George W. Bush Decries Putin's 'Brutal Invasion of Iraq' in Speech Gaffe Former President George W. Bush (Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Thursday, 19 May 2022 09:30 AM
In remarks on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, former President George W. Bush drew comparisons between Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, but he also caused his audience to fall into an awkward silence with a gaffe decrying Russian President Vladimir Putin's "brutal invasion of Iraq."
The war in Ukraine, Bush told an audience during an event at his presidential center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas on Wednesday, is the "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," reports The Dallas Morning News.
He quickly corrected himself, saying, "I mean, of Ukraine," and then under his breath, said, "Iraq, too."
The audience laughed when Bush, 75, blamed the error on his age.
Bush was commander in chief during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which his critics have called unjustified and brutal. The war resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
But in his other remarks, Bush commented on Zelenskyy that "the way countries conduct elections is indicative of how their leaders treat their own people, and how nations behave toward other nations. And nowhere is this on display more clearly than in Ukraine."
Bush met with Zelenskyy earlier this month through a video conference, and commented on Wednesday night that the Ukraine leader is a "cool little guy" and the "Churchill of the 21st century."
The event was held to examine the state of democracy in the United States after the Jan. 6, 2021 incidents at the U.S. Capitol and over former President Donald Trump's actions after his loss to President Joe Biden.
During a panel discussion, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who served under Bush, said that on Jan. 6, she was thankful for then-Vice President Mike Pence, who had overseen the certification for the congressional votes to confirm Biden.
"I cried on Jan. 6, because I thought to myself: I study countries who do this, I don't live in a country who does this," said Rice, an expert on Russia.
Other speakers at the Bush Center event included historian Jon Meacham and elections officials from Florida, Arizona, and New Mexico, where the 2020 election results underwent audits.
Bush had avoided criticizing Trump while he was in office but started speaking out, particularly after the Jan. 6 incidents last year, comparing the ideas behind the Capitol events to those espoused by the 9/11 hijackers.
"We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within," Bush said in September, in other Bush Center remarks. "There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit."
Trump quickly pushed back, commenting that "the World Trade Center came down during his watch. Bush led a failed and uninspiring presidency. He shouldn't be lecturing anybody!"
Trump's name was not mentioned often during Wednesday's event, but Jan. 6 and his refusals to accept the 2020 election outcome were brought up often.