Painting happy portraits won’t erase your past, George W Bush!

Published: May 1, 2014

I am disappointed that Mr Bush didn’t take advantage of his new leisure activity to paint incidents from the real world – a world full of destruction, death, casualties and warfare – that surrounded him during his presidential years.

I am disappointed that Mr Bush didn’t take advantage of his new leisure activity to paint incidents from the real world – a world full of destruction, death, casualties and warfare – that surrounded him during his presidential years. I am disappointed that Mr Bush didn’t take advantage of his new leisure activity to paint incidents from the real world – a world full of destruction, death, casualties and warfare – that surrounded him during his presidential years.

Pablo Picasso once said,

“Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees but what he feels; what he tells himself about what he has seen.”

The 46th ex-governor of Texas as well as the 43rd former president of the United States (from 2001 to 2009) and now an artist, George W Bush has surprised the world with his first ever solo art exhibition ingeniously titled ‘The Art of Leadership – A President’s Personal Diplomacy’.

The exhibition opened at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas and it will run from April 5 through June 3, 2014.

Former president Bush, who has taken up painting as a leisurely pursuit since leaving the White House, painted dogs, cats, still life and some unusual self-portraits earlier. However, this time he has opted to paint convoluted art series of various world famous political personalities.

These never-before-displayed portraits include eminent world leaders from the peace-spreading Dalai Lama to Israeli politician-cum-lawyer and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; from the unsmiling Russian President Vladimir Putin to the late Czech President Vaclav Havel; and from quite a detailed portrait of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf to one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in traditional dress.

Paintings by George W Bush: Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right)

In an introductory video to the exhibit, produced by the History Channel, Bush revealed,

“I spent a lot of time on personal diplomacy and I befriended leaders and learned about their families and their likes and dislikes, to the point where I felt comfortable painting them.”

He further added that painting these portraits gave him a chance to convey the feelings he had about them since he had gotten to know them well during his presidency.

To some extent, it seems that Bush tried to show his level of comfort with diplomatic relations, his foreign policy network and the brighter side of his presidential years in the White House through these 30 oil-on-board amateur portraits of world influentials, which according to art pundits are actually copied from Google’s image search.

Although he has used his brush strokes and palette to place an anecdote of his ‘wholesome’ affairs on the diplomatic front in these paintings, interestingly, what’s missing in the series of portraits is the darker side of his presidential years; the most terrible and iniquitous aspects of Bush’s tenure.

Paintings by George W Bush: Dalai Lama (left) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right)

Yes, I am talking about the catastrophic drone attacks that the Bush administration began in 2004 and passed on to Obama as a legacy. I am talking about the invasion of Iraq in the name of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the Afghan war in the name of a war on terror, all of which resulted in the most horrible bloodshed and massacre of more the one million people.

By defying international laws, the Bush era also introduced barbaric war crimes, horrendous acts of rapes, spine-tingling torture practices and horrifying interrogation techniques in the notorious Abu Gharib prison (later known as Baghdad Central Prison) in Iraq, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and prisoner abuse at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.

Paintings by George W Bush: Late Czech president Vaclav Havel (left) and former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf (right)

There is no exaggeration and one can easily Google the photos of horrific acts of torture and shocking acts of interrogation used by the officials at these camps.

Ironically, painting allows a person to become entirely engrossed in the process of interpreting one’s existence and seeing humanity in a new way. The painting unwraps the world’s cloak-and-dagger and brings its secrets to light. It is an attempt to replicate the foundation of powerful artistic impulses of the character and accept the emotionality of humanity.

However, the ex-president didn’t utilise the persuasiveness of art and moral fibre to paint a true picture of the populace. In fact, he cleverly covered up the realism and factual truth of all the transgression and created a perfectly bogus effect of civilised decency in his paintings. He didn’t paint the worst destruction and most horrific acts performed during his presidency. And this is why the portraits painted by Bush seem incomplete.

They are bereft of significant characters such as visuals of torture and mistreatment at detention camps, portraits of acute sufferings of the injured and powerless prisoners, depictions of helpless widows and raped women, and pictures of orphaned and homeless children.

And most importantly, he failed to portray the roles of Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice – the real partners in crime.

I am disappointed that Mr Bush, who left the White House with extremely low support and ratings, didn’t take advantage of his new leisure activity to paint incidents from the real world – a world full of destruction, death, casualties and warfare – that surrounded him during his presidential years. I think the portraits were the best opportunity for him to look back, reflect and convey his own observations, especially, since he signed his paintings with ‘43’ – a clear indication towards his tenure as the 43rd president of the US.

Painting is believed to be evidence of sensitivity, civility, self-examination and soul searching. On the contrary, Bush has once again showed his supreme ability to skilfully create a description devoid of reality and truth. In no way, has he shown any impression of an artistic man who scrutinises his own conscience, thoughts and feelings, and is inclined towards empathy, mercy and leniency.

A fictional narration, a fabricated legacy or a soft post-presidential persona cannot be painted with these warm, friendly and gratifying illustrations or portraits. It is quite impossible to erase the past mass misdeeds just by exhibiting a few light and ‘happy’ pieces of art.

Tanveer Khadim

Tanveer Khadim

An avid reader, freelance writer and a blogger, Tanveer is pursuing fashion designing. She has a passion for cooking, attended cookery courses and tweets as @TheFusionDiary (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • abki bar modi sarkaar

    hehehe war on terror best thing that happened to PakistanRecommend

  • ajeet

    We need Bush back again. He was the best antidote to stone age fundamentalismRecommend

  • Eddied

    Apparently the author would like to bring back Saddam Hussain….forget about the Iran/Iraq war that Saddam started which cost over a million lives…forget about the rape of Kuwait and the torching of oil wells…forget about the gassing of Iraqi citizens by their own government…and forget about the fact that today both Iraq and Afganistan are now working democracies and that is the legacy of American involvement…just complain about a retired painter who made a difference in the world…Recommend

  • IHateDisqus

    Let the old man paint in peace.

    Afghanistan was attacked because of 9/11. Surely you don’t suggest that America should have done nothing?

    Iraq, well it was a mistake and everyone knows it. But no one is shedding tears for Saddam.

    @Author: Your knowledge is biased with Pakistani revisionist history. I suggest you open your eyes. History is based on facts and does not change from one country to another unlike what you may believe.Recommend

  • Absaar

    Good article with a different perspective.Recommend

  • B. Baig

    I agree with author, offences against human race will never be pardoned.Recommend

  • Raheel

    Look at the post-Saddam Iraq almost a failed state, it was Bush and his policies that turned the country upside down.Recommend

  • Manzar Ahmed

    Bush admitted that the biggest regret of his presidency was “the intelligence failure” in Iraq.Recommend

  • Mariam Jay

    Bush started it and Obama messed it further with poor policies.Recommend

  • Rafaqat

    That is known as Karma!Recommend

  • RockStar

    Good write-up.
    Accurately speaking it is under Obama the humanity suffered more, too much unsafe and hates USA more.Recommend

  • Ameer

    Indians can be so hateful and cruel. Greetings to Nazi Hindustan.Recommend

  • Michelangelo

    Bush is not that bad of a painter giving his low intelligence.Recommend

  • Ranya

    OMG he is not a good artistRecommend

  • Sultan Mehmood

    @ Author
    Interesting synopsis, I had not thought of it that way. BTW you should include other atrocities as well.Recommend

  • Sultan Mehmood

    Tell us your name…if you have enough courage. Do not post childish and irresponsible comments, it all shows your mental caliber.Recommend

  • Farhat Ashq

    Bush administration was in accordance to corporate interests, they all joined together to turn it real and urgent call.Recommend

  • Ronaldo

    Bush government was complete out of control and other politicians were shameful and this is why everything went black in those days.Recommend

  • Mehrban

    Bravo Tanveer, for giving us a diverse point of view….. Brilliant !!!Recommend

  • Richie

    George Bush should paint a photo of himself, cleaning his hands in red blood of little kids he and his team-mates killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.Recommend

  • Aaleeyah

    I still remember the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush for the marvellous work he and his players did in Iraq.Recommend

  • Shoaib Shaikh

    Nice article, I specifically liked the term ‘real partners in crime’.
    Keep up the good work!Recommend

  • Critical

    Wow,so a person should not be allowed to paint just because you find him guilty….

    Well,looking at your past blogs,maybe u shouldnt be allowed to write because I find it offensiveRecommend

  • raw is war

    Pakistan (Musharraf) made a fool of him and siphoned trillions of dollars from USA. Why complain now? A whole decade 2001-2010 was spent on American generosity. Without Bush nothing would have happened.Recommend

  • Anoop

    As your last article suggests “One man’s hero is another man’s villain”.

    Bush is a bad guy to you, but not so bad guy to many Americans and even Indians for bringing Islamic Fundamentalism on the world’s stage.Recommend

  • Reddy

    this blog is conspicuously depicts what happens to an arts person when they excessively exposed to pakistani news papers,tv ….trying to make a correlation between those paintings and wars…. while not even paying heed to the prelude or context of war is at best can be classified as an attention seeking ….Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    what’s the anti-dote for antiquated Aryan fundamentalism resurging In India?
    @ raw is war: Trillions? USA didn’t even pay for the passage rites for transporting it’s equipment
    @ Ameer: this is the main reason I stopped coming here to ET.Recommend

  • Parvez

    George W Bush and painting……a classic whisky, tango, foxtrot moment.Recommend

  • Nuzhat

    The war was for oil, State department records already made it clear.Recommend

  • Nz

    I agreeRecommend

  • Nuzhat

    Trillions of dollars??? So Hilarious. Please enlighten us.

    ‘Without Bush nothing would have happened’ , exactly he was the man behind the scenes of all bloodshed. The man whose lie caused the war and destruction.Recommend

  • Nuzhat

    I am really unable to understand why Indians so eagerly comment on every ET article. Without any relevance their comments show how biased they are for us Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Aarib

    I appreciate the approach of your column.
    Those heartless people who consider Bush as innocent and U.S policies as admirable , actually have a very cruel mentality. In fact these people admire the murder of children, women and men.Recommend

  • A N Khan

    I am surprised how some people here ignore the reality. The U.S. soldiers themselves feel guilty for their horrific acts and brutality. There are numerous interviews and videos of soldiers who are now feeling bad for all the mayhem.Recommend

  • A N Khan

    Your comment is totally out of context Mr. Eddied.

    George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the CIA started the horrible massacre on the basis of fake intelligence reports. Now please don’t rush to deny it.

    A retired painter truly made a difference in the world….with his war crimes!Recommend

  • Dr. Mehdi

    I concur, and Thank you for a great piece of writing.

    There is a vast debate going on every platform against Bush-Dick Cheney era torture policies. The CIA water-boarded, other torture related techniques and enhanced interrogation program are nightmarish.Recommend

  • Dr. Mehdi

    looking at your comment, I would like to suggest, you read the posts carefully before posting your comments. Every coin has two sides and you cannot deny the fact by just approving or ignoring the one side.Recommend

  • Prof. Qayyum

    Dear writer,
    I agree with your stance on Bush administrations course of actions.

    I have read a lot about the detention camps torturous stories and have seen photos, the famous ‘60 Minutes II’ photos and reporting by New York writer Seymour Hersh on the subject. Wikipedia links and leaked images are for those people who are not familiar with Bush tenure torture stories.Recommend

  • Prof. Qayyum

    Why are reading Pakistani news website? Do you know the actual context of wars that Bush administration started? Study some meaningful material on this subject.Recommend

  • Prof. Qayyum

    During the year 2004, New York times, Washington Post and many others got evidence of many Bush administration memos justifying and legalising torture. Even Donald Rumsfeld, then Secretary of Defence, signed numerous memos authorizing the practices and the ill treatment of detainees.Recommend

  • Midhat

    Empathy should see no religion and no boundaries . Millions of innocents died because of failed intelligence in Iraq. Many Americans now see Bush’s war policies as unjustified and barbaric and are very vocal about it. May be you and other Indians for once try to see the atrocities of war on humanitarian grounds rather than getting influenced by the inherit islamophobic bias. Killing of millions( men, women and children) and occupying their resources can never be justified by anyone who has a soulRecommend

  • Talat

    @Miss Tanveer, nice write up.

    Bush cruelty and extreme overdo of vocabulary and empty slogans like “weapons of mass destruction” and “terrorist threats” was awful and played their role in tilting many American view far from the actual reality of threats.Recommend

  • Talat

    Nice trolling!Recommend

  • Dr. Imran

    This is a good piece. Bush’s measures in Afghanistan and Iraq lead to a remarkable escalation in terrorism and hatred towards America, it raised the issue of non-muslim and Muslim consideration among several nations.Recommend

  • Dr. Imran

    @abki bar modi sarkar,

    But heartless people like you cannot understand the meanings of grief and sorrow.Recommend

  • Ashgar Iftikhar

    After the President Bush’s tenure, not only the war on terror spreads so quickly but
    also the misery and despair is spreading exponentially. Who would contradict this statement?Recommend

  • Luqmaan

    It is amazing how people could twist the whole to the point article into an utterly different perspective and start bashing it. It is always good to highlight what ever the writer is trying to say rather than course-plotting everything in an completely dissimilar track. Only few guys focus on what is said in what context.Recommend

  • Luqmaan

    Good debate comes with good arguments. If the piece is so offences to you, can you come up with valid reasons and explanation.. instead of useless bashing.Recommend

  • Jandadad FortySix

    Good Stuff Eddied…this author, while passionate is woefully ignorant of facts and as is typical of our brain washed youth; is convinced that the greatest country on earth is a “bad” place filled with “bad” people.Recommend

  • A Farhad

    The most terrible president America has possibly ever had. A deceitful, incompetent, untruthful war-monger who fixed his 2nd tenure and made false statements about weapons of mass destruction. He is the man we are discussing about right?Recommend

  • Saaliha Sheikh

    @Tanveer Khadim
    That’s precisely it. This is clearly a factual side told brightly, I liked your views.
    ‘On Jinnah and Nehru: One man’s hero is another man’s villain’ is a good analysis.Recommend

  • Rafael

    No one can afford lauding a wrong person whose past is full of war crimes.Recommend

  • Saifullah

    Good piece, Tanveer!
    He is enjoying his paintings and other activities while people who suffered because of his decisions, are leading a miserable life. Silence is Crime…….Recommend

  • Saifullah Khan

    Seriously people should ask for justice and equity, there will never be freedom at any level without fair dealing. All societies should never allow such deceitful people as their leaders.Recommend

  • Palwasha

    This is true image building, Bush is trying to improve and shield his public image through good public relations.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Everyone is prejudiced.

    Lets take you. Have you ever raised a cry about Kashmiri Pandits? I think I have seen comments from you crying hoarse about Kashmiris(mainly Muslims, specially Sunnis).

    So your starting sentence “Empathy should see no religion and no boundaries” is a bit ironical and hypocritical even.

    Another instance, the people who condemn India’s actions in Kashmir, completely and utterly ignore Chinese actions in Xinjiang against Uighurs. Forget about non-Muslim Tibetians.

    Take ET, in pure numbers Kashmir outranks any reports on Uighur persecution in China, and by a very long margin. In ET blogs, you see a blog on Kashmir every month, while Chinese atrocity on Uighur’s, even Tibetans, go unnoticed.

    I am biased and I know it. I recognise my biases. By recognising it, I can step out of it whenever I want and see the world clearly. But, I do not like this holy than thou attitude from others, who themselves are more prejudiced than me.Recommend

  • Anoop

    I thought Gandhi and Nehru were Religious Extremists, as per the proponents of Two Nation Theory. And, Hindu Fanaticism was on the rise in the 1940s.

    What happened? Hindu Fanaticism is not backed by the core values and died off.

    Ahmadis are still called Muslims in India, while Shias thank everyday they live in India, NOT Pakistan. In pure numbers, Muslims have faced less violence in India, a land of 80% Hindus(Pakistan killed 3 Million Muslims 9 months in 1971 alone. Thats 3 followed by God-know-how-many zeroes).

    So, Pakistanis generally have a habit of being wrong about Hindus and Hindu Extremism. The trend is self-evident, as I’ve explained above. What makes you think you are right this time, @Talha?Recommend

  • Anoop

    Jinnah said the same thing about Gandhi and Nehru. Gandhi is an icon the world over.

    The history is just repeating itself. Pakistanis are saying the same thing now, while Indians know better.Recommend

  • Critical

    Luqmaan and Dr.Mehdi

    Did George Bush make a statement like Blair telling “History will forgive us”
    Did he ever regret his role in war on terror?
    Did he ever try to cover up his role in war on terror??

    Nope,all he did was to paint pictures of leaders and the writer here couldnt digest it and wrote a full length blog where she described everything except how good the paintings wereRecommend

  • Spectator

    Agreed Midhat, I have read Anoop’s comments on every other blog on ET, he is always have very biased, puzzled viewpoint and I can’t understand how he manages his time to post such silly stuff with such persistently.Recommend

  • Raees

    George Bush along with his office colleagues vigilantly betrayed America by creating a phony storyline about Iraq in war on terror, and portrayed as imminent threat as a part of concocted Axis of Evil.Recommend

  • Rai

    Bush disregarded the UN security Council and initiated an unlawful preemptive war. He even declared that war without congressional approval.Recommend

  • Aqeel

    I’m so thankful that finally someone gets it right.Recommend

  • Aqeel

    You are very good at twisting words. There is no mention of bringing back Saddam Hussain in the article and look how smartly you have invented this line.

    You see Afghanistan and Iraq as “now working democracies”…….Amazing.

    I would suggest you to “stop spreading such Lies and Propaganda” and live your life in real world!Recommend

  • Badar

    Splendid write-up with good assessment.
    Bush smashed U.S.’s position throughout the globe by closing the eyes to the worldwide prohibition on torture. While disrespecting a number of accords, to be exact the Geneva Convention, they formed a network of undisclosed jails and detention camps where U.S> soldiers agonised and physically abused alleged criminals.Recommend

  • B

    They even created unrevealed detention places in Eastern Europe to dodge the conventional justice procedures.Recommend

  • MB

    True!! I wonder why some people like to hide the killings and praise the American invasions.Recommend

  • Nabeel Akif

    The Bush presidency has been ranked among worst in recent surveys of presidential scholars.Recommend

  • NA

    His war strategies have become a new channel for recruitment for countless terrorist groups.Recommend

  • Nobl

    For good debate and valid arguments, a man needs common sense and sensibility which is not common these days.Recommend

  • NA

    It surely depicts his [@raw is war’s] racial approach.
    Such a pitty!!Recommend

  • Teacher

    Torture news stained the political process and wounded the sentiments of ordinary people who, to this day, carry with them deep invisible wounds of loved and lost family members.Recommend

  • Teacher

    Reality Check!Recommend

  • Teacher

    Look at his name “abki bar modi sarkar” a very childish act. His aim was to start an off-topic argument.Recommend

  • Aay

    The American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end up costing as much as $ 6 trillion.Recommend

  • Kamran

    Go through the statistics and you will see how dangerous Bush and his administration was for the whole world.Recommend

  • Kami

    The intelligence failure in Iraq about WMD, began with faulty analysis.Recommend

  • K

    Bush is world’s top class recruiter for hatred based emotions towards United States and the terrorist like activities all over the world.Recommend

  • Kami

    His name is Al-Zaidi, he said had no remorse for throwing shoes at Bush.Recommend

  • K

    The Bush era wars not only killed civilians but also many American soldiers, injured thousands. Many of these soldiers are now facing psychological disorders. Wars also destroyed the infra-structure of countries.Recommend

  • Luqmaan

    Following statement would be enough for your satisfaction.
    “The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” Bush admitted it in an ABC television interview.Recommend

  • Luqmaan

    George W Bush has expressed his regret over the faulty intelligence leading up to the Iraq conflict, admitted he was “unprepared” for war. (Telegraph)
    “The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” Bush admitted it in an ABC television interview.
    These statements would be enough for your satisfaction. His paintings also under criticism.Recommend

  • Fariha Bashar

    Bush is trying to leave behind a lighter side of his personality and his horrible wars for the generations to come so that they can never assess and analyze what in reality his regime and his years in office were but when they will read the history of once peaceful world and the world after the Bush trash, they will throw all of his ’43 paintings out of good books, I Think!Recommend

  • F Bashar

    I think in years to come we will come across another series of paintings, this time by Obama in which he will be seen in a cloak with drones in one hand, world in another hand, carrying Guantanamo bay on his head and heading towards middle east and still he will insist I am another peaceful president of America.Recommend

  • Mrs.B

    Voltaire said it ” Common sense is not so common “Recommend

  • Faiq

    Hitler and Bush, both have something in common!!!Recommend

  • Mohammad F

    Terrible politician, terrible president and terrible painter, all in one man.Recommend

  • Faiq

    Busted, disastrous art work!Recommend

  • Nouman Khan

    The great recession of 2007 was also the result of Bush policy actions.Recommend

  • Nouman Khan

    Another thing which became Bush Administration’s big controversy was Bush Doctrine and conservative foreign policy, both in U.S and internationally. The soaring anti-Americanism and criticism for the Bush Doctrine was common by the end of Bush era.Recommend

  • Muraad Abrar

    He is the typical man without a substance, maybe one of the most hollow man in the history of American politics, a man of usual intelligence and only pure luck and time.
    I agree with you, he should have used his art to re-create the scenes of mayhem, he started as the President.Recommend

  • M. A

    “It is quite impossible to erase the past mass misdeeds just by exhibiting a few light and ‘happy’ pieces of art.”
    No! these are not just light and happy pieces of art, I would call them “caricatures”Recommend

  • Peace-loving

    @Miss Khadim
    Thanks for expressing the thoughts of all peace loving people. Kudos!Recommend

  • Peace-loving

    A simple failure resulted in over a million deaths of humanity.Recommend

  • Khan

    The former U.S Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice gave the authority to conduct torture tactics, used to gather info from prisoners and detainees.Recommend

  • Akbar Shamshad

    After a decade long war, the oil companies of Iraq are privatized and mostly dominated by foreign firms. The Western oil companies e.g Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell have their shares of oil in Iraq.Recommend

  • AS

    For oil Bush and his league killed thousands of civilians and destroyed the infra-structure. In 2007, former head of U.S central command and military operations in Iraq said “Of course it’s about oil; we can’t really deny that,”Recommend

  • AK

    Yes it is, now western oil companies are taking advantage of it and producing oil from the world’s big oil fields in Iraq, reaping huge profits. The Iraqi people, who lost so much blood, and Iraq’s economy still have no incentives from their own oil fields.Recommend

  • Moby

    Bush is as bad painter as his presidency, as horrible as his tenure.Recommend

  • Synk

    No more war! All the people need love and children need big smiles.Recommend