Glenn Greenwald: Here’s How Democrats Saved Bush-Era Neocons and Brought Them Back to Prominence

Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald explains why the Left’s former arch-enemies are so admired by liberals today.

On February 15, 2003, the largest anti-war protest in history took place around the world in opposition to the United States’ looming invasion of Iraq.

For the American Left and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party at the time, the good guys in that divide were the protesters—or, really, anyone who opposed what would end up being arguably the worst foreign policy mistake in U.S. history. The bad guys were the federal government, headed by then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and the hawkish neoconservatives in their cabinet and media who were eagerly concocting this disaster.

“Bush lied, people died!” the Left exclaimed then. Former President Donald Trump would later express a version of this sentiment, at a time when even many Republican voters began to question the wisdom of the Iraq War many once supported.

The once-disgraced neocons should be eternally grateful Trump went after them in the way he did.

As Trump repeatedly blasted Bush and the Iraq War—and by proxy, its neoconservative architects—Democrats increasingly found common cause with ‘Never Trump’ neoconservative Republicans over the last six years. Many of these Bush-era relics would end up backing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Others wound up as regular guests and even hosts on left-leaning cable outlets MSNBC and CNN, and have now even become quite cozy with the Biden administration.

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Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program on Tuesday, independent journalist Glenn Greenwald laid out how this significant transformation of the American Left happened.

Ingraham cited a recent column by Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges (who was recently censored by YouTube) in Salon on this subject. The Fox anchor noted that she was surprised to be using the left-wing outlet Salon as her source.

Greenwald replied, “It’s not any less surprising than the fact that neocons seem to be the most beloved and admired and influential people within, not just the Democratic Party, but also American liberalism, given that they were their arch enemies ten to fifteen years ago.”

“This is the most extraordinary part of it, Laura,” Greenwald explained. “When we talk about neocons, we’re not just talking about people who wanted to go to war in Afghanistan or wanted to go to war in Iraq. Large majorities of Americans wanted that in the wake of 9/11, which [was] a very traumatic attack on our country.”

“But … many people came to realize pretty quickly, ‘Wait a minute. This war seems to have no real purpose,” he added. “It doesn’t actually have an end. It’s not actually improving the lives of the American people.” 

“Neocons never came to that realization. They loved those wars,” Greenwald said. “They think we should have had more Afghanistans and Iraqs.”

Greenwald elaborated, “And so they were discredited by the end of the Bush administration, into the Obama administration. [Then], largely because they rebranded themselves as opponents to Trump—vicious, vehement, steadfast opponents to Trumpthey were able to rehabilitate their reputation with liberals and now they’ve become the leading voices again on foreign policy among not just liberals and Democrats, but also those kind of old, standard, militaristic Republicans who never learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Greenwald said thanks to liberals, neocons are “not just back, but they’re leading the way, and you see the result.”

Ingraham responded, “Liberals used to be kind of for peace, right. That’s out the window now?”

Greenwald answered, “You look at the war in Ukraine, and obviously you’re horrified by a lot of the images that you see. And that’s because all wars involve atrocities. All wars involve hideous images and complete mistreatment of human beings.”

He then asked, “The question that we were supposed to ask with Afghanistan and Iraq but never did is: ‘What is the purpose of this war? How does it end? What is our answer to this war? What is it that we’re doing there? How do we end?’” 

“We don’t have an answer,” Glenn Greenwald finished.

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Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter
Jack Hunter is a freelance writer, the co-author of Sen. Rand Paul’s 2011 book ‘The Tea Party Goes to Washington’ and the former politics editor for