Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Unitended Consequence of Charlie Wilson's War

The soon-to-be-released Hollywood movie "Charlie Wilson's War" tells the story of behind-the-scene activities that led to the massive CIA backing of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets in the 1980s. Based on a book of the same title by late George Crile, it focuses on the efforts of a "scandal-prone, womanizing" US Congressman Charlie Wilson and "out-of-favor, blue-collar" CIA operative Gust Avrokotos who both found a willing partner in Gen Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan. Wilson, a congressman from East Texas with almost no Jewish constituents, was a strong supporter of Israel as he saw Israelis as the underdogs surrounded by Arab enemies armed by the Soviets. His support for the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan was motivated by his hatred of communism and the Soviet Union that he saw as the evil empire. That may also be why he ignored any concerns about the unintended consequences of his actions in supporting a strongly religious band of Islamic fighters who disliked western values and culture as much as they hated communism.
George Crile connects the dots from the CIA's supply of weapons and training to the Muslim fighters in Afghanistan to the the fall of the Soviet Union and then the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001, concluding that the terrorism we face today is the unintended consequence of our actions in Afghanistan back in the 80s. Crile starts with this conclusion at the very outset and then spends the rest of the book backing his conclusion with facts and figures he gathered in his research. Having been a producer of CBS 60 Minutes, Crile was well equipped to write such a book. Let's wait and see if this movie does justice to a great story. With the star-studded cast including Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it should be a big draw at the box office.

The big question that will continue to loom for Americans and the world is whether we have learned any lessons to avoid even greater and more disastrous but unintended consequences of our current actions in the ongoing "war on terror".

Here's a trailer of this movie:


iFaqeer said...

Unintended? The US government has often picked the most brutal, monstrous option in a situation like that. [Pol Pot, The Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Zia, ...]

There is a very, very important misrepresentation in the movie. It is not completely according to the book, which does not do that:

Especially for folks who forwarded me an item about "Charlie Wilson's War", you MUST read this article.

Riaz Haq said...

I just read the referenced article that Sabahat mentioned. The gist of misrepresentation is as follows and I quote:
In the latter half of the movie, there is one big lie and one item of anti-Afghan propaganda. The lie is that U.S. support to the mujahiddin went only to the faction led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Afghan leader who was assassinated on Sept. 9, 2001. I spoke with Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Texas, in 2002, at which time he called Massoud "a Russian collaborator." I find it disingenuous that Wilson and his Hollywood biographers now want to throw their arms around him. (Note: George Crile's book does not make this false claim.) Moreover, if this movie succeeds in convincing Americans that the U.S. support went to Ahmad Shah Massoud alone, it will have effectively let the CIA and Wilson off the hook for their contribution to the circumstances leading up to 9/11. During the 1980s, Wilson engineered the appropriation of approximately $3.5 billion to help the Afghans fight the Soviets. According to Milt Bearden, CIA chief of station to Pakistan, Massoud received less than 1 percent of it.
I haven't seen the movie yet but I have read the book.
Thanks to Sabahat for pointing it out.

iFaqeer said...

To clarify, please don't get me wrong; the movie was wonderful! I just saw it myself. And the last 5 minutes or so make a very strong point. But the misrepresentation is very profound. The history is very, very critical. Have you tried explaining to an American--and that includes American Muslims--that the Taliban didn't exist during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan?