I write a lot of stories. And I am still always amazed at how a story can be spun, to change the moral or message to suit the writer's preference and personal bias. As writers we are often guilty of putting our opinions and more often our aching wish for something to be true before the actual truth. It is very easy to fall for the seductive power of the seemingly powerless pen in your hand. As you will now see.
"Charlie Wilson's War" is a film chronicling the life of former Texas Senator Charlie Wilson. Specifically his hyper-active participation in enabling the Afghan rebels gain access to the infamous Stinger missiles now conveniently claimed as the primary turning point in the 9-year occupation at the very near end of the collapse of the giant Soviet era.
The film starring Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson, portrays the brash action by a Senator who raised as a child frightened of imminent attack by the Soviet Union during the nuclear Cold War era (one of the damaging effects of "duck and cover" ad campaigns on this generation), takes it upon himself to push his counterpart buddy "idealists" in the CIA to covertly support the Afghan rebels to fight the Soviet Union with training and equipment. This is successfully spun as a heroic tale of Yankee ingenuity and dogged American determination. What bothers me about this kind of storytelling is that it tidily evades the real problems that this kind of illegal covert action leaves in it's wake. A few with the means, affect the many, leaving everyone else to clean up the rather large mess afterwards. For years and decades later.
Charlie, better known as "Good Time Charlie", was and is a prime example of this kind of rogue, who out of personal twisted conscience exploits loopholes in the system and decides to change things without forethought (or authorization) or the effect of the action and it's consequences. Then conveniently slips back into the shadows of obscurity with the grin of a job well done on his face. In this case resurrected by Hollywood Hanks as the sly smiling hero. He even gets the girl. Apparently many.
In this "perfect" story however, the real aftermath of Charlie Wilson's War was that it is dubious and doubtful that the crumbling Soviet empire spanked back home by public opinion against their own "Vietnam", would have been able to continue it's military campaign much longer with or without the few odd supply of Stingers that were actually fired. It is now obvious the erosion in the Soviet Union was far more advanced than anyone knew or wanted to admit. The same people that think Charlie Wilson won the Afghanistan war, also think it was Reagan who made Gorbachev "...tear down that wall...".
The truth is obvious today. As it is now known that the same kind of rogue covert operation in 1953 spun it's nasty web around Mossadegh's throat, and threat to cancel Iran's oil contracts and other "inconvenient ideas", namely democratic and puppet-Shah-less rule for Iran.
The damage of these illegal actions and the ultimate ineffectiveness of covert actions like this is evident only years later. It is akin to the dilemma of time travel to the past, where any slight change can effect the future. In the case of covert action, teaching rebels only to fight for the transparent benefit of the US, has dire consequences visible now. The same Khyber pass that took his breath away and inspired Charlie Wilson's Alamo complex so many years ago, is in fact the same location of continued hostilities against the US today. Many innocent people have also had their breath taken away. Permanently. Because when you teach rebels only to fight, it comes off as for your benefit, not theirs. When you don't teach them how to make peace, you end up sitting on a very sharp double edge. The hell Wilson hath wrought.
By covertly subverting Mossadegh's mission towards democracy, the other Charlie Wilsons, namely Roosevelt and Shwarzkopf, changed the future of Iran from a peaceful, profitable, shiny and example leader in the region, full of the promise, prosperity, and potential that freedom and free choice can bring about, and turned Iran into more than 50 years of combined oppression, endemic suspicion by the people against each other, hopelessness, and counter productive wasted existence. The impact of denying Iran it's brief taste of freedom and destiny, now plays out it's destructive consequences fully. Where the Shah couldn't, I would bet (and I would win that bet) that a democratic Iran would have easily stood against the Shi-ist proposition in 1978, not because there is anything particularly wrong with Shi-ism (it's as good as any -ism), but under a democracy with basic freedoms (including religion) the oppressive conditions that gave Shi-ism the go ahead to rule, would have simply not existed. OK, maybe the Mullahs would have still complained about mini skirts and Discos. But the Mini was killed by the Midi, and Disco died mercifully on it's own.
Why some people with the power to play god, choose to wield that power so unwisely, and why the loopholes in a largely fair checks and balances system, can be so inconsequentially corrupted to allow these kinds of covert actions to be continually taken, with so many examples of their historic disastrous effect to draw from, is hopefully what the fine folks in Iowa and New Hampshire who for some reason are the real choosers of the US leadership, should really be asking the candidates as they smile, grin, and squeeze their hands with feigned (but Presidential firmness) sincerity on their way to the White House.
The responsibility and moral reputation of the US as the beacon of pure freedom and fairplay is sullied far more than can be explained by a result labeled simplistically as mere evil. The result is much worse than evil, because the result snuffs out hope. When you have nothing, you at least have hope. But things really suck when you don't even have hope anymore. The only thing about hope is that it can be easily resurrected by doing the "right thing".
Maybe if one day we can all see a movie called "Charlie Wilson's Trial", or "The Cleansing of Operation Ajax" (or how about this title" Kermit & Shwarzkopf: The Really Odd Couple"), that would resurrect and restore the hope that if you aspire to freedom, you can actually achieve it without an alcoholic womanizing Senator from Texas, or the inept nephew of a former president deciding it would be "funny" to pull the rug out from under you right when you take the very first step.
Or maybe a better name for this movie would be "Atonement".
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