Former United States President George W Bush has decried the “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” in a gaffe during a speech in the US state of Texas.
The former president, who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq under the false pretence that the country was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), meant to decry the Russian invasion of Ukraine during the speech in Dallas on Wednesday.
Instead, while criticising Russia’s political system, he 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,” he said quickly.
He then said “Iraq too” to laughter from the crowd.
Several investigations have detailed how the Bush administration relied on faulty intelligence while misleading the public in the lead up to the war, with advocates calling for years for Bush and other officials to be held accountable for what has been called an illegal invasion.
Andrew Stroehlein, the European media director of Human Rights Watch, called the stumble the “Freudian slip of the century”.
Wrote Pouya Alimagham, a modern Middle East historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “Wow – the one time Bush told the truth about the invasion of #Iraq.”
Added writer Maris Kabas in a tweet: “If I could tell my 17-year-old self one thing it’s that George W Bush will admit to unjustly invading Iraq in 17 years.”
The US invasion of Iraq, which was officially completed in 2011, has been directly attributed to widespread instability in the country that led to the rise of the ISIL (ISIS) armed group.