Former U.S. President George W. Bush apologized for the Iraq War today, saying the conflict was "his biggest mistake."
In a statement released to a Texas newspaper, the 66-year-old Bush said he meant well when he sent America to war but asked the American people to forgive what in retrospect was "a clear example of poor judgement."
The admission comes on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, which began in 2003 and ended in 2011 with more than 36,000 American casualties and estimates of more than 100,000 civilian deaths.
"After the events of September the 11th, I focused all my energy on protecting America from the next attack," the statement reads. "Regrettably in our zeal to defend America, my administration exaggerated threats which - although real - did not constitute a clear and present danger to the United States.
"After my presidency I have come to the belief that the Iraq War, although well intentioned, was unnecessary and too costly to justify. I deeply apologize to the American people and to our soldiers and veterans in particular for engaging them in such a conflict.
"I may have made a mistake - but I think all Americans know that I pride myself on being able to admit my failures."
Shock and Awe
Bush also used his statement to address some of the lingering controversies surrounding the war, and showed remarkable honesty and contrition.
"In the run up to the war," he continued, "my administration made claims that turned out not to be factual. Personally, I truly believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But when we couldn't find the evidence, we fabricated it.
"It was wrong to misoverexaggerate the nature of the threat. And although men like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were the most directly involved, ultimately I was the man at the top and I accept full responsibility.
"Additionally, once we went to war we should have gone in with a detailed plan. I thought it was more important to topple Saddam Hussein quickly than to prepare for the post-occupation. Clearly I was wrong, and I am sorry.
"The entire war was the biggest mistake of my life. I have asked my God for his forgiveness, and now I ask the American people. I hope history records that I was a good person, just trying to do the right thing."
In response to Bush's statement, former Vice President Dick Cheney gave an interview to NewsMax in which he labeled Bush's apology "childish" and defended his actions during the war.
"I still believe that the world is a better place without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein," Cheney said. "It's a shame this cowardly deadender no longer agrees and has joined the Cindy Sheehan wing of the Republican Party."