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Charlie Wilson's War (Digital Audiobook Chips)

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This New York Times best-seller is the untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War, the rise of militant Islam, and of a colorful congressman from Texas who conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch the most successful covert operation in CIA history.


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This New York Times best-seller is the untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War, the rise of militant Islam, and of a colorful congressman from Texas who conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch the most successful covert operation in CIA history.

30 review for Charlie Wilson's War (Digital Audiobook Chips)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Charlie Wilson's War is a chilling tale of how a few determined people can undermine all existing law, use their positions of power and influence to get unseen funds allocated, and pursue a major war without the approval of the American people. Crile was clearly enamored of Wilson, regarding him as a charismatic, larger-than-life figure, who performed a major service to the West by tipping the Soviet Union over the edge. Crile (foreground) with Wilson (suspenders) and an unnamed ISI agent (shade Charlie Wilson's War is a chilling tale of how a few determined people can undermine all existing law, use their positions of power and influence to get unseen funds allocated, and pursue a major war without the approval of the American people. Crile was clearly enamored of Wilson, regarding him as a charismatic, larger-than-life figure, who performed a major service to the West by tipping the Soviet Union over the edge. Crile (foreground) with Wilson (suspenders) and an unnamed ISI agent (shades) in Afghanistan - from Wiki media There is some consciousness here of some of the blowback that resulted from this work, the resources now used by Islamic extremists to attack the West, but I doubt that Wilson or any of his cohorts will ever accept any real responsibility for that. A must read for anyone interested in how foreign policy can be driven by committed individuals. The film that was based on the book is definitely worth a look. =============================EXTRA STUFF Crile, a long-time producer and reporter for CBS news, a two-time winner of the Edward R Murrow Award for his outstanding foreign policy reporting, passed away at age 61 in 2006. There are many links to reports Crile made on this wiki page Charlie Wilson passed away in 2010. Wikipedia has a bit more information on him.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    ... creating along the ISIS and probably the rest of forces behind the 9/11 horror... Niiice. How to you really manage to get over people spending billions of tax-payers' money to promote terrorism shit? Read this and see how the author manages to endorse these actions in this research. Q: 9/11 was a watershed, as stunning in its boldness as it was frightening in its message. ... The fact that Afghanistan was the cradle of the attack should not have come as a surprise, for both the territory and t ... creating along the ISIS and probably the rest of forces behind the 9/11 horror... Niiice. How to you really manage to get over people spending billions of tax-payers' money to promote terrorism shit? Read this and see how the author manages to endorse these actions in this research. Q: 9/11 was a watershed, as stunning in its boldness as it was frightening in its message. ... The fact that Afghanistan was the cradle of the attack should not have come as a surprise, for both the territory and the Islamic warriors who gather there are familiar to our government. Throughout the 1980s the Afghan mujahideen were, in effect, America’s surrogate soldiers in the brutal guerrilla war that became the Soviet Union’s Vietnam, a defeat that helped trigger the subsequent collapse of the Communist empire. (c) Uh-huh, you fund mujaheeden and then you are surprised when they organise the 9 11. What, someone forgot to disband them after the USSR? Q: Afghanistan was a secret war that the CIA fought and won without debates in Congress or protests in the street. It was not just the CIA’s biggest operation, it was the biggest secret war in history, but somehow it never registered on the American consciousness. When viewed through the prism of 9/11, the scale of that U.S. support for an army of Muslim fundamentalists seems almost incomprehensible. In the course of a decade, billions of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of thousands of weapons were smuggled across the border on the backs of camels, mules, and donkeys. At one point over three hundred thousand fundamentalist Afghan warriors carried weapons provided by the CIA; thousands were trained in the art of urban terror. Before it was over, some 28,000 Soviet soldiers were killed. At the time, it was viewed as a noble cause, and when the last Soviet soldier walked out of Afghanistan on February 15, 1989, the leaders of the CIA celebrated what they hailed as the Agency’s greatest victory. The cable from the CIA station in Islamabad that day read simply: “We won.” But the billions spent arming and training the primitive tribesmen of Afghanistan turned out to have an unintended consequence. In a secret war, the funders take no credit—and no doubt that’s why the mujahideen and their Muslim admirers around the world never viewed U.S. support as a decisive factor in their victory. As they saw it, that honor went to Allah, the only superpower they acknowledge. But for the few who know the extent of the CIA’s involvement, it’s impossible to ignore the central role that America played in this great modern jihad, one that continues to this day. This book tells the story of the CIA’s secret war in Afghanistan, of the men who dreamed it, and of the journey they took to see it through. If the campaign had different authors, men more associated with shaping foreign policy or waging wars, it might have surfaced earlier or been the subject of debate. But the unorthodox alliance—of a scandal-prone Texas congressman and an out-of-favor CIA operative—that gave birth to the Afghan jihad kept this history under the radar. It is the missing chapter in the politics of our time, a rousing good story that is also a cautionary tale. (c) Q: None of the other men or women in the bus looked terribly important. Generally speaking, no one ever looks impressive in a bus. (c) Q: Wheels within wheels moved in his brain as he thought of the incredible irony of this ceremony. (c) Q: It was his great good fortune to have been in charge of the South Asia task force in the final years when his men, funneling billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the mujahideen, ... (c) Q: It’s the story of how the United States turned the tables on the Soviet Union and did to them in Afghanistan what they had done to the U.S. in Vietnam. (c) Only without 'funnelling billions... and creating ISIS along the way... Q: Along the way, however, Wilson had discovered that he didn’t need money of his own to lead a big, glamorous life. The rules governing Congress were far looser in those days, and he’d become a master at getting others to pick up the tab: junkets to exotic foreign lands at government expense, campaign chests that could be tapped to underwrite all manner of entertainments, and, of course, the boundless generosity of friendly lobbyists, quick to provide the best seats at his favorite Broadway musicals, dinners at the finest Parisian restaurants, and romantic late-night boat parties on the Potomac. (c) Q: Charles Nesbitt Wilson comes from a part of the country very familiar with Satan. (c) Probably way too familiar. Q: “It was an enormous Jacuzzi,” he recalled. “I was in a robe at first because, after all, I was a congressman. And then everyone disappeared except for two beautiful, long-legged showgirls with high heels. They were a bit drunk and flirtatious and they walked right into the water with their high heels on…. The girls had cocaine and the music was loud—Sinatra, ‘My Kind of Town.’ We all mellowed out, saying outrageous things to each other. It was total happiness. And both of them had ten long, red fingernails with an endless supply of beautiful white powder. It was just tremendous fun—better than anything you’ve ever seen in the movies.” As Wilson later framed the episode that almost brought him down, “the Feds spent a million bucks trying to figure out whether, when those fingernails passed under my nose, did I inhale or exhale—and I ain’t telling.” (c) Of course, that's all perfectly ok, since it's all on the taxpayers' dime. Q: Charlie Wilson, however, had a genius for getting people to judge him not as a middle-aged scoundrel but instead as if he were a good-hearted adolescent, guilty of little more than youthful excess. This survival skill permitted him to routinely do things that no one else in Congress could have gotten away with. (c) I'm sure he was good at it. Q: “He had an uncanny ability to take a complex issue, break it down, get all the bullshit out, and deliver the heart of it. There’s no question he could have been anything he wanted to be. His goal was to become secretary of defense. Certainly he intended to run for the Senate.” (c) Q: That failing was perfectly summed up in a fitness report written by Wilson’s commanding officer in the navy in the late 1950s: “Charlie Wilson is the best officer who ever served under me at sea and undoubtedly the worst in port.” (c) Q: Wilson had an uncanny ability to consume enormous quantities of Scotch and seem unaffected. Also, he was a happy drunk who told wonderful stories and made everyone laugh. On the occasions when drinking would get to him, Simpson says, “Wilson would simply lie down on the floor for an hour, wake up, and act as if he had just had twelve hours of sleep. It was the most unreal thing I’d ever seen. He’d do this at his own parties—just sleep for an hour with everything going on around him, then get up and start again.” (c) Q: Wilson himself would later say, “I was caught up in the longest midlife crisis in history. I wasn’t hurting anybody, but I sure was aimless.” (c) Q: Never before had the CIA had such a powerful vehicle for blackening the image of the Soviet Union. The Agency began placing heartrending articles in foreign newspapers and magazines; academic studies and books were underwritten. (c) Q: “I would be sitting there where the button is, and if you’re twenty-seven, it makes you feel very cocky knowing that here’s Moscow, and here’s Kiev, and if they fuck with us I’ll just hit all these buttons.” (c) Q: It’s not legal for active-duty servicemen to campaign for public office, but Wilson decided to disregard that detail. He took thirty days’ leave from the navy and entered his name in the race for Texas state representative. … He won and managed to complete his Pentagon tour without anyone noticing his entry into the political arena. In 1961, at twenty-seven, he was sworn in to office in Austin, Texas, the same month his political role model became the thirty-fifth president of the United States. (c) Q: “Always,” she told her young son and his kid sister… always stand up for the underdog. If you’re ever in doubt, back the underdog.” Q: He discovered that the authorizing committees, like Foreign Affairs, were little more than debating societies. He now served on a committee that doled out the nation’s money: fifty men appropriating $500 billion a year. He watched and saw how one man, if he’s on the right subcommittee and knows how to play the system, can move the entire nation to fund a program or cause of his choice. (c) Q: The truth is, there were always two Charlie Wilsons at work in Washington. But he was moving heaven and earth in those days to allow only one image to surface, and to promote that image so loudly that no one would go looking for the other. To begin with, he staffed his office almost exclusively with tall, startlingly beautiful women. They were famous on the Hill, known to all as “Charlie’s Angels.” And to his colleagues’ amazement, whenever questioned about this practice, Wilson invariably responded with one of his favorite lines: “You can teach them how to type, but you can’t teach them to grow tits.” That was the way he tended to present himself in public, which was tame compared to the way he decorated his condo. (c) Q: “How much are we giving the Afghans?” he asked Van Wagenen. “Five million,” said the staffer. There was a moment’s silence. “Double it,” said the Texan. … But as dramatic as the doubling might sound, it had no visible impact on the war. It wasn’t reported or debated, and it never even registered on the KGB’s radar screen in Russia. At best, all it did was provide the mujahideen with a few thousand more Enfield rifles and perhaps some machine guns, so that they could go out and die for their faith in greater numbers. (c) Q: But at twenty-five, as a gunnery officer on a destroyer sailing the world with the American fleet at the height of the Cold War, he felt that he was at last coming into his own. He was in command of the warship’s weapons, and his gunnery teams almost always won the mock battles, in part because he had his men practice more than anyone else. They always ran out of ammunition long before they could get back to their home port to be resupplied. Wilson did this to sharpen his men’s skills, but also to empty the ammo boxes so that he could fill them with cheap alcohol bought on shore leave in Gibraltar to smuggle back to the States. Wilson’s training style was unconventional, but he ended up with the happiest men and the best shots in the fleet. (c) Q: “Each new language gives you a new set of eyes and ears, a new window on the world,” (c) Q: As diplomat Janet Bogue told us, “The U.S. government now finds itself giving guns to a friend who shells civilian populations, and then we turn around and send in a humanitarian mission to deal with the refugees created by our own investment.” (c) Q: For all practical purposes, the Cold War was over, and it seemed as if the United States and Russia had come to share roughly the same long-term goals in Afghanistan. The only logical explanation for why the two superpowers were now funding this mysterious war of the tribes was the force of inertia. Simply put, neither side wanted to be the first to pull back. (c) Q: The secret appropriation was hidden in the $298 billion Defense bill for fiscal year 1992. When it was presented for a vote, no one but the interested few noticed the $200 million earmarked for the Afghans. (c) Q: There were many early warnings well before Charlie’s award at Langley. In January of that year, a young Pakistani, Mir Aimal Kasi, walked down the line of cars at the gates of the CIA and calmly murdered two officers before escaping to Pakistan where he was embraced as a folk hero. The month after Kasi’s shooting spree at the CIA in February 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed. (c) Q: While news reports explored every possible avenue that might explain America’s new enemy, there was curiously little commentary on the role the United States had played in Afghanistan’s recent past. The fact that the CIA had supported the Afghans in their guerrilla war against the Soviet Union was mentioned. But the impression left was of a nuisance campaign, like the one the Agency ran with the Nicaraguan Contras. And it was perhaps to be expected that no one from the administration chose to spell out the scope and nature of the CIA’s role in the Afghan jihad. It would have been embarrassing at best. (c)

  3. 5 out of 5

    W

    Quite an unputdownable book,the most interesting one I read last year. Alarm bills started ringing in Pakistan when the Soviet Union invaded neighbouring Afghanistan,in 1979.Would Pakistan be next ?The Soviet occupation continued for nearly a decade. Pakistan's military strongman,General Zia ul Haq,who had till then been shunned by the US, chose to turn Pakistan into a frontline state.It was a very risky policy,challenging the might of the Soviet Union and becoming heavily allied with the US effor Quite an unputdownable book,the most interesting one I read last year. Alarm bills started ringing in Pakistan when the Soviet Union invaded neighbouring Afghanistan,in 1979.Would Pakistan be next ?The Soviet occupation continued for nearly a decade. Pakistan's military strongman,General Zia ul Haq,who had till then been shunned by the US, chose to turn Pakistan into a frontline state.It was a very risky policy,challenging the might of the Soviet Union and becoming heavily allied with the US effort to defeat the Soviets. Massive amounts of US aid,arms and ammunition flooded Pakistan.Millions of Afghan refugees fled their country and were given shelter in Pakistan. In the meanwhile,the Soviets often gave dire warnings to General Zia himself that they would destroy Pakistan.Miraculously,however,that didn't happen.Zia,however,was assassinated in 1988.Could the Soviets have been responsible ? In the US,Texas congressman,Charlie Wilson played a key role in mobilising huge amounts of money for the Afghan "mujahideen." He wanted to kill communists and turn Afghanistan into the Soviets' Vietnam. A Texas socialite,Joanne Herring,influenced him initially to take up the Afghan cause.According to the author,she exercised a great deal of influence over President Zia himself.Well,this was the first time I read about her and Zia. Charlie Wilson was introduced to Zia,and the two men became indispensable to each other.Wilson said that he had three heroes,Churchill,Lincoln and Zia. The book sheds light on the covert operations of the CIA during the war.The initial policy was to bleed the Soviets.But later,escalation became the name of the game.That escalation was so huge that it could have provoked a Soviet invasion of Pakistan. Wilson had started off on the wrong foot with the CIA,but when Gust Avrakotos became the Islamabad station chief of the agency,he had found the perfect ally. Wilson kept finding more and more money and got a matching amount from the Saudis as well.Avrakotos and his staff got more and more sophisticated weapons and techniques to inflict heavy casualties on the Soviets. Tens of thousands of tons of arms and ammunition was passing through Pakistan on its way to Afghanistan.The country would never be the same again.But at the time,the impact was being felt mainly in the areas bordering Afghanistan. The Stinger missiles,which were finally given to the Afghans,became the game changer,according to the author. Before that,the Soviet helicopter gunships,the Hinds were mowing down Afghans.But these heat seeking missiles could destroy the multi million dollar gunships with ease. On their part,the Soviets had used a scorched earth policy,carpet bombing Afghanistan.It still wasn't enough.The CIA trained the Afghans in a dirty war,teaching them how to carry out targeted assassinations and bombings of all kinds. The same tactics would be used by the Afghans against US troops,after the US invasion of Afghanistan,in the aftermath of 9/11. On their part,the Afghans,despite their glamourised image at the time,were a bloodthirsty people.They took delight in killing Soviet soldiers with as much cruelty as possible.After the Soviets left,the warlords turned on each other. The story of Charlie Wilson is very colourful.He liked his drink and he was a womaniser,who took beauty queens and belly dancers on his foreign junkets,including those to Egypt and Pakistan. He wasn't too well known in the US,but abroad,he was a VIP.His escapades in Pakistan are very entertaining and so are his encounters with General Zia.He even got Zia to slip him into Afghanistan to witness several days of fighting. A very well-written book,in which the author did a lot of original research and interviewed lots of key players including General Zia himself.He doesn't however,analyse the plane crash that killed General Zia. Movie Review Tom Hanks played Charlie Wilson,Julia Roberts was socialite Joanne Herring and Indian actor Om Puri was General Zia.Zia,that ruthless strongman,is presented as a caricature. In an ironic scene,Joanne Herring,while introducing Zia to her guests,says that Zia did not kill Bhutto ! It is a commercial movie,a comedy with quite a few funny moments.It didn't do justice to the book at all.But then,that is Hollywood.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rob Maynard

    Charlie Wilson's war is indispensible for anyone who wants to understand the roots of our current war in Afghanistan. It's also a primer on how Washington worked in the 1970s-1980s under Reagan, Tip O'Neill, and others. Congressman Charlie Wilson and the CIA funneled billions of dollars worth of money and equipment to the Mooj, or Mujahadeen, in Afghanistan to "bleed" the Soviet 40th Army. Every penny, every bullet, went via Pakistan's ISI, as a condition of Pakistan allowing it all. Wilson, his Charlie Wilson's war is indispensible for anyone who wants to understand the roots of our current war in Afghanistan. It's also a primer on how Washington worked in the 1970s-1980s under Reagan, Tip O'Neill, and others. Congressman Charlie Wilson and the CIA funneled billions of dollars worth of money and equipment to the Mooj, or Mujahadeen, in Afghanistan to "bleed" the Soviet 40th Army. Every penny, every bullet, went via Pakistan's ISI, as a condition of Pakistan allowing it all. Wilson, his delusions of Churchillian "Great Man" grandeur fueled by cocaine, alcohol, pretty women, and the perks of a seat on powerful Congressional committees, was able to take the campaign from one to "bleed" the Soviets to one that led to the biggest military humiliation in Soviet history, a defining event in the collapse of that empire. The bad news? It was all so officially secret that the Mooj thought it was all due to Allah instead of America, and once the Soviets were gone, they've turned their weapons on America in the years since. Some American foreign policy critics, after the events of September 11th, talked about how we had created a monster that escaped our control and bit us back. This is what they were talking about. The movie version of this book is far too glib to get across such amazing characters as Wilson and his CIA partner Gust Avrokotos, or the dozen or so other characters, from Presidents and Ministers to fringe characters that ended up playing huge roles. Read Charlie Wilson's War to understand the quagmire we find ourselves in today. The Karma, she is a bitch.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    This book was too long and poorly written. It repeated itself and skipped around quite a bit. It took me a very long time to get through this, despite being interested in the material. The author would have done better with a condensed book that flowed better. The story is over dramatized and extrodinarily biased. I'd like to hear from Casey, George, and others who were denigrated in this book. I think this is overinflated and a very egotistical version of an important turning point in US Histor This book was too long and poorly written. It repeated itself and skipped around quite a bit. It took me a very long time to get through this, despite being interested in the material. The author would have done better with a condensed book that flowed better. The story is over dramatized and extrodinarily biased. I'd like to hear from Casey, George, and others who were denigrated in this book. I think this is overinflated and a very egotistical version of an important turning point in US History/ World History. It is a shame this is sensationalized in this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Scott Rhee

    During the height of the Cold War, the United States attempted to keep the spread of communism at bay throughout the world without actively engaging in real warfare with the Soviet Union. Certain hot spots, such as Southeast Asia and Central America, were the primary focus of the U.S. military and intelligence groups. Other hot spots, such as the Middle East, were of equal importance, due to their strategic importance as oil-rich nations. Wedged in between the countries of Iran, Pakistan, Russia, During the height of the Cold War, the United States attempted to keep the spread of communism at bay throughout the world without actively engaging in real warfare with the Soviet Union. Certain hot spots, such as Southeast Asia and Central America, were the primary focus of the U.S. military and intelligence groups. Other hot spots, such as the Middle East, were of equal importance, due to their strategic importance as oil-rich nations. Wedged in between the countries of Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and lots of other countries that end with “-istan”, Afghanistan is a country of mostly poor tribal people who have suffered centuries of rule and abuse from countries like China, Britain, Russia, and the U.S. In 1979, the Soviet-Afghan War began, but it is perhaps unfair to call it a war, as that implies that there was a level playing field. In truth, the Soviets hardly faced any impactful resistance. The Soviets had helicopters and tanks. The Afghans had rifles and rode on horseback. What the Soviets were doing in Afghanistan wasn’t war. It was genocide. And while the generally hawkish Republican party in the U.S. led by President Ronald Reagan claimed to be heart-sick and disgusted by what was going on in Afghanistan, they weren’t doing much to stop it. The CIA annual budget for that part of the world was $5 million. Pocket change compared to what was being spent in Central and South America. There were also only about three CIA officers in charge of the Afghan division. Gust Avrakotos, a blue-collar Greek-American from PA with a propensity for pissing off his superiors, was one of those guys. He was trying his best, but he also knew that his best wasn’t enough. Then along came two unlikely allies in the fight against the Commie bastards: one was a beautiful rich Texas socialite named Joanne Herring, known to be even too Far-Right wing for Reagan Republicans, who nevertheless had a soft spot for nations being oppressed or murdered wholesale, especially when the murderers happened to be Communists. It was her attempts at championing the Afghan people that attracted the eyes of Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-Texas, Second District), a little-known and little-cared about politician who was notorious for being a drunk and a womanizer. He was also, by some strange set of circumstances, a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. This is the political body that was in charge of setting the budget for the CIA. Herring encouraged Wilson to look deeper into the Afghan situation, which he did. What he found was sobering, infuriating, and heart-wrenching. Wilson, who always took the side of the underdog, in any fight, saw in the Afghan people a proud warrior race who were willing to die to the very end to keep the Soviets from taking their land. After finding out how little the federal government was doing to help the Afghans, Wilson turned to Avrakotos. A deep friendship and a history-making turn of events resulted. George Crile’s thorough and incredibly fascinating book “Charlie Wilson’s War” examines in thorough detail the decade-long attempt by Wilson to almost single-handedly push for the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA, which also turned out to be the single most successful CIA operation in history. Not that his actions didn’t have unforeseen and tragic consequences: the lack of any aid and support in helping the Afghan people rebuild their government, infrastructure, schools, hospitals, etc. after kicking the Soviets out created a set of falling dominoes that directly led to the events of September 11, 2001. It wasn’t, of course, for lack of trying on Wilson’s part. He quickly learned that while his fellow Americans were okay with spending billions on killing Russians, they weren’t that interested in giving aid money to poor people in a desert. As Wilson himself once said, “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. And the people who deserved the credit are the ones who made the sacrifice. And then we fucked up the endgame.” Which, if you think about it, is so very American. P.S. The 2007 Mike Nichols’s film starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a decent if somewhat white-washed and CliffsNotes adaptation of Criles’s far-superior book. It’s really all in the details, or lack thereof. Much of the film criticism stems from the decision by the screenwriters (Aaron Sorkin being one of them) to neglect to include any information about CIA money going to a thoroughly awful Afghani named Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, who used some of his CIA money to kill Russkies, sure, but also to kill other Afghanis he didn’t like. Hollywood doesn’t like messy stuff like this getting in the way of a good black-and-white story of good and evil. Thankfully, Criles doesn’t sugar-coat anything, nor does he leave any important information like this out of his book. He paints a pretty accurate picture of Wilson and Avrakotos as decent humans with a lot of gray areas.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    This definately falls in the category of truth being stranger than fiction because this story is so unlikely that no one would believe it if it hadn't happened. Not only is there much more detail and depth than the movie even hinted at, it's also a great inside look at how the American government and intelligence community actually work. This definately falls in the category of truth being stranger than fiction because this story is so unlikely that no one would believe it if it hadn't happened. Not only is there much more detail and depth than the movie even hinted at, it's also a great inside look at how the American government and intelligence community actually work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    An incredibly entertaining history of Amercia's most successful covert war via proxy. When the Soviets went into Afghanistan, Congressman Charlie Wilson pushed to support the mujaheddin. It's true that this eventually turned against us, providing the training that militarized those who would eventually become terrorists, but those dots wouldn't be connected until many years later. At the time, many thought it plausible that Afghanistan would be solidly a U.S. partisan. The U.S. State Department i An incredibly entertaining history of Amercia's most successful covert war via proxy. When the Soviets went into Afghanistan, Congressman Charlie Wilson pushed to support the mujaheddin. It's true that this eventually turned against us, providing the training that militarized those who would eventually become terrorists, but those dots wouldn't be connected until many years later. At the time, many thought it plausible that Afghanistan would be solidly a U.S. partisan. The U.S. State Department is tragically often blinded to reality (typically because real subject experts aren't considered trustworthy by the True Patriots or other ideologues among their appointed and elected taskmasters), so prior lessons of The Great Game weren't examined or considered. Tom Hanks starred as Charlie Wilson in the movie of the same name, which also featured the wonderful (and recently deceased, c. 2014) Philip Seymour Hoffman as the maverick CIA agent. Charlie Wilson died on 10 February 2010, prompting a small torrent of obits— Obituaries worth reading: ☠ The Economist Charles Nesbitt Wilson, congressman, party animal and saviour of Afghanistan. ☠ The UK Guardian: Charlie Wilson: Flamboyant Texan congressman who masterminded covert US support for the mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war ☠ New York Times Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76 ☠ BBC News: Obituary: US Congressman Charlie Wilson ­

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects. A movie was made based on this book (2007), directed by Mike Nichols with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman. A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects. A movie was made based on this book (2007), directed by Mike Nichols with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Naeem

    This is a popular book which will soon be a film. But more goes on here than meets the eye. On the face of things, it seems like a book about the heroic efforts of a one man to help the Afghan Mujahideen take on the Soviets. But the author is actually telling three stories. The second on is about the journey to find meaningful desire. Charlie Wilson is a wreck of a human who moves from false desire to false desire until he gets to the Mujahideen. The question is: does he ever find his desire? If This is a popular book which will soon be a film. But more goes on here than meets the eye. On the face of things, it seems like a book about the heroic efforts of a one man to help the Afghan Mujahideen take on the Soviets. But the author is actually telling three stories. The second on is about the journey to find meaningful desire. Charlie Wilson is a wreck of a human who moves from false desire to false desire until he gets to the Mujahideen. The question is: does he ever find his desire? If not then what is this story really about? An excellent comparison would be between Charlie Wilson and the lead character (Chris Cassidy) in the The Road to Hell: The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity. In the latter book, our friend the humanitarian, sacrifices his child and family life in order to modernize the Somalis. What is the difference between this character and Charlie Wilson? As Jenny Edkins asks: "Whose hunger? Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid" Whose hunger are we feeding? Just whom is Charlie Wilson helping? In Charlie Wilson's life we get a profound tale about how the search to fill empty desires in the West end up reconfiguring the geopolitics of the 3rd world. This is the third story. It is also the the real story of modernity, colonialism, and most cultural encounters in the last 500 years or so. Cirle may or may not know that he is telling all three tales. I am not sure it matters. Often, indeed, very often our stories say more than we know. Once I started this book, I had to read all of it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I guess now that Tom Hanks starred in a movie based on this book, I'm obligated to write a review. If you're into politics , intrigue, and war stories, this will be your favorite book. It's a completely true story, yet it reads like the best fiction in the genre. The movie covered a lot, but of course, a lot was left out, like Charlie's short marriage and long decline into alcoholism, which was only symbolized in the movie. Charlie Wilson was a Democrat hawk who saved freedom for the world from t I guess now that Tom Hanks starred in a movie based on this book, I'm obligated to write a review. If you're into politics , intrigue, and war stories, this will be your favorite book. It's a completely true story, yet it reads like the best fiction in the genre. The movie covered a lot, but of course, a lot was left out, like Charlie's short marriage and long decline into alcoholism, which was only symbolized in the movie. Charlie Wilson was a Democrat hawk who saved freedom for the world from the Russians, stopping them for the first time from taking over a country, by spending insane amounts of U.S. treasure to fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this same event set the stage for the Taliban takeover as Charlie was incapable of drawing the same level interest in Cogress for the fate of the decimated Afghani public as he could in killing Russians by their hands.

  12. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Bear and I watched this movie last night and while on one hand I have to say it earned its "R" rating and then some, due to nudity, excessive profanity and immorality, it is nevertheless the incredible story of an unknown second-district Texas Congressman playboy who almost single-handedly procures millions of dollars (which were then matched by the Saudis) to support the Afghani mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Of course you know the outcome. What's so amazin Bear and I watched this movie last night and while on one hand I have to say it earned its "R" rating and then some, due to nudity, excessive profanity and immorality, it is nevertheless the incredible story of an unknown second-district Texas Congressman playboy who almost single-handedly procures millions of dollars (which were then matched by the Saudis) to support the Afghani mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Of course you know the outcome. What's so amazing is almost no one knew about it at the time--all the press knew about Charlie Wilson was his exploits with women, his reports of drug use and other playboy pursuits which were the perfect distractions away from what he was really up to. Incredible Oscar Schindler-like transformation occurs in Charlie as a result of his relationship with the people of Afghanistan. Interview with the actual Wilson included on the DVD is excellent. I'm sure the book is probably a lot better than the movie. I'll be very interested to see how much they exaggerated/changed when they made it. lh, this was the book we looked at in Borders on Tuesday, remember? Ha, I should have gotten it after all!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

    Let's see, Charlie Wilson, a freshman congressman from East Texas, given the most opportune appointment to the House Appropriation Committee. Look at what Charlie Wilson was able to accomplish as a member of this committee in the 1980's. Whether you are for or against what occurred as a result of Charlie's actions, should money be tempting and/or influencing our senators and representatives? The whole time I was reading this book, I couldn't help wonder what might be happening these days. It cou Let's see, Charlie Wilson, a freshman congressman from East Texas, given the most opportune appointment to the House Appropriation Committee. Look at what Charlie Wilson was able to accomplish as a member of this committee in the 1980's. Whether you are for or against what occurred as a result of Charlie's actions, should money be tempting and/or influencing our senators and representatives? The whole time I was reading this book, I couldn't help wonder what might be happening these days. It could give one the chills. Money is contributed to elections. Lobbyists wine and dine elected officials. Why is that? Perhaps financial gain and/or preservation of big money? Maybe we need to eliminate the money. What if there were no more lobbies and no more fundraising, no more voting to keep contributors/sponsors happy, no more votes to stay in office, no more calling in favors? Maybe we would have a better House and Senate. Charlie Wilson's War gives one a peek into how the system currently works for better or worse.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Kettmann

    I read this book to review it for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2003, long before Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts made what I consider a pretty good movie out of it. An important book. Here's my review from 2003: An army of one How a fast-living Texas congressman secretly funneled billions of dollars to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets Reviewed by Steve Kettmann Sunday, May 25, 2003 Charlie Wilson's War The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History By George Crile ATLANTIC MON I read this book to review it for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2003, long before Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts made what I consider a pretty good movie out of it. An important book. Here's my review from 2003: An army of one How a fast-living Texas congressman secretly funneled billions of dollars to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets Reviewed by Steve Kettmann Sunday, May 25, 2003 Charlie Wilson's War The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History By George Crile ATLANTIC MONTHLY; 550 PAGES; $26 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sometimes the greatness of a book lies not so much in its page-turning pleasure, or its unforgettable glimpse of a crucial historical episode, such as the CIA's successful arming of Afghan mujahedeen to fight Soviet occupiers. Sometimes a book matters most for equipping us to do our own thinking. Veteran CBS producer George Crile focuses in "Charlie Wilson's War" on the irresistible tale of a tall cowboy congressman from Texas who did more than any other individual to turn the Soviet experience in Afghanistan into a demoralizing replay of the American debacle in Vietnam. That numbing defeat for the Red Army helped bring the internal collapse of the Soviet Union, and can reasonably be called the last battle of the Cold War. Pakistan's former military dictator, Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, provided the staging ground and intermediaries for the largest covert operation in U.S. history, largely through his partnership with Wilson, and later tried to convey the Texan's importance to Harry Reasoner during an interview for "60 Minutes." "But how is it possible for one lone congressman to have accomplished so much?" Reasoner asked. "I'm afraid, Mr. Reasoner, that it is too early to explain it all to you," Zia replied. "All I can say is that 'Charlie did it.' " Crile does the explaining in this thoroughly reported, painstakingly detailed and calmly written account. During most of the time in question, Charlie Wilson was a hard-drinking self-caricature of a man who hired beauty queens (known, inevitably, as "Charlie's Angels") to work in his Washington office. A 1996 New York Times editorial dismissed him as "the biggest party animal in Congress." He was a Democrat who pulled the Reagan administration to the right on Afghanistan, a charmer and intimidator who somehow kept getting re-elected despite scandals including a drunken-driving hit-and-run and a trip to Vegas where he snorted cocaine in his in-room Jacuzzi with a former Playboy cover model. "Cocaine Charlie" soon became national news, but he somehow got out of the jam. Wilson was, in short, a screwup's screwup, a clown prince of wasted political talent, which just happened to be a role that provided excellent political cover. No one would imagine the backroom scheming of such a flamboyant blunderer could actually amount to anything, and yet Wilson was able to funnel billions of dollars to Afghanistan. He did this, amazingly, by constantly giving the CIA more money than it wanted and forcing the agency to find a way to use it. "His office, meanwhile, was coming to resemble a zany Hollywood stage set as an unlikely procession of exotic figures began appearing with greater and greater frequency," Crile writes. "Bearded mujahideen commanders, Pakistani generals, Mossad agents from Israel, Saudi princes, Egyptian arms merchants and field marshals, CIA station chiefs, division chiefs, intelligence analysts, Russian experts, demolition experts, Pentagon weapons designers. "The talk was always about war -- about killing Russians in a campaign thousands of miles away, a conflict that few in Ameri- ca seem to know or care about. And yet had any of this congressman's liberal colleagues known what kind of plots and vicious killing devices were being dreamed up and ordered into production during these astonishing sessions, they surely would have been horrified." Wilson's CIA partner was a tough Greek American named Gust Avrakotos who hated the agency's Ivy League elite and saw Wilson as a fellow outsider. Only a maverick like Avrakotos would have shown up in Wilson's office and given the congressman the distinct impression that the Greek field agent just might kill him if he copped an attitude, and only a maverick like Avrakotos could earn Wilson's trust. The two became almost extensions of each other, with Wilson becoming in effect the CIA station chief on Capitol Hill and Avrakotos giving Wilson an inside source at the agency. The story of this odd and world-shaping partnership really can't be believed until Crile and his thorough reporting gradually make it clear that yes, it all really happened. Crile also sketches a variety of other figures in this drama with an eye for what makes them strange and interesting, especially Avrakotos' ad hoc team of misfits, the so-called "dirty dozen," who ran the Afghanistan operation in relative anonymity as the bloated staff overseeing the CIA's ill-fated Contra operation was celebrated and feted. The antics of this renegade program, which escaped the scrutiny of a press fixated elsewhere, are downright comical at times. One creative lunatic was on his way to Wilson's office to show off a weapon he had designed when he "blew up a Texaco gas station not far from the Capitol." Worse yet, he somehow dropped a weapons manual translated into Pashtun out of his Dodge as he hurried away, with predictable results: "Within minutes the local news channels were reporting frightening alerts: terrorists had just blown up a gas station at the edge of the nation's capital and terrorist literature had been found in the wreckage." This brilliant crew working for Avrakotos devised clever new ways for the mujahedeen to kill Russians. They were aware that there were disadvantages to giving this kind of help to Muslim fundamentalists fighting what they saw as a holy war. Some new weapons were held back out of fear that terrorists would find out how easy it could be to inflict large-scale damage. But ultimately, hundreds of thousands of weapons were smuggled into Afghanistan on the backs of mules and camels, and thousands of fundamentalist Afghans were "trained in the art of urban terror," as Crile reminds us in a sobering afterword. How this infusion of weaponry and tactical creativity played out over the following decades is, alas, all too familiar an element in the story. Steve Kettmann, a former Chronicle reporter, lives in Berlin. This article appeared on page M - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    In this book George Crile idolises Congressman Charlie Wilson, a good ol' Texan, a coke-snorting, whisky-guzzling, whoring, skirt-chasing arms-dealing, freeloading, hit-and-run drunk-driver, who constantly broke US laws to support the mujahideen, known as "freedom fighters" in their day, now known as something else entirely. I found this implausible, yet true, story so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. Not only is Charlie Wilson's War a compelling story that flows like a n In this book George Crile idolises Congressman Charlie Wilson, a good ol' Texan, a coke-snorting, whisky-guzzling, whoring, skirt-chasing arms-dealing, freeloading, hit-and-run drunk-driver, who constantly broke US laws to support the mujahideen, known as "freedom fighters" in their day, now known as something else entirely. I found this implausible, yet true, story so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. Not only is Charlie Wilson's War a compelling story that flows like a novel, the foibles of the main characters and the improbability of them forming a secret alliance, and then teaming with the Mujahideen to fight and defeat the Soviets seems to be right out of a Tom Clancy book. But it's not. It's a chronicle of actual history and a partial biography. Actually, it contains enough information about the two main characters, Charles Wilson and Gust Avrakotos that it is partially two biographies. Somehow, despite the fact that I despised the boozing, womanizing, schmoozing, and politics of "Good Time Charlie," I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. I had a similar feeling about Gust Avrakotos, the Greek immigrant CIA case officer who teamed up with the Congressman from Texas to wage a revenge-inspired war through the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets. Despite Gust's crudity and roughness of character, I rooted for him too. I think it would be hard not to root for these rogues. They and their associates form a cast of outrageous characters that I found myself amazed at and at other times laughing out loud at their antics. Unfortunately, there isn't a cozy and happy ending to this well-written story. The broad outlines of what happened most of us know: The Soviet Army retreated from Afghanistan in defeat - an event that many historians believe may have been a catalyst or accelerator for the events that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. The US-backed Mujahideen were successful in reclaiming their country, and then they established a fundamental Islamic government (the Taliban) that brutally repressed the Afghan people. And lastly, the Taliban's enmity, or rather their al-Qaeda guests', was redirected from the Soviet invaders to the US, which culminated in the events of September 11, 2001. It's a very enjoyable experience learning what happened. However, thinking about the consequences is serious stuff. The story completely lacks any perspective of the other side. The Soviet soldiers are just there to be killed, by treading like morons into traps of the freedom fighters or appearing before the guns provided through the CIA and Wilson's appropriations. Implausible that Soviet intelligence would not have had some knowledge of CIA activities, implausible that they would not have had developed strategies and alternatives, other than scorching villages in a My Lai manner, implausible that they would not have pursued "behind-the-scene" diplomatic activities. This lack of a multi-dimensional perspective actually reduces the credibility of the main characters and their accomplishments, but not by all that much. On pages 352-353 (hardcover edition), the book describes how a member of Pakistani intelligence, Brigadier General Mohammad Yousaf, supposedly demanded that U.S. funds be used to purchase a certain type of weapon that the CIA considered useless. To work around this, Gust Avrakotos follows the advice of another member of Pakistani intelligence, which is to buy some ".303 ammunition" from a certain Pakistani arms manufacturer at an above-market-value price - in other words, the book is saying that General Yousaf's interest is to corruptly steer business to a friendly manufacturer. However, "Charlie Wilson's War" never tells you that General Yousaf, in his book "The Bear Trap", cites this purchase of .303 ammunition as an example of the corruption of the CIA's arms supply effort. In Yousaf's book, which was published about a decade before "Charlie Wilson's War", Yousaf said a 30 million-round purchase of .303 ammunition came from discarded Pakistani arms stock, was purchased at an inflated price, and was useless. On p. 335, the author indicates he has read Yousaf's memoirs, meaning that the author conceals this information from the reader! A trustworthy journalist would, at minimum, give you some indication that these memoirs entirely contradict the version of this story that "Charlie Wilson's War" presents. In other words, as a reader, I'd expect to know the different versions; and of course I'd expect the author to delve into the details and give me as much information as is available to determine the truth.. Other than that,a great book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    George

    A tremendously fun read and how many books on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the jihad against the Soviets can you say that about? I'd give it 5 stars, if I felt I could trust it completely, but if it isn't entirely true, you'd want it to be. An alcholic dissolute Congressman brings down the Soviet Union, working with renegade CIA agents, right wing Christain fundamentalists aligned with fundalmentalist Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. How can you not like this story? It's a bit like A tremendously fun read and how many books on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the jihad against the Soviets can you say that about? I'd give it 5 stars, if I felt I could trust it completely, but if it isn't entirely true, you'd want it to be. An alcholic dissolute Congressman brings down the Soviet Union, working with renegade CIA agents, right wing Christain fundamentalists aligned with fundalmentalist Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. How can you not like this story? It's a bit like reading a Flashman novel in the modern world. I spent time in Pakistan working with Afghan refugees in a resettlement program, and a lot of what I read certainly rings true. I met a fair number of mujahideen. Some groups were completely against the small resettlement programs, some were in favor. We had armed guards on the interview site, well away from the camps, as the Afghans were as likely to go after each other as anything else if the wrong two people ran into each other. The groups would also turn on the NGOs in the camps in Pakistan and occasionally capture and shoot one of the Afghan workers to register a complaint, if they felt they weren't getting their fair share of the pie. My favorite interview was a field commander with one of the muj groups, who'd been captured and escaped. His specialty was knocking down helos, but he was too badly mistreated to continue the jihad. There were various pictures of him in the field with his men standing around various downed copters. He had a full white beard and a round belly and was a very decent, seemingly mild person. It was a bit like finding Santa with a AK-47. All of which is to say, the book resonates with me and I highly recommend it, with a pinch or two of salt.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    If I were able to go halvsies on the ratings I'd give it a 2 & 1/2. The beginning makes it very hard to put down and it was refreshing for once to hear people praising the culture that in this world of contemporary political analysis and unconventional warfare we have come to fear and despise, but you quickly get past that when you realize that this ethnocentric hatred is really just being diverted to the at-the-time "Evil Empire" Soviets. Eventually this visceral hatred of the Soviets really ge If I were able to go halvsies on the ratings I'd give it a 2 & 1/2. The beginning makes it very hard to put down and it was refreshing for once to hear people praising the culture that in this world of contemporary political analysis and unconventional warfare we have come to fear and despise, but you quickly get past that when you realize that this ethnocentric hatred is really just being diverted to the at-the-time "Evil Empire" Soviets. Eventually this visceral hatred of the Soviets really gets old and becomes somewhat of a broken record. As it goes this one ends up being such a "great white hope" that paints Afghan people as being barely above the intellect and capabilities of stray dogs; equally absurd and obnoxious. This book reels you in by reading like a best selling Tom Clancy without making the reader feel guilty and stupid for reading a Tom Clancy novel. Then it turns into such patriotic drivel that makes me go a big rubbery one sometime around the sixty-third occurence a sentence begins and/or ends with an approximation of "This is the biggest covert opperation in the history of man...." blah blah blah. The momentum doesn't change one bit during the entire 500+ page bout, which makes it remarkably predictable and several of the subplots are simply repeats from 75 pages earlier involving different characters. If you're interested in reading it, stop at page 300 and skip to the epilogue (which has its own set of mildy gag-worthy and regurgitated proselytizations) which does little to account for the "unintended consequences" but serves its purpose to end the book, I suppose.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

    I stumbled across a copy of this book while on vacation. I haven't seen the film version as of yet, but I always prefer to read the book if given the choice between the two. This book is an astonishingly well-written report of how easily one man, in the right position, can circumvent due process and the rule of law. Everyone involved in the events described here seems to think of the incidents reported here as a great patriotic endeavor. I think it's a tremendous primer on the use of raw power. On I stumbled across a copy of this book while on vacation. I haven't seen the film version as of yet, but I always prefer to read the book if given the choice between the two. This book is an astonishingly well-written report of how easily one man, in the right position, can circumvent due process and the rule of law. Everyone involved in the events described here seems to think of the incidents reported here as a great patriotic endeavor. I think it's a tremendous primer on the use of raw power. One of the more illuminating aspects of the book for me was the history of the Afghan jihad. Despite the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the jihad never ended and still continues today. Only now they're fighting the U.S. infidels instead of the communist infidels. Those we armed as freedom fighters are now fighting us with the weapons we provided. They're using the same tactics for guerrilla warfare that we taught them. And now it seems that we've forgotten all the lessons we learned when we were helping the Afghans fight the Soviets. I don't know why I'm constantly surprised by such things, but this book was a revelation.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mrn

    Introduces the reader to Charlie Wilson, a former Texas representative, and his involvement in the covert support provided to the mujihadeen. Loose on facts and long on speculation. The book does not provide a thorough history of US involvement nor does it attempt to. If it reads like fiction, a large of it may very well be just that.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rick Wilson

    A bit meandering at times. But an excellent history of US involvement in Afghanistan up until around 2001.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I'm pretty conflicted about this one. It is an amazing true story with tremendous consequences (it could be argued for both good and bad) to every American. The story is very well told but filled with profanity (all of it, I presume, authentic). That was conflicting enough, but the most unsettling of all is how to weigh out the whole thing. It is fairly clear that the Russians' war with Afghanistan was the straw that financially broke the proverbial camel's back (along with an arms race with Ron I'm pretty conflicted about this one. It is an amazing true story with tremendous consequences (it could be argued for both good and bad) to every American. The story is very well told but filled with profanity (all of it, I presume, authentic). That was conflicting enough, but the most unsettling of all is how to weigh out the whole thing. It is fairly clear that the Russians' war with Afghanistan was the straw that financially broke the proverbial camel's back (along with an arms race with Ronald Regan's military buildup). The end of the Soviet Union was undoubtedly a very good thing. On the other hand, the placing of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms and munitions in the hands of the Taliban, and Al Queda without question aided and empowered the current rise of militant Islam. In the end, which will turn out to have been a bigger threat to the democratic West is for the future to tell. At this point, it's anybody's guess. So was Charlie Wilson a vile, drunk, publicity hounding, womanizing patriotic hero? Or just a vile, drunk, publicity hounding, womanizer? You decide; I'm conflicted.

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

    This book explains Charlie Wilson's involvement in getting funding for the CIA's Afghanistan operation. Here is what I learned: 1. Charlie Wilson and his CIA buddies use the F-bomb (or some crass equivalent) constantly 2. Certain congressman are great at persuading others to co-operate with them, even when they do not agree with the plan. 3. Afghanistan is a crazy place 4. Charlie Wilson earned his nickname "Goodtime Charlie" One conclusion that I draw (I do not think the author or the historical pr This book explains Charlie Wilson's involvement in getting funding for the CIA's Afghanistan operation. Here is what I learned: 1. Charlie Wilson and his CIA buddies use the F-bomb (or some crass equivalent) constantly 2. Certain congressman are great at persuading others to co-operate with them, even when they do not agree with the plan. 3. Afghanistan is a crazy place 4. Charlie Wilson earned his nickname "Goodtime Charlie" One conclusion that I draw (I do not think the author or the historical protagonists would agree with me) is that perhaps a policy of non intervention is superior. [i.e. We should have let the Russians have Afghanistan. Their civilizing influence could have done some good. It seems like our intervention may have left the country in worse shape long term.] But who knows. We were worried about soviet expansion, and maybe it would have propped up their regime for longer. But some of the very close allies we have are the former soviet satellites.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elliott

    One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter-though remember the phrase cuts both ways. Charlie Wilson is one such man. In effect the book is a rather tragic one, Charlie Wilson did indeed change the history of our times as the subtitle states though not for the better. In arming the Afghan Mujaheddin in modern American tactics and weaponry Charlie Wilson and his compatriots in the very least offence armed our eventual enemies, and in the greatest degree helped facilitate that same relig One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter-though remember the phrase cuts both ways. Charlie Wilson is one such man. In effect the book is a rather tragic one, Charlie Wilson did indeed change the history of our times as the subtitle states though not for the better. In arming the Afghan Mujaheddin in modern American tactics and weaponry Charlie Wilson and his compatriots in the very least offence armed our eventual enemies, and in the greatest degree helped facilitate that same religious fundamentalism that blew up in our faces on 9/11. The book itself was nothing spectacular. It is largely the same machismo worship that's so stale and overdone. But, regrettably thus is the history of America in our time. We can never remember the long term. Hence the unfounded Reagan obsession, and the cultural amnesia that forgot the Bush Presidency.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    This is a really interesting part of American History, but it's not a great book. The author bounces around too much, telling three-page short stories about people who helped in some minor way. It's cool to see how much really went into the Afghan war, and how lucky the participants really were, but the narrative is lost in all the research. People are given lengthy introductions and then never mentioned again - familiar-sounding names from chapter one are brought back, but we no longer know who This is a really interesting part of American History, but it's not a great book. The author bounces around too much, telling three-page short stories about people who helped in some minor way. It's cool to see how much really went into the Afghan war, and how lucky the participants really were, but the narrative is lost in all the research. People are given lengthy introductions and then never mentioned again - familiar-sounding names from chapter one are brought back, but we no longer know who they are or what contribution they made. It's sadly just not cohesive enough. Actually, this story would have worked great as a multi-issue Rolling Stones story, or something like that. Images would have definitely helped. Brevity, also.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dana Stabenow

    Charlie Wilson’s War I can best describe as a tale of Robin Hood and his merry men, a bunch of Washington D.C. true believers who never got over the Vietnam War, robbing the federal government to give to what they called the Afghan freedom fighters virtually unlimited funds and war materiel to boot the Soviet’s invading army back across their own border. It is a very entertaining read, it’s well written and incredibly well researched, but reading now what happened then through the prism of curre Charlie Wilson’s War I can best describe as a tale of Robin Hood and his merry men, a bunch of Washington D.C. true believers who never got over the Vietnam War, robbing the federal government to give to what they called the Afghan freedom fighters virtually unlimited funds and war materiel to boot the Soviet’s invading army back across their own border. It is a very entertaining read, it’s well written and incredibly well researched, but reading now what happened then through the prism of current events, I’m left with a feeling of incredulity at the display of hubris on the part of Charlie and his merry men. I have also lost any faith I ever had in the oversight capability of Congress.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caleb

    A good yarn about Charlie Wilson, a Texas playboy Congressman who somehow found his calling as the lead advocate for the Afghan mujihadein (sp) fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. He worked with a maverick CIA agent on the project. The story is fun and wacky. The problem is the book is about 100 pages too long and the author goes to the well far too often about how crazy Wilson is or how much of a maverick the CIA agent can be and it becomes a bit trite in the middle. That all being said, it's an A good yarn about Charlie Wilson, a Texas playboy Congressman who somehow found his calling as the lead advocate for the Afghan mujihadein (sp) fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. He worked with a maverick CIA agent on the project. The story is fun and wacky. The problem is the book is about 100 pages too long and the author goes to the well far too often about how crazy Wilson is or how much of a maverick the CIA agent can be and it becomes a bit trite in the middle. That all being said, it's an interesting story (that became a good movie) and had further lessons when those same freedom fighters turned on us.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    Reads like a novel, with Charlie Wilson larger than life. The Epilogue though is very frightening -- leaving a legacy of armed Muslim fanatics battling each other in Afghanistan and the United States everywhere.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lara Donnelly

    everything about this was great except that it could have been 100 pages shorter. Maybe if the author didn't insist on including ALL the racist and sexist jokes, verbatim. everything about this was great except that it could have been 100 pages shorter. Maybe if the author didn't insist on including ALL the racist and sexist jokes, verbatim.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cherry

    This is an extremely interesting topic and I forced my way through to the end in spite of the book being extraordinarily biased and being in bad need of some editing. There was some repetition, some skipping around and a severe lack of any sort of references. It's a memoir not a history, and reads like a tall tale. I might have given it 2.5 for the fact that it really does hit on some very interesting and important events, but it deserves to be rounded down, not up, for the strange conclusions d This is an extremely interesting topic and I forced my way through to the end in spite of the book being extraordinarily biased and being in bad need of some editing. There was some repetition, some skipping around and a severe lack of any sort of references. It's a memoir not a history, and reads like a tall tale. I might have given it 2.5 for the fact that it really does hit on some very interesting and important events, but it deserves to be rounded down, not up, for the strange conclusions drawn and for all the sexism and "my country right or wrong" jingoism. (Yes, one can write about a sexist womanizer without actually writing in a sexist way.)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lino Matteo

    Charlie Wilson's War George Crile 2003 Yes the mujahideen won the war against the Soviets. This caused American glee. Then the mujahideen turned their sights elsewhere – the glee soon slipped away. (Although they did help bring the Soviet Empire crashing down.) It was not the Afghanis per se that caused the problems for American but the vacuum that was created, the Pakistanis that supported them and most of all, the radical Saudi’s that funded the cause, not only with money but with jihadis that to Charlie Wilson's War George Crile 2003 Yes the mujahideen won the war against the Soviets. This caused American glee. Then the mujahideen turned their sights elsewhere – the glee soon slipped away. (Although they did help bring the Soviet Empire crashing down.) It was not the Afghanis per se that caused the problems for American but the vacuum that was created, the Pakistanis that supported them and most of all, the radical Saudi’s that funded the cause, not only with money but with jihadis that took up the cause. While it shows the power of determination, what a few men can do, but it also shows the danger of individuals running foreign policy. Lessons for today (and tomorrow). ~ Lino P Matteo Notes: Page 2: “Friends, to power, to passion, to black lace” ~ Charlie Wilson 5: It is an organization whose greatest weakness is hubris. EN: It = CIA 6: Finally, there is the very human fact that the most interesting events are rarely put down on paper. Charlie Wilson and his CIA friend Gust Avrakotos: responsibility for transforming the American side of it into what became the biggest CIA operation ever belongs to these two highly flawed and perhaps heroic characters. 84: But it was clear from his opening statement that Wilson would have liked nothing more than to battle it out in the press “on behalf of an innocent man who happens to be a war hero.” 93: But Avrakotos knew better. To him it had been nothing short of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing and, ever since then he had believed that one day the blue bloods would come after him. So when it happened he was ready. 100: Wilson is a political pro, and professionals don’t go running to the press or needlessly make enemies out of unforgiving friends like the Israelis. 160: In the small Canadian town in the Lake Superior region, it never occurred to the local stonemason that there was anything unusual about the request from the innocent American to chisel a tombstone for his Polish grandfather. (EN: Canadian versus Quebec) 198: Ken Follet would later make him (Massoud) the demigod of his best-seller Lie Down with Lions. 256: This, of course, is the madman theory of how power is best exercised, the notion that a reputation for unpredictability and excessive use of force makes threats more effective. 257: A typo ~ EN 343: At the funerals of their fathers and sons and brothers and cousins they rarely wept. They claimed to believe that they were happy for their loved ones were now in Paradise, but it was hard not to detect a certain exhaustion setting in EN: another typo 389: Headquarter of the Knights of Malta…which is located on two acres of sovereign territory near the Spanish steps in Rome, is actually a country, the smallest in the world and the only one with a front door. 395:…a testimony to how effective government can be without government rules and regulations. 476:…famous lines from Kipling inscribed on a huge plague: “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains… When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier. ~Rudyard Kipling 505: “O Toman Nika,” an old Spartan war saying meaning “He who dares, wins.” ~ Charlie Wilson's War Notes by Lino P Matteo The bestselling true story of a Texas congressman’s secret role in the Afghan defeat of Russian invaders is “a tour de force of reporting and writing” (Dan Rather). A New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times bestseller. Charlie Wilson’s penchant for cocktails and beauty-contest winners was well known, but in the early 1980s, the dilettante congressman quietly conducted one of the most successful covert operations in US history. Using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Wilson channeled hundreds of millions of dollars to support a ragged band of Afghan “freedom fighters” in their resistance against Soviet invaders. Weapons were secretly procured and distributed with the help of an outcast CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos, who stretched the agency’s rules to the breaking point. Moving from the back rooms of Washington to secret chambers at Langley, and from arms-dealers’ conventions to the Khyber Pass, Wilson and Avrakotos helped the mujahideen win an unlikely victory against the Russians. Adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War chronicles an overlooked chapter in the collapse of the Soviet Union—and the emergence of a brand-new foe in the form of radical Islam. “Put the Tom Clancy clones back on the shelf; this covert-ops chronicle is practically impossible to put down. No thriller writer would dare invent Wilson.” —Publishers Weekly

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