A day after an effigy of the Grim Reaper stalked his speech in Edmonton, Canada, former President George W. Bush was on the defensive over his personal salvation.
Speaking to a $400-a-seat crowd in Montreal, Bush told the roughly 1,000 attendees that his presidential decisionmaking was principled and moral.
“I am confident that I made decisions based on principle, that I made calls as best I could, and I did not sell my soul,” Bush said.
Outside his speech, the scene was anything but calm. A throng of protesters burned a flaming effigy of the former president, who’s taken his stump speech on the road across Canada. He’ll speak in three Canadian cities over a period of as many days.
Did he have regrets? an audience member asked.
“I spend a lot of time thinking about Katrina, and whether I could have sent in the federal troops right away, even though it was against the law,” Bush replied. He added he regretted the “Mission Accomplished” banner that accompanied him during a speech on an aircraft carrier after the early stages of his invasion of Iraq.
Protesters outside had more concrete opinions. A protest organizer encouraged Bush opponents to bring old shoes, in reference to an Iraqi who threw a shoe at the President during a speech late in his presidency.
Speaking to the Vancouver Sun, an immigration lawyer who was among the protesters said Bush was responsible for numerous deaths in the Middle East.
Bush is culpable for “cynically causing a war that is responsible for so many deaths and so much destruction,” lawyer William Sloan was quoted as saying.
“He set back international law into the 1700s,” Sloan added, “violating every convention possible and seeming to revel in it.”
Five protesters were reported to have been arrested.
The Queen Elizabeth Hotel, where Bush spoke in Montreal, is also known for a popular peace anthem: John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”