Former US President George W. Bush made an embarrassing mistake, perhaps a Freudian slip, by talking about the importance of democracy and threats to democracy from abroad, and specifically targeting Russia.

“Russian elections are rigged”, he said. “Political opponents are jailed or otherwise removed from participation in the electoral process. The result is the absence of checks and balances in Russia and one man’s decision to launch a brutal and unwarranted invasion of Iraq. I mean Ukraine.

Then Bush brushed aside the error and said: “Iraq too” implying that Russia was somehow involved in Iraq, which is obviously not true.

In any case, simple mistake or not, it is the most perfect example of the blatant hypocrisy of US politicians who denounce Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Bush himself launched an illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 that resulted in the estimated deaths of more than 1 million Iraqis in the first few years alone.

In all, the war ended up being a bloody nine-year operation under the false pretense of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ allegedly held by then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. US forces openly committed war crimes, including the use of illegal chemical weapons, the killing of tens of thousands of civilians by US forces, as well as the widespread use of torture. All of these violations were either confirmed by the US or admitted in internal documents leaked by WikiLeaks.

The fact that the man who presided over this horrible war, the war that sparked the biggest protests in human history, has the nerve to denounce Russia’s actions in Ukraine is a display of narcissism. It’s so clearly ridiculous that even he himself blurted out that, yes, what happened in Iraq was a travesty.

What makes this skit even more apparent is exactly what he was saying about Russia, that “a man” can launch a military operation without checks and balances. That is exactly what happened during the Iraq War. There are international laws and institutions designed to prevent these types of crimes from happening, all of which were ignored. This demonstrated that international law is not law as such, but simply a political tool to express the wishes of a hegemonic power, that is, the United States of America.

It is precisely this situation, this breakdown of international law and the resulting feeling that international law does not really protect anyone, that created the conditions for the situation in Ukraine. Prior to Russia’s intervention in the conflict, which had actually been ongoing since 2014, Moscow sent its legitimate security concerns, including the militarization of Ukraine and the possibility of Ukraine becoming a NATO member, to the West, but all they were ignored.

Ironically, it is again Bush who began the approach of blatantly ignoring Russia’s interests. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was hope that Russia could become a partner of the West, not an enemy. When Russian President Vladimir Putin began his first term in office, that was a hope he himself shared.

In fact, while Russia was dealing with terrorism in Chechnya, President Putin wanted to partner with the US on counter-terrorism operations. He promised support for the United States in its own counterterrorism efforts, including in Afghanistan, offering the use of Russian airspace and other resources.

He first met with Bush at the latter’s home in Texas in 2001, just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At a local Texas high school, Bush described Putin as “a new style of leader, a reformer… a man who will make a big difference in making the world more peaceful, working closely with the United States.” Then, just weeks later, Bush withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to, the administration said, protect NATO allies from a potential Iranian missile attack. Putin publicly said this move would undermine arms control efforts and weaken European security.

Such duplicity has essentially remained the norm in Washington ever since. Americans assure world leaders that they want to cooperate, build ties and reduce tensions, but then immediately enact policies that contradict their own words. Over the course of Putin’s leadership, which has overlapped with several US presidents, Russia has endured successive waves of NATO expansion that have encroached on Russia’s doorstep and militarized Russia’s neighbourhood, despite the Verbal promises that this would not happen from President George, ironically. HW Bush, the father of George W. Bush.

Thus, George W. Bush is clearly baseless when it comes to illegal invasions and lack of checks and balances in foreign policy. The fact that Bush has even ventured a censorious opinion on Russia’s actions in Ukraine is irony enough: the Freudian slip is just that irony in all its distilled clarity.

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