Former US President George W Bush blundered on Wednesday and condemned the “brutal invasion” of Iraq, before correcting himself by saying he denounced the invasion of Ukraine.
The 43rd president was speaking at an election event at the Dallas Presidential Center.
“In contrast, the Russian elections were rigged. Political opponents imprisoned or otherwise are eliminated from the electoral process. The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia,” the former president said in his speech.
“And one man’s decision to launch a totally unwarranted and brutal invasion of Iraq…I mean Ukraine,” he added, before laughing it off and blaming his age for the faux pas.
He shrugged and said “Iraq too” under his breath. “Anyway. I’m 75,” the Republican leader added as the crowd erupted in laughter.
During Mr. Bush’s presidency in March 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq to overthrow the authoritarian government of Saddam Hussein, fearing it would acquire biological and nuclear weapons, without showing evidence of these concerns.
The war, however, eventually brought more conflict to the region.
His administration has been criticized for launching a brutal pre-emptive war against Iraq that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens and more than 4,000 American troops.
A study by Iraq Body Count put the number of civilian casualties from the invasion between 2003 and 2013 at 122,438.
Wednesday’s remarks were the first public condemnation of Bush’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, nearly three months after it began.
Mr. Bush faced a strong backlash for his Freudian slip.
“George W Bush is a war criminal,” wrote Senator Nina Turner.
“It took George W Bush 20 years to finally confess,” columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted.
Mr Bush also described wartime President Volodymyr Zelensky as a “cool little guy” and compared him to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“How countries conduct elections is indicative of how their leaders treat their own people and how nations behave toward other nations,” Bush said.
“And nowhere is this more clearly displayed than in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, as the war dragged on, Ukraine’s president submitted a bill to parliament to extend martial law and military conscription for three months.
The law was first imposed on February 24 when Mr Putin declared “a special operation” in Ukraine. It has since been extended by 30 days twice, with the last extension due to expire on May 25.
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