Charlie Wilson’s War
Directed by Mike Nichols, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
2007, 97 min., Rated R
I went to see Charlie Wilson’s War last night and was surprised that the title was not “The South shall rise again.” The movie attempts to glorify an alcoholic, sexist East Texas fascist congressman named Charlie Wilson for his role in funding the Mujahadin.
The Mujahadin fought a bloody war in Afghanistan against troops of the Soviet Union who were attempting to support the legitimate socialist government of that country against U.S. aggression. Of course, the film doesn’t mention that Osama bin Laden was a CIA-backed, financed and trained leader in the Mujahadin. After the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, the Mujahadin morphed into Al Qaeda and we all know what happened on 9/11 as a result of their efforts.
This fact was not lost on the UK publication, The Telegraph. An article by Philip Sherwell clarifies the history “It was these anti-Soviet Islamic forces, with their foreign volunteers, such as Osama bin Laden, that later turned into al-Qaeda, the fanatical organization responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on America.”
The movie is the sordid story of a corrupt congressman from East Texas. Infamous for his shocking sexist commentary on his all-female staff, and women in general, the movie depicts Wilson in various states of alcohol- and sex-inspired obsessions with anti-Communism. Throughout the movie, many people are quoted as declaring, “Let’s go kill some Russians.”
Wilson, portrayed by Tom Hanks, who seems well-suited to emulate a fascist, is recruited by Houston socialite Joanne Johnson King Herring Davis to fund the Afghani counter-revolutionaries and provide them with sophisticated weaponry. At the same time he is under investigation for cocaine abuse, consorting with strippers in hot tubs and other flamboyant behaviors.
The reason that Joanne King, a “Christian woman,” has so many surnames is that she was born into a family affiliated with Kellogg, Brown and Root (subsidiary of Halliburton) and married a string of ultra-right wing, anti-Communist, wealthy elite men from Houston. I must confess that I am old enough to remember the Joanne King Show, which was a local talk show in Houston, and I also remember how repulsed I was by it. Joanne King became infamous when her first husband threw a 30th birthday party for her whose theme was “Roman orgy,” which was covered by Life magazine.
Wilson and King teamed up with Gust Avrakatos, who was a CIA operative and supporter of a fascist coup in Greece (also unmentioned in the movie). The three fascist supporters sought the help of murderous Pakistani dictator Zia Al Huq, a shadowy Israeli black-market arms dealer and other reprehensible individuals from Egypt.
An article by Jeremy Kuzmarov posted on the History News Network sums up the mendacity of the film, “The most egregious misrepresentation of the film is in its portrayal of the Mujahadin as being inexperienced in the handling of weapons and idealistic refugees fighting for the salvation of their people. This obscures that the CIA often shunned legitimate nationalists like Abdul Haq in favor of militant Islamic fundamentalists seeking to impose a fascist theocratic state along the mold of the Taliban. Among Washington’s key favorites was Gulbuddin Hikmatyar of the Hizb-Y Islami, who was valued for his hard-line anti-communism in spite of a reputation for abject ruthlessness. Hikmatyar was also a renowned opium smuggler and warlord, and was alleged to have sprayed acid in the faces of women who did not wear the veil. One CIA officer said, ‘We wanted to kill as many Russians as we could, and Hikmatyar seemed like the guy to do it.’”
Kuzmarov makes the point by quoting Edward Said’s book, Culture and Imperialism, that it can be argued that “Charlie Wilson’s War is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to promote underlying cultural stereotypes of Third World peoples and Muslims, while sanitizing the American record and its promotion of imperial violence.”
He concludes, “By sanitizing and distorting history, and presenting Western militarism as a force for good, films like Charlie Wilson’s War ultimately help to perpetuate the ideological mindset shaping continued foreign policy blunders and crimes of historic dimensions, which the American public has yet to fully come to terms with.”
Paul Hill writes for the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo from Houston.