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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, find furosemide cod Texas, find furosemide cod 1973-1996) because, find furosemide cod for close to twenty years, find furosemide cod my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, find furosemide cod now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Find furosemide cod In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, find furosemide cod 1993, find furosemide cod James Woolsey, find furosemide cod Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, find furosemide cod said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Find furosemide cod There were many heroes in this battle, find furosemide cod but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, find furosemide cod studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, find furosemide cod is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, find furosemide cod 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Find furosemide cod On May 25, find furosemide cod 2003, find furosemide cod (the same month George W. Find furosemide cod Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Find furosemide cod Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), find furosemide cod I published a review in the Los Angeles Times of the book that provides the data for the film Charlie Wilson's War. Find furosemide cod The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, find furosemide cod "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, find furosemide cod "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. Find furosemide cod In my review of the book, find furosemide cod I wrote, find furosemide cod

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Find furosemide cod From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, find furosemide cod the Bay of Pigs, find furosemide cod the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, find furosemide cod the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, find furosemide cod the 'secret war' in Laos, find furosemide cod aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, find furosemide cod the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, find furosemide cod and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Find furosemide cod "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, find furosemide cod the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, find furosemide cod [the late] George Crile, find furosemide cod was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Find furosemide cod He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, find furosemide cod' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, find furosemide cod' 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, find furosemide cod000), find furosemide cod which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Find furosemide cod That's the successful part. Find furosemide cod "However, find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod Saudi Arabia, find furosemide cod bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, find furosemide cod blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Find furosemide cod Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, find furosemide cod and on September 11, find furosemide cod 2001, find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, find furosemide cod and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, find furosemide cod the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Find furosemide cod What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Find furosemide cod government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, find furosemide cod drunken sleazebags, find furosemide cod so in that sense it's accurate enough. Find furosemide cod But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Find furosemide cod As I noted in 2003, find furosemide cod
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, find furosemide cod the president must sign off on -- that is, find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod 1979. Find furosemide cod The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, find furosemide cod 1979, find furosemide cod six months before the Soviet invasion, find furosemide cod and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, find furosemide cod Zbigniew Brzezinski, find furosemide cod in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Find furosemide cod Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, find furosemide cod and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, find furosemide cod they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, find furosemide cod which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, find furosemide cod there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Find furosemide cod Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, find furosemide cod "These things happened. Find furosemide cod They were glorious and they changed the world. Find furosemide cod And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Find furosemide cod And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Find furosemide cod Full stop. Find furosemide cod Director Mike Nichols, find furosemide cod too, find furosemide cod ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Find furosemide cod And then the credits roll. Find furosemide cod Neither a reader of Crile, find furosemide cod nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, find furosemide cod in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, find furosemide cod we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Find furosemide cod Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, find furosemide cod the reader or viewer would never suspect that, find furosemide cod when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, find furosemide cod President George H.W. Find furosemide cod Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, find furosemide cod leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Find furosemide cod Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, find furosemide cod pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, find furosemide cod Osama bin Laden, find furosemide cod whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Find furosemide cod When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, find furosemide cod he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod government. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Find furosemide cod The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Find furosemide cod An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Find furosemide cod (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. Find furosemide cod They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, find furosemide cod the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), find furosemide cod the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, find furosemide cod so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Find furosemide cod (For an excellent short book on this subject, find furosemide cod check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, find furosemide cod such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, find furosemide cod then ideological thinking kicks in. Find furosemide cod The horror story is suppressed, find furosemide cod or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), find furosemide cod or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Find furosemide cod Thus, find furosemide cod for example, find furosemide cod Melissa Roddy, find furosemide cod a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, find furosemide cod notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, find furosemide cod a co-producer as well as the leading actor, find furosemide cod "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, find furosemide cod we are told by another insider reviewer, find furosemide cod James Rocchi, find furosemide cod that the scenario, find furosemide cod as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod Today there is ample evidence that, find furosemide cod when it comes to the freedom of women, find furosemide cod education levels, find furosemide cod governmental services, find furosemide cod relations among different ethnic groups, find furosemide cod and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, find furosemide cod which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, find furosemide cod Kabul. Find furosemide cod But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, find furosemide cod either the book or the film. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod For reasons not entirely clear, find furosemide cod an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), find furosemide cod a "high-living, find furosemide cod hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Find furosemide cod Scott in the New York Times), find furosemide cod "a sharp-edged, find furosemide cod wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), find furosemide cod" Richard L. Find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, find furosemide cod" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Find furosemide cod The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, find furosemide cod who, find furosemide cod according to Berke, find furosemide cod called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, find furosemide cod but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Find furosemide cod Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, find furosemide cod for instance, find furosemide cod thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Find furosemide cod 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. Find furosemide cod The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, find furosemide cod Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Find furosemide cod In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, find furosemide cod" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Find furosemide cod Simply put, find furosemide cod it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, find furosemide cod such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Find furosemide cod 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, find furosemide cod like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), find furosemide cod The Sorrows of Empire (2004), find furosemide cod and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, find furosemide cod January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy