Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History

Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History

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Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would suggest reading 'Oliver North - Under Fire' before reading this to get a view of both sides of government. Charlie Wilson is the epitome of what scares me about politicians. I'd consider Charlie Wilson as more of a 'Sell-Out' than a hero for what he did in Afghanistan. Crile displays Charlie as this person who would go to no lengths to protect America. To me, I can't imagine any womanizing coke-head caring about anything but their own needs. Charlie goes off and defends Pakistan's right to build an Islamic bomb, which makes me view Oliver North as a saint compared to Charlie. Even though Oliver North sold arms to Iran in exchange to free the hostages and use the profits to send to Nicaragua, Charlie sold weapons, gave billions of dollars, and trained are eventual enemy. It's nice to know that coke-heads can run this country. It makes me think about the high gas prices and products and why they came about. It amazed me on how Israel played such a neutral position by providing Iran with weapons, by making special weapons for the Afghans, and by becoming involved in American politics so deeply. Israel makes me think that they care more about themselves than anyone else in the world even disregarding their own allies. There is no way that I can believe that the money to fund this Afghan program was handled properly. Charlies deep pashion for the Afghans were probably caused because of the money he was stealing from the program. The US was probably funding the Islamic bomb with this money as well. The only thing I can say bad about this book is how Crile would introduce each charcter in the same format. You will know what I'm talking about when you read the book. Also, I guess Tom Hanks is supposed to play Charile Wilson in the movie, which I find hard to believe because of Charlie's coke problem and also being 6'4 wher Hanks is only 5'10. Every paranoid idea that I ever thought about this government comes to reality in Crile's book, 'Charlie Wilson's War'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book contains an incredible story of Hedinism, Obsession, Politics, War, Good vs. Evil, and Intrigue. However, I have to wonder if the 'History' may be a bit dubious or slanted. The Author idolizes Congressman Charlie Wilson and takes effort to draw the reader into his congregation of Wilson Worshipers. But, from this 'tale', it is hard to decide if Wilson should be tried and shot, or should he be given the greatest of American and Afghan honors. Maybe, we should do both! Or, maybe he should be dismissed as an exaggerator and egotist. Either way, I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading History and Historical Fiction. But, they should all need to keep in mind that this 'Story' may be just that, a story. I think the real fun of this book though will be in the years to come. As we watch the unfolding of the 'rest of the story' as declassification and 'deathbed testimony' reveals the Truths and Consequenses of this 'One-Man War'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fantastic, a must read. While reading this book I laughed out loud on numerous occasions. However, not only funny, this book is an insightful look into Middle East politics. Absolutely wonderful.
Anonymous 11 months ago
yeremenko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is book tells a story that is rarely expressed elsewhere. The characters are so flamboyant it is hard to believe they are real people, and this is nonfiction. Late in the book Crile discusses the dilemma anyone writing about Charlie Wilson deals with. Wilson could easily be portrayed as a hero or a buffoon. This dichotomy dominates the narrative. Wilson the brilliant legislator, master of the smoke filled room, the true idealist is hampered by his drunken, womanizing, junket taking alter ego. Though this book is a tribute to Wilson¿s effort to arm the Mujadeen against the Soviets and their ultimate victory in that war, but the true revelation is how he did it. One man, Wilson pushed literally billions of dollars American money to arm Muslim extremists in a great jihad. That one congressman could so alter foreign policy, and the course of history is both amazing and frightening. The press and the rest of congress focused on the Contras and Charlie Wilson began a far bigger program virtually unnoticed. Even without the dangerous aftermath of the Taliban, of a young Osama Bin laden seeing a superpower fall, the fact billions of dollars can be spent by a handful of men with little oversight is chilling.It is clear much of the information comes from interviews with Wilson and other protagonists like CIA man Gust Avrakotos and socialite Joanne Herron. Though Crile pays lip service to the dreadful aftermath of 911, and Islamic extremism he identifies too closely with his subjects. He mentions Texas Billionaire Herron steadfastly defended murderers and brutal dictators because of favorable impressions she gained from brief meetings. But he is generally gentle in his portrayal of this naïve manipulator. It is staggeringly sad such people have such influence on government policy entirely because of their wealth. It is not hard to imagine how the private discussions at few select social clubs decide the fate of nations. It seems all you need is a billion dollars, or to impress somebody who has a billion dollars to enter the conversation.It is great story, an exciting story, but hardly a heroic one.
Eagleduck86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A riveting account of one of the most intriguing and peculiar chapters in Cold War history. For anyone who liked the movie, the book is a MUST for its additional details and anecdotes; such as the kerfuffle over the indecent liberties the Afghan Mujahideen took with the Tennessee mules we gave them.
iammbb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unbelievable but not.Crile presents an insider's view of the behind the scenes machinations and maneuvers which allow our government to operate.Obviously well-researched, Charlie Wilson's War is a fascinating tale of what's possible when rules are ignored and no isn't an option.Charlie Wilson was a playboy Congressman who was rarely taken seriously. A Democrat from Texas who was also fervently anti-Communist, Wilson made it his life's work to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and in the course of doing so, set the stage for the collapse of the Soviet Union.While the book deals with events which took place 25 or so years ago, there's an awful lot of it which echoes today. I had an eerie familiarity with many of the names and locations such as Abdul Haq, Bagram and Jalalabad.Wilson and his cohorts were trying to make Afghanistan the Soviets' Vietnam but as I read, I just kept seeing disconcerting parallels between the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and our present day experiences in Iraq.I had an a-ha moment when Crile states that "Israel's most dangerous enemy was Saddam Hussein's Iraq."Crile's non-fiction book reads like a spy novel and provides an effortless education into an area of the world which continues to have a global impact.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the most interesting and exciting book I have read this year! Molly Ivins called it a ¿whale of a tale,¿ and it was that and more. This book reads more like a spy novel than the truth, but it is undoubtably non-fiction. I saw the recently released movie of the same name last night, and the movie is good, but you seriously don't want to miss this book. The movie would have been three days long to include all the interesting parts of this complex and compelling story. And this morning I read that Benazir Bhutto has been assassinated. Having finished this book just a few days ago, I can clearly see the machinations of unintended consequences at work in this tragedy. If you read only one book this year, this is the one I would recommend without reservation.
BoThompson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What amazes me is that one Congressman manipulates the system, spends that much money and gets those things done. And we are still spilling our blood and treasure there thirty years later. We go in and follow the Russians' folly. Oh, the price of empire!!! What a tale - better than any fiction.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book opens a fascinating window on US involvement in the Soviet war in Afghanistan and how the Congress operates. Charlie Wilson is an American archetype - the boozing, loud-mouthed, brash Texan with the trophy woman on his arm. (The cocaine snorting maybe is not quite so much a part of the stereotype.) Wilson managed to stay barely a half step ahead of the law as he indulged his reckless self-destructive behavior. At the same time, he took full advantage of the arcane rules of the US House of Representatives to wield an out-sized influence in the US Afghanistan policy supporting the Afhgani resistance and pushing to provide them with high-tech weaponry. An entertaining character! And if he had confined himself to pork barrel projects for his East Texas district, you could say 'no harm, no foul'. Unfortunately, he appears to have had a sizeable amount of influence over policy. The Soviets left, the US lost interest and control of Afghanistan fell to the Islamist fundamentalists who now had modern military equipment to sell on the black market. In the end the Taliban ended up in power with the attendant dire consequences.
ALincolnNut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Slow and steady, says the old adage, wins the race. Half the battle, others say, is showing up. Whatever cliché you choose, none will explain how Texas Representative Charlie Wilson, an unknown Republican Congressman in a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives spear-headed the exponential increase in secret appropriations to support Afghan fighters against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.Simply saying "truth is stranger than fiction" still does not adequately explain the bizarre true story told by veteran "60 Minutes" producer George Crile in "Charlie Wilson's War." Undergirded by years of research, including what certainly must have been extensive interviews with several of the principle actors in the story, Crile carefully unravels the story of the clandestine American involvement with the Afghans, with its secret operations, money laundering, arms trafficking, and unofficial foreign relations negotiations.At the heart of this tale are the incorrigible Wilson and free-thinking CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. Each has a mixed reputation among his colleagues. Wilson is seen as an overt womanizer, who becomes a cocktail party joke when he becomes part of a public drug investigation. Avrakotos, who became disgruntled when passed over for a station chief assignment, is a loose cannon who speaks his mind.Neither should be in a position to control any major operation. Their outsider status, however, allows them to work without much oversight; their experience in how to get things done in Congress and the CIA means they can use their relative freedom to pursue their own goals. Beyond that, though, they also negotiate with other foreign governments in order to facilitate their plans.The story of their amazing success -- in that the Soviet Union retreated from Afghanistan in 1989 -- is an amazing tale. There is the sense, though, that the haphazard American involvement may have led to foreign policy problems in the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So for the giddiness of the story -- which is frequently filled with humor -- there's also a nagging sense of loss by the books end.In any event, Crile tells his fascinating story with a no-nonsense style, well aware of the irony and absurdity of many of the twists and turns. It is an enlightening, entertaining read.
DSeanW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yes the book is overly long but the bigger problem is that I couldn¿t help but being put off by this cheerful celebration of American short-sightedness.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the incredible story of Charlie Wilson, the Congressman from Texas who used his position on the Defense Appropriations Committee to funnel millions of dollars to the CIA to fight the proxy war in Afghanistan in the 1980's. The Afghan warriors so romanticized by Charlie and indeed the whole of Congress later turned up as Islamic jihadists who used their CIA weapons and training against the United States. Crile, a seasoned journalist, doesn't try to explain this turn of events; rather he wants to tell the story of Charlie and how he helped cause the collapse of the USSR through his Afghan intervention. The details of how Charlie got the United States, the Pakistanis, the Saudis, Israelis, and of course the Afghans to bend to his obsession to arm the Mujahideen are nothing short of amazing.One of Charlie's "co-conspirators" featured prominently in the book is Gust Avrakotos, the agent in charge of Charlie's War at the CIA. Working with Wilson, Avrakotos eventually controlled more than 70 percent of the CIA's annual expenditures for covert operations. Another of Crile's heros, Gust is described as coarse, "brutally worldly wise," and undeservedly obscure. Unfortunately he had, as aptly put in his Washington Post obituary from 2005, a "thermonuclear approach to internal politics" in the CIA. His protest against Oliver North's arms-for-hostage scheme cost him his career.Particularly enlightening is the elucidation of the back-room politics - in both Congress and the CIA - that played such a large role in getting this covert war funded. It is one thing to know that trading of favors "goes on" but quite another to see it in action, and to realize with astonishment how many lives can be so glibly bartered. (per W. H. Auden: "When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter, And when he cried the little children died in the streets.")Crile tries hard to hide his hero-worship for Charlie as well as for Charlie's CIA accomplices, but he can't do it, in spite of a brief reference at the end to the blowback from the operation. Although Crile talks about Charlie's boozing, womanizing, and lack of responsibility, in the end, it is Lawrence of Arabia the author evokes in his portrayal of the apparently very charismatic Charlie. Even Zia-ul-Haq, the Pakistani dictator, comes off as a good guy - "like a dad" to Charlie, after all. The dewy-eyed slant does not obscure the "extraordinary" nature of the story however; it is well-worth reading.(JAF)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I watched this happen and enjoyed the hell of it all...
USColdWarMissileer More than 1 year ago
You don’t have to read between the lines to see how Charlie & and his friends conducted an undeclared war against the Cold War Soviet Union in Afghanistan. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend…” It worked both ways. Congress did not make a declaration of war to use “Afghan Mujahedeen” “freedom fighters to drive the infidel Soviets out; but they DID secretly fund it. We and Saudi Arabia, and Israel (to a degree) provided the funds, high technology weapons and training of the Mujahedeen warriors to focus on the Soviet invaders, rather than fight each other. Now that the Soviet Evil Empire is gone, years later, they have the wherewithal to destroy a new group of infidels: us-- the USA. And since we gave them everything they needed to attack us, they chose us rather than their thousands-of-years of self-slaughtering. All they needed was a new Superpower to attack. And now, we are “The enemy…” instead of their friend. All signs seem to point to the Russians as financing today’s Islamic Fundamentalists against us. Allahu Akbar!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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reader75LL More than 1 year ago
A must read for everyone who lives in America. Excellent author, exposing truth on our spending of tax dollars. Very good book. I shudder at all of the other potential pet projects that the US is funding. All in all, I heartily recommend the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LPullin More than 1 year ago
An interesting perspective on what started all our current problems in the middle east.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, could of been better edited for a shorter story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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