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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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]