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Charlie Wilson’s War

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Flamboyant playboy Texan Congressman, Charlie Wilson, who died earlier today was perhaps the last of gentlemen-adventurers. Like to many an adventurer before him, the challenge came in the form of a beautiful woman: thrice-married socialite and philanthropist Joanne Herring who, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, smuggled herself into that country to film the invasion.

Charlie Wilson, who she was dating at the time, was an influential member of the defence appropriations committee. The duo, along with some CIA help, launched a scheme to back the anti-Soviet militia, the mujahideen. Using Israeli and Swiss arms, and US and Saudi money, they managed to arm the mujahideen; with Wilson’s help, the United States’ funding of the Afghan resistance increased from the $30 million in 1984 to $630 million in 1987, with each fund matched by the Saudis. In 1986, Wilson prevailed over the Pentagon, CIA, and State Department resistance to send 1000 shoulder-fired surface-to-air Stinger missiles and 250 launchers to Afghanistan. Wilson quipped, “Whenever a plane goes down, I always fear it is one of our missiles. Most of all I wanted to bloody the Red Army. I think the bloodying thereof had a great deal to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

The last Russian soldier left Afghanistan in February 1989. Wilson had won. The U.S. quickly lost its interest from Afghanistan. Funding of Afghan resistance leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezbi Islami party was cut off immediately. Disenchanted and armed, they would first support Saddam Hussein’s Kuwait invasion and would became the original Taliban. Wilson himself retired from the Congress displeased at how the United States treated his former allies. Seeing his weapons ending up in the hands of the Taliban regime, which took power in Afghanistan and harbored Osama bin Laden, Wilson reflected, “I feel guilty about it. I really do. Those things happen. How are you going to defeat the Red Army without a gun? You can’t blame the Marines for teaching Lee Harvey Oswald how to shoot.”

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

February 10, 2010 at 9:42 pm

9 Responses

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  1. [...] Charlie Wilson’s War [...]

  2. I haven’t seen this photo before.
    Pretty awesome though, especially as it catalysed support for the Afghan-Soviet war

    Spliffer

    February 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  3. I haven’t seen this photo before.
    Pretty awesome though, especially as it catalysed support for the Afghan-Soviet war.
    Probably the same as the Afghan Girl photo (around the same period I guess)

    Spliffer

    February 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  4. insomne

    February 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

  5. [...] Das waren noch Zeiten: Congressman Charlie Wilson in AFG [...]

  6. Unless I’m mistaken, the guy on the far left is Ahmad Shah Massoud, which makes this photo even more fascinating (to me at least.) His role was in the Soviet-Afghan conflict was hugely important; I was surprised he was only given a brief mention in the Charlie wilson’s War film w/ Tom Hanks. Nevertheless, thanks for posting this pic!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_Shah_Massoud

    John B.

    February 17, 2010 at 1:16 am

  7. the AFGHANISTAN WAR USELESS AND STUPID IN THE 1980s. THE AFGHANISTAN WAR IS USELESS AND STUPID IN YHE 2000S I THANK YOU VERY MUCH FUCK OUR FASCIST NAZI GOVERNMENT……

    DAVID PATRIOT

    February 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

  8. [...] In observance of the six-month anniversary of the passing of Congressman Charlie Wilson, I’m posting an updated version of the blog article, “The Day I Fell In Love With [...]

  9. [...] In observance of the six-month anniversary of the passing of Congressman Charlie Wilson, I’m posting this updated version of the blog article, “The Day I Fell In Love With [...]


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