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Charlie Wilson dead at 76
February 11, 2010 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Former US Congressman Charlie Wilson, popularized in the book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War", died at 76.

Wilson was credited with being a key player in helping the Afghans oust the occupying Soviets in the late 1980s. Recently, he was a vocal opponent of the Irar war and questioned the direction of the war in Afghanistan.

As for docudrama "Charlie Wilson's War", there is dispute over who actually received the aid that Wilson secured. The movie indicates that Amad Shah Massouh (Northern Alliance leader) received the bulk of weapons and aid, but many who participated say that Bin Laden associate Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was the primary beneficiary, thereby sowing the seeds for a strong Al-Qaeda.

Wilson was dismayed that the US did not stay and fund Afghanistan development, and credited this to the rise of the Taliban.
posted by Burhanistan (24 comments total)

 
Where did Saddam keep all his booty?

Irarrrrrr
posted by jckll at 11:07 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks Charlie!
posted by squalor at 11:07 AM on February 11, 2010


An odd character. He came from an ultra-conservative district in Texas but was socially pretty liberal.

I hate to think that progressive social policies can only be sold by the worst of war-mongering hawks, but like they said "Only Nixon could have gone to China."
posted by three blind mice at 11:10 AM on February 11, 2010


That's sad. I loved him in "Rain Man."
posted by Eideteker at 11:12 AM on February 11, 2010


That's sad. I loved him in "Rain Man."

What the hell does that even mean?
posted by Burhanistan at 11:16 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


He was a pretty extraordinary and larger than life guy. His lifestyle fooled a lot of people into missing how smart and strategic he was.

.
posted by bearwife at 11:18 AM on February 11, 2010


What the hell does that even mean?

Really. Dustin Hoffman starred in Rainman, Charlie Wilson was portrayed by Tom Hanks:

3. According to former Texas Congressman Martin Frost, a long-time friend of Wilson's, Tom Hanks' portrayal of Charlie Wilson was "restrained." [...] "Charlie was really very flamboyant—very smart and very flamboyant. And I think if they had portrayed him as flamboyant as he really was, no one would have believed any of this." In the interview with NPR, Frost went on to say of Wilson "...he was one of the people who could strut sitting down."

Could strut sitting down. I like that.
posted by three blind mice at 11:28 AM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


.
posted by fremen at 11:43 AM on February 11, 2010


What the hell does that even mean?

I'm guessing it's something along the lines of "It's funny to mistake the actor for the person they portrayed in a biopic while simultaneously mixing up two famous actors with the same given name."
posted by ODiV at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2010


The same Charlie Wilson who used taxpayer dollars for blow parties with hookers, while wrangling himself a seat on the Ethics Comity, before personally handing loads of cash and weapons over to the same men who would, in short order, become the Taliban, in order to stop the famous domino effect that would start with the Soviets capturing Afghanistan and wind up with…something.

Sorry, but I don't think I have anything good to say about this.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


... thereby sowing the seeds for a strong Al-Qaeda.

"Ironeeee!"
posted by Webbster at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2010


"What the hell does that even mean?"

If you figure it out, let me know. I suspect it contains the secret to the DaVinci Code.
posted by Eideteker at 12:32 PM on February 11, 2010


before personally handing loads of cash and weapons over to the same men who would, in short order, become the Taliban

They were always Taliban - even when Ronald Reagan sat down with them.
posted by three blind mice at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2010


I prefer the Charlie Wilson who used to be in the gap band and just had a grammy nominated record called "Uncle Charlie".
posted by djduckie at 12:49 PM on February 11, 2010


This thread is a pretty good example of why you should not try to be funny unless you're actually, you know, funny.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:52 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I read the book and haven't seen the movie, and I would have loved a chance to sit down with Charlie Wilson and hear about some of his life. Like or dislike the guy, at least he lived life pretty much by his own rulebook.

.
posted by disclaimer at 1:14 PM on February 11, 2010


The go to joke should have been... I loved him on "Bosom Buddies" because of both what Tom Hanks AND Charlie Wilson were doing in the eighties.

Yeah, I guess that one's not so funny either.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2010


Not defending their tactics or anything, but life would be a lot better in the world if the Soviets had managed to pacify AfghaniNam.
posted by wrapper at 2:14 PM on February 11, 2010


It's not helping me to take Charlie Wilson seriously when this posting is only a few stories away on Metafilter from an entry featuring Eddie Murphy's brother. I'm now hearing Charlie Wilson's name in my head as if it were being yelled out by Rick James.
posted by stannate at 2:27 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, you don't actually have to press that "Post Comment" button, you know. Good grief.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:31 PM on February 11, 2010


Not defending their tactics or anything, but life would be a lot better in the world if the Soviets had managed to pacify AfghaniNam.

Woah, now, that's a pretty contentious statement, especially given the two conflicts you mention are totally different (indeed, the only commonality was the involvement of US and soviet forces).

I'm hardly a booster for US imperialism, and nor do I think America should have been involved in military operations in either of those countires, but:

a) the Soviets did win the proxy war in Vietnam.

b) the idea that we were funding closeted taliban and they were funding scrappy freedom fighters is a pretty reductionist take.

I'm hesitant to make a call but you could definitely argue that Afghanistan would be much the same, whether the soviets won or not.
posted by smoke at 3:27 PM on February 11, 2010


I thought it was a pretty unremarkable statement, smoke. The Soviets tried for years to make a functioning and largely secular state out of Afghanistan before they lost their mind and invaded. I thought it was generally accepted that Afghanistan was the Soviet's Viet Nam.

If the Soviets had succeeded I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be there now following their example of following our example.
posted by wrapper at 5:37 PM on February 11, 2010


before personally handing loads of cash and weapons over to the same men who would, in short order, become the Taliban

They were always Taliban


No, no they weren't. The Taliban did not even exist until later.

There was no such thing as a Taliban until the Afghanistan’s civil war in the wake of Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, after a decade-long occupation.

September 1994: The Taliban are appointed by Pakistan to protect a trade convoy and quickly emerge as one of the strongest factions."

Who were the Taliban? Weren't they just mujahedin wearing a different color turban?

Thousands of Afghan orphans grew up never knowing Afghanistan or their parents, especially their mothers. They were schooled in Pakistan’s madrassas, religious schools which, in this case, were encouraged and financed by Pakistani and Saudi authorities to develop militantly inclined Islamists. Pakistan nurtured that corps of militants as proxy fighters in Pakistan’s ongoing conflict with over Muslim-dominated (and disputed) Kashmir. But Pakistan consciously intended to use the madrassas’ militants as leverage in its attempt to control Afghanistan as well.

If you want to ascribe an American basis, you can do so indirectly in that Western hands-off policies following the occupation allowed an endless civil war to make the stability the Taliban offered look attractive.

Chaos and corruption ensued and life only grew harder for many Afghans.

In 1994, a group of provincial vigilantes led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the administrator of a religious school, rose up against these forces. He and his followers called themselves "the students" -- the taliban in the Pashto language.


Of course, even that disinterest was in fact part of an international treaty which the US signed, the Geneva Accords.

Truly, the Taliban are neither native to Afghanistan nor were they latter-day muj. They did arise in an environment that was largely directly tied to the Afghan occupation -- mainly in the sense of the enormous numbers of rootless, unemployed refugees, but also in the infrastructural aftermath of the war itself -- but this idea that "we created the Taliban" -- or that Reagan, bless his senile mind, met with anyone who could conceivably be labeled a Taliban adherent -- is simply nonsense.

wrapper, I suggest you read The Hidden War. While the Soviets, pre-invasion, engaged in a lot of commendable reform-oriented modernization efforts we might still hail today (women's rights, universities, agrarian reform) the proxies running the place had little popular support and took and held their power with a brutal campaign of repression, backlash to which sparked the Soviet invasion. By all accounts, things only got worse. The secularism of the invaders and their allies was a direct cause of the rise of religious opposition. (See e.g. Ismail Khan, who went from a clean-shaven Soviet-trained Afghan officer to a bearded quasi-religious mystic.) In any case, Islam was already undergoing a shift toward fundamentalism due to Sayyad Qutb and other mid-century thinkers, and it's unclear how much worse Afghanistan's situation made things. As has been noted, for example, the 9/11 terrorists were largely from comfortable backgrounds in non-conflict states. Bin Laden himself, of course, is from a rich Saudi family. Afghanistan is more important in terrorism terms as a place where training camps could flourish than an actual source of terrorism.
posted by dhartung at 10:21 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Watching Charlie Wilson's War, I couldn't help thinking the whole thing was inspired by the Bruce Cockburn song, "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." A lot of the imagery in the film seems to be lifted straight from the song's lyrics, and if there's a hero in the movie besides Wilson himself, it's the FIM-92 Stinger.

Though, of course, the song is actually about Guatemala, not Afghanistan, and the film is really based on other, more obvious sources, so, yeah. But still!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:50 AM on February 12, 2010


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