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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, calming chews cats free delivery Texas, calming chews cats free delivery 1973-1996) because, calming chews cats free delivery for close to twenty years, calming chews cats free delivery my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, calming chews cats free delivery now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Calming chews cats free delivery In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, calming chews cats free delivery 1993, calming chews cats free delivery James Woolsey, calming chews cats free delivery Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, calming chews cats free delivery said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Calming chews cats free delivery There were many heroes in this battle, calming chews cats free delivery but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, calming chews cats free delivery studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, calming chews cats free delivery is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, calming chews cats free delivery 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Calming chews cats free delivery On May 25, calming chews cats free delivery 2003, calming chews cats free delivery (the same month George W. Calming chews cats free delivery Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Calming chews cats free delivery Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), calming chews cats free delivery I published a review in the Los Angeles Times of the book that provides the data for the film Charlie Wilson's War. Calming chews cats free delivery The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, calming chews cats free delivery "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, calming chews cats free delivery "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. Calming chews cats free delivery In my review of the book, calming chews cats free delivery I wrote, calming chews cats free delivery

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Calming chews cats free delivery From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, calming chews cats free delivery the Bay of Pigs, calming chews cats free delivery the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, calming chews cats free delivery the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, calming chews cats free delivery the 'secret war' in Laos, calming chews cats free delivery aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, calming chews cats free delivery the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, calming chews cats free delivery and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Calming chews cats free delivery "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, calming chews cats free delivery the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, calming chews cats free delivery [the late] George Crile, calming chews cats free delivery was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Calming chews cats free delivery He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, calming chews cats free delivery' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, calming chews cats free delivery' 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, calming chews cats free delivery000), calming chews cats free delivery which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Calming chews cats free delivery That's the successful part. Calming chews cats free delivery "However, calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery Saudi Arabia, calming chews cats free delivery bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, calming chews cats free delivery blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Calming chews cats free delivery Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, calming chews cats free delivery and on September 11, calming chews cats free delivery 2001, calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, calming chews cats free delivery and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, calming chews cats free delivery the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Calming chews cats free delivery What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Calming chews cats free delivery government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, calming chews cats free delivery drunken sleazebags, calming chews cats free delivery so in that sense it's accurate enough. Calming chews cats free delivery But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Calming chews cats free delivery As I noted in 2003, calming chews cats free delivery
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, calming chews cats free delivery the president must sign off on -- that is, calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery 1979. Calming chews cats free delivery The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, calming chews cats free delivery 1979, calming chews cats free delivery six months before the Soviet invasion, calming chews cats free delivery and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, calming chews cats free delivery Zbigniew Brzezinski, calming chews cats free delivery in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Calming chews cats free delivery Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, calming chews cats free delivery and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, calming chews cats free delivery they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, calming chews cats free delivery which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, calming chews cats free delivery there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Calming chews cats free delivery Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, calming chews cats free delivery "These things happened. Calming chews cats free delivery They were glorious and they changed the world. Calming chews cats free delivery And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Calming chews cats free delivery And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Calming chews cats free delivery Full stop. Calming chews cats free delivery Director Mike Nichols, calming chews cats free delivery too, calming chews cats free delivery ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Calming chews cats free delivery And then the credits roll. Calming chews cats free delivery Neither a reader of Crile, calming chews cats free delivery nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, calming chews cats free delivery in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, calming chews cats free delivery we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Calming chews cats free delivery Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, calming chews cats free delivery the reader or viewer would never suspect that, calming chews cats free delivery when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, calming chews cats free delivery President George H.W. Calming chews cats free delivery Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, calming chews cats free delivery leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Calming chews cats free delivery Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, calming chews cats free delivery pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, calming chews cats free delivery Osama bin Laden, calming chews cats free delivery whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Calming chews cats free delivery When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, calming chews cats free delivery he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery government. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Calming chews cats free delivery The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Calming chews cats free delivery An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Calming chews cats free delivery (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. Calming chews cats free delivery They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, calming chews cats free delivery the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), calming chews cats free delivery the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, calming chews cats free delivery so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Calming chews cats free delivery (For an excellent short book on this subject, calming chews cats free delivery check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, calming chews cats free delivery such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, calming chews cats free delivery then ideological thinking kicks in. Calming chews cats free delivery The horror story is suppressed, calming chews cats free delivery or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), calming chews cats free delivery or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Calming chews cats free delivery Thus, calming chews cats free delivery for example, calming chews cats free delivery Melissa Roddy, calming chews cats free delivery a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, calming chews cats free delivery notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, calming chews cats free delivery a co-producer as well as the leading actor, calming chews cats free delivery "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, calming chews cats free delivery we are told by another insider reviewer, calming chews cats free delivery James Rocchi, calming chews cats free delivery that the scenario, calming chews cats free delivery as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery Today there is ample evidence that, calming chews cats free delivery when it comes to the freedom of women, calming chews cats free delivery education levels, calming chews cats free delivery governmental services, calming chews cats free delivery relations among different ethnic groups, calming chews cats free delivery and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, calming chews cats free delivery which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, calming chews cats free delivery Kabul. Calming chews cats free delivery But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, calming chews cats free delivery either the book or the film. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery For reasons not entirely clear, calming chews cats free delivery an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), calming chews cats free delivery a "high-living, calming chews cats free delivery hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Calming chews cats free delivery Scott in the New York Times), calming chews cats free delivery "a sharp-edged, calming chews cats free delivery wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), calming chews cats free delivery" Richard L. Calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, calming chews cats free delivery" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Calming chews cats free delivery The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, calming chews cats free delivery who, calming chews cats free delivery according to Berke, calming chews cats free delivery called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, calming chews cats free delivery but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Calming chews cats free delivery Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, calming chews cats free delivery for instance, calming chews cats free delivery thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Calming chews cats free delivery 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. Calming chews cats free delivery The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, calming chews cats free delivery Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Calming chews cats free delivery In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, calming chews cats free delivery" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Calming chews cats free delivery Simply put, calming chews cats free delivery it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, calming chews cats free delivery such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Calming chews cats free delivery 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, calming chews cats free delivery like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), calming chews cats free delivery The Sorrows of Empire (2004), calming chews cats free delivery and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, calming chews cats free delivery January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy