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Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times Paperback – Bargain Price, November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
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, a six-feet-four-inch Texas congressman,liberal on social issues but rabidly anti-Communist, a boozer, engaged in serial affairs and wheeler-dealer of consummate skill. Only slightly less improbable is Gust Avrakotos, a blue-collar Greek immigrant who joined the CIA when it was an Ivy League preserve and fought his elitist colleagues almost as ruthlessly as he fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War's waning years. In conjunction with President Zia of Pakistan in the 1980s, Wilson and Arvakotos circumvented most of the barriers to arming the Afghan mujahideen-distance, money, law and internal CIA politics, to name a few. Their coups included getting Israeli-modified Chinese weapons smuggled into Afghanistan, with the Pakistanis turning a blind eye,and the cultivation of a genius-level weapons designer and strategist named Michael Vickers, a key architect of the guerrilla campaign that left the Soviet army stymied. The ultimate weapon in Afghanistan was the portable Stinger anti-aircraft missile, which eliminated the Soviet's Mi-24 helicopter gunships and began the train of events leading to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. A triumph of ruthless ability over scruples, this story has dominated recent history in the form of blowback: many of the men armed by the CIA became the Taliban's murderous enforcers and Osama bin Laden's protectors. Yet superb writing from Crile, a 60 Minutes producer, will keep even the most vigorous critics of this Contra-like affair reading to the end.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
A longtime Sixty Minutes producer investigates the expenditure of what eventually amounted to $1 billion a year to support Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their battle against the Soviets.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The author also shows the various flaws in Wilson's life, and examining how some of his personal mistakes nearly cost him his role in helping the Afghans, if not his Congressional seat. These include a hit-and-run episode while drunk, numerous affairs, a purported party with marijuana, bringing scantily clad women into deeply conservative Muslim lands, etc... The book also shows how things "get done" in our political system, with a lot of wink of an eye, backroom intimidations, and outright law-breaking. And best of all, the book brings forth Wilson's life and achievements in an easy to read manner, with numerous lines that caused me to laugh out loud.
Normally, I would give a book of this quality and entertainment value 5/5 stars... however I am leaving of the 5th star because it leaves out two crucial facts of this entire episode in world history. First, the entire premise of Wilson's involvement, which the book states again and again, is that the Soviets entered Afghanistan unprovoked. This is fundamentally incorrect, as President Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski would reveal in a 2003 interview to French newspaper La Monde. The US had begun sending arms and funds to the most violent and reactionary elements of Afghan society in the late 1970's...overseen by the CIA. This triggered political chaos in Afghanistan that would draw in the Soviets, as hoped by the Carter administration. Second, the book minimizes the impact of the Afghan War on the international heroin and opium trade, which Western banks heavily profited from... These two omissions change the entire color of this episode of history, and severely lessen its tragedy. So 4/5 stars is my vote.
Aided by a rebellious rogue of a CIA agent, Gust Avarakos who was steeped in the Greek culture of manhood and who headed much of the strategic planning and weapons procurement, he pushed millions of dollars almost clandestinely,through Congress to achieve what became his principal objective in life, the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan. After drinking and schtupping, of course. Our boy never went on a trip to the region without a lady to hold,although whatever woman he was with had to pretend she was virginal while in Muslim countries like Pakistan. Religion however, did not prevent the Egyptian Defense Minister from being enthralled by Charlie's uh, personal belly dancer.
The story is serious and zany all at the same time, as if it were written in equal parts by Joseph Heller, Larry McMurtry and the great military historian, Victor Davis Hanson. What became Wilson's obsession led to the withdrawal of the Soviets, and ultimately, was an important nail in the coffin of the Evil Empire.