The work in George W. Bush’s “Portraits of Courage” reveals a surprisingly adept artist who has dramatically improved his technique while also doing penance for a great disaster of American history.
I have a great many problems with this article (cited above) and the analysis. First, W had every privilege known to man extended to him from before his birth. He had a Yale and Harvard Business School education, and did not spend one moment worrying about how he was going to pay for any of that. I do not buy the theory that he was "in over his head" or that he was controlled by other people. He did not get to Yale and Harvard or to be elected president because he was stupid and gullible. I also do not buy the argument that he is fundamentally a good person. IF W has PTSD, he is not showing any signs of it. I think it is an insult to people who do have PTSD to claim that W has that too. I also doubt that W gives a fuck about the damage that he has done around the world and he certainly is not making any kind of “restitution” for the evils he unleashed by doing some mediocre paintings of troops who were injured. I think he just admires them, and that is why he is painting them. He certainly is not painting or mentioning the Iraqi victims of his war of aggression.
I also believe that W and a lot of our corporate press are doing their best to whitewash the hideous evils that W and US Americans unleashed on the world, which continues to this day.
In order to make restitution for a crime, the criminal has to admit his behavior and take some responsibility for it. I have not seen any sign that W has done this - I have not seen any sign of it from our corporate media either. Further, any attempt at restitution must do something to make amends to the injured parties. If W wanted to do this, he would be handing over his wealth to the many people who are now destitute and refugees because of the wars that W started. He is not doing this. He is painting pictures of people in the US military who implemented his evil policies.
Please note that no one is trying to rehabilitate or make up to people like the Dixie Chicks or Susan Sarandon who clearly stood against the war of aggression on Iraq. They suffered horrible backlash for their moral position and no one is trying to make it up to them. They are still being vilified and shunned.
As to Jonathan Alter's article - As I stated above, I don't see this as Bush doing “penance” for his “great disaster.” Penance requires some hardship. I don't see any hardship or sacrifice here. I have not heard any expressions or processing of “pain and regret” from W.
We are not going to “do better” next time or even stop our wars of aggression at any point if we don't stop whitewashing what really happened and how horrific it was for the VICTIMS of these wars. We will not stop any wars as long as we keep on glorifying militarism and our veterans either.
In his article Alter states: “And yet, bearing unflinching witness to the horrific consequences of historic folly should always be welcome.”
I don't see any of that either. It was not “historic folly” it was EVIL. And the horrific consequences are carried by the victims of war and violence, not by the ones who signed up to get paid to participate, no matter how much they suffered. Just imagine how well a book of portraits of the innocent victims, along with their true stories, who sell in the USA. Again, the fact that W’s book is doing well is a sign that it is whitewashing what really happened and totally focused on US Americans. Nothing there to challenge our US American privilege to ignore very serious problems that we caused, but are not problems for us because we ignore them.
I am not one to ignore what really happened and I have no patience for whitewashing the legacy of the ones who caused all this suffering. I do agree that our veterans should be treated for their problems (not to do so is both stupid and immoral) but we should stop focusing on what is really a minor problem and focus on what is a VERY MAJOR problem - the millions of innocent people who are dead, displaced, refugees or severely injured by the USA wars of aggression and extreme violence towards others. And you are not going to find Jonathan Alter writing up their stories. They are unlikely to even appear anywhere in the NYT, and if they did they would be few and far between.
And Alter ends with this: “In 2003, I argued that Iraq was the right war with the wrong commander in chief. I had it nearly backward. It was the wrong war — for which history will forever blame Bush — but with the right commander in chief, at least for the noble if narrow purpose of creatively honoring veterans through art.”
What a load of nonsense! Alter lists some of W's ‘mistakes’ without any realization that ALL wars beget more violence and ruin lives, homes, towns, countries and maybe one day, the whole planet. The war of aggression on Iraq was not a mistake and it is not true that if it had been better run, it might have turned out fine. And W's efforts to whitewash himself (and the corporate media's whitewashing of Bush, which is really an effort to whitewash themselves) will never change that history, but it will help to keep the wars going.
Back in 2007, we brought two Iraqi girls to the USA for medical treatment at Shriner's Hospital in Greenville SC. One of them, Rusul, was a very sweet little girl who lost her foot because of a US missile fired at her. Her sister lost both legs above the knees, and her brother and another neighborhood child were killed instantly. We brought them to the US for medical treatment that they could not get in Iraq. Rusul had shrapnel all over her body, and back in 2015, a piece of the shrapnel in her pancreas got infected and she died from that infection because there was/is no medical treatment in Iraq now. I imagine she died a horrible death. Now try to imagine that happened to a US veteran from the same war.
As a side note, I got into online arguing with Jonathan Alter back in 2002-2003 about the Iraq war. He claimed that I did not know as much as Bush did, since I was not president and not a Yale and Harvard graduate, and I surely did not know what I was talking about when I said that there would be no WMDs in Iraq (unless we brought them there) and that this was a hideously evil war of aggression. He was arrogant and ugly. Of course, Bush knew there were no WMDs in Iraq. He was lying as were all the Bush administration and our corporate media. They are lying to this day. This was NOT hard to figure out at all.
All wars start with lies.
I mentioned Alter's online behavior to someone local (I forget who) who said that activists had brought Alter to Asheville to talk about one of his books back in the 1990s and that he acted like a total ass - and said that he did not want to see Alter come back to Asheville ever.