George Bush: what did former US president say about Iraq war and Ukraine in speech? ‘Freudian slip’ explained

The former US president jokingly blamed the mistake on his age

George W Bush made an embarrassing gaffe when he slammed Vladimir Putin’s “unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq” - when he meant to say Ukraine.

The former US president was giving a speech at an event on elections at the presidential centre in Dallas on Wednesday (18 May) where he spoke of the importance of democracy and condemned the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

His remarks were the first time he had publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nearly three months after it began.

The Iraq war will always be associated with Mr Bush’s presidency, and it appeared to be on his mind as he mistakenly said Iraq instead of Ukraine.

What did George Bush say?

He honed in on the lack of democracy in Russia which he said gave Putin the green light to start the attack on its neighbour last February.

While referring to “one man” launching a “wholly unjustified and brutal invasion” he then said Iraq before he pulled up, while shaking his head and corrected himself with “Ukraine”.

He said: "In contrast, Russian elections are rigged. Political opponents are imprisoned or otherwise eliminated from participating in the electoral process.

"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."

There was then murmuring in the audience and Bush said: "Iraq too, but anyway."

He jokingly blamed the mistake on his age saying "75" with the audience then bursting into laughter.

What did he say about Volodymyr Zelensky?

The former US President also compared Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to wartime leader Winston Churchill.

He compared the two together for the way that Mr Zelensky has rallied his nation in the face of the threat from Russia.

Mr Bush said that the Ukrainian president, who he spoke to via video call this month, had "legitimacy" after winning elections.

He claimed that Mr Zelensky is now “leading his nation heroically against Russian invading forces.”

He added: "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 Ukraine."

When was the Iraq war?

In 2003, when Mr Bush was president, the United States led an invasion of Iraq to overthrow the authoritarian government of Saddam Hussein.

There were concerns about him acquiring biological and nuclear weapons - but such weapons of mass destruction were never found.

The prolonged conflict killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced many more - as well as killing over 4,000 US troops.

A study by Iraq Body Count pegged the civilian casualties from the invasion between 2003 and 2013 to be at 122,438.

His administration was criticised for launching a brutal preemptive war on Iraq.

How have people reacted to his mistake?

Mr Bush faced heavy backlash for his slip-up.

Former Ohio State Senator, Nina Turner, wrote on Twitter: “George W Bush is a war criminal.”

While columnist for the New York Times, Wajahat Ali, tweeted: “Took 20 years for George W Bush to finally confess.”

His remarks quickly went viral on social media, gathering over three million views on Twitter alone after the clip was tweeted by a Dallas News reporter.