George W. Bush’s slip of the tongue, in which accidentally referred to the “wholly unjustified” and “brutal” invasion of Iraq instead of Ukraine, has led to repeated accusations that the former president’s actions over the 2003 Gulf War amounted to war crimes.
Bush, who was known for making gaffes and errors while speaking during his time in office, made the Iraq comment at an event on election integrity at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, on Wednesday.
Bush incorrectly mentioned Ukraine instead of Iraq while discussing how
Russian elections are “rigged” and criticizing President Vladimir Putin.
“Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process,” 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—I mean of Ukraine.”
After realizing his mistake, Bush mutters “Iraq too,” before adding “75,” in reference to his age, prompting laughter from the crowd.
A clip of the mistake was posted online by Dallas News reporter Michael Williams and has since been viewed more than nine million times.
Social media users have since used Bush’s faux pas to suggest that the former president should face war crime charges over the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 which was based on the incorrect belief that the country’s then-leader, Saddam Hussein, was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Others have also suggested that Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which ultimately resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, is comparable with Putin’s actions against Ukraine.
Former Ohio Senator Nina Turner tweeted: “George W. Bush just admitted to being a war criminal of the likes of Vladimir Putin, then laughed. Sickening.”
The infamous tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom said: “Finally the mass murdering war criminal, former U.S. President George W. Bush, admits his war crimes” while sharing a clip of Bush’s remark.
Art critic Jerry Saltz added: “The Bush-Cheney fake War Machine in Iraq caused almost 1,000,000 deaths. Far more than the monster Putin who must be stopped.”
Codepink, the women-led anti-war group, wrote: “I don’t care how many portraits he paints. NOTHING will erase the memory of war criminal George W. Bush LAUGHING—yes, laughing—about his grievously apt slip of the tongue accidentally referring to the ‘wholly unjustified invasion of Iraq—I mean of Ukraine.'”
MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan also criticized the former president for attempting to laugh off the mistake, adding Bush’s comment must be “one of the biggest Freudian slips of all time.”
“I’m not laughing,” Hasan said after playing the clip on his show. “And I am guessing nor are the families of the thousands of American troops and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who died in that war.”
For two decades, Bush, along with former British prime minister Tony Blair, have been heavily criticized for their role in the invasion of Iraq and the attempts to justify it.
In July 2003, the U.S. and Britain were accused of using forged or fake intelligence reports citing Hussein’s apparent possession of WMDs in order to help push through military action against Iraq.
In 2011, a court in Malaysia convicted Blair and Bush, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other members of Bush admission, of war crimes in absentia.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) was created in 2007 as an alternative to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The tribunal’s ruling was purely symbolic and is not recognized by the United Nations.