By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams
Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday inadvertently condemned “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” as he delivered remarks criticizing Russia’s assault on Ukraine.
Recognizing the slip, Bush—who in his memoir described the catastrophic Iraq invasion, which he launched in 2003 under false pretenses, as “eternally right“—quickly brushed it off with a chuckle and blamed his age.
“I mean of Ukraine,” Bush told an audience gathered in Dallas. “Iraq, too. Anyway. Seventy-five.”
Much of the crowd appeared to get a kick out of the 43rd president’s blunder, laughing as he moved on with his speech.
“I’m not laughing,” Mehdi Hasan said in a brief MSNBC segment Wednesday night. “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.”
Journalists, activists, researchers, and ordinary Iraqis have struggled for years to document and articulate the horrifying extent of the destruction caused by the invasion, which the Bush administration carried out with the approval of both chambers of Congress.
Death toll estimates vary widely—ranging from hundreds of thousands to more than a million—and countless Iraqis were wounded and displaced by the invasion and accompanying bombing campaigns, which have had lasting effects on the country and its people. Thousands of U.S. troops are still in Iraq, nearly two decades later.
“Stuff happens!” Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s defense secretary, said flippantly in April 2003 as reports of mass chaos and civilian deaths rolled in. “And it’s untidy. And freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes. And commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things and that’s what’s gonna happen here.”
Bush, Rumsfeld, and other members of the administration have been called war criminals over the invasion and occupation, a label that observers repeated in response to the former president’s comments Wednesday.
Spencer Ackerman, a journalist who has reported from Iraq, wrote on Twitter late Wednesday that “it’s hard to get past the nihilistic evil of killing hundreds of thousands, making millions into refugees, and turning it into stand-up to defuse the awkwardness of your hypocrisy.”
The peace group CodePink added that “nothing will erase the memory of war criminal George W. Bush laughing—yes, laughing—about his grievously apt slip of the tongue.”