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Charlie Wilson's Democrat War (the one that didn't lead on to 9/11)

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 14th, 2008 at 06:19:18 PM EST

Charlie Wilson's war is an ambitious attempt to make a popular entertainment movie on a sometimes horrific political topic - a bit like The Last King of Scotland which also creates something of a comedy out of Idi Amin's horrific regime in Uganda.


It has a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin, of "The West Wing" fame, the best political soap in the business. The film lionises a semi-obscure Texas Democrat Congressman (the eponymous Charlie Wilson, played by Tom Hanks) for helping to defeat the Soviets in Afganistan by securing funding for a covert operation to arm Mujahedin rebels who resisted the Soviet Union after the Red Army invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  Historian Paul Kengor argues that it pointedly ignores the fact that Ronald Reagan and key members of his administration played a far bigger role in promoting this covert war effort.

The film suggests at the end, that "we f*cked up the endgame" because, for all his success in securing $1 Billion funding for arms for Afgani resistance fighters, he couldn't secure a paltry $1 Million in congressional funding in aid of reconstructing schools at the end of the war. Although never explicitly stated, the viewer is invited to come to the obvious conclusion that that this miserly conservative anti-aid ideology allowed Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban et al to step into the vacuum and set up Madrases and educate a new generations of fighters who would use the training and weaponry gained from the fight against the Soviets against the USA itself.

Let us forget for the moment that this film is primarily about popular entertainment, not about historical accuracy. It is easier to fictionalise relatively unknown characters like Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos, the colorful maverick CIA agent portrayed in the movie by Philip Seymour Hoffman, in cinematic terms, rather than the more historically accurate but boringly bland figures like CIA Director Bill Casey and National Security adviser Bill Clarke, who along with Reagan, were the major authors of the Afghanistan policy.

The film is thus an ideologically inspired re-writing of history, claiming the lead role for a Democrat in what is supposedly the last morally unambiguous war fought by the US or its surrogates, but at the same time, at least by implication, blaming the subsequent rise of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and ultimately 9-11 on the failure to develop a more liberal US foreign Aid policy.

The film portrays the arms as going to Ahmad Shah Massoud who in fact received less than 1% of the aid and deliberately obscures the fact that 40% of the US covert military aid went to the bloodthirsty Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, who is "credited" with killing more Afganis than the Russians themselves.  He also, with Abdul Rasul Sayaf, set up the Terrorist training camps which attracted thousands of of Arab volunteers, including a wealthy young engineer named Osama bin Laden.  
AlterNet: Tom Hanks Tells Hollywood Whopper in 'Charlie Wilson's War'

Hekmatyar and the Arab volunteers did make an appearance in an earlier draft of the script, making it clear that their absence from the final cut was no oversight on the part of the filmmakers.

The film is thus a blatantly propagandist attempt to claim credit for the last supposedly morally unambiguous war fought by the USA on behalf of a Democratic Congressman, whilst at the same time willfully obscuring the direct consequences of that act in the subsequent rise of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden.

Having said all that, it has its moments, including some politically incorrect jokes and a rather irreverent take on the realities of US political life. The contrast between the high living Hanks and the poverty stricken Afghanis shown being used as cannon fodder in lurid detail and the glorification of Stinger Technology (When the real Charlie Wilson allegedly got kickbacks for supplying inferior technology) provides for some uncomfortable contrasts.  

Politics is a game and war is terrible unless you have assured military superiority, seems to be the motto.

"Thank the Lord that we have got,
The Gatling gun and they have not."

Display:
While I do enjoy Sorkin's works (and The West Wing in particular), it seems he rarely questions the parameters within which American foreign policy is conducted (or, as you state in the diary, does so from the wrong angle). Sure, he does so on occasion (for example, in one episode of TWW one character questions the selling of arms to a nation with little or no human rights; in another episode, the president agonises over whether to order the assassination of the minister of a foreign government with terrorist ties, before ultimately giving the go-ahead). I suppose one could argue that the chosen venue puts certain restrictions on what may be said (you wouldn't expect the inner circle of a White House to be a bunch of Noam Chomskys).
Sorry for going slightly off-topic.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 05:51:16 AM EST
Yea, the West Wing was about the only thing I looked at when I still looked at TV.  Charlie Wilson's war doesn't quite have the same sparkling dialog or character development, but then it is quite a short (100 min.) one off film.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:28:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's tough to beat the West Wing characters and lines.  I have several seasons of it on DVD.  Along with Boston Legal (the greatest show ever), it's one of the greatest shows in the history of television, although it went downhill after Sorkin left.

Sorkin's latest one, Studio 60, was weak.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 09:07:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and I forgot to say, I enjoyed the firm!  But bring a friend.  The "romantic interest" angle between Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks doesn't really light up the screen.  Giulliani's name appears as a prosecutor seeking to indict Hanks for cocaine use - the swine - and Hank's office staff bear more resemblance to Charlie's Angels doing their thing.  The scene with Ken Scott as Zwi a Mossad agent? aledgedly apoplectic at having to work with the Egyptians and Pakistanis is particularly inane.  Mossad do this sort of thing before breakfast.  The film doesn't really take itself too seriously, and neither should you.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 05:53:33 AM EST
I'll check out the Finnish press show tomorrow afternoon and report back. I usually enjoy Hanks' work on screen, but I am certainly not expecting any historical insight.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:15:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
not expecting any historical insight

No, but we shouldn't underplay the fact that this IS popular entertainment and thus brings a degree of education to people who have never been outside the US or taken an interest in foreign policy.  I wouldn't be surprised if Sorkin deliberately produced and timed the film to coincide with the elections and boost the Democratic cause.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:21:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hollywood has a key role in the narcissistic view that the view US has of itself, and history 'reimaginings' are SOP.

I don't agree that this shouldn't be taken seriously - I think TV and cinema are key tools for building national narratives, and I'd be surprised if viewers don't assume the film is accurate history.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:18:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Syriana was pretty good.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:25:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Saw it again (first time in englisch) two nites ago, and was struck by how good it was, AND how unbelievable it was that it got made.  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 02:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Well that's partly due to Clooney's box-office appeal, which he uses to try to make/be in films he really wants to make - as with Good Night and Good Luck.

For anyone who hasn't seen it - a number of people complain that it is too complicated - just don't try to understand everything as you watch, some things you've just seen become clear some time later in the film.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 05:15:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but all cinema builds national narratives. Andy Millman,  Alan Partridge or Mr Bean are as important as the character Zaafir from 'Extraordinary Rendition'.

I am not at all sure that audiences differentiate between fictional or factual-related, ror even comedy and drama. An (old) movie such as Chariots of Fire is just as likely imo to change or reinforce attitudes to the 'national narrative' as anything else.

But I was speaking only for myself in saying I was not going to be looking for relevant insight to the more serious debates. There has been however a drip drip of personal cumulative cynicism from movies such as 'Wag the Dog'.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:42:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a long review of this by Chalmers Johnson on TomDispatch

From the review:

In a secret ceremony at CIA headquarters on June 9, 1993, James Woolsey, Bill Clinton's first Director of Central Intelligence and one of the agency's least competent chiefs in its checkered history, said: "The defeat and breakup of the Soviet empire is one of the great events of world history. There were many heroes in this battle, but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition." One important part of that recognition, studiously avoided by the CIA and most subsequent American writers on the subject, is that Wilson's activities in Afghanistan led directly to a chain of blowback that culminated in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and led to the United States' current status as the most hated nation on Earth.

I still remember seeing Woolsey <spit> on a Discovery Channel documentary in the 90s describing US Afghanistan policy along the lines of "just give them the guns, and really, let god sort them out". Hear he's now working for McCain. Bully for St. John. Maybe the press will stop calling Woolsey <spit> a Democrat now.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:31:43 AM EST
I don't even have a problem with assisting the Mujahedin resist the Soviet Invasion - it was all the other aspects of the "Reagan" doctrine - e.g. intervention in Guatemala which directly undermined democratic Governments which were much more objectionable.  As usual the wrong allies were chosen, and no effort was made to build friendships and rebuild infrastructure after the war.  If you simply use people for your larger strategic objectives, don't be surprised if they subsequently turn on you.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:41:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This (from Johnson's review of the original book) may also be worth taking out, to keep the history straight re- assisting the Mujahedeen in their resistance against the Soviet Invasion:
"For the CIA legally to carry out a covert action, the president must sign off on -- that is, authorize -- a document called a 'finding.' Crile repeatedly says that President Carter signed such a finding ordering the CIA to provide covert backing to the mujahideen after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. The truth of the matter is that Carter signed the finding on July 3, 1979, six months before the Soviet invasion, and he did so on the advice of his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in order to try to provoke a Russian incursion. Brzezinski has confirmed this sequence of events in an interview with a French newspaper, and former CIA Director [today Secretary of Defense] Robert Gates says so explicitly in his 1996 memoirs. It may surprise Charlie Wilson to learn that his heroic mujahideen were manipulated by Washington like so much cannon fodder in order to give the USSR its own Vietnam. The mujahideen did the job but as subsequent events have made clear, they may not be all that grateful to the United States."
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:45:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Carter has been lionised as the perfect president, but his hands are from clean.

On the positive side, this shows that Obama and Clinton (and possibly Edwards) are going to be carrying on in this fine tradition of realpolitk and expediency without bothering their telegenic heads about mere morality.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:21:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Morality is held to be inapplicable in international affairs. Doesn't apply.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:24:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brzezinski has apparently endorsed Obama.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:26:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zbigniew is on the Obama team now, of course.

Still, Carter is the only President who didn't fight a war of his own. As close to perfect as it gets in the US, I'm afraid.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:28:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is referred to in the movie, which I saw this afternoon.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 10:27:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I don't even have a problem with assisting the Mujahedin resist the Soviet Invasion...

As nanne points out, the reality was different from what most Americans believe - that the Soviets invaded and the US then provided military aid to the noble rebels:

Brzezinski: ... But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

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.

http://globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html

Cf.Robert Scheer:

The movie does not mention that the mujahedeen went to war against the Soviet-backed government then in power in Kabul after the government committed the unpardonable crime of allowing female students to attend rural schools. The film casually notes that Gen. Zia, the U.S. ally in this effort to bring "freedom" to Afghanistan, was, like so many of the movie's heroes, a hard case full of contradictions, as exemplified by his having murdered Pakistan's previous ruler, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Bhutto was, of course, the father of Benazir Bhutto, killed last week in Pakistan. What is not noted is that not only Zia but every ruler of Pakistan since him, including Benazir Bhutto, supported increasingly virulent forms of Islamic fanaticism in Afghanistan, ending with the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked America on 9/11, and that all rulers of Pakistan enthusiastically amplified the successful effort initiated by Benazir's now mythically beloved father to build an Islamic nuclear bomb.

... his time, the subject of our nation-building fantasy does have weapons of mass destruction and, thanks to our previous military sales of advanced jets, the means to deliver them. This time the blowback price of our incessant meddling could prove quite high. Even Tom Hanks can't put a pretty face on that one.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080101_what_good_time_charlie_brought/

As to reason for the film's evasion of the connection to "the 9/11 thing" - from the alternet link you included:

Melissa Roddy, a Los Angeles film-maker with inside information from the Charlie Wilson production team, notes that the film's happy ending came about because Tom Hanks, a co-producer as well as the leading actor, "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing."

http://www.alternet.org/story/73010/?page=2

One bit of accuracy in the film relates to your comment about Charlie's angels:

Crile recounts with relish Wilson's partying. There are many anecdotes of his overseas travels, first-class at taxpayers' expense, accompanied by former beauty queens who seem to pop up at events in conservative Islamic countries wearing skintight jumpsuits.



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 09:23:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
The movie does not mention that the mujahedeen went to war against the Soviet-backed government then in power in Kabul after the government committed the unpardonable crime of allowing female students to attend rural schools

I somehow don't think the film would have been made, never mind become a block buster success, if it had sent out the message that the US armed "terrorist" Mujahedin intent on overthrowing their own government for allowing the education of girls in schools. I can just imagine a producer trying to sell that storyline to the Hollywood moguls!

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 10:03:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was a quotation from R. Scheer and I'm sure he is quite aware that such things are unlikely to get into Hollywood films. He's just rather scornfully noting some facts that aren't widely known in the US (nor Europe, etc.) because not even the news and documentary programmes cover them, let alone Hollywood films.

But it also suggests that maybe it's not so evident that you are justified in feeling that: "I don't even have a problem with assisting the Mujahedin resist the Soviet Invasion ..." when the regime the Soviets were supporting  was trying to implement much more enlightened policies than the "Mujahedin" would allow - and, as Brzezinski admits, the US goaded the Soviets into invading and didn't care that this would create even more chaos, suffering and death in Afghanistan and help to power those with less enlightened attitudes.


Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 12:06:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
the US goaded the Soviets into invading

The Soviets were big boys and can take responsibility for their own actions.  They hardly invaded/entered Afghanistan to assist the education of girls.  The problem is that the US response probably made matter even worse, because they gave most of their arms to the most blood-thirsty overlord of all who killed more people than anyone.  But the US/Soviet "cold war" is the overlying cause of the slaughter.  Tribal rivalries are bad enough but they only become truly lethal when rifles are replaced with rockets.  The US saw the conflict through the prism of the cold war.  Wiser counsel would have taken more account of tribal divisions and conflicts.  But the idea of getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan is not, of itself, so outrageous given the brutality of their occupation.


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 12:48:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Soviets were big boys and can take responsibility for their own actions.

Yes, we know, the important point is that most Americans still aren't aware of what really happened and would not be happy about they way they were misled at the time and subsequently, except in a few non-mainstream places.

They hardly invaded/entered Afghanistan to assist the education of girls.

Yes, obviously; this doesn't alter the fact that whatever their reasons and their own interests, nevertheless they were supporting a regime which was trying to introduce more enlightened policies. As John Stockwell, an ex CIA guy said of his experience in Africa: "If you wanted to get rid of an oppressive dictator you couldn't come to us, you could go to the Soviets" -  who did support various liberation movements (no, not just out of pure altruism) in various places, e.g. Vietnam, Cuba. The latter supported (pretty altruistically) the liberation movement in Angola - it was Stockwell's job to spread lies about it and the Cubans to the media - e.g. a Cubans rape nuns story which he invented.

But the idea of getting the Soviets out of Afghanistan is not, of itself, so outrageous given the brutality of their occupation.

Compared with what - the brutality of the US occupation of Vietnam ? Or the brutality of the regimes the US backed in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc., etc.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 05:36:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
Compared with what - the brutality of the US occupation of Vietnam ? Or the brutality of the regimes the US backed in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc., etc.

Compared with leaving the rival tribal factions to fight each other with ancient rifles, whether over education policies or just because they are rival tribes.  The Soviet Union never provided effective aid to to Latin American liberation movements and progressive governments regarding Latin America to be within the American Sphere of influence.  The US was suppose to recognise Afghanistan as being within he Soviet sphere of influence - according to the cold war rulebook.  The US never attempted to invade Afghanistan directly in recognition of this principle.  That is why their actions there had to be covert.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:20:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Compared with leaving the rival tribal factions to fight each other with ancient rifles, whether over education policies or just because they are rival tribes.

Seems you just forgot that the US hadn't left the rival factions to fight it out. Had it done so, the SU might not have invaded and the regime might have survived and implemented the more enlightened policies. The people might have been spared the Taliban and the subsequent war - and the recent return of the Taliban to power in some areas - where they continue the oppression of women - amongst other things.

  The Soviet Union never provided effective aid to to Latin American liberation movements and progressive governments regarding Latin America to be within the American Sphere of influence.

Of course they did help Cuba - a far better regime in general than  the typical dictatorship the US had no problem supporting for all the rhetoric about freedom and democracy. That nearly precipitated WWIII, so it's not surprising the SU  didn't help other liberation movements. Of course this didn't stop the US from lying about it - as in the supposed Soviet migs to Nicaragua, an invention which got on western media front pages. The later correction (if given) buried deep inside.

 The US was suppose to recognise Afghanistan as being within he Soviet sphere of influence - according to the cold war rulebook.  The US never attempted to invade Afghanistan directly in recognition of this principle.  That is why their actions there had to be covert.

In other words they ignored the principle by what they actually did, and the means were chosen in order to hide what they were doing from their own citizens - how very principled.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 09:04:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He has been working fanatically on peak oil issues for the last few years. Bashing ethanol and fuel cells, arguing for plug-in hybrids, saying all the right things.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:29:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's part of Tom Friedman's 'Geo Greens'.

I'm all for a big tent green movement, but including crooks like Woolsey who call for bombing Syria and Iran on and off is going a bit too far.

Somehow I doubt he's advising St. John on energy issues. In fact:

He has endorsed Senator John McCain for president and serves as one of McCain's foreign policy advisors.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:38:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But separating energy policy and foreign policy is impossible.

Hell, foreign policy is almost exlusively about energy!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:44:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's another Review at Consortiumnews mainly about the nuke angle.

But surely the most glaring omission in the film is the fateful trade-off accepted by President Ronald Reagan when he agreed not to complain about Pakistan's efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons capability in exchange for Pakistani cooperation in helping the Afghan rebels.


Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter
by generic on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 03:05:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you heard about Richard Barlow?
He spent the eighties fighting inside the system against the creation of  the pakistani nuclear bomb.
Eventually he went to live in the middle of nowhere, in a trailer, with his dogs. but a trial for his recognition is going on. perhaps has finished by now.

It is a beautiful story. IT IS. the man who knew too much [and would not keep quiet in exchange for a safe job]. Richard Barlow should have a film after him.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 05:54:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What a silly man. Didn't he know that competence is a crime?

If you read Legacy of Ashes you will find that nearly every administration got the CIA to tell it what it wanted to hear.

Von überall könnte das Volk, Urbrut alles Undemokratischen, Zelle des Terrors, über die gewählten Hüter von Wachstum und Wohlstand® kommen. - flatter

by generic on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 03:57:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One should also not forget that a substantial amount of this US "aid" was, as now, divered by Pakistani secret services to elements who were creating problems in Kashmir. Thus the US was helping to subvert a friendly nation.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 10:21:56 AM EST
As pointed out by R. Scheer in my comment above.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 11:52:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]

My mistake, he only talks about the US funding of Pakistani leaders in general, not the Kashmir issue.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 12:16:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Aaron Sorkin's script for "Charlie Wilson's War" is a  stupid, sexist joke (cf. Aaron Sorkin Steals a Great Role From Julia Roberts"), and the tut-tutting of liberal bloggers about UBL and 9/11 is even stupider, along with the miserable failure of tired old men like Chalmers Johnson to acknowledge that Joanne Herring was the principle player in "Charlie Wilson's War."

No material link between UBL and 9/11 has ever been established, neither money nor planning, and even the FBI doesn't list 9/11 on its charge-sheet against Usama. 9/11 had a lot to do with American troops in Saudi Arabia, and a lot to do with Palestine, and a lot to do with corporate modernism in general, and almost no connection with Afghanistan.

It's convenient for Bush to have one big bogeyman out there, instead of many little bogeymen like Mohammed Atta, and the liberal blogosphere has bought this narrative to avoid even the most distant association with the swamp of ludicrous 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Joanne Herring used Charlie Wilson like a horny little puppet to fund her own really brilliant scheme for transferring Russian shoulder-launched missiles to Pakistan through Israel. The Russians suddenly had a problem they couldn't solve, and the rest would have been local history in the vast shit-hole of Afghanistan if the United States hadn't invaded it.

Chalmers Johnson has probably done more than anyone else to demonstrate the absolute uselessness of the CIA, but he just keeps singing the same old song, and it really needs an update. Farther down on the food chain, a couple of bush-league historians have managed to get themselves on TV by claiming that Joanne Herring's missiles played a relatively insignificant role in Afghanistan compared to the rest of Reagan's assistance. None of these bozos has ever seen helicopter gunships in action, with twin Gatling guns blazing the life out of everything below them, even down to earthworms in the soil under Shia villages in southern Iraq and all over Afghanistan.

If Joanne Herring hadn't provided missiles for the Mujahideen to knock those monsters out of the sky, the Russians would still be running the show in Afghanistan, and everybody except a few semi-literate mullahs would be a lot happier.

Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.

by FPS Doug on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 12:59:37 PM EST
Interesting, but were not those missiles called Stinger and american-made?
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 06:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a contradiction in the film.  The plot revolves around buying captured Soviet weaponry off Israel and routing it via Pakistan to the Mujahedin - so the Soviets could not blame the US for interfering in their "sphere of Influence".  However later in the film the Mujahedin appear to be using stingers - or perhaps the Soviet weaponry looks very similar.  It's possible Stingers are even mentioned in the commentary later on - I can't remember.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 07:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank:
There is a contradiction in the film.

Sheesh. The film IS a contradiction.

 I think what we're seeing is a convenient edit of history (for script purposes) to avoid stepping on sensitive toes. We supplied stingers, and the military and civilian aviation world immediately shit bricks. We did it again, several times.
We're still trying to track them all down, I've been told.
When Reagan and Ollie North, in their madness wanted to make the same mistake with the Contras, cooler heads prevailed---and British "Blowpipe" missiles were obtained instead. Basically very similar, except the blowpipe was more robust and less prone to field damage. Now, -- aint that a better idea?  Jesus.

FPS Doug:

---the miserable failure of tired old men like Chalmers Johnson---

Chalmers Johnson, that senile old fud, knows more about the American Empire than any man alive, is a hero of mine, and the bone you throw him at the end is pretty facile.
Some of us crumbling old men paid for our knowledge dodging lead and hate, and we're still here. Say that again (or something equally as useful) when YOU 're over 70. If you can still talk.

The point here, Frank, is the film is crap history, and a pander piece to boot. You need to know the history - the real history of the time and place- to know that, which needs some real digging.. That's why it's so dangerous.

Sorry, but there it is.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 07:32:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
The point here, Frank, is the film is crap histor

The whole point of my Diary was to point that out.  I don't do film reviews.  Many thanks for your input.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 08:02:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From one of your comments:

Oh, and I forgot to say, I enjoyed the firm![sic]  ...  The film doesn't really take itself too seriously, and neither should you.

For once I agree with TBG :-)

I don't agree that this shouldn't be taken seriously - I think TV and cinema are key tools for building national narratives, and I'd be surprised if viewers don't assume the film is accurate history.



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 09:17:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with TBG as well and have argued his point on other threads here.  My point was that the film presents as  mass entertainment rather than as a sober documentary history - and therefor shouldn't be taken seriously as a record of the period - but should be seen in the context of the of current political/ideological battles in the US.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 12:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

My point was that the film presents as  mass entertainment rather than as a sober documentary history - and therefor shouldn't be taken seriously as a record of the period

Did you really think anyone here was likely to think of it as "sober documentary history" ?

but should be seen in the context of the of current political/ideological battles in the US.

Like the one you've been fighting here to defend the US's covert intervention in Afghanistan for example ? :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 12:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ted Welch:
Like the one you've been fighting here to defend the US's covert intervention in Afghanistan for example ? :-)

I would put it on a par with the Soviet Union's support for Cuba in seeking to avert US invasion and takeover there.  Neither Cuba nor Afghanistan should be seen exclusively through a cold war prism and it would have been preferable if the then superpowers had left Cuba and Afghanistan to sort out their political futures internally without superpower intervention.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 01:21:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"on a par with" ? Yet again this ignores the significant differences between what was being supported in THESE cases (I'm not suggesting, of course, that the Soviets never supported repressive regimes, they did - but they also tended to support a variety of liberation movements - whatever their motives - as Stockwell said). In the US support case, as you noted in your diary:

40% of the US covert military aid went to the bloodthirsty Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, who is "credited" with killing more Afganis than the Russians themselves.  He also, with Abdul Rasul Sayaf, set up the Terrorist training camps which attracted thousands of of Arab volunteers, including a wealthy young engineer named Osama bin Laden.  

The Soviets were supporting Castro who, while far from perfect, hardly compares to "bloodthirsty" thugs like Hekmatyar and has improved the general standards of education - for GIRLS and boys, health system, etc. to levels Afghans and especially women can only dream of. And all the time the US has done its best to destroy the Castro regime - not because of its imperfections, but, as Chomsky puts it, due to "fear of a good example". US governments were right to fear it, and now happily we can see more South American countries beginning to follow its example and fortunately the US is no longer able to crush so easily such liberation movements, as it did by supporting brutal dictators and their death squads - who would ensure that US corporations could go on milking those countries.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 07:30:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No argument that Castro has achieved a lot more than Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and the USSR did tend to support more progressive movements.  But in strictly cold war terms the USSR support for Castro (in the US sphere of influence) was no different from the US support for Gulbaddin Hekmatyar - in the USSR sphere of influence.  He was meant to attack the Russians.  He actually killed more afghans.  Guess who had the more incompetent foreign policy at the time.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 07:41:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]

No argument that Castro has achieved a lot more than Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, and the USSR did tend to support more progressive movements.

Glad we got that straight :-)  Then you go and spoil it:

 But in strictly cold war terms the USSR support for Castro (in the US sphere of influence) was no different from the US support for Gulbaddin Hekmatyar - in the USSR sphere of influence.  He was meant to attack the Russians.  He actually killed more afghans.  Guess who had the more incompetent foreign policy at the time.

Whose definition of "strictly" - it was not a technical exercise. The Cold War was political, it involved different ideologies and values - hence the bit you admitted above reflects the basis of the conflict - in a sense, what it was "strictly" about. The US was not concerned with freedom and democracy, but protecting and expanding the capitalist system and the gross social inequalities inherent in it.

See the interview with Brzezinski - he didn't think their policy had been incompetent, he didn't care what happened to the Afghans, the US succeeded in luring the Soviets into their own Vietnam.  Also the latter was not the "tragic error", as it is usually presented even by "liberals" in the US. It was, as Chomsky says, part of deliberate, consistent policy and it was a success:

Noam Chomsky: Well, I don't think that Vietnam was a mistake; I think it was a success. This is somewhere where I disagree with just about everyone, including the left, right, friends and so on.
...
the business world turned against the war and decided this is just not worth it. They said we have already achieved the main objectives and Vietnam is not going to undergo successful independent development. It will be lucky if it survives. So it is pointless; why waste the money on it. The main goal had been achieved by the early seventies.

You start reading in the Far Eastern Economic Review that this was a pointless enterprise, you guys have basically won so just go home and quit. Why ruin your economy, spoil your situation in the world scene and so on. And they assumed that now that it is destroyed it will sooner or later be absorbed into our system, which is in fact what happened. Well that's a partial victory not a defeat. The defeat was that they didn't achieve their maximal goal which was to turn all of Indochina into something like Guatemala or the Philippines, and that they didn't achieve, but they did achieve their main goal.

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7143

As he also points out, the majority of the US population are less indoctrinated than the intelligentsia:

... [in] 1982, polls indicate that about 70 percent of the American population regarded the Vietnam war not as a "mistake," but as "fundamentally wrong and immoral." Many fewer "opinion leaders" expressed that view, and virtually none of the really educated class or articulate intelligentsia ever took that position. That, incidentally, is quite typical. It's typical for educated classes to be more effectively controlled by the indoctrination system to which they are directly exposed, and in which they play a social role as purveyors, hence coming to internalize it. So this degree of servility to the party line is not unique to this example. But the point is there's a split, a very substantial split, between much of the population and those who regard themselves as its national leaders. That is even given a technical name -- it's called "Vietnam syndrome."

Notice the term, "syndrome," as applied to disease. The disease is that a lot of people are opposed to massacre, aggression, and torture, and feel solidarity with the victims. Therefore something has to be done about that. It was assumed in the early 1980s that the disease had been cured, and by reading the productions of the educated classes you could certainly have believed that. But in fact the disease was never very widespread among the educated classes. However, among the population, it remains widespread and it's a problem -- it impedes, it inhibits direct intervention and aggression.

http://www.chomsky.info/talks/19850319.htm

Thus, despite all the servile media coverage which did mislead most Americans, there was opposition to the attack on Iraq even before it happened, while with Vietnam it took years before there was significant opposition.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:49:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My post was basically an early draft of a diary on Daily Kos, which adds a little praise for Johnson ("a distinguished progressive historian").

That diary is significantly more polished but mainly worth a look-see because of the comments by vets74, who apparently has some first-hand knowledge of the mujahideen in Afghanistan, and even more remarkably, some first-hand understanding.

Some (hopefully) fair-use quotes:

Herring got one heeluva lot done.  

Bob Dole got more done, though.

Charlie's money was getting hijacked by the usual suspects in the criminal class that the Ivy League crew allowed to suck on to the CIA.

The proportions were astonishing. Steal $20. Pass through 50-cent.

So Dole got together a pot of $100-million and had the DC and Virginia wargamers put together a package of what the Afghans really wanted and needed.

Afghan input went to getting a shipload of little diesel Japanese pickup trucks. I'm sure they're still running... probably all of them that aren't blown up.

Anyway the Afghans approved the final package by a vote of 5 groups in favor, to 0 groups against, with 2 groups abstaining.

The smart thin Afghan doctor leading the talk side of the negotiations was pleased. That's as good as we'd have gotten for anything, ever.

None of this was EVER classified, because nobody in any official position ever got to look at it. Dole back-doored the money. Smart SOB.

BTW: the package included 120mm Spanish mortars. Rifled barrels. Knock the ** out of any helicopter repair facility from 10-clicks out.

That's what stopped the "Hind" helicopters, cuz they're in shop way more hours than they fly. The shop is a full-scale explosion waiting to happen. Nothing in there don't explode.

I put the last section in boldface for emphasis, because it was totally news to me... a simple insight into how a war against helicopters is fought, and once you hear it, it's almost self-evident.

Kudos for vets74!

Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.

by FPS Doug on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 06:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
vets74 has a whole series of interesting diaries about Amy Winehouse and other issues here.

Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.
by FPS Doug on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 07:07:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks.  All of which reinforces the question as to why Sorkin went so much out of the way to falsify history and to give Charlie Wilson so much of the credit.  In purely cinematic terms, as you pointed out earlier, it would have been even more effective to cast Herring as the main character and heroine.

Will have a look at your blog now.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 07:13:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Tom Hanks was a large part of the problem, and the synergy with Sorkin was negative: sentimental marries clever and their first-born child is kitsch.

I hate to sound like a sock puppet for vets74, but he also has a really strange and original insight about Obama here. Will Muslims treat Obama as an apostate because of his early training in an Islamic school?

vets74 would be a really excellent addition to EuroTrib! He even inspires a certain amount of respect in the savage beast FPS Doug!

Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.

by FPS Doug on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 09:49:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
now you've got me thinking it's another of your personalities ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 09:59:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
single personality people always think that having multiple personalities is a disorder.  It's not.  It's a prerequisite for being a good actor and a good analyst for the world as it really is.  I'm beginning to like Jacob Freexe - all of them....

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:22:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting point of view.
Somehow I would never have linked a talent as an actor with the ability to see the world "as it really is".

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 18th, 2008 at 01:03:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well if you can't put yourself in the shoes of someone very different from yourself you're not much of an actor are you?  Those actors (like Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston and Tom Hanks) who always seemed to play the same type of character are clearly very limited actors.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Jan 18th, 2008 at 01:26:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your linked vets74 diary deserves a Lazy Quote Diary here.  Although it is largely made up of a quote from a GOP sympathiser, it raises an issue which could become very important in World affairs should Obama be elected.  Europeans find some of these Islamic issues very difficult to deal with - how do you give freedom of religion to those who's religion would deny freedom of religion to others?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:35:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True for all rotary wing aircraft. The Hind actually does better than most, but the desert sand is rough on choppers particularly.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 18th, 2008 at 01:00:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For rather interesting background on one of the (real) characters in the movie (played by Julia Roberts) see here.

Herring comes from a world of wealth and influence that is hard to grasp.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 16th, 2008 at 11:10:26 AM EST
That's one of the most surreal websites I've ever seen.

Joanne King Herring

Do you like to have fun? Would you like to dance on rainbows? You can, you know! Everyone loves a rainbow. People rush out of house to see them. Whenever they appear everyone stops what they are doing and says:"Look at the rainbow! Isn't it beautiful?" We all want to share its beauty with someone, preferably someone special. It is a moment of magic, though sadly fleeting. We would all like to catch them and keep them and in a way we do: in our hearts.

Dancing on a rainbow is really very easy. You just have to believe that you can. You have to believe that when you leap up there you won't fall through. That is called faith. But faith isn't easy to find and even harder to keep.

I have been dancing on rainbows all my life and have fallen through more times than I care to tell you. The loving hands that helped me leap on the rainbow always help to pick me up after I crash completely to smithereens on the rocks of this world. If there is a mistake or a bad decision or an ego trip or a way to worship the things of this life I have found them all and crashed on their rocky surface. They do not provide the joy that my dreams assured me that they would. These worldly things have not been alluring enough to keep me from picking myself up and leaping again to regain my rainbow and the loving hands have always been there to welcome me back no matter how bad I have been. It's just too much fun up there to miss a minute... Stop for a moment and think how wonderful it is to always be welcomed with unquestioning love.

Which I'm sure will be a huge comfort to Afghanis everywhere.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:14:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our house is called Rainbow's End because it is built on the spot where, relative to my wife's childhood home, she thought that rainbows ended.  I told her she had found her crock of gold in me.  I think she may have thought I was the crock ...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:28:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. These people are in a sealed spacecraft of their own. And I am not sure which planet it is orbiting.

But Bush comes from this Texas bizarro world too and I find the Herring site to be quite illustrative of his disconnect with reality.

BTW The movie as a movie was old school well done (Typical Nichols) and nicely shot in a deliberately banal manner by my old film school pal Stephen Goldblatt. But I didn't learn much new about Afghanistan.  It was a very good anecdotal montage of the bizarro world of Texas, Congress and the CIA though.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:31:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
But I didn't learn much new about Afghanistan.

It's not about the Afghans stupid!  It's about us, the good guys (Democrats), and how we bashed the bad guy commies, despite the stupid (Republican run) CIA, who couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag and ended up giving us 9/11.  (Nice work by your photographer friend)

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:43:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ye-eees?

I'm inclined to believe that it was more a Hanks vanity project, though Participant Productions was involved.

http://www.participantproductions.com/

"Participant believes in the power of media to create great social change. Our goal is to deliver compelling entertainment that will inspire audiences to get involved in the issues that affect us all."

Other Participant productions:

  • The Kite Runner
  • Chicago 10
  • The Visitor
  • An Inconvenient Truth
  • Fast Food Nation
  • Syriana
  • Good Night, and Good Luck
  • North Country


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 08:52:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(sorry about my bad play on "its the economy, stupid")
I'm afraid I don't understand Hollywood politics.  Why does Hanks have so much more influence than Julia Roberts?  Perhaps your photographer friend can enlighten us?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 09:40:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hanks costs a lot more and he is an executive producer.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 10:29:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While we're (sort of) on the subject of Pakistan, Scott Ritter has an excellent article up on TruthDig with a very big fact about the Bhuttos that somehow I totally didn't know, in spite of reading a whole lot of crappy articles in the Times, Guardian, and all over the blogs after Benazir was assassinated:

...But Pakistan is no homogeneous Islamic state.  Its roots are deeply seated in tribal, familial and ethnic realities that most non-Pakistani observers are ill-equipped to comprehend.  An illustration of this can be found in the fact that Benazir Bhutto, the martyred symbol of democratic reform, sat at the head of a political party, the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party), which was born not from Pakistani society in general but rather from the ranks of the 700,000-strong Bhutto tribe.  The Bhuttos, an ethnic Sindhi group, possess an insularity that belies the image of democratic reform embraced by Benazir Bhutto herself.  An ongoing rift within the PPP over Bhutto's successor illustrates this:  Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, together with their son, Bilawal, has claimed the leadership of the party, citing a controversial and challenged will which emerged after Benazir Bhutto's assassination.  Neither Asif Ali Zardari nor Bilawal is considered to be part of the Bhutto tribe, because Zardari is of Baluchi heritage and the son is traditionally linked to the family tree of the father.  It is not the history of corruption that surrounds Zardari or the inexperience of Bilawal (a student in the UK) that the Bhutto tribe finds objectionable but simply the fact that a political party founded by and for the Bhuttos is now in the hands of someone outside the tribe.

It's all about the tribe of the Bhuttos!

Who knew?


Qui vit sans folie n'est pas si sage qu'il croit.

by FPS Doug on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 12:45:25 AM EST
FPS Doug:
Who knew?

I did, I did, I did! Said the class swot and smart ass. - Although not the bit about her husband, and technically her son, being from another tribe.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:38:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who knew?

Maybe some of us... A good read about Pakistan history and politics: "Shame", by Salman Rushdie. It was published in 1983, but it helps to understand even the current situation.

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 11:24:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of the legend about British industry involvement in the run up to WWI, business inspired...
by The3rdColumn on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 01:09:01 PM EST
George Crile III was a friend of mine in 8th and 9th grade (1957-58). Very earnest and self-effacing kid. He came from a line of adventurous Criles, and, if you have read his 60 Minutes' resume, you've seen that he continued the tendency. I guess that I'm saying that I trust his research and judgment.

Having said that - I think that his book argues that the initial U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was quite weak - and, as someone remarked above, further weakened by corruption along the money trail. I don't doubt that Carter's administration started the process, but it needed some dedicated, focussed supporters to make it work.

I lived in Austin, Texas through most of the 60s and up to early 1971. We knew Charlie Wilson - remotely - as a blowhard good-ol'-boy state representative, but we also thought of him as an ally on labor and civil rights issues (however, he was - curiously to us - quiet about the war in Viet Nam). I was very surprised, though, when I read Crile's book to find how disciplined and consistent he was on the subject of support for the mujahideen. I can only ascribe that to Ms. Herring's influence.

As Sven notes, River Oaks is a separate world. I knew a few people from there - quite gracious in an indifferent sort of way. Surrounded by one of the grittiest metropolitan areas in the U.S., but serene in their insularity. It has been the home of many plots and schemes ever since the mid-60s at least (some time I'll write a diary about George H.W. Bush' Texas Water Plan from 1968-69).

Just for the heck of it, I'll side with Ted above in that the USSR played a better, and less brutal, role in the international arena than the U.S.A. back in the day. In Afghanistan in particular they tried - as the U.S. did initially in Viet Nam - to restrict their involvement to 'advisers'. Slight difference in strategic significance, however, with an insurgent Muslim population on the southern border of their own restive, Muslim-majority 'republics'. Boy, howdy, did they pay for their imperialist venture(s). Wonder what's in store for us USians.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 06:54:12 PM EST
paul spencer:
Just for the heck of it, I'll side with Ted above in that the USSR played a better, and less brutal, role in the international arena than the U.S.A.

So is Putin, now, in Chechnya,  more brutal than Gorbachev was in his time?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Jan 17th, 2008 at 07:29:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw it yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. All theose wonderful little details, good acting, good photo, and the warm fuzzy feeling from the days of yore when the Americans were without question the Good guys and the Russians the Bad guys.

A more simple world.

While this movie is no documentary but entertainment, it's also a great film to watch after you've suffered through a particular bad bout of Bush-induced anti-amercansism, as it is sure to rekindle your love of America in general and Texas in particular.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 10:19:17 AM EST
the days of yore when the Americans were without question the Good guys and the Russians the Bad guys.

I didn't realise it was a fantasy movie.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 10:26:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
John Wayne back from the dead?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 10:36:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You thought it was a documentary?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 10:41:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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