The audience chuckled at George W Bush’s Iraq-Ukraine gaffe. I’m not laughing

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Gustavo Ferrari/AP</span>
Photograph: Gustavo Ferrari/AP

George Bush accidentally confessed to being a war criminal

It was a Freudian slip for the ages: during a speech in Dallas this week, former President George W Bush condemned the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq”. Whoops! “I mean of Ukraine,” he added a second later, as laughter rang out in the room. Isn’t it funny when a former president accidentally confesses to war crimes? Ha! Ha! Ha!

Tell you what, I’m not laughing. Nor are a lot of Arabs. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the depravity and horror of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iraqi prisoners of war – many of whom were innocent people who were arrested by mistake – were violently tortured by US and UK troops. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died. The entire country was left in ruins. And the suffering continued long after the occupying forces left. The US military’s frequent use of munitions containing depleted uranium in Iraq, along with military hardware abandoned by troops, poisoned the environment and the population. Even now babies are being born with severe birth defects linked to the invasion. “Doctors are regularly encountering anomalies in babies that are so gruesome they cannot even find precedents for them,” the lead researcher of a 2019 study said. “The war has spread so much radiation here that, unless it is cleaned up, generations of Iraqis will continue to be affected.” So, yeah, please excuse me if I don’t find Bush’s slip-up particularly funny.

You know what’s even less funny? The fact there has been zero accountability for any of the architects of the Iraq war. Sure, some of the military personnel were convicted of crimes relating to torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners, but the people who were really in charge have faced no consequences whatsoever. Bush himself has had his reputation whitewashed in recent years; he has transformed himself into a cuddly grandpa figure who paints and pontificates about “unity”. As for his coterie of enablers, most of them went on to high-paying jobs and prestigious positions.

Before anyone starts making excuses for the architects of the Iraq war (“how could they have known?”), let me remind you that it was clear from the start that the war – and the flimsy weapons of mass destruction excuse used to justify it – was a sham. In February 2003 millions of people, including myself, in at least 650 cities around the world took to the streets to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq. It was the largest one-day global protest in history. Ordinary people could see the war was immoral and probably illegal – and yet there is a concerted effort in some quarters to rewrite the war as a deeply regrettable lapse in judgment that nobody at the time could really have been expected to get right.

Here’s a quick thought experiment for you: imagine it’s 2042 and Vladimir Putin has transformed himself from war criminal to cuddly grandpa who paints in his dotage. Imagine he slips up while making a speech and talks about the wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Ukraine. Imagine everyone in the room laughing. That wouldn’t be terribly funny would it? In fact, the idea that a guy like Putin could face zero accountability and spend his old age giving speeches instead of serving time for war crimes, would be horrifying. And here’s another question for anyone who thinks that a comparison between Bush and Putin is unfair: ask yourself why you think that is? Ask yourself why the Iraq war is any more justifiable than the Ukraine war? Is it because, deep down, you’ve been taught to think that Arab lives don’t matter?

Elon Musk jokes about his penis after being accused of sexual harassment

The billionaire was recently accused of exposing his erect penis to a flight attendant on a private jet and offering to buy her a horse if she performed an erotic massage. While Musk has denied these claims, it’s been reported that his company SpaceX paid the attendant $250,000 in a severance settlement. Musk has reacted to the accusations with his characteristic immaturity and begged everyone to describe the scandal as “Elongate.” He has also challenged his accuser to describe his penis in detail. Like everything else in life, sexual misconduct seems to be one big joke to Musk.

UK MP arrested on suspicion of rape

He hasn’t been named yet but it seems one alleged offence is connected to someone under 18. Tory MP Michael Fabricant responded to the news with a tweet that appeared to joke about rape. Fabricant and Musk should have a little get together. They appear to both find assault very funny indeed.

Virginia lawyer files restraining order against Barnes & Noble for selling books like ‘Gender Queer’

There is an unprecedented surge of book banning efforts happening across the United States. So far the main battle ground has been schools and libraries but now the right are thinking even bigger: a rightwing Virginia lawyer has filed a lawsuit against a Barnes & Noble store in Virginia Beach for stocking books containing LGBT content. We are living in very dark times.

Oklahoma passes nation’s strictest abortion ban

Oklahoma’s bill “is not one more ban, it is not another ban – it is a first,” a Planned Parenthood executive said. The law “encourages bounty hunters to sue their neighbors” and is a “reversal of history happening before our eyes”.

El Salvador’s jailed women offer US glimpse of post-Roe future

A 33-year-old woman who suffered a medical emergency while pregnant has been freed after serving a decade in jail for attempted murder. She is the 65th woman to be freed after being locked up on murder charges following a miscarriage or medical emergency since El Salvador passed a total ban on abortion in 1998.

US women’s and men’s soccer teams agree historic World Cup pay deal

Shares of ticket sales will now also be equal, as will win bonuses. Finally, some good news!

Japanese university told to compensate 13 women after exam discrimination

In 2018 it was revealed that Juntendo University medical school made it harder for females to pass entrance exams because it wanted to keep women in the student body at about 30%. Now the university has been ordered to pay compensation to 13 women for gender discrimination.

I regret to inform you that Jeff Bezos is tweeting about his ass

As Mashable notes: “The world’s second-richest individual seems to be aping the low-rent Twitter antics of the world’s richest, Elon Musk.” Just what everyone needs.

The week in plot-triarchy

In 2011 the romance novelist Nancy Crampton Brophy wrote a blog post called “How To Murder Your Husband.” You must “be organized, ruthless and very clever,” she counselled. Seven years later Brophy’s husband was shot to death at home, and now the novelist, who collected his life insurance policies, is on trial for his murder. Did she do it? Who knows. But we do know she certainly doesn’t want to go to jail. “Let me say clearly for the record,” she wrote in that 2011 blog post, “I don’t like jumpsuits and orange isn’t my color.”

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