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Second Thoughts on Charlie Wilson's War by Chalmers Johnson / Tom's Dispatch I have some personal knowledge of Congressmen like Charlie Wilson (D-2nd District, buy cheap gasex Texas, buy cheap gasex 1973-1996) because, buy cheap gasex for close to twenty years, buy cheap gasex my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, buy cheap gasex now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Buy cheap gasex Wilson and Cunningham held exactly the same plummy committee assignments in the House of Representatives -- the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee plus the Intelligence Oversight Committee -- from which they could dole out large sums of public money with little or no input from their colleagues or constituents. Buy cheap gasex Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Buy cheap gasex Cunningham went to jail because he was too stupid to know how to game the system -- retire and become a lobbyist -- whereas Wilson received the Central Intelligence Agency Clandestine Service's first "honored colleague" award ever given to an outsider and went on to become a $360, buy cheap gasex000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Buy cheap gasex In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, buy cheap gasex 1993, buy cheap gasex James Woolsey, buy cheap gasex Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, buy cheap gasex said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Buy cheap gasex There were many heroes in this battle, buy cheap gasex but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, buy cheap gasex studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, buy cheap gasex is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, buy cheap gasex 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Buy cheap gasex On May 25, buy cheap gasex 2003, buy cheap gasex (the same month George W. Buy cheap gasex Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Buy cheap gasex Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), buy cheap gasex I published a review in the Los Angeles Times of the book that provides the data for the film Charlie Wilson's War. Buy cheap gasex The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, buy cheap gasex "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, buy cheap gasex "The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times." Neither the claim that the Afghan operations were covert nor that they changed history is precisely true. Buy cheap gasex In my review of the book, buy cheap gasex I wrote, buy cheap gasex

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Buy cheap gasex From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, buy cheap gasex the Bay of Pigs, buy cheap gasex the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, buy cheap gasex the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, buy cheap gasex the 'secret war' in Laos, buy cheap gasex aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, buy cheap gasex the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, buy cheap gasex and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, buy cheap gasex there is not a single instance in which the Agency's activities did not prove acutely embarrassing to the United States and devastating to the people being 'liberated.' The CIA continues to get away with this bungling primarily because its budget and operations have always been secret and Congress is normally too indifferent to its Constitutional functions to rein in a rogue bureaucracy. Buy cheap gasex Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Buy cheap gasex "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap gasex the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Buy cheap gasex The Agency flooded Afghanistan with an incredible array of extremely dangerous weapons and 'unapologetically mov[ed] to equip and train cadres of high tech holy warriors in the art of waging a war of urban terror against a modern superpower [in this case, buy cheap gasex the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, buy cheap gasex [the late] George Crile, buy cheap gasex was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Buy cheap gasex He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, buy cheap gasex' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, buy cheap gasex' and that 'there was nothing so romantic and exciting as this war against the Evil Empire.' Crile's sole measure of success is killed Soviet soldiers (about 15, buy cheap gasex000), buy cheap gasex which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Buy cheap gasex That's the successful part. Buy cheap gasex "However, buy cheap gasex he never once mentions that the 'tens of thousands of fanatical Muslim fundamentalists' the CIA armed are the same people who in 1996 killed nineteen American airmen at Dhahran, buy cheap gasex Saudi Arabia, buy cheap gasex bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, buy cheap gasex blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Buy cheap gasex Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, buy cheap gasex and on September 11, buy cheap gasex 2001, buy cheap gasex flew hijacked airliners into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon."
Where Did the "Freedom Fighters" Go? When I wrote those words I did not know (and could not have imagined) that the actor Tom Hanks had already purchased the rights to the book to make into a film in which he would star as Charlie Wilson, buy cheap gasex with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, buy cheap gasex and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, buy cheap gasex the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Buy cheap gasex What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Buy cheap gasex government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, buy cheap gasex drunken sleazebags, buy cheap gasex so in that sense it's accurate enough. Buy cheap gasex But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Buy cheap gasex As I noted in 2003, buy cheap gasex
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, buy cheap gasex the president must sign off on -- that is, buy cheap gasex authorize -- a document called a 'finding.' Crile repeatedly says that President Carter signed such a finding ordering the CIA to provide covert backing to the mujahideen after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, buy cheap gasex 1979. Buy cheap gasex The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, buy cheap gasex 1979, buy cheap gasex six months before the Soviet invasion, buy cheap gasex and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, buy cheap gasex Zbigniew Brzezinski, buy cheap gasex in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Buy cheap gasex Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, buy cheap gasex and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Buy cheap gasex It may surprise Charlie Wilson to learn that his heroic mujahideen were manipulated by Washington like so much cannon fodder in order to give the USSR its own Vietnam. Buy cheap gasex The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, buy cheap gasex they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, buy cheap gasex which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, buy cheap gasex there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Buy cheap gasex Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, buy cheap gasex "These things happened. Buy cheap gasex They were glorious and they changed the world. Buy cheap gasex And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Buy cheap gasex And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Buy cheap gasex Full stop. Buy cheap gasex Director Mike Nichols, buy cheap gasex too, buy cheap gasex ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Buy cheap gasex And then the credits roll. Buy cheap gasex Neither a reader of Crile, buy cheap gasex nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, buy cheap gasex in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, buy cheap gasex we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Buy cheap gasex Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, buy cheap gasex the reader or viewer would never suspect that, buy cheap gasex when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, buy cheap gasex President George H.W. Buy cheap gasex Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, buy cheap gasex leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Buy cheap gasex Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, buy cheap gasex pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, buy cheap gasex Osama bin Laden, buy cheap gasex whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Buy cheap gasex When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, buy cheap gasex he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Buy cheap gasex This disaster was brought about by Wilson's and the CIA's incompetence as well as their subversion of all the normal channels of political oversight and democratic accountability within the U.S. Buy cheap gasex government. Buy cheap gasex Charlie Wilson's war thus turned out to have been just another bloody skirmish in the expansion and consolidation of the American empire -- and an imperial presidency. Buy cheap gasex The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Buy cheap gasex The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Buy cheap gasex An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Buy cheap gasex (It has been banned in Afghanistan.) One of the severe side effects of imperialism in its advanced stages seems to be that it rots the brains of the imperialists. Buy cheap gasex They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, buy cheap gasex the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), buy cheap gasex the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, buy cheap gasex beacons and guides for citizens of the "underdeveloped world." Such attitudes are normally accompanied by a racist ideology that proclaims the intrinsic superiority and right to rule of "white" Caucasians. Buy cheap gasex Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, buy cheap gasex so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Buy cheap gasex (For an excellent short book on this subject, buy cheap gasex check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, buy cheap gasex such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, buy cheap gasex then ideological thinking kicks in. Buy cheap gasex The horror story is suppressed, buy cheap gasex or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), buy cheap gasex or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Buy cheap gasex Thus, buy cheap gasex for example, buy cheap gasex Melissa Roddy, buy cheap gasex a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, buy cheap gasex notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, buy cheap gasex a co-producer as well as the leading actor, buy cheap gasex "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, buy cheap gasex we are told by another insider reviewer, buy cheap gasex James Rocchi, buy cheap gasex that the scenario, buy cheap gasex as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, buy cheap gasex included the following line for Avrakotos: "Remember I said this: There's going to be a day when we're gonna look back and say 'I'd give anything if [Afghanistan] were overrun with Godless communists'." This line is nowhere to be found in the final film. Buy cheap gasex Today there is ample evidence that, buy cheap gasex when it comes to the freedom of women, buy cheap gasex education levels, buy cheap gasex governmental services, buy cheap gasex relations among different ethnic groups, buy cheap gasex and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, buy cheap gasex which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, buy cheap gasex Kabul. Buy cheap gasex But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap gasex either the book or the film. Buy cheap gasex The tendency of imperialism to rot the brains of imperialists is particularly on display in the recent spate of articles and reviews in mainstream American newspapers about the film. Buy cheap gasex For reasons not entirely clear, buy cheap gasex an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), buy cheap gasex a "high-living, buy cheap gasex hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Buy cheap gasex Scott in the New York Times), buy cheap gasex "a sharp-edged, buy cheap gasex wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Buy cheap gasex Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post wrote of "Mike Nichols's laff-a-minute chronicle of the congressman's crusade to ram funding through the House Appropriations Committee to supply arms to the Afghan mujahideen"; while, buy cheap gasex in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), buy cheap gasex" Richard L. Buy cheap gasex Berke in the New York Times offered this stamp of approval: "You can make a movie that is relevant and intelligent -- and palatable to a mass audience -- if its political pills are sugar-coated." When I saw the film, buy cheap gasex there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, buy cheap gasex" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Buy cheap gasex The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, buy cheap gasex who, buy cheap gasex according to Berke, buy cheap gasex called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap gasex but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Buy cheap gasex Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, buy cheap gasex for instance, buy cheap gasex thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Buy cheap gasex Just don't think about it too much or you may choke on your popcorn." Peter Rainer noted in the Christian Science Monitor that the "Comedic Charlie Wilson's War has a tragic punch line." These reviewers were thundering along with the herd while still trying to maintain a bit of self-respect. Buy cheap gasex The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, buy cheap gasex Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Buy cheap gasex In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, buy cheap gasex" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, buy cheap gasex one of those films that comes off as being more pleased with itself than it has a right to be." My own view is that if Charlie Wilson's War is a comedy, buy cheap gasex it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Buy cheap gasex Simply put, buy cheap gasex it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, buy cheap gasex such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Buy cheap gasex The most accurate review so far is James Rocchi's summing-up for Cinematical: "Charlie Wilson's War isn't just bad history; it feels even more malign, buy cheap gasex like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), buy cheap gasex The Sorrows of Empire (2004), buy cheap gasex and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, buy cheap gasex January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy