Almost 52,000 Americans have been wounded in action during the 21st century wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Some 98 of them are featured in a new book by George W. Bush, Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors (Crown Publishers). The coffee-table tome, which includes paintings by the former president paired with stories about his subjects' lives and his own interactions with them, became a No. 1 bestseller in March.
Some reviewers have found in the works evidence that guilt weighs on Bush's conscience. After all, each pictured man and woman suffered harm while carrying out his orders in what have come to be seen, at best, as ill-considered conflicts. But Bush's tone is one of reverence for their sacrifice, not regret. Whether the project represents a self-aware attempt to atone for his mistakes or an obstinate effort to glorify his choices by waving the flag over those who endured their consequences is for the reader to decide.