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“Irresistible. . . . [A] thoroughly reported, painstakingly detailed and calmly written account. . . . The story of this odd and world-shaping partnership really can’t be believed until Crile and his thorough reporting gradually make it clear that yes, it all really happened. Crile also sketches a variety of other figures in this drama with an eye for what makes them strange and interesting.” —Steve Kettman, The San Francisco Chronicle
“Charlie Wilson’s War is one of the most important books ever written about U.S. government covert operations. . . . [It’s] such a sprawling tale that describing it adequately in a brief review is daunting.” —Steve Weinberg, The Seattle Times
“Vibrant storytelling. . . . Crile reveals in extraordinary detail the over-the-top, under-the-table machinations of Wilson, one of Capitol hill’s ablest political bulldozers, as he spearheaded what eventually became known as the Soviets’ Vietnam. . . . [Charlie Wilson’s War] offer[s] an entirely new take on Reagan-era history with international sweep and modern implications, neatly laid over the intriguing, untold inner workings of [the CIA].” —Jan Jordan, The Houston Chronicle
“[A] glowing account. . . . Crile is . . . an exhuberant Tom Clancy-type enthusiast for the Afghan caper. . . . Criles account is important, if appalling, precisely because it details how a ruthless ignoramus congressman and a high-ranking CIA thug managed to hijack American foreign policy.” —Chalmers Johnson, The Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Charlie Wilson’s War reads like a best-selling novel. . . . Crile’s globe-trotting research and adroit writing have produced a vastly entertaining book that outmuscles most spy novels in its quota of sheer thrills and chills.” —John Marshall, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Crile’s real accomplishment is in telling the human story of Rep. Charlie Wilson of Texas and a now-retired covert CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos. . . . [Crile] has unearthed some startling details about this chapter of our covert history, found and written about two colorful if flawed characters, and lent a great deal to a better understanding of our recent past and our troubled present.” —Edward P. Smith, The Denver Post
“A cross between Tom Clancy and Carl Hiassen, with the distinguishing feature that it’s all apparently true. . . . Throw in a middle-aged Texan belly dancer, an assortment of Congressional looinies, a few beauty queens, some ruthless Afghan rebels, and a murderous Pakistani dictator who only wants to be understood.” —Gerard DeGroot, Christian Science Monitor
“Charlie Wilson’s War conveys the sense of victory CIA leaders felt over the ‘success’ in Afghanistan. . . . Wilson himself is a writer’s dream of a main character. . . . A rollicking good tale.” —Karen Sandstrom, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“In the midst of Crile’s important expose of U.S. covert policy in Afghanistan and it’s ramifications, there’s an engrossing character study as well.” —Clay Smith, The Austin Chronicle
“A classic story of good intentions gone wrong, a comedy of can-do Americans loose in a world it really doesn’t understand.” —Charles Taylor, Salon.com
“His narrative is fast-moving, supercharged, and overheated, chock-full of high drama and sexual innuendo. In short, it is great fun.” —Raymond Puffer, KLIATT
“The subtitle here—The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times—says it all. Almost. . . . Much of the tale of getting there is only now revealed by Crile, a veteran TV producer and hell of a story man.” —Celia McGee, New York Daily News
“A helluva story. . . . [Crile] eschews highfalutin generalizations in favor of racy vignettes. This yields a riveting glimpse of the inner workings of a secret area of government.” —James Critchlow, The New Leader
“A gripping read for students of the cold war, anyone who wants the lowdown on how their tax dollars really get spent, Central Asia junkies or those who delight in cloaks, daggers and plausible deniability.” —The Economist
“[Crile] gives intriguing insight into the methods and mentality of the cloak-and-dagger business, as well as to the machinations of that handful of relatively unknown members of Congress who dominate Capitol Hill by controlling appropriations.” —Gerard A. Patterson, Pittsburg Post-Gazette
“An engrossing story of this little known and often forgotten war.” —Sterlin Holmesly, The San Antonio Express
“This I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-fiction tale has it all: a Marlboro Man handsome leading man, a parade of impossibly gorgeous women, sex, spies, copious quantities of booze and enough violence to take Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Terminator scriptwriters through several more sequels. The story, narrated with cinematic verve by George Crile . . . is both hilarious and harrowing.” —Kathy Kiely, Arkansas Democrat
“Charlie Wilson’s War is one of those rare, priceless books about politics and history. It has the uncanny ability to uplift even the most hardened of spirits while simultaneously confirming anyone’s deepest fears about the way it all really works. . . . A masterful narrator, Crile manages to include the relevant technical data. . . .[He] offers a trenchant meditation on just how fleeting glory really is, and just how quickly the wheel of fortune can turn the other way. . . . It has more political intrigues, more suspense, more intense psychological analysis, and more technological know-how than anything Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum could fantasize about. And it has something else besides: it’s true.” —Michael Shannon Friedman, Charlotte Gazette
“Fascinating [and] entertaining. . . . What a story!” —Dennis Lythgoe, The Deseret News
“If you like tell-all books about the unbelieveable things that our elected folks can do for you, you will love this book. Charlie Wilson’s War has it all as well as an explanation about how our most feared enemy, Osama bin Laden, got his start with a little unintended help from his friends right here in the United States.” —Saralee Terry Woods, The Nashville City Paper
“A bizarre chapter of contemporary history that could have been written by Ian Fleming (it is too improbable for Tom Clancy or John LeCarre), Charlie Wilson’s War is a true tall tale of silver screen-sized characters that, for better or worse, changed the world.” —Mary Brown Malouf, The Salt Lake Tribune
“Charlie Wilson’s War shines the light on a gripping story of international intrigue, booze, drugs, sex, high society and arms deals. The last great battle of the Cold War was anything but a typical CIA program.” —Lucas Everidge, Politics Now
“One thing I especially like about Crile’s treatment of all this splendid material is his almost tender portrait of Wilson himself, warts and all. . . . It’s a whale of a tale, and I recommend it highly. You’ll never find another history that reads more like a cross between Flashman and a Tom Clancy novel.” —Molly Ivins, Working For Change
“Fascinating.” —Larry D. Woods, The Nashville City Paper
“Wilson and Avrakotos give life to an incredible story about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. . . . If there is one book to read about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and its relevance to the emergence of the Taliban, September 11th, and the war in Afghanistan, this is it.” —Craig A. Stoehr, The Northeast Book Reviews
“Put the Tom Clancy clones back on the shelf; this covert-ops chronicle is practically impossible to put down. No thriller writer would dare invent Wilson. . . . Superb writing from Crile . . . will keep even the most vigorous critics of this Contra-like affair reading to the end.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Crile offers an absorbing, thoroughly detailed look at the largest and most successful CIA operation in U.S. History. . . . [Charlie Wilson’s War is an] engrossing account of the remarkable battle that ended the Soviet Union’s hold on Afghanistan. Readers interested in the politics and cultures of Washington, D.C., and the Middle East will relish this book.” —Booklist (Starred Review)
“An engaging, well-written, newsworthy study of practical politics and its sometimes unlikely players, and one with plenty of implications.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Crucial and timely. . . . Criles book, with its investigative verve and gripping narrative, is a comprehensive political assessment and sobering account of the power structures that run parallel to, but apparently unknown by, official government authorities.” —PW Daily for Booksellers
“Americans often ask: ‘Where have all the heroes gone?’ Well a lot of them come roaring through in this tour de force of reporting and writing. Tom Clancy's fiction pales in comparison with the amazing, mesmerizing story told by George Crile. By resurrecting a missing chapter out of our recent past, Charlie Wilson's War provides us with the key to understanding the present.” —Dan Rather
“An amazing tale, made all the more amazing because it was missed by the press. George Crile has written a book revealing the extraordinary details and intrigue of a secret war, and that alone would be a monumental achievement. But he has also written a book about how power works in Washington, about how the C.I.A. succeeded in this war but failed because it armed an ally who became our enemy, about how we might better understand Islamic fundamentalism, about how a solitary Congressman guilefully moved the U.S. government, and all of this comes with a breathtaking cast of characters worthy of a LeCarre novel. Only it's all true. And just as vivid.” —Ken Auletta
“[A] riveting, beautifully researched and profoundly disturbing book. . . . Crile’s book is also an astonishing glimpse into the world of the CIA and the power of individual, cash-rich lobbies in American politics. More than anything, it is the parade of characters that is the real pleasure of the book.” —Jason Burke, Guardian (UK)
A Hot Tub in Las Vegas
When Congressman Charlie Wilson set off for a weekend in Las Vegas on June 27, 1980, there was no confusion in his mind about why he had chosen to stay at Caesars Palace. He was a man in search of pure decadent pleasure, and the moment he walked into the hotel and saw the way the receptionists were dressed, he knew he had come to the right place. No doubt there were other members of the Ninety-sixth Congress who fantasized about orgies and altered states. But had any of them chosen to take the kind of plunge that Charlie Wilson had in mind, you can be sure they would have gone to some trouble to maintain a low profile, if not don a disguise.
Instead Charlie strode into the lobby of Caesars almost as if he were trying to imitate his childhood hero, Douglas MacArthur, majestically stalking ashore to take back the Philippines. He looked in no way ashamed or uncertain about what he was doing in this center of gambling and entertainment.
In truth, it wouldn't have been easy for Wilson to fade into any background. Six foot seven in his cowboy boots, he was handsome, with one of those classic outdoor faces that tobacco companies bet millions on. And he just didn't have the heart or the temperament to operate in the shadows; he felt like a soldier out of uniform when he wasn't wearing his trademark bright suspenders and boldly striped shirts with their custom- designed military epaulets.
Moreover, Wilson had never been able to shake the politician's impulse to take center stage. He covered ground rapidly, shoulders back, square jaw jutting forward. There were no volume controls on his voice as he boomed out greetings with astonishing clarity-and people in the Caesars lobby turned to see who was making such a stir. He looked like a millionaire, but the truth was, after eight years in the Texas legislature and almost as many in the House, he had nothing to show for his efforts but debt and a $70,000-a-year government salary that didn't come near to supporting his lifestyle.
Along the way, however, Wilson had discovered that he didn't need money of his own to lead a big, glamorous life. The rules governing Congress were far looser in those days, and he'd become a master at getting others to pick up the tab: junkets to exotic foreign lands at government expense, campaign chests that could be tapped to underwrite all manner of entertainments, and, of course, the boundless generosity of friendly lobbyists, quick to provide the best seats at his favorite Broadway musicals, dinners at the finest Parisian restaurants, and romantic late-night boat parties on the Potomac.
All of which explains how the tall, charismatic congressman with the blazing eyes and the ever-present smile had grown accustomed to moving about the world with a certain flair. And so as he arrived in Las Vegas, he was observing his hard-and-fast rule that whenever he traveled, he went first class and tipped lavishly. The bellhops and receptionists at Caesars loved this, of course, and Wilson, in turn, appreciated their outfits: little white goddess robes showing lots of cleavage for the girls, and Roman togas and sandals for the bellhops.
In all of Vegas, there was no place like Caesars Palace in 1980. It was the first of the great hotel emporiums to be inspired by the fall of a civilization. Its promoters had had the genius to recognize that the sins of Rome could seem far more enticing than any contemporary offering; and as the young Roman in the toga whipped out the gleaming, two-inch-thick golden key to the Fantasy Suite, he opened a door designed to lead even the most pious of visitors straight to hell.
Charles Nesbitt Wilson comes from a part of the country very familiar with Satan. The Second Congressional District lies in the heart of the Bible Belt, and it may well be that Wilson's Baptist and Pentecostal constituents spend more time worrying about sin and wrestling with the Devil than just about any other group of Americans. JESUS IS THE LORD OF LUFKIN reads the huge sign in the center of the district's biggest city where Wilson maintained a house, on Crooked Creek Road.
The congressman did at least have one dim justification for being in Las Vegas that weekend. He could say he was there to help a constituent: the striking twenty-three-year-old Liz Wickersham, former Miss Georgia, fourth runner-up in the Miss America contest, soon-to-be Playboy cover girl, and, later, host of a CNN talk show that an admirer, Ted Turner, would create specifically for her. The free-spirited Wickersham was the daughter of one of Wilson's main fund-raisers, Charlie Wickersham, who owned the Ford-Lincoln dealership in Orange, Texas, where Wilson always got special deals on his huge secondhand Lincolns. When Liz moved to Washington, her father asked Wilson to show her around, which he did with great enthusiasm. He even took her to the White House, where he introduced her to Jimmy Carter, proudly informing him that Liz Wicker-sham had won the Miss Georgia beauty contest the very year Carter had been elected president. There was never any question that Wilson would go all out to promote the career of his friend and fund-raiser's attractive young daughter. Now, in Vegas, he was doing just that-orchestrating an introduction to a producer who was casting for a soap opera.
A few months earlier, a young hustler named Paul Brown had approached him about helping to develop a Dallas-type TV series based on the real political goings-on in the nation's capital. It wasn't long before Brown had convinced Wilson to invest most of his savings-$29,000 and to sign on as the show's consultant. The reason for the Las Vegas weekend was to meet a big-time Hollywood producer who, Brown claimed, was eager to back the project.
It was a giddy moment for Wilson and Liz as they sat in the Fantasy Suite talking about a deal that was all but iced. Brown had already persuaded Caesars to comp the congressman's stay, and now he was making Charlie and Liz feel like they were the toasts of the town. He had brought up some pretty showgirls, and before long the whole party was acting as if they were part of a big-time Hollywood mogul's entourage, knocking back champagne as they congratulated one another on the deal that was about to be signed and the role that Liz was about to land.
Two years later, teams of investigators and federal prosecutors would spend weeks trying to reconstruct exactly what the congressman did that night after Paul Brown and the other hangers-on left the Fantasy Suite. It almost landed Wilson in jail. And given the very high wire he later had to walk to avoid indictment, it's quite astonishing to hear the way he cheerfully describes those moments in the hot tub that the investigators were never quite able to document. No matter how much hellish trouble it later caused him, the congressman leaves the unmistakable impression that he relished every single moment of his outrageous escapade.
"It was an enormous Jacuzzi," he recalled. "I was in a robe at first because, after all, I was a congressman. And then everyone disappeared except for two beautiful, long-legged showgirls with high heels. They were a bit drunk and flirtatious and they walked right into the water with their high heels on. . . . The girls had cocaine and the music was loud-Sinatra, 'My Kind of Town.' We all mellowed out, saying outrageous things to each other. It was total happiness. And both of them had ten long, red fingernails with an endless supply of beautiful white powder. It was just tremendous fun-better than anything you've ever seen in the movies."
As Wilson later framed the episode that almost brought him down, "the Feds spent a million bucks trying to figure out whether, when those fingernails passed under my nose, did I inhale or exhale-and I ain't telling."
Other middle-aged men have brought young women to the Fantasy Suite for activities not unlike Wilson's. But ordinarily there is something a bit desperate and tawdry about such aging pleasure seekers. It's unlikely that any of them would be able to talk about their debauchery in such a way that it would sound almost fresh and innocent. Charlie Wilson, however, had a genius for getting people to judge him not as a middle-aged scoundrel but instead as if he were a good-hearted adolescent, guilty of little more than youthful excess.
This survival skill permitted him to routinely do things that no one else in Congress could have gotten away with. One of the first to marvel at this unique capacity to openly flaunt the rules was the young Diane Sawyer, who met Wilson in 1980 when she was just beginning her career as a network correspondent. "He was just untamed," she recalled, "tall and gangly and wild-like a kid before they discovered Ritalin. He had this ungoverned enthusiasm, and it extended to women and the world."
The congressman was like no one Sawyer had met in Washington. He was simply outrageous. Sawyer recalled the experience of driving with Charlie in his big old Continental on one of their few dinner dates: "Going down Connecticut Avenue with him, I felt as if we could have been driving into any American Graffiti hamburger place."
When Wilson was first elected to Congress, he'd persuaded a distinguished college professor, Charles Simpson, to leave academia and sign on as his administrative assistant. Simpson says Wilson was the brightest person he's ever worked with: "He had an uncanny ability to take a complex issue, break it down, get all the bullshit out, and deliver the heart of it. There's no question he could have been anything he wanted to be. His goal was to become secretary of defense. Certainly he intended to run for the Senate."
But Simpson gradually came to believe that his boss had a fatal flaw. That failing was perfectly summed up in a fitness report written by Wilson's commanding officer in the navy in the late 1950s: "Charlie Wilson is the best officer who ever served under me at sea and undoubtedly the worst in port."
There was little question in Simpson's mind in those days that his boss had a drinking problem. As with many alcoholics, it was not immediately noticeable; Wilson had an uncanny ability to consume enormous quantities of Scotch and seem unaffected. Also, he was a happy drunk who told wonderful stories and made everyone laugh. On the occasions when drinking would get to him, Simpson says, "Wilson would simply lie down on the floor for an hour, wake up, and act as if he had just had twelve hours of sleep. It was the most unreal thing I'd ever seen. He'd do this at his own parties-just sleep for an hour with everything going on around him, then get up and start again."
Most of the 435 members of Congress lead surprisingly anonymous lives in Washington. They are, of course, celebrities of sorts in their own districts, but the reality of life in the capital is that all but a few will leave Washington without much of anyone knowing they had been there. Wilson, in contrast, had begun to attract a great deal of media attention by the early 1980s, albeit the kind that any other politician would have considered the kiss of death. The gossip columnists called him "Good-Time Charlie," and they had a good time themselves describing the parade of beauty queens he escorted to White House receptions and fancy embassy parties. One Texas newspaper called him "the biggest playboy in Congress." The Washington Post featured a picture of Wilson and House Majority Leader Jim Wright saddled up on white horses, riding down Pennsylvania Avenue to a nightclub Wilson had just invested in. The Dallas Morning News observed that there were more congressmen on the floor of Wilson's disco, Élan ("a club for the dashing" was its motto), than you were ever likely to find on the floors of Congress. When challenged about his lifestyle, Wilson replied good-naturedly, "Why should I go around looking like a constipated hound dog? I'm having the time of my life."
In truth, at age forty-seven, in his fourth term in office, Charlie Wilson was completely lost. Public officials are forever doing stupid things, but they don't step into hot tubs with naked women and cocaine unless they are driven to play Russian roulette with their careers. And it was hard not to conclude that this recently divorced congressman was a man in free fall, programmed for disaster.
Wilson himself would later say, "I was caught up in the longest midlife crisis in history. I wasn't hurting anybody, but I sure was aimless." If Charlie Wilson's midlife crisis had thrown him off course, it was nothing compared to the crisis America was going through. The night Wilson checked into Caesars Palace, Ted Koppel had opened his Nightline broadcast with a disturbing refrain: "Good evening. Tonight is the two hundred and thirty-seventh night of captivity for the hostages in Tehran." The United States, with its $200 billion annual defense budget, couldn't even force a taunting Third World nation to turn over fifty hostages. And then, when it finally screwed up its courage to mount a rescue mission, the whole world watched the humiliating spectacle of Desert One, as a U.S. helicopter pilot lost his vision in a blinding dust cloud and rammed into a parked plane, leaving eight soldiers dead and the rescue mission aborted.
Over and over again it was said that "Vietnam syndrome" had infected the spirit of America. And by the summer of 1980 a growing number of conservatives, led by Ronald Reagan, had begun to warn that the Soviet Union might have achieved nuclear superiority, that a "window of opportunity" had been opened in which the Soviets could launch and win a nuclear war. Other voices added to the unease, claiming that the KGB had infiltrated most Western intelligence services and that they were mounting devastatingly effective "disinformation" campaigns, which were blinding America to the danger it faced.
To the president at the time, Jimmy Carter, this kind of extreme worst-case thinking had created what he called "America's paranoid fear of Communism." A born-again Christian, a onetime peanut farmer and former governor of Georgia, Carter had almost no experience in foreign affairs when he ran for president, but he had won over an American public still traumatized by Vietnam and Watergate. The intelligence scandals in the late 1970s had only reinforced the widespread suspicion that the CIA was out of control-a virtual government within the government. Vowing "never to lie" to the American public and to introduce a new morality in Washington, Carter had all but promised an end to the CIA's dirty tricks.
Once in office, President Carter moved to discipline the Agency, coming close to suggesting that it was time to stop conducting covert operations altogether.
Excerpted from Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile Copyright © 2003 by George Crile
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted July 31, 2006
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'.
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Posted March 6, 2005
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.
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Posted October 11, 2004
Crile, a producer for the US news programme `60 Minutes¿, has written a hymn of praise for the CIA and its terrorist operation in Afghanistan. He also idolises Congressman Charlie Wilson, a good ol¿ Texan, a coke-snorting, whisky-guzzling, whoring, arms-dealing, freeloading, hit-and-run drunk-driver, who constantly broke US laws to arrange aid for the terrorist cause. Crile ignores the fact that the US intervened first in Afghanistan, supporting reactionary terrorists trying to overthrow the progressive government: on 3 July 1979, President Carter signed a secret directive authorising covert aid to the mujehadin. The CIA promoted drug trafficking to raise funds for them. The British, French and Israeli governments all sold arms to them. Only in December 1979, five months after the US intervention, did Soviet troops enter Afghanistan, at the Afghan government¿s request, to defend the people against the terrorist onslaught. The CIA, assisted by Thatcher, spent $1 billion a year arming and training more than 300,000 Islamic mercenaries drawn from around the world to fight against Afghani national liberation. Crile tells us that MI6 did much of the CIA¿s dirty work, `murder, assassination, and indiscriminate bombings¿. It was the CIA¿s biggest operation, far bigger than their terrorist Contra operation in Nicaragua, indeed the biggest secret war ever. The CIA-organised Contras targeted schools, clinics and hospitals: so did the mujehadin, and more so. The Contras ¿raped, tortured and killed unarmed civilians, including children¿ and ¿groups of civilians, including women and children, were burned, dismembered, blinded and beheaded¿, as the CIA told a Congressional Intelligence Committee. So did the mujehadin, and more so. The CIA¿s special favourite was the repellent criminal and fascist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was ¿responsible for the practice of throwing acid in the faces of Afghan women who failed to cover themselves properly¿. In the end, Gorbachev withdrew the Soviet forces from Afghanistan, and the mujehadin proceeded to wreck Afghanistan and attack their sponsor the USA. Crile claims that the withdrawal destroyed the Soviet Union. Not so; as Castro said, ¿Imperialism could not have destroyed the Soviet Union if the Soviets had not destroyed it first.¿
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Posted August 7, 2003
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'.
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Posted September 22, 2012
Posted January 18, 2012
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 27, 2011
Posted November 27, 2011
Posted December 31, 2007
Incredible story about these two fascinating characters, Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos, and their cohort Joanne Herring, and an excellent lesson in the covert nature of Congressional funding. It should urge us all to pay more attention. However, I recommend the book more for the story than for the writing. It needed a much stronger editorial hand. The endless passages about the nobliltiy of the fight and the enduring love and affection the characters felt for each other was overwrought. Maybe the author felt the need to exhaustively defend the participants in the shadow of 9/11, but it was tiring and unnecessary. I also found a great deal of historical context deficient, with too much assumed about knowledge of the Iran-Contra affair, the reasons for the Soviet invasion, and Pakistan's leader and the imposition of martial law, just to name a few. But it made me thirst for more information about Charlie Wilson and his band of players and in that, it is a success.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2003
Charlie Wilson was the hero with clay feet as many of our hero's are. We often overlook their flaws or their flaws weren't reported in the years prior to the intense scrutinization of the media. The politics of this war are amazing also. The infighting between the CIA, Pentagon & Congress. The other unsung heroes, Gust Avrakotos & Mike Vickers, are also fascinating characters in their own right. Plus some of the most interesting parts of the story come after the Soviet withdrawal & the battle of afghanistan & how it relates to the war on terror. The legacy of which continues to this day. This book will help people understand what's going on in afghanistan today. Although there does need to be a follow up to fill in the gap.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 18, 2003
Posted August 8, 2003
Do not drop your jaw - Read the book again. Joanne WAS awarded Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam the highest civil honor of Pakistan by Zia - This is a good read. Not recommended for Zia's followers though.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 2, 2003
I am originally from Pakistan and that's why I looked forward to reading this book since I witnessed the effects of Afghan war in my country. There is really an acute shortage of material on this topic and when I heard about this book, I couldn't wait to get it. It started off amazing. Although Mr. Crile has not specifically stated his sources, I generally trusted what he was saying (he being a journalist, sources being attached to sensitive organizations and what not) but all my excitement deflated when I reached page 60 something where Mr. Crile describes the relations of Joanne Herring and General Zia. He wrote that Joanne was called 'sir' in Pakistan. Give me a break. Maybe some peon in some office may have called her 'sir' but that doesn't qualify as a fact worth quoting. The bigger and more outrageous claim was just a few lines down on the same page where Mr. Crile says that Joanne Herring was given the highest honor that Pakistani Government can give and that is the title of 'Quid-e-Azam' translated as 'The Great Leader'. I dropped first my jaw and then the book when I read that. It's ridiculous. It's so painfully obvious to me that Mr. Crile's sources were exaggerating and Mr. Crile didn't do any effort to corroborate the information. Had he¿d done that, he would have come to known that the title of 'Quid-e-Azam' is reserved for the founder of Pakistan, M. A. Jinnah and it's not conferred upon anyone else by Pakistan Government. It¿s like saying that US president honored someone with the title of 'The Founding Father'. As I said, it's ridiculous. I could give him the benefit of doubt if there was an honor which sounded like 'Quid-e-Azam'. There isn't. They are all like 'Nishan-e-Imtiaz', 'Sitara-e-Imtiaz' etc. and none of their meanings come anywhere close to 'The Great Leader'. Its not that I think that Mr. Crile is lying. He just heard something and quoted it in a 'history' book. Historians used to be a bit more cautious in recording facts. Had he¿d tried to verify that from any (and I mean ANY, it's that common knowledge) Pakistani, he/she would have told him that that 'fact' can not possibly be true. That was it for me. The book's credibility was GONE. I tried to go beyond that and read some 100 pages more but now that I knew for sure that Mr. Crile's sources had passed him blown up info and he hadn't verified it, the only way I could read it anymore was to consider it a work of fiction but then, its not written very well for a fictional book. I have a lot more to say about how Mr. Cile's sources have described Zia and some other things but I won't. It¿s useless.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 4, 2003
I could not put this book down. I enjoy military history and political intrigue as well as foreign relations. This had it all. The 15 years of research here really shows through with very detailed behind the scenes insights. I found myself really loving and hating the characters involved, from the title character, Charlie Wilson, to Muhjadin themselves. I learned a great deal about the inner workings of our government, for better or worse. The ups and downs of the characters in this story are sometimes hard to take as you keep hoping they fix their lives, but alas the book shows hereos come with chinks in the armor. The recent events in the Middle East make this story all the more relevant and amazing. The moral of the story is that every action has a reaction and if you focus on too short of a horizon you can create more havoc than you eliminate. The only complaint is that the book gives short coverage to the lack of follow up after the Red Army leaves Afghanastan, which is the root cause of many problems today. Read this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2003
An extraordinary war story with a brainy, gorgeous woman as one of the main characters. Joanne Herring, a Houston socialite, paved the way for Charlie,and he rode into Afghanistan on her coattail. Every woman should be proud of this outstanding heroine.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2003
Who would have know that the Democrats had their private war going on while bashing President Reagan over the Contra war in Nicaragua. The American news media was not after this story compared to the one in Central America. The reader gets the insider view of national politics in Washington as we follow Rep. Wilson's efforts to fund the war. In Congress it was all about power and money. Ideals seem to have come second. Wilson wanted revenge to send Russian boys home in body bags as the USSR did to the USA with Vietnam. Congressman Wilson's passion and commitment comes through loud and clear. Along with Wilson's self-destructive nature that almost cost him elective office. Great story, hard to put the book down. The covert effort to defeat the USSR made for some strange alliances in the Middle East. The success in this covert effort created some of the conditions for today's war on terror.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 24, 2003
This was not only an interesting read, it was also fun. It gives you insight into the workings of the government that are distrubing to say the least. The book made me wonder what kind of 'back door' politics are going on now that we will not know about for another 20 years. This is the type of book that is hard to put down once you start reading.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2003
'Charlie Wilson's War' is the unbelievable yet true story of the covert CIA operation to support the Afghan rebels who so courageously resisted Soviet occupation in the 1980's. It is also the story of two extraordinary men, Congressman Charles Wilson and CIA operative Gust Avrokotos, whose guile, determination, and utter disregard for the rules made this quixotic undertaking a reality. This book is about impossible personalities prevailing against impossible odds to defeat an impossible foe. It is also impossible to put down. The prose is quick and engaging. George Crile and his crack team drop you immediately into the action, creating a close bond with the book's main protagonists. However, Wilson and Avrokotos are not allowed to completely overshadow the action. Crile brings his expert eye to this historic tale, forged after almost two decades of service as an executive producer at 'Sixty Minutes'. The result is an easy to follow, orderly read- despite the utter chaos of the region's history, politics, and religious, ethnic, and territorial turmoil. What makes this book all the more fascinating is the direct connections Crile ties to our present day difficulties with Afghanistan and the larger Islamic world, not to mention the final days of the Soviet empire. For the first time since 9/11, one source ties together the complicated web of covert operations, David and Goliath type odds, and the final missed opportunities into a coherent story. A story that is an object lesson into our current relationships in the Middle East. 'Charlie Wilson's War' is proof once again that truth is far stranger than fiction, for throughout this story you will be struck time and time again by the sheer magnitude of the undertaking, the force of the personalities, and the effect they have on the entire world. This book caries my highest recommendation. Whether you like fiction or non fiction, history, spy novels, or fantasy, this saga has something for every reader. Go buy this book, and buy it for a friend!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 6, 2003
This is a very fine, polished and mammoth undertaking to describe the inner workings of America's role in the Afghan Jihad. This is not for the first time Afghan Jihad reader however. This book's power comes through for all of us who had intimate workings with the jihad or for those who researched the massive war effort from other points of view, such as the Pakistani view or the fanatical muslim warrior view. This book fills in the mighty gaps left by biased reports and the lack of coverage of the jihad by Western media and writers. An excellent buy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2003
This book is incredible -- I purchased a copy and could not put it down . . . amazing that a guy like Charlie Wilson is all but unknown to Americans. If it wasn't for men like those in this book, the Afghanis would be speaking Russian and the Cold War might have lasted for years. Wilson and Avrakotos are true American patriots all but forgotten by their country. I've purchased three other copies as gifts for friends. Better than any spy novel I've ever read . . . and true to boot!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.