Thursday, June 04, 2009

Charlie Wilson's War, by George Crile

This audiobook was 20 hours and 27 minutes long, and was narrated by Christopher Lane.

I never saw the movie, so I have no idea how the book and the movie are different. I always trust the book.

This is the story of how a Democrat Congressman from Texas took up the cause of the Afghan people after discovering how the army of the Soviet Union was wiping out all resistance to their invasion. As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, he was able to move millions, and eventually, billions of dollars to aid the Afghan insurgents who were still fighting with WW1 Enfield Rifles against helicopter gunships and tanks.

Charlie Wilson was a liberal who voted for civil rights, abortion rights, and all manner of liberal causes, but who was also a rabid anti-communist who wanted America avenged for the Viet Nam War. The Soviets had helped the Vietnamese insurgents bleed America dry, and he wanted to give it right back to them through proxies in Afghanistan.

This is a very instructive tale about how politics actually works at the Federal level, showing how unholy alliances really work. Relationships really do seem to trump ideologies, as Charlie Wilson becomes friends with Fundamentalist Muslim leaders who look the other way at his womanizing, boozing lifestyle while he bankroles their Jihads. In Congress, those who want to fight communists in Central America with Iranian money are prosecuted while American taxpayer dollars are matched by Saudi contibutions to fight communists on the other side of the world with the blessing of the same Congress. It seems that if a liberal want so run a secret war, it's OK. But if conservatives want to do it, it's unconscienable.

Political skill transcends morality even as American politicians convince themselves that they are doing the right thing to fund a primiative militia that has no limits on the atrocities they are willing to perform on captured Soviet soldiers. Eventually, these same Afghan militias will come back to haunt us in ways the Latin American Contras never did.

This is a must read for anyone who cannot understand the holes in the news. 4 stars!

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