Friday, December 21, 2007

War of Occupation is Wrong, Not Glamorous

The movie that is being advertized everywhere right now, "Charlie Wilson's War" just wouldn't have box office appeal if it made the point that the glorious adventure was an orgy of killing, and came to a terrible end for us all. Glamorous stars portraying rascally heroic types makes audiences much happier.

Charlie Wilson, an Operator in many ways, made it his cause to eliminate the Russians from Afghanistan. Okay, from killing on one side, his machinations changed the balance and brought in strike missiles and turned it into a rout of the Russians. Charlie himself blames our not staying in Afghanistan as occupation government for the subsequent rise of the Taliban. From what we're seeing in Iraq, the facts would seem to be that had we stayed, it would have turned into another war, with the U.S. army the target - and now it has.

Mr. Wilson's 24-year career as a congressman from Lufkin, Texas, began in 1973. The movie's focus is a covert operation he spearheaded from 1979 to 1989 that armed the mujahideen freedom fighters of Afghanistan, whose country was being ravaged by the Soviet Union.

Mr. Wilson put together an unusual coalition of Israelis, Egyptians, Saudis, Pakistanis, Democrats and Republicans – including President Ronald Reagan – who imported to the front lines Stinger missiles that helped topple the Soviets.

The movie foreshadows the grim events that followed. After the Soviets' demise, the Taliban seized control, which Mr. Wilson blames on the U.S. losing "the end game." The Taliban, of course, gave rise to Osama bin Laden and the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The film is based on the book of the same name by the late George Crile, who, as a 60 Minutes producer, revealed the name of the Afghans' guardian angel in 1987. As Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan's president at the time, said while staring into a 60 Minutes camera, "Charlie did it!"
When he went to Pakistan and saw Afghan children in refugee camps with their arms and legs blown off, and families fighting for pellets of grain to stay alive, he felt enraged. "I saw all the havoc, all the cruelty, all the horror and terror they'd spread," he says.

He pauses, as though he too is about to cry. "I just saw an opportunity," he says, "to grab the sons o' bitches by the throat."

He did so as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Working in secret with a maverick CIA agent (played in the film by Philip Seymour Hoffman), he managed to secure congressional funding, which, coupled with matching contributions from foreign partners, added up to $1 billion. He says the turning point was lining up "hundreds" of Stinger missiles, which he says cost close to $80,000 each.

But it took awhile to get there. For Mr. Wilson, the low point came in 1985, "when the Soviets had backed our guys up." Using the Mil MI-24, otherwise known as the Hind helicopter gunship, the Soviets "were killing us, and there was no way to shoot them down. It was a very distressing time. The mujahideen held on through sheer courage."

The high point, however, came soon afterward. On Sept. 26, 1986, the Stinger missiles he had fought so hard to import finally reached Afghan fighters. On that day alone, four Hind helicopters flew into Jalalabad. Three were shot down.

"I was just exhilarated," he says. Long committed to bipartisan solutions, Mr. Wilson salutes Reagan for securing the mission. "Once Ronald Reagan gave us the OK to use Stinger missiles," he says, "the war was over. Until my dying day, I'll give Reagan credit."

The movies work so much better when the actors play heroes. Reagan still is heroic to many GoPervs, because he ended energy re-alignment, shut down the labor movement whenever possible, and generally played his right wing character flawlessly. The fact that he damaged our economy, victimized the working classes and made the corporate world into the object of GoPerv legislating doesn't ruin his role for the truly benighted.

Regrettably, audiences will probably 'learn' from the movie the misportrayal of our excellent adventure in making a mess in Afghanistan that war is glorious and blundering on the international scale is the American mission. Forget what they read every day, on the internet if they have a brain. The facts just don't play well with the crowds.

Footnote to "War"; it was a blunder of huge proportions, on a level with other Reagan and w disasters.

Without the kind of adventurism that is glorified in this movie, our country might start to develop its diplomatic skills and stop stuffing aggressively ignorant cowboys into the jobs that need nuance and sensibility to handle.

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