Customer Reviews: Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History
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VINE VOICEon April 12, 2004
There is an excerpt on the cover of "Charlie Wilson's War" from Dan Rather stating "Tom Clancy's fiction pales in comparison..." Remarkably enough, that isn't hyperbole. Author George Crile delivers a compulsively readable and endlessly intriguing narrative of the CIA covert operation - the "largest and most successful covert operation ever" he incessantly reminds us - in support of the Afghan Mujahideen in the early- and mid-1980s.
On one level, this book is phenomenal. It is entertaining without end. The characters are so eccentric and their activities so pregnant with danger and political scandal that it almost stretches the bounds of believability. Tom Hanks, that most venerable of Hollywood icons, has purchased the screen rights to this book and plans to play the lead. For once, screenwriters won't have to "punch up" the script to appeal to the mainstream audience (although they still might try).
But that brings us to the other, more disappointing side of "Charlie Wilson's War." It is written in the spirit of a great spy novel, rather than the most exciting history imaginable. The topic is historical and the events described by Crile are all ostensibly historical in nature, but this book isn't "history." Stellar works of modern history - such as Alistair Horne's "A Savage War of Peace" or Stanley Karnow's "Vietnam" - are informative, engaging but above all objective. Grand characters may populate the narrative and some may come off better than others, but ultimately the story tells itself and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions and character analysis. This isn't the case with "Charlie Wilson's War." It comes replete with heroes (Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos and a small handful of those who directly supported them) and dastardly villains (essentially everyone else who wasn't a Wilson/Avrakotos partisan). Both Congressmen Wilson and CIA operative Avrakotos are deeply flawed men, which normally would make them even more compelling heroes. But in Crile's telling they become Galahads in a sea of bureaucratic and political ineptitude. Sure, Crile writes, Avrakotos might be rough around the edges and has a tendency to unleash expletive laced tirades at superiors, but the way he tells the story you can't help but feel the "elitist cake eater" deserved it. Zia ul Haq, the Pakistani totalitarian military dictator and key Wilson/Avrakotos ally appears to more closely resemble Ghandi than, well, a totalitarian military dictator. And so on and so forth.
Crile's tendentious style is often shocking and (in my opinion) completely undermines the case he is trying to make. For instance, it isn't uncommon for Crile to introduce a new character as a "scum ball" or a "whacko." On several occasions I had to double-check what I was reading. "He must be quoting Avrakotos here" I'd muse. But no, the author (and editors) for some reason decided to introduce factual characters with acerbic name-calling. Bizarre.
I have no doubt that Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos played a central role - perhaps the predominant role - in developing and supporting this "the largest and most successful covert operation and history," but there are many other sides to this story, I'm sure. The people that Wilson/Avrakotos/Crile essentially describes as all wrong couldn't possibly be, in fact, "all wrong." He does a disservice to Wilson's and Avrakotos' efforts by desribing them is such roseate terms while slandering everyone else.
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VINE VOICEon June 30, 2008
When Charlie Wilson first learned that the Afganistan soldiers, couragous fighters, were dying in large numbers and losing the war due to lack of an anti-aircraft gun which would shoot down the Hind helicopter, Charlie Wilson made it his goal and mission to supply these courageous warriors with such a weapon. The book does a superb job of detailing how this U.S. Senator became friends with powerful Israeli allies, Egyptian arms dealers, Pakestani President Zia al Huq who secretly helped the Afghanistan warriors, and with Gust Avrakotos, a C.I.A. agent with a checkered past. Wilson met Avratokos soon after he became the acting chief of the South Asia Operations Group, right about the time Wilson made it his mission to increase arms to the Afghani mujahideen. It was this partnership which sealed the deal to increase funds for the Afghanistan war and provide the weapons the warriors needed against the Soviet high tech helicopters and equipment. Gust Avratokos hired Mike Vickers, a low level C.I.A. agent, who demonstrated extraordinairy knowledge of Soviet weapons and also an uncanny precise ability to strategize military tactics, weapons, and guerilla maneuvers against them. Due to Vickers skills, Charlie Wilson's plans were becoming aligned with reality. George Crile does an amazing job of detailing how politics, human relations, world events and just plain luck can collide and melt creating the right outcome. This book helps the reader understand how very complex current world events really are, and that sometimes, the most astonishing interplay of unexpected elements can bring about success, despite the odds against them. The film "Charlie Wilson's War" is good and is recommended but it is highly selective in its contents and therefore superficial compared to the book.

This book is a fascinating document which describes an important event in United States history. Mostly because Charlie Wilson, a U.S. Congressman, became deeply involved in escalating C.I.A. covert operations in Afghanisian to influence the outcome of the war against the Soviets. It is something no other Congressman had ever done before and he achieved his goals beyond his wildest imagination! His persistent efforts and many political connections in the U.S. and world wide, made it possible for the Afghanistan mujahideen to turn the war around and win it, All this happened during the Iran-Contra hearings when *any* intervention by the United States, especially covert opeations, was looked upon with suspicion by elected officials. The C.I.A. dared not appear directly involved. They feared being called before the Intelligence Committee and having to reveal or defend their actions. Instead, they underhandedly provided Soviet weapons making it look like the mujahideen were using captured weapons or they supplied them with old World War I weapons and ammunition ... until Charlie Wilson got involved.

This Congressman dared to go where no Congressman had gone before! He got involved in areas typicaly reserved and controlled by the President of the United States. The President made decisions regarding foreign policy, specifically war, based on advice from the Director of the C.I.A., certain Intelligence Committees and the Pentagon. This Congressman nearly broke the law by stepping into territory which was defined as 'creating foreign policy' or worse yet, 'engaging in war', both areas totally controlled by the Executive branch of the goverment. The question begs to be asked, how plausible is it that a United States Congressman, a Texas socialite, and a renegade C.I.A. agent can ensure that a small nation receives the *right* weapon to win a war against a Super Power, the Soviet Union? Not plausible, very low probablilty, nearly impossible, it only happens in novels. Yet, as the saying goes, 'truth is stranger than fiction' and George Crile does an amazing job in piecing together how this *really* happened during tense political times. Also *most* highly recommended is the book Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story written by Vlad Tamarov. He provides great insight and unique perspectives from his personal experience. Remember, the Russian soldiers were *not* volunteers but were conscripted to fight and die for a questionable objective. It is still unclear to me why the Soviet leaders initiated this war, what was there to gain from it? Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
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on 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!!!!
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on October 30, 2003
Charlie Wilson's War is a non-fiction book that drew me into its story just like good novels do. I found this implausible, yet true, story so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. Not only is Charlie Wilson's War a compelling story that flows like a novel, the foibles of the main characters and the improbability of them forming a secret alliance, and then teaming with the Mujahideen to fight and defeat the Soviets seems to be right out of a Tom Clancy book. But it's not. It's a chronicle of actual history and a partial biography. Actually, it contains enough information about the two main characters, Charles Wilson and Gust Avrakotos that it is partially two biographies.

Somehow, despite the fact that I despised the boozing, womanizing, schmoozing, and politics of "Good Time Charlie," I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. I had a similar feeling about Gust Avrakotos, the Greek immigrant CIA case officer who teamed-up with the Congressman from Texas to wage a revenge-inspired war through the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets. Despite Gust's crudity and roughness of character, I rooted for him too. I think it would be hard not to root for these rogues. They and their associates form a cast of outrageous characters that I found myself amazed at and at other times laughing out loud at their antics.

Unfortunately, there isn't a cozy and happy ending to this well-written story. The broad outlines of what happened most of us know: The Soviet Army retreated from Afganhistan in defeat - an event that many historians believe may have been a catalyst or accelerator for the events that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself. The US-backed Mujahideen were successful in reclaiming their country, and then they established a fundamental Islamic government (the Taliban) that brutally repressed the Afghan people. And lastly, the Taliban's enmity was redirected from the Soviet invaders to the US, which culminated in the events of September 11, 2001. What isn't well known is the story of how the US helped bring the Taliban to power in Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson's War gives its readers a glimpse of that part of the story. It's a very enjoyable experience learning what happened. However, thinking about the consequences is serious stuff.

I highly recommend this book.
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It is a serious misreading of CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR to view it as a rabidly partisan book, as so many of the reviewers here do. If one pays careful attention to what George Crile has written, he does not take obvious sides in the book. He certainly does not state that the victory of the U.S.-funded mujahideen over the Soviet military was a good thing, nor does he imply that it was a mistake. His tone throughout is of a fairly neutral observer of the entire affair. Clearly he finds his central characters-Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos-to be utterly fascinating and likable individuals, but it is a huge leap to imagine that he is anywhere making value judgments. He states in the epilogue (apparently a part of the book that many reviewers didn't reach) that he realized that the role that Charlie Wilson played in funding the mujahideen and thereby helping both to bring about the end of the Soviet Union and arm the Islamic extremists with whom the United States struggles against today was a role that needed to be placed in the eye of history. If one reads carefully, Crile finds a great deal of ambiguity in the entire affair: the greatest secret war in history, was funded without knowledge of the American people and perhaps minimal knowledge of the president and by often engaging in end runs around the democratic process, leading to the defeat of a feared enemy but perhaps aiding thereby an enemy that represents perhaps even a greater threat. I detect none of the triumphalism or bias that many reviewers do. I suggest that less careful readers are perhaps projecting onto the narrative attitudes that simply are not there.

Crile is telling this story not for partisan reasons, but primarily for what is implied in the subtitle: it was the largest covert operation in history. During the eighties the United States fought a number of wars against countries the Reagan administration imagined were puppets or agents of the Soviet Union, whether in Nicaragua or Grenada. But while the Reagan administration remained focused on Nicaragua, the CIA, with no official sanction, waged the largest operation in the nation's history against the Soviets in Afghanistan by arming and training the mujahideen. The CIA, as Crile shows, was involved already in Afghanistan before Charlie Wilson entered the story, but Wilson was responsible for the almost inconceivable increase in funding for the mujahideen, taking a program that was receiving a few million a year and instead turning it into a program into which billions was being poured. He also altered the conflict from one in which the mujahideen managed fierce but ineffective resistance to one where they were inflicting massive losses on the Soviets. Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend on a host of things, not least whether it is good to have seen the inflicting of considerable damage to the Soviet Union at the expense of arming and training the Muslim jihadists who struggle against the United States today. Crile's concern is to get this story out, and to show that it was Wilson who should get the credit, good or ill, for the particular form this conflict took.

The book that I think this one can be compared most fruitfully is T. E. Lawrence's THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM. Crile is not, unfortunately, a literary genius like Lawrence was (in fact, Lawrence's account of his exploits remains one of the towering achievements in nonfiction prose of the past century). But just as Lawrence wrote as one alleging to have effected massive changes in the life of the Middle East, so Crile writes as the mouthpiece for those men and women who achieved a similar change in Afghanistan. He obviously researched his book carefully, but the heart of the book is unquestionably derived from a large number of interviews by the key figures, as well as a host of onlookers and minor participants. With only slightly more involvement by Wilson and Avrakotos, the book could easily have been retitled HOW WE DID IT, by Charlie Wilson and Gust Avrakotos, with George Crile. I think some of the critics are not aware of how deeply involved Wilson and Avrakotos were in the book, but in fact without their cooperation there would have been no book.

I cannot exaggerate how exciting a read this book is. It really should be made into a mini-series or movie. Many of the characters are bigger than life, especially Wilson, and many of the roadblocks or unexpected events that threatened to derail the entire program created more real life drama than any scriptwriter could concoct. The story also includes a vast cast of marvelous secondary characters, such as Mike Vickers, the low level CIA operative with a deep background in military Special Forces operations who was the one who realized that the program, while well funded, was poorly designed, and suggested the mix of weapons that was ultimately to prove decisive in the conflict. Or more well known figures such as President Zhia of Pakistan, or any of the many, many women in Wilson's life. But none of these match the fascinating Charlie Wilson, the representative from East Texas who was extremely liberal on domestic issues, but the most ardent of cold warriors and a faithful supporter of Israel on foreign matters. Absolutely as interesting is the blunt spoken Gust Avrakotos, the son of Greek immigrants who looked at disdain with all of the Ivy Leaguers in the CIA and who constantly flaunted his outsider status. Together, with Wilson providing the direction for the program as well as the cash, and Avrakotos undertaking the execution of the CIA program in Afghanistan, they managed to conduct the greatest indirect blow inflicted on the Soviet Union during the length of the Cold War. That Afghanistan turned out to be the Soviet Union's Vietnam was largely the result of the gargantuan amount of money that Wilson poured into the purchasing of weapons and materiel for the Afghans.

The book is also a fascinating introduction into how Washington works. Again and again, to explain how Wilson was able to get the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars for the CIA in Afghanistan (at a time when the CIA was under intense scrutiny and was suffering criticism because of what would eventually become Iran-Contra) by working backroom deals or manipulating key committee members. One realizes how essential it is for an effective congressional representative to master the art of compromise, of learning how to do a favor for someone at one time in order to count on his or her support on another. Similarly, the book is a great introduction to the culture of the CIA and its inner workings. It is one of those books that will teach the reader a great deal on at least a half dozen important topics.

Which brings me to my speculation why some people don't like this book. I doubt if most of the critics have bothered to read more than the editorial description or the dust jacket, but whether they have or not, I think most will take exception to the book merely because of the role that it ascribes to Charlie Wilson in the Afghan war. Why? Because it undermines the oft repeated (though less by historians than by Right Wing partisans) that the Cold War was brought to an end by the tremendous increase in military spending that Ronald Reagan brought about. Historians of the Cold War generally know better, citing the main reasons 1) decades of bipartisan consistency in applying the principles of containment as first articulated by George Kennan in the 1940s, with all presidents from Truman to Reagan maintaining the same policy, 2) the unexpected and unanticipated rise to power of Gorbachev, who single-handedly did more than anyone to end the Cold War, and who provided most of the international leadership in effecting change in the late 1980s, and 3) the tremendous blow to morale and the economy of waging the Afghanistan war. The major blow struck during the Reagan years was not dealt by Reagan (who focused primarily on Nicaragua), but by a liberal Democratic congressman from Texas. This is just too bitter a pill for many Reagan supporters to swallow, so they instead pillory a book that they have not taken the effort to read.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, for several reasons: 1) it is enormously entertaining, 2) it provides a great introduction to the way things work in Washington, 3) it details one of the most fascinating unreported events in recent American history, and 4) it focuses on the recent history of an area of the planet that has continuing relevance to the world today. It ought to be a must-read for any student of contemporary American history.
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Edit of 20 Jan 08 to add links and comment on movie/DVD

Comment on movie: 4 stars for being good enough, three stars for not covering all that could be covered. See the movie, then read the book. The movie captures the idiocy of US Government funding war but not peace, and the sophmoric manner in which CIA bureaucrats play at war (but see JAWBREAKER and First In for "done right," but it does not capture the war between the US diplomats and the spies, nor does it capture the extraordinary complexity of Pakistan, its own spy service, and the unconquerable Waziristan region (which could, however, be useful nuked). Links at end of review.

I was wrong to dismiss this book when it first came out, and I stress this because the hype about a hard-drinking womanizing "loose cannon" of a Congressman is precisely what the Washington bluebloods want us to think. This is one of my "top five" for understanding Washington. In alphabetical order, here are the key points.

Admin: Constant reference to case officers as "agents" is irritating.

Agency for International Development: featured as "the other Agency" whose feats on the humanitarian front are vital.

Analysis: CIA analysis was constantly flawed because of its reliance on technical collection or foreign liaison reporting. Examples of actual human observation of Egyptian arms failures made the point that there is no substitute for the human case officer in the field.

Bureaucracy: CIA bluebloods were timid--"bureaucratic cowardice" is a term seen several times--and so were the AID leaders, the Pentagon, the State Department, and even the White House. CIA did not want more money for Afghanistan, was at war with the State Department, did what it could to slander and undermine Congressman Wilson, was slow in every respect ("what we did with Charlie in one month would have taken us nine years to accomplish [through normal channels]."

Central America. Although not the main thrust of the book, the comparisons between the secret success in Afghanistan and the public failure of the CIA in Central America are useful.

Congress. The book is a case study of how Congressional power really works, where less than 25 Members on the House side actually matter when it comes to defense appropriations. Pages 79-80, on the various Congressional fraternities, are quite useful.

Corruption. The main character in the book other than Charlie Wilson, Gust Avrakotos, gets high marks for cutting the cost of arms and ammo in half by out-smarting the black market, and for devising clever ways to monitor for corruption, such as technical beacons in the arms shipments that can be monitored from satellites.

Cost of War. $165 for an AK-47, $1,050 per man per year for ammunition, cost of keeping 100,000 holy warriors firing for one year comes to $100 million. That is without providing for all other costs such as anti-air weapons, anti-tank weapons, food, communications, medical, and logistics. At least $1.5 billion in US funds was being spent at the height of the war, with Saudis matching this amount.

Covert Action: The US did not really get credit from the warriors being armed, because it was all done through Pakistan. Assassination and other dirty tricks are indeed a part of CIA's repertoire, they just get the British and Egyptians and Pakistanis to do the work for them, thus circumventing US laws and internal regulations.

Education. The role that Congressman Wilson played in educating other Members cannot be under-estimated. The bureaucracy cannot be trusted to properly educate Members, and that in the absence of a strong and sustained educational endeavor, Members will continue to be oblivious to reality overseas.

Foreign Countries. China, Egypt, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom are featured players, apart from Pakistan. The impoverishment of the British secret service, begging the Americans for a few mine-detectors, is of note.

Israel. Israel is in a class by itself. American Jews funded Charlie Wilson's survival and Israel empowered him in multiple ways. It is a real irony of this book that Israel was the key factor in creating the armed Islamic jihad movement, with consequences no one anticipated.

Lawyers. Page 165 and throughout the book document the essential castration of the CIA by its own lawyers. As Avrakotos is quoted in the book: "If I asked them they would have jerked off for three months trying to figure out why we couldn't do it."

Liberals. Paul Tsongas and Charlie Wilson, both liberals, supported the Afghanistan effort long before any conservatives were willing to step up to the plate.

Lobbying. The book is a handbook on both domestic lobbying through Texas socialites associated with the extreme right, and foreign lobbying of Members by both foreign governments and very rich extreme rightists who use Parisian aristocracy and others to push through programs that go against all the bureaucratic instincts of CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department.

Operations. The book documents some severe shortfalls in CIA's operational capabilities, including a great quote: "Out of twenty-five hundred [case officers]...maybe five percent are super, twenty percent good, and five percent shot." [Note: this leaves 70% in a dead zone.] The incompetence of the CIA's covert procurement process is of special concern.

People. Book damns the Ivy League bluebloods, Stansfield Turner (who not only killed operations, but fired mostly the blue collar ethnics that were actually good on the street). It honors the CIA "untouchables", the worker bees, mostly people of color with high school educations, that keep the place going. It documents how Mike Vickers, a GS-11 that masterminded the victory, gave up on CIA and left for the Wharton school because there was no future for him at the agency.

Trade-Offs. The book explicitly documents how the White House gave Pakistan its blessing on continuing with an Islamic nuclear bomb, as the quid pro quo for supporting the jihad against the Soviets.

Tribal Knowledge. The book documents the CIA's abysmal lack of understanding, which continues today, of tribal personalities and power relationships, history, and context.

Variables. Training and communications made a huge difference, and together with anti-aircraft weapons, took the war against the Soviets from a "fool's errand" level (CIA providing Enfield rifles and limited ammunition) to a "real war" level.

White House. The book provides a reminder of how easily the White House neophytes fall for thieves and liars. The discussion of the damage done by Manucher Ghorbanifar is so like that done by Chalabi's access to Cheney that the comparison is chilling. CIA blacklisted both for very good reasons, and the White House still embraced them.

This is gripping non-fiction, better than any spy novel.

CIA Done Right:
First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan
Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander

CIA Normal:
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Web of Deceit: The History of Western complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush
None So Blind: A Personal Account of the Intelligence Failure in Vietnam
Who the Hell Are We Fighting?: The Story of Sam Adams and the Vietnam Intelligence Wars

Policy Evil:
Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency
A Pretext for War : 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies
9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, Fourth Edition

Semiunal Non-Fiction (Damns Spending $60B/year on the 4% we can steal:
On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World
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on August 19, 2003
The book was excellent and I highly recommend it. Having seen the initial "60 Minutes" program, I was vaguely familar with the book's subject matter, however, the detailed description contained within the book is exceptional.
Although I highly recommend the book, I find the description of Charlie Wilson, his activities and the government bureaucracy disappointing. Descriptions of Congress funding hundreds of millions of dollars for programs, as a "favor" to a peer, lower my respect for the government and our elected representatives.
Having recently read "All the Shah's Men", a description of the CIA's overthrow of the Iranian government in the 1950's, the book reminds me of the law of "unintended consequences".
Charlie Wilson illegally diverted hundreds of millions of dollars to fund arms for Islamic armies to battle the Soviets. Major efforts were spent to provide the Afghans with a ground-to-air missle to shoot down Soviet helicopters.
Today, Americans have to worry that the "Stinger" missles, provided by Charlie Wilson to the Afghans, are not used by Islamic militants to bring down American passenger planes.
Although I believe the book rates "five stars", I am depressed by the description of our government in action.
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on June 9, 2006
Before I write my review I want to Extend my Deepest and Most Sincere Condolences To One Ex-Soldier From Another; From One Combat Veteran to Another; To Vlad. I Salute You and all The Courageous Russian Soldiers that Came before You and those that Followed After You. Your Efforts and Sacrifice will never be Forgotten.

(Many Things go beyond culture and Language; Our love of Life, our dedication to our fellow soldiers; A Strong commitment to the values and principles that we believe in; That our Children and our Children's Children will have a better life than we did; and that things we did and the legacy that we leave behind will be carried on through our generations for Posterity's Sake. Time, the Great Healer and May History be Kind to all The Soldiers and all that they ever endure.)

The Review: This book will take you on an emotional ride. It is a very graphic and vivid description of US Politics and How the US escalated the War in Afghanistan. You will be outraged at how politicians and people in key positions flaunt the very rules that they are sworn to uphold in order to advance Nationalistic and Personal Agenda's. You will be amazed at how freely your "tax dollars" become "chits" in the "Great Game"

In order to understand how and why the US is currently involved in Afghanistan, then you must read this book. You must also consider the "attitude and culture" of America of the time period that this book covers. Nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic was strong and Russian Patriots were just as concerned about the Cold War Race As American Patriots were.

If you have very "Sensitive Eyes", be warned now, the language is "very Salty" and some of the descriptions of How Russian Prisoners of War were handled is extremely ugly and humilating to say the least. As a war veteran I found this extremely revolting.

This book is based on first hand accounts of the key actors and decision makers. That is what makes this story so sad because it is a true story that sounds like a Tom Clancy novel.

Lastly, the epilogue of this book is important because it shows how "Blowback", or the unintended consequences of ones actions result in far more serious implications.

Terry Tucker,PhD,US Army,SGM, Ret.

Staff Trainer/Mentor To The Afghan National Army,

Kabul Military Training Center,
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on May 15, 2003
Not since Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil have I read a book of non-fiction that seems more like a character-rich novel than a work of reportage. Indeed, if this were fiction, Crile would be accused of being too far-fetched in his creation of the story's characters. Beauty queens, politicians, cunning spies, dictators, all fighting the last battle of the Cold War. This is Clacy material, or at least Ian Fleming.
Without giving away too much of the story (even a description of the characters will take away some of the enjoyment you'll have when the author introduces them), let me just say this will both entertain you and help you better understand some of the context of the current U.S. role in the Middle East .
As in the book A Beautiful Mind, Charlie Wilson's War, displays once more that fate is often a paradox in which we discover the genuses and heroes of history are flawed and broken.
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on May 21, 2003
Crile has really accomplished something here - telling a very unique, heretofore untold story of one of the most important secret missions of the last half-century with wit, vigor and distinction. I could not believe all that Charlie Wilson was able to accomplish and what a fascinating life he led; Crile does just as good of a job at explaining Wilson's life and war as Wilson did living and fighting it. Highly recommended.
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