The war within Charlie Wilson

Les AuCoin

Unless you’ve been lost in Oregon’s Alvord Desert, you know that Tom Hanks’ new flick, Charlie Wilson’s War, is based on the wildest sumbitch ever to serve in the modern Congress and how the oddly lovable, cocaine-snorting, womanizing, Scotch-swilling swashbuckler from Lufkin, Texas, just about single-handedly got Congress to give the Mujahdeen modern weapons that drove the Russians out of Afghanistan in 1989, thus helping bring down the Soviet empire.

But the truth is far more extraordinary—and the upshot in Afghanistan far less successful—than the 97-minute confection created by Director Mike Nichols, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and their heavyweight cast: Hanks (who plays Wilson), Julia Roberts (a Houston socialite/Soviet hater), and Philip Seymour Hoffman (a rogue CIA field man and Wilson co-conspirator who said what brought them together was “chasing pussy and killing Communists”).

The movie’s omissions turn it into a romantic adventure sprinkled with comedy, combat, and just enough fact to be believable. But it’s worth a ticket if only to see Hoffman, who deserves his second Oscar in as many years for his portrayal of Gust Avrakotos, the CIA agent--a performance that makes Hanks scramble to remain the biggest man on the screen.

My problem, and I expected it, is that, working with a compelling true story, the movie blew an opportunity to delve into the yin and yang of good and evil inherent in both realpolitik and the mortals who inhabit it, let alone explore the tendency for seeds of failure to exist in “victory.” (After our Mujahdeen “friends” defeated the Soviet Army, many of them became Osama bin Laden’s ally and protector, the Taliban, with which the U.S. would be at war in 12 years.) Alas, paradox has never been a strong aspect of the Western mind, let alone the American mind. And Hollywood’s mind? Don’t get me started.

The real “Good Time Charlie” Wilson sat two chairs up from me on the House Defense Appropriations Committee for more than a decade. From that perch, I saw and (to an extent) helped him engineer what became the largest covert program in U.S. history—$1 billion—despite the initial timidity of the CIA and odd diffidence of the Reagan White House. And it was done entirely within the clandestine budget, with no publicly recorded vote ever taken.

I came to know and like the complex public and private Charlie Wilson, a man who was at once more disturbing and charming than either his movie incarnation or the figure described in the book that inspired the film (George Crile, Grove Press, 2003, ISBN 0802141242, 560 pp).

A long-legged, ramrod-straight Naval Academy graduate with a square jaw, wicked wit and booming basso profondo laugh, Charlie entertained elegantly in his Arlington, Virginia, condo overlooking the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Potomac River and the Capitol Mall beyond—affairs that I suspected but couldn’t prove were funded by his friends in the defense lobby.

That he had so many such friends, and carried their mail so brazenly, was one of Charlie’s many deep flaws. I recall him in committee, losing a debate on a dubious weapons system that even Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger didn’t want (and that’s saying something). Wilson held up the vote long enough to duck into the telephone booth and emerge with fresh talking points from the arms maker. I don’t remember if he won or lost; the point is that Wilson was butt-naked complicit with the defense lobby and didn’t give a damn.

Yet Charlie was a social and economic liberal who defied his Bible-thumping conservative district and its history of racial bigotry. He was a strong supporter of civil rights, minimum wage increases, Medicaid, and anti-poverty programs.

On women’s issues, Charlie was a dependable “yes” vote. He supported abortion rights, parental leave and the Equal Rights Amendment. Yet the hedonist in him collected women like a boy might collect marbles. His office staff was exclusively female, drop-dead beautiful and full bosomed. Everybody called them “Charlie’s Angels.”

In the movie, a visiting constituent glances at those aides and asks Hanks (Wilson) why he hired gorgeous women. Hanks’ reply is one I heard Charlie use in real life more than once: “You can always teach ‘em to type, but you can’t teach ‘em to grow tits.”

Aside from constituent service, stellar votes on social and economic issues, Charlie’s individual legislative efforts were unremarkable for many years. However, in the late 1970s he engaged in an act of foreign policy hubris that, seen now, foretold his Afghanistan adventure.

Ever the Annapolis man, Charlie admired the Central American dictator, Anastasio Somoza, a West Point graduate, and threatened to wreak the Carter Administration’s Panama Canal treaty if Carter didn’t resume support for Somoza. Wilson’s ardor was unaffected by the Nicaraguan leader’s unsuccessful offer of a large cash bribe at their first meeting. Later Charlie arranged a meeting between Somoza and a high-ranking CIA official in a bid to save the dictator. But when Somoza fondled Tina Simons, Wilson’s girlfriend at the time, Charlie dropped him like a dead armadillo. (Fascism was one thing; a man’s woman was another!)

I’ve always believed that Charlie’s single-minded support for the subjugated Afghans came in equal measure from a zest for danger, revulsion at Communism and empathy for a people who told him of daughters raped, children mutilated, sons and fathers decapitated, and pregnant women bayoneted in the stomach. Yet he always said they would fight the Russians with stones if necessary.

Wilson traveled frequently to the region as modern arms began to arrive and Afghans brought down Soviet helicopter warships and fixed wing aircraft with increasing skill. Inevitably, he would bring along a personal cache of booze and a beautiful woman on his arm. Sex, war, and alcohol were the trifecta in the hierarchy of Wilson’s tastes.

Charlie stormed home from one such trip with blood in his eye. A U.S. Air Force colonel had banned his female companion from flying out of Pakistan with him on a government plane. Wilson and the officer almost came to blows before Charlie placed one call to the presidential palace in Islamabad. Soon General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq’s personal jet arrived, picked up Wilson and his date and roared off, leaving the American colonel slack-jawed on the tarmac.

Charlie would get his revenge in the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He passed an amendment (over my objection) to remove the officer’s plane. And just to make sure the colonel and his superiors got the message, Wilson’s measure reassigned the jet to the Texas Air National Guard.

In the larger sense, though, the Afghan issue brought out brilliant legislative skills few knew Charlie possessed. There’s a scene in the movie—true to fact—in which he promises Midwest congressmen, in return for their support, to deliver the Black Caucus votes for the Farm Bill, a political act as unnatural as the physical act Charlie told the Air Force colonel to perform on himself.

Wilson retired from Congress in 1996, married Barbara Alberstadt, a former ballerina, and returned to Lufkin, Texas, his boyhood home. He had a heart transplant last fall and is recovering in Houston.

In June, he turned 74.

Les AuCoin Blog

Comments

  • Matthew Sutton (unverified)
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    Here's a better movie to go see: "The Great Debaters" starring Denzel Washington. Its an amazing film based upon a true story of a debate team from a small black college in Texas that went on to debate Harvard in the 1930's. Two thumbs way up.

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    Thank you, Les, for your review - and your recollections of Charlie Wilson. Great stuff.

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    What an interesting read. Thanks for the post!

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    I haven't seen the movie or read the book about Wilson, but I wouldn't mind hearing from Mr. AuCoin about how the stories there mesh with the initial decision by President Jimmy Carter and National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to fund the Mujahadeen in July 1979, in a deliberate attempt to draw the Soviets into an invasion of what Brzezinski called "the Afghan trap". Was Wilson's effort coordinated with the existing operation or did it only begin after the Soviet invasion in December 1979?

    Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today? B[rzezinski]: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire. Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists? B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
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    Congressman Aucoin,

    I just saw the movie last weekend and reading your supplemental info hear is great! Bravo!

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    I can spell, too, I meant "here"

  • Jake Oken-Berg (unverified)
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    Really, really interesting read. Thank you for the first hand account.

  • Big Barton (unverified)
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    One of the most interesting posts I've read in a long time. Great stuff.

  • Bait T (unverified)
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    Ditto: thanks for the inside scoop.

    As for the inevitable outcome of Taliban rule in Afghanistan (and the safe haven provided to UBL and Al Qaeda), it appears analagous to the outcome in Iraq: we won the war, but failed to adequately secure American security interests (aka "lost the peace").

    To put it bluntly: Afghanistan was only important to us until the Soviets were defeated. The country (and her surviving population) were decimated and we did little to maintain our influence (aka "goodwill") in the region.

    I would welcome Rep. AuCoin's critique of this view.

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    Thanks, Les! Mike and I just saw the film on Sunday evening and your insights have made it a much richer experience for me. I've owned that book for a couple of years and now I'm highly motivated to pick it up and, you know, actually read it.

  • Deane Funk (unverified)
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    It must've been about four years ago that I came upon Charlie Wilson being interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN, and his engaging account of the Afghanistan episode was so memorable I was desperate to find someone, anyone who had also seen it, just to confirm that I'd heard what I'd heard, and didn't make it up. His own words are even more compelling than either the book or the movie.

  • Katherine (unverified)
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    Congressman: I hope you post more topics that have a rich tapestry. Having your first hand account of this particular vignette during your tenure is a fun read.

    Vignettes add richness to politics that sometimes the public doesn't see. I wish you would consider posting a once a month series "What really happened" or "Who so-and-so was really like" about different issues as they were debated in the political arena. Having your perspective, an insider, would be interesting. We know you're busy, but it doesn't hurt to ask!

    Happy New Years Everybody!

  • Joe (unverified)
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    Minor nit-pick: Charlie Wilson's apartment overlooking the Iwo Jima memorial was in Rosslyn/Arlington rather than Alexandria.

  • Dave McTeague (unverified)
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    Hi Les,

    Apprediate your insights and sharing your experience with this. The book is good read too, although I don't remember the part about how Wilson supported funding for reconstruction efforts, so I'll have to give it another read. Thanks.

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    Good catch, Joe. Arlington, not Alexandria. Sue and I always lived in Washington and rarely spent time in Northern Virginia. Invariably, I turn the two cities around. Not that one can distinguish them in their sprawl.

    (I fixed the error.)

    Les

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    When I was a kid I used to go up to a nearby pond with muddy areas around it and turn over rocks. Sometimes there'd be cool things like salamanders.

    Once in a while there was something really gross and smelly.

    Reading this post was like finding one of those rocks.

    The lionizing of this guy and failure to take seriously what was wrong with the arrogant assumptions and irresponsible execution of the intervention in Afghanistan sucks. I guess the cultural work of making incompetent disasters borne of false assumptions and deep local ignorance appear to be victories, or at least amusing is important work for our times, though. Can't wait for the sequel about the Boys in the Project for a New American Century -- that'll be a laff riot for sure.

    People's reactions here make me wonder if I'm in the right place at all or even have any real allies in mainstream Democratic politics when it comes to foreign policy.

    It's a stupid reaction, I know: one former congressman who I don't know but whose record I respect as far as I know it, eight people, some of whom, maybe all of whom are responding mainly to the storytelling (& it is good storytelling).

    But I just can't find much humor in arrogant imperialism executed without adequate thought to consequences and regardless of known inability to control them, especially when those consequences have had such disastrous results.

    Of course, it does put Bob Packwood into context.

    C. Coventry Malpense, Pfc Wet Blanket Brigade

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)
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    Chris--Well, Harrumph!!

    Can't have politicians actually telling the truth on each other, can we? Can't abide by the fact that even members of Congress have human foibles?

    By Les Aucoin's account, Charlie Wilson was a minor player in the House who had a couple of big roles and otherwise was more interesting for his vices than his virtues. As most of us are.

    Lionizing Charlie Wilson. I don't think so. Humanizing Wilson and the entire political arena is more like it.

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    Look, my reaction is what it is. Part of what I'm trying to figure out is why it's as strong as it is. Les Aucoin isn't lionizing Wilson but the movie certainly is; my response doubtless is unfair to Mr. Aucoin because I'm responding to some sort of gestalt of it all for which I readily concede he is not responsible.

    From what I can see about Charlie Wilson from this story "minor player with human foibles and interesting vices" is a euphemism -- corrupt incompetent with some degree of charm that enabled him in combination with power to abusively indulge his vices looks more like it to me. Even at that I probably wouldn't care except the guy was a major mover in a hugely f'd up policy process was bankrupt in any number of ways & paid multiple dividends of bloodshed and horror down the road.

    After what I wrote before I realized that one reason I care is not directly about Afghanistan is because during the period in question I was studying African history in graduate school and watching horrified as my government was fomenting quasi-genocidal civil wars in Angola and Mozambique that killed millions of civilians in their long and bloody course. In aid of promoting the Angolan civil war the U.S. also made a devil's pact with General Mobutu of Zaire to run airbases for material aid to UNITA from the southeast of the country. Mobutu thoroughly looted the country and appropriated to himself huge loans from the IMF and World Bank for which the nation was responsible. The U.S. connived at this, having a largely dispositive influence in the IFIs.

    Mobutu also pursued a policy of fomenting ethnic hatred by some other ethnic groups in eastern Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo, against Tutsi who lived there. Some of those Tutsi families had been in the area two centuries. Others were refugees from Rwanda ca. 1960. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda came a new influx of refugees, many of them Hutu (as the Tutsi-led RFP came to power), and among the Hutu, many ex-genocidaires. Meanwhile as many ten African nations intervened on different sides of a civil war in the DRC that emerged after Mobutu died, which, intermingled with the ethnic conflicts Mobutu had fomented, has resulted in persistent mass deaths on a scale much larger than the proto-genocide in Darfur, a situation nearly ignored in the U.S.

    In Angola and Mozambique clearing minefields and manufacturing prosthetic limbs for the growing number of persons who have lost and continue to lose limbs to land mines are major economic activities. Our tax dollars bought lots of those mines.

    So a bunch of my reaction wasn't about what Les Aucoin wrote, or even Afghanistan, but just to some implied answers to the basic question of how do we react to the arrogant idea that the U.S. has the right to go around invading other countries or promoting civil wars within them?

    Today American foreign-policy talk among the punditry and the policy intellectuals is blithe in assumpting that if the U.S. feels like intervening in another country, changing its government form or leadership, inflicting collective punishments, well, that's all good. If it involves committing what is clearly aggression under the U.N. Charter and would be called aggression if committed by another country against the U.S. or one of our allies, well, we won't be too fussed and don't need to talk about it, except the details.

    Charlie Wilson's War normalizes such assumptions in an interesting way. It suggests that promoting civil war in somebody else's country if so simple that even an otherwise corrupt and ineffectual if sometimes charming wastrel and carry it off, and make us laugh while doing so. It's the inverse of Our Man in Havana.

    Here is a question I think Democrats need to face: If we get a new Democratic administration, should it be committed to obeying the rule of international law?

    Unfortunately all three of our leading candidates have taken at least some positions that essentially say, "No, only when it suits our advantage." They won't be as bad as Bush, but they won't really challenge or reverse much of the damage he's done. Culture matters, and the film Charlie Wilson's War is going to make it easier for our elected officials to say one thing to us in campaigns and do other things in practice, as we've seen post 2006 elections.

  • Eric Chambers (unverified)
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    Congressman, thanks for the post. This was a really interesting read, and a nice supplement to the movie.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)
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    I was pleasently surprised in Les's rememberance to learn that Wilson was so liberal on many issues. Most Texas (and other SOuthern) Democrat lawmakers through the 80's were conservative or at least centrist Dixiecrats. FOr example, Phil GRamm was an ultra conservative Democrat in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1984, and he and other Dems helped pass the Reagan tax cut- Defecit growth bills in the early 80's. The late Lloyd Bentsen, a centrist D Senator from Texas, was probably liberal compared to many of the Texas Dems in the House at that time.

    I would also add that Al Gore was a moderate-conservative Democrat congressman from Tennessee from 77-84, probabaly no less conservative than CHarlie Wilson. In fact, Les was quoted in a Gore bio (I think it was "The Prince of Tennessee") as being quite critical of Gore for his intense support fo the MX missle in the early 80's.

  • jefferson smith (unverified)
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    I agree...Great post. Fascinating stuff. Hope you will continue to share with us yungins good story.

  • Mack Daddy T (unverified)
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    Chris,

    You need to update your knowledge base. The arrogant imperialists were played by the 200,000 members of the armed forces of the U.S.S.R., WHO INVADED AFGHANISTAN!

    When the Soviets were unable to prevail, they were forced to withdraw, leading (in no small part) to the decline of the communist regime. That's a good thing. Even for Democrats.

    If you went to graduate school, you probably learned something about the cold war. It frequently boiled into a shooting war in many developing nations where both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. engaged in war by proxy. And both sides were planting land mines.

    Again, from the good news files: we won the Cold War! Yeah team! Why are progressives (like Chris Lowe) so angry about American Victory?

  • P. Daddy T (unverified)
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    Chris,

    You need to update your knowledge base. The arrogant imperialists were played by the 200,000 members of the armed forces of the U.S.S.R., who INVADED AFGHANISTAN!

    When the Soviets were unable to prevail, they were forced to withdraw, leading (in no small part) to the decline of the communist regime. That's a good thing. Even for Democrats.

    If you went to graduate school, you probably learned something about the cold war. It frequently boiled over into a shooting war in developing nations where both the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. engaged in war by proxy. Both sides were planting land mines, and both sides were propping up unsavory militants. Both sides engaged in this behavior because they believed it to be in their national interest. At least one of them were wrong.

    Again, from the good news files: the U.S. won the Cold War and the Soviet Empire disintegrated! Yeah team! Why be so angry about American Victory?

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    Mack P,

    My sins are my own, the belong to me, as Patti Smith once said. Please don't hang them on a label and then pin that label on anyone else. Look at the thread. Am I singing in the chorus?

    Underneath it all, what constitutes our national interest is probably a large part of what divides us on various points and branches of subsequent reasoning. I've already hijacked this thread too much & will leave it at that.

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    I think thanks go out to P Daddy T for making Chris Lowe's point for him about the lack of difference between the foreign policy of a lot of Democrats and Republicans.

    American Victory! Hell, yeah! It's like making sausage.

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    I have to say that my reactions (more to the movie than to Les AuCoin's post) were very much like Chris's - all the more so when you see what's happening now in Pakistan.

    For those who wonder why, I'd suggest reading Steve Coll's fabulous Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden.

    What Coll shows in painful detail is how the execution of the war in Afghanistan played much more into Pakistani and Saudi interests than U.S. interests. If this was an "American Victory" it was a Pyrrhic one.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    I saw Charlie Wilson's War in a four day glut of movie going that included the Great Debaters, Golden Compass, and the National Treasure flicks (I wasn't the only one picking). Charlie's was tops, followed closely by the Debaters - and I wish I hadn't wasted my time with the Treasure flick.

    I have the book on order, and can't wait for it to arrive. Les your account made it even better.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Afghanistan was only important to us until the Soviets were defeated. The country (and her surviving population) were decimated and we did little to maintain our influence (aka "goodwill") in the region.

    The movie ended with this alleged quote from Charlie, "These things happened. They were glorious, and they changed the world. Then we f*-up the end game."

    • = expletive
  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    The potential tragedy of this movie is that its inherent mythology will become part of historical education for many Americans who will take it as fact and fail to check on its accuracy, or lack thereof. Americans are, for the most part, historically illiterate. They don't need to be fed more drivel, especially when around 30% still believe Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in 9/11. Otherwise, I appreciated Les AuCoin's recollections of his time in Congress with his gunslinger colleague.

    Again, from the good news files: we won the Cold War! Yeah team! Why are progressives (like Chris Lowe) so angry about American Victory?

    We didn't win the Cold War. The Soviets lost it. Big difference. According to Fall from Glory: The Men Who Sank the U.S. Navy by Gregory L. Vistica US Naval Intelligence people were concerned that Reagan's drive for a 600-ship fleet would bankrupt the United States. Fortunately for us, Gorbachev injected some degree of intelligence into the 30-plus years of cold war lunacy with perestroika and helped bring that nonsense to an end.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Interesting perspective from Les AuCoin, but I share Chris Lowe's discomfort with romanticizing cowboy geopolitics, as Charlie Wilson's War does. That attitude leads to disregard of statesmanship and international agreements, cooking intelligence, and preemptive aggression. Look where that gets us.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Yeah, and then there's always the value of demonizing someone versus humanizing - which is the most progressive?

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    That would sort of depend on whether the person was a demon, wouldn't it?

    Anyone who dismisses justified criticism of someone's actions -- however nice of a guy they are -- as "demonizing" wouldn't seem to be particularly serious about accountability.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Robert G. Gourley,

    Amen, Robert. I'm all for humanizing folks. Let's start with the thousands, no millions, who have been victimized by US foreign policy. Let's consider their humanity before dropping more bombs, destroying more economies, and subverting more governments in the name of US interests, spreading "democracy", and defeating the "evil doers."

    Then we can work on humanizing ego-maniacal, on-the-take politicians with colorful private lives.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Robert G. Gourley wrote:

    'The movie ended with this alleged quote from Charlie, "These things happened. They were glorious, and they changed the world. Then we f*-up the end game."'

    The "f*-up the end game" was played on The Grand Chessboard, on which the people of Afghanistan do not rate even one pawn to represent their interests. Starving, tortured, and powerless people often provide a dandy excuse for the projection of power, but they are very rarely the reason for it.

    It may seen simplistic to regard foreign policy as a tool of bankers, manufacturers, and resource extractors, but I fear that the truth of this matter is all too simple.

    Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows that the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich Thats how it goes Everybody knows

    Leonard Cohen

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    I don't read full posts very often on here, but yours usually draw me in, Les. Great story and well told. You stand out among all the Oregon ex-politicians for your ability and willingness to offer personal and authentic views of things past as well as your unvarnished approach to things present (your Cheney commentary comes to mind). Thank you. p.s. I can't wait for the day when you choose to regale us all with your reflections on our current senior U.S. Senator....

  • Bob Rees (unverified)
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    Great post Les! I think it's high time you wrote a autobiography!

    I can't wait to see the movie and hopefully add more to this thread!

    Best in '08- especially to "D's"

    Bob

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    The US in Afghanistan: An Imperialist Comedy

  • Cheryl Scott (unverified)
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    I went into the movie last night with hopes this was a feel good movie about how the efforts of a few people could provide positive change for humanity as was evidenced in Amazing Grace, the epic of William Wilburforces et.al.'s success in ending slave trade. My opinion took a nose dive when Handel's Messiah whitewashed the absurdity of the increase of our military budget. I cannot help but think what stupendous timing has occurred for Charlie Wilson's Private War to coincide with Congresses approval of increasing our military budget over $70trillion? or what ever the fucking number is we now spend to kill women, children and men around the world. The inferences at the end spouted by the Houston benefactress asking Wilson has any other covert operation spent obtained this much funding....as if all of the other covert operations the US has funded (Panama, Philippines, Guatemala, to name a few) have been done in the name of helping humanity. I have found this movie to sadly glorify and justify Congresses continual funding of the War Machine. I left the movie appalled. I left the movie now wondering who is pulling the puppet strings for Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts? For god sake, we have to open our eyes and call the kettle black.

  • Mister Tee (unverified)
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    Cheryl thinks U.S. Foreign Policy is consistently anti-democratic, but fails to recognize there were two parties fighting the cold war, oftentimes via proxy armies in the third world. While that may not excuse all covert action, it certainly provides the necessary context: much of American Imperialism in the 1950's to 80's was in response to Soviet Imperialism. We won, they lost. Get over it.

    Free and fair elections would eventually be achieved in Panama, the Philippines, Guatemala AND Iraq (not to mention Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, and El Salvador). Probably would have turned out differently had the Soviet clients prevailed. To wit: Hugo Chavez.

    Remember President John Kennedy? He was anti-communist too. Sadly, JFK probably couldn't win the Democratic Primary in 2008: he's much too conservative.

    Cheryl also thinks Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts are tools of American Imperialism.

    Which is clearly not possible: because Tom and Julia both drive a Prius. Use more tinfoil.

    'Nuff said.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Anyone who dismisses justified criticism of someone's actions

    Not me, I only asked which was the more progressive.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Robert G. Gourley,

    There is a major difference between humanizing and romanticizing. Any villain, even Adolf Hitler, might be humanized in a work of literature, but to romanticize his atrocities would be unforgivable, don't you think?

    Mister Tee wrote:

    "much of American Imperialism in the 1950's to 1980's was in response to Soviet Imperialism."

    <h2>There we have it, folks, ironclad proof that human consciousness has not evolved one iota since the time of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon.</h2>

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