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Fog of war

In blunder, Bush pans ‘brutal invasion of Iraq’

Former president makes gaffe while speaking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, then jokes, ‘I’m 75’

Former US president George W. Bush speaks in Dallas, Texas, May 18, 2022 (video screenshot)
Former US president George W. Bush speaks in Dallas, Texas, May 18, 2022 (video screenshot)

Former US president George W. Bush raised eyebrows Wednesday, and no doubt pleased many of his detractors, when he condemned during a speech the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.”

A belated mea culpa? No, Bush was speaking in Dallas of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and quickly corrected himself.

Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq — to ostensibly clear the country of weapons of mass destruction that were never found — led to a years-long war that caused the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and thousands of US soldiers. That decision has become so unpopular in the US that even many Republicans have since distanced themselves from it.

Bush was speaking about Russia’s lack of democracy when he made the mistake.

“In contrast [to US democracy], Russian elections are rigged,” he said.

“Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process. 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. I mean of Ukraine.”

The former US leader shrugged off the gaffe, noting, “I’m 75,” to laughter from the audience.

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