody would’ve made different decisions”.
Finally on Thursday he said that with knowledge of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs: “I would have not gone into Iraq.”
Should Bush declare his candidacy as expected, Ziedrich’s question is likely a foreshadowing of one of the former governor’s greatest challenges: the deep disillusionment and simmering anger of many Democrats and Republicans surrounding the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which seems inextricably tied to the Bush name.