Discount Zerit

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, discount zerit Texas, discount zerit 1973-1996) because, discount zerit for close to twenty years, discount zerit my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, discount zerit now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Discount zerit 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, discount zerit000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Discount zerit In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, discount zerit 1993, discount zerit James Woolsey, discount zerit Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, discount zerit said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Discount zerit There were many heroes in this battle, discount zerit but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, discount zerit studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, discount zerit is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, discount zerit 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Discount zerit On May 25, discount zerit 2003, discount zerit (the same month George W. Discount zerit Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Discount zerit Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), discount zerit I published a review in the Los Angeles Times of the book that provides the data for the film Charlie Wilson's War. Discount zerit The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, discount zerit "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, discount zerit "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. Discount zerit In my review of the book, discount zerit I wrote, discount zerit

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Discount zerit From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, discount zerit the Bay of Pigs, discount zerit the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, discount zerit the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, discount zerit the 'secret war' in Laos, discount zerit aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, discount zerit the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, discount zerit and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, discount zerit 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. Discount zerit Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Discount zerit "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, discount zerit the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Discount zerit 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, discount zerit the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, discount zerit [the late] George Crile, discount zerit was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Discount zerit He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, discount zerit' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, discount zerit' 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, discount zerit000), discount zerit which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Discount zerit That's the successful part. Discount zerit "However, discount zerit 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, discount zerit Saudi Arabia, discount zerit bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, discount zerit blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Discount zerit Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, discount zerit and on September 11, discount zerit 2001, discount zerit 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, discount zerit with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, discount zerit and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, discount zerit the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Discount zerit What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Discount zerit government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, discount zerit drunken sleazebags, discount zerit so in that sense it's accurate enough. Discount zerit But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Discount zerit As I noted in 2003, discount zerit
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, discount zerit the president must sign off on -- that is, discount zerit 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, discount zerit 1979. Discount zerit The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, discount zerit 1979, discount zerit six months before the Soviet invasion, discount zerit and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, discount zerit Zbigniew Brzezinski, discount zerit in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Discount zerit Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, discount zerit and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, discount zerit they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, discount zerit which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, discount zerit there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Discount zerit Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, discount zerit "These things happened. Discount zerit They were glorious and they changed the world. Discount zerit And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Discount zerit And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Discount zerit Full stop. Discount zerit Director Mike Nichols, discount zerit too, discount zerit ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Discount zerit And then the credits roll. Discount zerit Neither a reader of Crile, discount zerit nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, discount zerit in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, discount zerit we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Discount zerit Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, discount zerit the reader or viewer would never suspect that, discount zerit when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, discount zerit President George H.W. Discount zerit Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, discount zerit leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Discount zerit Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, discount zerit pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, discount zerit Osama bin Laden, discount zerit whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Discount zerit When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, discount zerit he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit government. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Discount zerit The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Discount zerit An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Discount zerit (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. Discount zerit They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, discount zerit the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), discount zerit the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, discount zerit 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. Discount zerit Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, discount zerit so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Discount zerit (For an excellent short book on this subject, discount zerit check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, discount zerit such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, discount zerit then ideological thinking kicks in. Discount zerit The horror story is suppressed, discount zerit or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), discount zerit or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Discount zerit Thus, discount zerit for example, discount zerit Melissa Roddy, discount zerit a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, discount zerit notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, discount zerit a co-producer as well as the leading actor, discount zerit "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, discount zerit we are told by another insider reviewer, discount zerit James Rocchi, discount zerit that the scenario, discount zerit as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, discount zerit 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. Discount zerit Today there is ample evidence that, discount zerit when it comes to the freedom of women, discount zerit education levels, discount zerit governmental services, discount zerit relations among different ethnic groups, discount zerit and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, discount zerit which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, discount zerit Kabul. Discount zerit But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, discount zerit either the book or the film. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit For reasons not entirely clear, discount zerit an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), discount zerit a "high-living, discount zerit hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Discount zerit Scott in the New York Times), discount zerit "a sharp-edged, discount zerit wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Discount zerit 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, discount zerit in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), discount zerit" Richard L. Discount zerit 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, discount zerit there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, discount zerit" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Discount zerit The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, discount zerit who, discount zerit according to Berke, discount zerit called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, discount zerit but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Discount zerit Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, discount zerit for instance, discount zerit thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Discount zerit 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. Discount zerit The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, discount zerit Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Discount zerit In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, discount zerit" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, discount zerit 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, discount zerit it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Discount zerit Simply put, discount zerit it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, discount zerit such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Discount zerit 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, discount zerit like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), discount zerit The Sorrows of Empire (2004), discount zerit and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, discount zerit January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy