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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, viagra information Texas, viagra information 1973-1996) because, viagra information for close to twenty years, viagra information my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, viagra information now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Viagra information 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. Viagra information Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Viagra information 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, viagra information000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan. Viagra information In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, viagra information 1993, viagra information James Woolsey, viagra information Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, viagra information said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. Viagra information There were many heroes in this battle, viagra information but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, viagra information studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, viagra information is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, viagra information 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth. Viagra information On May 25, viagra information 2003, viagra information (the same month George W. Viagra information Bush stood on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Viagra information Abraham Lincoln under a White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner and proclaimed "major combat operations" at an end in Iraq), viagra information I published a review in the Los Angeles Times of the book that provides the data for the film Charlie Wilson's War. Viagra information The original edition of the book carried the subtitle, viagra information "The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History -- the Arming of the Mujahideen." The 2007 paperbound edition was subtitled, viagra information "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. Viagra information In my review of the book, viagra information I wrote, viagra information

"The Central Intelligence Agency has an almost unblemished record of screwing up every 'secret' armed intervention it ever undertook. Viagra information From the overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953 through the rape of Guatemala in 1954, viagra information the Bay of Pigs, viagra information the failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro of Cuba and Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, viagra information the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, viagra information the 'secret war' in Laos, viagra information aid to the Greek Colonels who seized power in 1967, viagra information the 1973 killing of President Allende in Chile, viagra information and Ronald Reagan's Iran-Contra war against Nicaragua, viagra information 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. Viagra information Therefore the tale of a purported CIA success story should be of some interest. Viagra information "According to the author of Charlie Wilson's War, viagra information the exception to CIA incompetence was the arming between 1979 and 1988 of thousands of Afghan mujahideen ("freedom fighters"). Viagra information 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, viagra information the USSR].' "The author of this glowing account, viagra information [the late] George Crile, viagra information was a veteran producer for the CBS television news show '60 Minutes' and an exuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. Viagra information He argues that the U.S.'s clandestine involvement in Afghanistan was 'the largest and most successful CIA operation in history, viagra information' 'the one morally unambiguous crusade of our time, viagra information' 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, viagra information000), viagra information which undermined Soviet morale and contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the period 1989 to 1991. Viagra information That's the successful part. Viagra information "However, viagra information 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, viagra information Saudi Arabia, viagra information bombed our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, viagra information blew a hole in the side of the U.S.S. Viagra information Cole in Aden Harbor in 2000, viagra information and on September 11, viagra information 2001, viagra information 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, viagra information with Julia Roberts as his right-wing Texas girlfriend Joanne Herring, viagra information and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos, viagra information the thuggish CIA operative who helped pull off this caper. Viagra information What to make of the film (which I found rather boring and old-fashioned)? It makes the U.S. Viagra information government look like it is populated by a bunch of whoring, viagra information drunken sleazebags, viagra information so in that sense it's accurate enough. Viagra information But there are a number of things both the book and the film are suppressing. Viagra information As I noted in 2003, viagra information
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, viagra information the president must sign off on -- that is, viagra information 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, viagra information 1979. Viagra information The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, viagra information 1979, viagra information six months before the Soviet invasion, viagra information and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, viagra information Zbigniew Brzezinski, viagra information in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Viagra information Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, viagra information and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. Viagra information 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. Viagra information The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, viagra information they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
In the bound galleys of Crile's book, viagra information which his publisher sent to reviewers before publication, viagra information there was no mention of any qualifications to his portrait of Wilson as a hero and a patriot. Viagra information Only in an "epilogue" added to the printed book did Crile quote Wilson as saying, viagra information "These things happened. Viagra information They were glorious and they changed the world. Viagra information And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. Viagra information And then we fucked up the endgame." That's it. Viagra information Full stop. Viagra information Director Mike Nichols, viagra information too, viagra information ends his movie with Wilson's final sentence emblazoned across the screen. Viagra information And then the credits roll. Viagra information Neither a reader of Crile, viagra information nor a viewer of the film based on his book would know that, viagra information in talking about the Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s, viagra information we are also talking about the militants of al Qaeda and the Taliban of the 1990s and 2000s. Viagra information Amid all the hoopla about Wilson's going out of channels to engineer secret appropriations of millions of dollars to the guerrillas, viagra information the reader or viewer would never suspect that, viagra information when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, viagra information President George H.W. Viagra information Bush promptly lost interest in the place and simply walked away, viagra information leaving it to descend into one of the most horrific civil wars of modern times. Viagra information Among those supporting the Afghans (in addition to the U.S.) was the rich, viagra information pious Saudi Arabian economist and civil engineer, viagra information Osama bin Laden, viagra information whom we helped by building up his al Qaeda base at Khost. Viagra information When bin Laden and his colleagues decided to get even with us for having been used, viagra information he had the support of much of the Islamic world. Viagra information 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. Viagra information government. Viagra information 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. Viagra information The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. Viagra information The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves. Viagra information An Imperialist Comedy Which brings us back to the movie and its reception here. Viagra information (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. Viagra information They start believing that they are the bearers of civilization, viagra information the bringers of light to "primitives" and "savages" (largely so identified because of their resistance to being "liberated" by us), viagra information the carriers of science and modernity to backward peoples, viagra information 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. Viagra information Innumerable European colonialists saw the hand of God in Darwin's discovery of evolution, viagra information so long as it was understood that He had programmed the outcome of evolution in favor of late Victorian Englishmen. Viagra information (For an excellent short book on this subject, viagra information check out Sven Lindquist's "Exterminate All the Brutes.") When imperialist activities produce unmentionable outcomes, viagra information such as those well known to anyone paying attention to Afghanistan since about 1990, viagra information then ideological thinking kicks in. Viagra information The horror story is suppressed, viagra information or reinterpreted as something benign or ridiculous (a "comedy"), viagra information or simply curtailed before the denouement becomes obvious. Viagra information Thus, viagra information for example, viagra information Melissa Roddy, viagra information a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, viagra information notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, viagra information a co-producer as well as the leading actor, viagra information "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing." Similarly, viagra information we are told by another insider reviewer, viagra information James Rocchi, viagra information that the scenario, viagra information as originally written by Aaron Sorkin of "West Wing" fame, viagra information 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. Viagra information Today there is ample evidence that, viagra information when it comes to the freedom of women, viagra information education levels, viagra information governmental services, viagra information relations among different ethnic groups, viagra information and quality of life -- all were infinitely better under the Afghan communists than under the Taliban or the present government of President Hamid Karzai, viagra information which evidently controls little beyond the country's capital, viagra information Kabul. Viagra information But Americans don't want to know that -- and certainly they get no indication of it from Charlie Wilson's War, viagra information either the book or the film. Viagra information 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. Viagra information For reasons not entirely clear, viagra information an overwhelming majority of reviewers concluded that Charlie Wilson's War is a "feel-good comedy" (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post), viagra information a "high-living, viagra information hard-partying jihad" (A.O. Viagra information Scott in the New York Times), viagra information "a sharp-edged, viagra information wickedly funny comedy" (Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times). Viagra information 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, viagra information in a piece entitled "Sex! Drugs! (and Maybe a Little War), viagra information" Richard L. Viagra information 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, viagra information there was only a guffaw or two from the audience over the raunchy sex and sexism of "good-time Charlie, viagra information" but certainly no laff-a-minute. Viagra information The root of this approach to the film probably lies with Tom Hanks himself, viagra information who, viagra information according to Berke, viagra information called it "a serious comedy." A few reviews qualified their endorsement of Charlie Wilson's War, viagra information but still came down on the side of good old American fun. Viagra information Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail, viagra information for instance, viagra information thought that it was "best to enjoy Charlie Wilson's War as a thoroughly engaging comedy. Viagra information 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. Viagra information The handful of truly critical reviews have come mostly from blogs and little-known Hollywood fanzines -- with one major exception, viagra information Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times. Viagra information In an essay subtitled "'Charlie Wilson's War' celebrates events that came back to haunt Americans, viagra information" Turan called the film "an unintentionally sobering narrative of American shouldn't-have" and added that it was "glib rather than witty, viagra information 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, viagra information it's the kind that goes over well with a roomful of louts in a college fraternity house. Viagra information Simply put, viagra information it is imperialist propaganda and the tragedy is that four-and-a-half years after we invaded Iraq and destroyed it, viagra information such dangerously misleading nonsense is still being offered to a gullible public. Viagra information 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, viagra information like a conscious attempt to induce amnesia." Chalmers Johnson is the author of the Blowback Trilogy -- Blowback (2000), viagra information The Sorrows of Empire (2004), viagra information and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (paperbound edition, viagra information January 2008). link to the article: http://tomdispatch.com/post/174877/chalmers_johnson_an_imperialist_comedy