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

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Cheap actonel online From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, cheap actonel online the Bay of Pigs, cheap actonel online the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, cheap actonel online the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, cheap actonel online the 'secret war' in Laos, cheap actonel online aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, cheap actonel online the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, cheap actonel online and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Cheap actonel online "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, cheap actonel online the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, cheap actonel online [the late] George Crile, cheap actonel online was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Cheap actonel online He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, cheap actonel online' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online000), cheap actonel online which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Cheap actonel online That's the successful part. Cheap actonel online "However, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online Saudi Arabia, cheap actonel online bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, cheap actonel online blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Cheap actonel online Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, cheap actonel online and on September 11, cheap actonel online 2001, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, cheap actonel online and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, cheap actonel online the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Cheap actonel online What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Cheap actonel online government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, cheap actonel online drunken sleazebags, cheap actonel online so in that sense it's accurate enough. Cheap actonel online But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Cheap actonel online As I noted in 2003, cheap actonel online
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, cheap actonel online the president must sign off on -- that is, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online 1979. Cheap actonel online The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, cheap actonel online 1979, cheap actonel online six months before the Soviet invasion, cheap actonel online and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, cheap actonel online Zbigniew Brzezinski, cheap actonel online in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Cheap actonel online Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, cheap actonel online and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, cheap actonel online they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, cheap actonel online which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, cheap actonel online there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Cheap actonel online Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, cheap actonel online "These things happened. Cheap actonel online They were glorious and they changed the world. Cheap actonel online And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Cheap actonel online And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Cheap actonel online Full stop. Cheap actonel online Director Mike Nichols, cheap actonel online too, cheap actonel online ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Cheap actonel online And then the credits roll. Cheap actonel online Neither a reader of Crile, cheap actonel online nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, cheap actonel online in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, cheap actonel online we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Cheap actonel online Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, cheap actonel online the reader or viewer would never suspect that, cheap actonel online when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, cheap actonel online President George H.W. Cheap actonel online Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, cheap actonel online leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Cheap actonel online Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, cheap actonel online pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, cheap actonel online Osama bin Laden, cheap actonel online whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Cheap actonel online When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, cheap actonel online he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online government. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Cheap actonel online The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Cheap actonel online An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, cheap actonel online the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), cheap actonel online the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, cheap actonel online so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Cheap actonel online (For an excellent short book on this subject, cheap actonel online check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, cheap actonel online such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, cheap actonel online then ideological thinking kicks in. Cheap actonel online The horror story is suppressed, cheap actonel online or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), cheap actonel online or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Cheap actonel online Thus, cheap actonel online for example, cheap actonel online Melissa Roddy, cheap actonel online a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, cheap actonel online notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, cheap actonel online a co-producer as well as the leading actor, cheap actonel online "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, cheap actonel online we are told by another insider reviewer, cheap actonel online James Rocchi, cheap actonel online that the scenario, cheap actonel online as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online Today there is ample evidence that, cheap actonel online when it comes to the freedom of women, cheap actonel online education levels, cheap actonel online governmental services, cheap actonel online relations among different ethnic groups, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, cheap actonel online Kabul. Cheap actonel online But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, cheap actonel online either the book or the film. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online For reasons not entirely clear, cheap actonel online an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), cheap actonel online a "high-living, cheap actonel online hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Cheap actonel online Scott in the New York Times), cheap actonel online "a sharp-edged, cheap actonel online wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), cheap actonel online" Richard L. Cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, cheap actonel online" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Cheap actonel online The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, cheap actonel online who, cheap actonel online according to Berke, cheap actonel online called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, cheap actonel online but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Cheap actonel online Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, cheap actonel online for instance, cheap actonel online thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Cheap actonel 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. Cheap actonel online The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, cheap actonel online Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Cheap actonel online In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, cheap actonel online" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Cheap actonel online Simply put, cheap actonel online it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, cheap actonel online such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Cheap actonel 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, cheap actonel online like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), cheap actonel online The Sorrows of Empire (2004), cheap actonel online and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, cheap actonel online January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy