Charlie Wilson’s War – George Crile

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September 11th made it clear that thousands of Afghans that we had armed and trained had become terrorists with the US now in their sights. How did Afghanistan become a training ground for terrorists? George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War is the story of how one man, U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, Rep. Texas, almost single-handedly launched the several billion dollar CIA operation in Afghanistan to force out the occupying Soviets, without a vote in Congress, and without the clear approval of the President. What started as barely a nuisance campaign turned into the greatest covert operation in CIA history.

Charlie Wilson’s War is a highly entertaining, eye-opening, sobering book. Entertaining because of Crile’s journalistic writing and the indepth character studies of the main players: Charlie Wilson – a charismatic, boozing, womanizing, ruggedly tall and handsome, ne’er-do-well Congressman from the Texas bible belt and Gust Arvakotos – a street-fighter Greek-American CIA agent whose aggressive and “earthy” behavior clashed with the blue-blood establishment at Langley. Highlighted as well are a string of beautiful, seductive women who inspired and accompanied Charlie to the Mid East, Michael Vickers – a brilliant strategist whose approach of diverse weaponry led to the ultimate Soviet retreat, and many many others. Eye-opening because of the exposure of all the back-room politics that went into play in order for this war to get off the ground. Trading favors and buying influence is how things actually get done in Washington. If you want to be where the power is, sit on the Defense Appropriations Committee. They’re the ones who dole out the bucks – defense contracts in your state. Sobering because well, the escalation of conflict in that area caused the deaths of thousands of Russian solders and hundreds of thousands of Afghans. And, after the Soviets pulled out, in the power vacuum that was created, the Afghans turned on each other with the weapons and training we gave them.

This book is a great read. I spent three nights in a row up until 1:30 a.m. reading it, only putting it down when the words started to blur.

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