Former U.S. President George W. Bush made a verbal slip-up during a speech on Wednesday condemning the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine in which he accidentally described a “brutal invasion of Iraq.”
“Russian elections are rigged. Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process,” Bush said at his speech in Dallas, Texas. “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia and decision of one man, to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq — I mean of Ukraine.”
After making the slip-up, Bush said “75,” drawing some laughs from the audience as he referenced his age.
The verbal slip-up is notable as Bush ordered the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq while he served as president. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was heavily predicated on the controversial claim that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The U.S. invasion of Iraq saw the Hussein government ousted from power but few WMDs were found.
A 2005 CIA analysis of the Iraq WMD claims determined most reports of WMDs in Iraq were “scams.” The report detailed “a very limited number of cases involved the discovery of old chemical munitions produced before 1990.” The report said the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group (ISG) “disproved much of the prewar reporting from a specific source concerning mobile [biological weapons] capability, but it is still possible, though I would judge very unlikely, that such a capability remains undiscovered.”
Charles Duelfer, who led the 2005 CIA report, told The Intercept in 2016 that the few instances of chemical weapons that were found consisted of “stuff Iraqi leaders did not know was left lying around.” Duelfer said, “It was not a militarily significant capability that they were, as a matter of national policy, hiding.”
The invasion of Iraq lead to a war that saw thousands of U.S. military and Iraqi civilian deaths over years. President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, but sectarian violence continued in post-Hussein Iraq and the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) rose to power before Obama ordered U.S. troops to return to Iraq for the counter-ISIS mission Operation Inherent Resolve.
In a 2008 interview with ABC News as he prepared to leave office, Bush said the flawed assessment of Hussein’s WMD capabilities was one of his “biggest regret of all the presidency.”
“A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein,” Bush told ABC. “It wasn’t just people in my administration. A lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence.”
“I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess,” he added
In his 2010 memoir “Decision Points,” Bush said he had a “sickening feeling” when he learned there was little evidence of a significant WMD threat in Iraq.
Russia initiated its own invasion of Ukraine under dubious justifications. On Feb. 21, just days before launching the full-scale invasion, Putin announced Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of two separatist areas of Ukraine and sent Russian forces into those areas under the justification of a peacekeeping mission to defend them from Ukraine. In the early morning hours of Feb. 24, Putin launched the full invasion of Ukraine, which he called a “special military action” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” Ukraine.