I’m not the Horse’s Ass resident film critic, but I want to give a shout out to one of my favorite films of the year, and also to address some of the blogger reaction to the film.
“Charlie Wilson’s War” is about a Texas congressman, a wealthy right-wing socialite, and a CIA agent, and the covert war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. You can get details about the film, the book, and what really happened elsewhere, but after seeing the movie, I want to get a few things out there.
The CIA provided money and weapons that enabled the mujahideen to defeat the Soviet Union and the Communist government it was supporting in a humiliating fashion. It also strengthened the role of the warlords who have ruled Afghanistan ever since. The war helped provide a fertile ground that attracted and nurtured radical Islamists and Arabs from all over the Middle East – people like Osama bin Laden of Saudi Arabia and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri of Eqypt and Abdullah Azzam, born in Palestine. With the defeat of the puppet Communist government of Babrak Karmal, conditions were set to enable the Taliban and al Queda to sweep across Afghanistan into positions of power and influence in Afghanistan and dismantle centuries of culture (as they are again set to do, BTW).
I think Lynn skips a few steps. While it’s true that after the Soviet Union skedaddled in 1989, there was a power vacuum in Afghanistan which was eventually filled by the Taliban. But the relationship isn’t casual. As depicted in the film, Rep. Wilson pushed for money for Afghanistan reconstruction, but he was rebuffed (this is from the film):
Congressman: Nobody gives a shit about Pakistan, Charlie.
It was a great scene. Lynn continues:
We pretty much forgot all about Afghanistan until 9/11. Those who feel they can interfere with impunity in the affairs of other countries tend to be careless.
Well, yes, that’s true. But America has also been at it’s best when interfering in the affairs of other countries. Take the Balkans, a place America was very active during the 90’s. It is a success story. (There is an actual goddamn street named after General Wesley Clark, who was cheered and greeted with flowers by Bosnian-Americans during a recent visit to the Seattle area.)
Ultimately, I have to disagree with both parties, and with both non-interventionist Democrats and neo-conservative Republicans. America’s involvement in the world should be based on America’s national interest. All other considerations are less important. Was the covert war propagated by Wilson in America’s best interest? Yes. Was America’s neglect of the post-Soviet occupation Afghanistan in our best interest? Hell no.
Using this measuring stick is especially important these days. Moron Republicans think that bombing Iran is a good idea. Is it? Of course not, especially considering that most young Iranians are much more pro-American than other countries (like Eqypt, where common folks resent the hell out of the USA for supporting their ruler-for-life). President Bush neglected the reconstruction of Afghanistan in favor of a sexy new war in Iraq. (”That new war smell!”)
Considering the truly awful things the Soviet military did to the Afghan people (booby-trapping children’s toys, cutting open pregnant women, massacring entire villages with helicopter gunship fire), and also the very nature of Soviet communism itself, it’s really hard to think of the intervention there during the 80’s as being on par with such disasters as the Iraq War. After all, the biggest mistake in the whole affair has to be America turning her back on Afghanistan after the occupation ended.
Like Congressman Charlie Wilson said:
“Those things happened and they were glorious, and then we fucked up the end game.”