In an apparent slip of the tongue, former US President George W Bush has condemned the "brutal" and "wholly unjustified" invasion of Iraq, when he meant to say Ukraine. The gaffe-prone 75 year old made the remark yesterday during an address at the Southern Methodist University's Bush Centre in Dallas, Texas.
While commenting on authoritarianism in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, Bush said, "The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq." He corrected himself quickly: "I mean, of Ukraine."
In a video clip of the incident, which has since gone viral, the crowd can be heard laughing at the blunder. This was followed by another round of laughter when Bush quipped, "Anyways. I'm 75."
This was the former president's first public condemnation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine which was launched on 24 February. He has also described Ukraine's wartime President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a "cool little guy" and compared him to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Wednesday's gaffe is the latest "Bushism" by the 43rd President of the United States. This term was coined during his eight years in office to denote his many verbal lapses, often made when speaking in public.
With the support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush launched the illegal invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003 on the basis that President Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were ever found. A year before "Operation Iraqi Freedom", Bush claimed in his 2002 State of the Union Address that North Korea, Iran and Iraq were rogue states with "terrorist allies" that were part of an "axis of evil".
However, it was reported by CNN in July 2003 that the intelligence reports used to justify the invasion were likely based on false information and forged documents. Britain's Chilcot Report, which was published in 2016, also found that Saddam posed no "imminent threat" and that the government's policy on Iraq was based on "flawed intelligence assessments".
There have been calls for both Bush and Blair to be tried as war criminals over the Iraq invasion. According to Iraq Body Count, an estimated 122,438 civilians were killed as a result of the invasion between 2003 and 2013. The Iraq war, the fall of Saddam and the dismantling of the state also gave rise to Al-Qaeda in Iraq and subsequently Daesh, while inadvertently allowing Iran to increase its influence in the country. In 2015, Blair acknowledged that there were "elements of truth" in the claim that the Iraq war gave rise to the so-called "Islamic State".