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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 pain relief patch online Texas, buy cheap pain relief patch online 1973-1996) because, buy cheap pain relief patch online for close to twenty years, buy cheap pain relief patch online my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, buy cheap pain relief patch online now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Buy cheap pain relief patch online In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, buy cheap pain relief patch online 1993, buy cheap pain relief patch online James Woolsey, buy cheap pain relief patch online Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, buy cheap pain relief patch online said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Buy cheap pain relief patch online There were many heroes in this battle, buy cheap pain relief patch online but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, buy cheap pain relief patch online studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, buy cheap pain relief patch online is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, buy cheap pain relief patch online 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Buy cheap pain relief patch online On May 25, buy cheap pain relief patch online 2003, buy cheap pain relief patch online (the same month George W. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, buy cheap pain relief patch online "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, buy cheap pain relief patch online "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 pain relief patch online In my review of the book, buy cheap pain relief patch online I wrote, buy cheap pain relief patch online

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Buy cheap pain relief patch online From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, buy cheap pain relief patch online the Bay of Pigs, buy cheap pain relief patch online the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, buy cheap pain relief patch online the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, buy cheap pain relief patch online the 'secret war' in Laos, buy cheap pain relief patch online aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, buy cheap pain relief patch online the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, buy cheap pain relief patch online and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Buy cheap pain relief patch online "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap pain relief patch online the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, buy cheap pain relief patch online [the late] George Crile, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, buy cheap pain relief patch online' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, buy cheap pain relief patch online' 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 pain relief patch online000), buy cheap pain relief patch online which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Buy cheap pain relief patch online That's the successful part. Buy cheap pain relief patch online "However, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online Saudi Arabia, buy cheap pain relief patch online bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, buy cheap pain relief patch online blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, buy cheap pain relief patch online and on September 11, buy cheap pain relief patch online 2001, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, buy cheap pain relief patch online and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, buy cheap pain relief patch online the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Buy cheap pain relief patch online What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Buy cheap pain relief patch online government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, buy cheap pain relief patch online drunken sleazebags, buy cheap pain relief patch online so in that sense it's accurate enough. Buy cheap pain relief patch online But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Buy cheap pain relief patch online As I noted in 2003, buy cheap pain relief patch online
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, buy cheap pain relief patch online the president must sign off on -- that is, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online 1979. Buy cheap pain relief patch online The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, buy cheap pain relief patch online 1979, buy cheap pain relief patch online six months before the Soviet invasion, buy cheap pain relief patch online and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, buy cheap pain relief patch online Zbigniew Brzezinski, buy cheap pain relief patch online in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, buy cheap pain relief patch online and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, buy cheap pain relief patch online they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, buy cheap pain relief patch online which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, buy cheap pain relief patch online there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, buy cheap pain relief patch online "These things happened. Buy cheap pain relief patch online They were glorious and they changed the world. Buy cheap pain relief patch online And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Buy cheap pain relief patch online And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Full stop. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Director Mike Nichols, buy cheap pain relief patch online too, buy cheap pain relief patch online ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Buy cheap pain relief patch online And then the credits roll. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Neither a reader of Crile, buy cheap pain relief patch online nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, buy cheap pain relief patch online in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, buy cheap pain relief patch online we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, buy cheap pain relief patch online the reader or viewer would never suspect that, buy cheap pain relief patch online when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, buy cheap pain relief patch online President George H.W. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, buy cheap pain relief patch online leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, buy cheap pain relief patch online pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, buy cheap pain relief patch online Osama bin Laden, buy cheap pain relief patch online whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Buy cheap pain relief patch online When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, buy cheap pain relief patch online he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online government. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Buy cheap pain relief patch online The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Buy cheap pain relief patch online An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Buy cheap pain relief patch online (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 pain relief patch online They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, buy cheap pain relief patch online the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), buy cheap pain relief patch online the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, buy cheap pain relief patch online so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Buy cheap pain relief patch online (For an excellent short book on this subject, buy cheap pain relief patch online check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, buy cheap pain relief patch online such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, buy cheap pain relief patch online then ideological thinking kicks in. Buy cheap pain relief patch online The horror story is suppressed, buy cheap pain relief patch online or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), buy cheap pain relief patch online or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Thus, buy cheap pain relief patch online for example, buy cheap pain relief patch online Melissa Roddy, buy cheap pain relief patch online a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, buy cheap pain relief patch online notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, buy cheap pain relief patch online a co-producer as well as the leading actor, buy cheap pain relief patch online "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, buy cheap pain relief patch online we are told by another insider reviewer, buy cheap pain relief patch online James Rocchi, buy cheap pain relief patch online that the scenario, buy cheap pain relief patch online as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online Today there is ample evidence that, buy cheap pain relief patch online when it comes to the freedom of women, buy cheap pain relief patch online education levels, buy cheap pain relief patch online governmental services, buy cheap pain relief patch online relations among different ethnic groups, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, buy cheap pain relief patch online Kabul. Buy cheap pain relief patch online But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap pain relief patch online either the book or the film. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online For reasons not entirely clear, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online a "high-living, buy cheap pain relief patch online hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Scott in the New York Times), buy cheap pain relief patch online "a sharp-edged, buy cheap pain relief patch online wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), buy cheap pain relief patch online" Richard L. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, buy cheap pain relief patch online" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Buy cheap pain relief patch online The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, buy cheap pain relief patch online who, buy cheap pain relief patch online according to Berke, buy cheap pain relief patch online called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, buy cheap pain relief patch online but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, buy cheap pain relief patch online for instance, buy cheap pain relief patch online thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, buy cheap pain relief patch online Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Buy cheap pain relief patch online In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, buy cheap pain relief patch online" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Buy cheap pain relief patch online Simply put, buy cheap pain relief patch online it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, buy cheap pain relief patch online such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Buy cheap pain relief patch online 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 pain relief patch online like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), buy cheap pain relief patch online The Sorrows of Empire (2004), buy cheap pain relief patch online and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, buy cheap pain relief patch online January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy