George W Bush, the man held responsible by millions around the world for ordering the US invasion of Iraq, reportedly charged a charity $100,000 to speak at a fund-raising event for military veterans.
A series of reports said the former president billed the sum to Texas-based Helping a Hero for an event in 2012. The organisation also provided Mr Bush with a private jet to travel to the event, which cost an additional $20,000.
Laura Bush, the former president’s wife, earned $50,000 after appearing for the group in 2011, ABC News reported.
Helping a Hero told the news channel the $170,000 in total costs were worth it because the Bushes helped the group raise record funds in 2011 and 2012.
“It was great because he reduced his normal fee of $250,000 down to $100,000,” said Meredith Iler, the charity’s former chairwoman.
Medea Benjamin, an anti-war activist with Code Pink told The Independent it was "disgusting" that Mr Bush had taken the money.
"This is the man who sent thousands of American servicemen to their deaths - and tens of thousands to be injured - on a fools mission to Iraq, and he has the gall to charge them for making a speech," she said. "I think it is astounding that he would have the nerve to do that."
The Pentagon says that 4,493 American troops have lost their in Iraq and that more than 32,000 have been injured.
Quite how many Iraqis lost their lives remains a topic of debate. The Pentagon has always insisted it did not keep details of Iraqi deaths. A report published in the Lancet as far back as 2006 suggested that up to 650,000 people had keen killed as a result of the 2003 invasion and the subsequent violence and chaos.
A spokesperson for the former president, Freddy Ford, confirmed the payment but declined to comment on the criticism over the $100,000 speaking fee from the veterans' charity.
In an e-mail statement to the channel, Mr Ford said, “President Bush has made helping veterans one of his highest priorities in his post presidency.”
Some veterans criticised Mr Bush for charging the fee. However, Frank Dorsey of the 25th AAA Searchlight Battalion Veterans Association in New York, said he believed the former president had always been attentive to the needs of veterans.
He added: "Most of the high-profile politicians charge all sorts of money for speeches at dinners and college events. It's a growing trend."
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