On CNN, Why Did Jeb Claim That Bashar Assad Would ‘Execute’ Christians?

In a CNN interview this week, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said that only Middle East Christians should be granted refugee status in the U.S. (I argued in favor of this for two months prior to the Paris terrorist attacks which prompted Bush’s statement). In the midst of an otherwise good interview, however, Bush made a bizarre statement:

There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now. They’ll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or by ISIS.

“Executed or imprisoned” by Assad? This is an absurd and patently false assertion.

Not only have Christian minorities long been protected under the secular regime of Assad -- himself a member of a religious minority -- but many Christian refugees who fled the jihad in Iraq (which Jeb’s brother George uncorked) fled to Assad’s Syria for sanctuary. As Russian President Vladimir Putin once correctly opined:

People are running away not from the regime of Bashar Assad, but from Islamic State, which seized large areas in Syria and Iraq, and are committing atrocities there. That is what they are escaping from.

This is not the first time that Jeb Bush, in the midst of making sound comments, revealed his true views on the Middle East. A few weeks ago, he said:

We need to be part of the strategy to deal with taking Assad out and taking ISIS out.

Note the consistent order: Bush always mentions Assad before ISIS, perhaps suggesting that he sees the secular Syrian president as a greater evil than the Islamic State. Yet it is the latter that has committed the worst atrocities of the 21st century, including raping and slaughtering Christians who refuse to renounce Christ for Islam.

Look to what Syrian Christians themselves say regarding who is persecuting them. For example, listen to Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, the head of a Syrian church, who has personally witnessed the slaughter, crucifixion, and rape of his flock:

If the West wants to do something about the present crisis, the most effective thing would be to support local governments [Assad and allies], which need sufficient armies and forces to maintain security and defend respective populations [such as Christians] against attacks. State institutions need to be strengthened and stabilized. Instead, what we see is their forced dismemberment being fueled from the outside.

As far back as 2011, when war came to Syria, Christians said they were supportive of the Assad regime:

Christian service has flourished remarkably in Syria. We regard Syria as a model Arab country when it comes to freedom of worship … Syrian Christians are very aware of what happened to Christians in Iraq, including the estimated 500,000 Christian refugees who fled to Syria during the Iraq war.

Even Obama once admitted awareness of this:

We know that President Bashar al-Assad protected Christians in Syria.

Yet here is Jeb Bush, justifying war in Syria by claiming that Assad is “executing” Christians. This is eerily reminiscent of another Bush's worldview. George portrayed Saddam Hussein, a dictator who was in fact a protector of Christian minorities, as Satan incarnate. We saw how that ended: with the loss of American blood and treasure, and the birth of ISIS.