Charlie Wilson’s War

Posted By on May 2, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War DVD coverI’ve been waiting to watch the movie Charlie Wilson’s War based on the true story of Congressman Charlie Wilson and his campaign to help defeat the USSR in Afghanistan, and although it was an excellent history lesson, the movie offered little to keep ones focus. (my wife fell asleep) That said, its offers a satirical look at Washington DC politics, the CIA and how some of the pieces came together to both defeat the Soviet Union ending the cold war and opened the door to a generation in Afghanistan that we would be fighting 15 years later.

The movie brought Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman together with writing by Aaron Sorkin, a man who has made a very successful career detailing Washington’s politics in shows like the West Wing. He took Texas Congressmen Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) and detailed his fondness for alcohol, drugs, and women by opening the story in 1980. Wilson at this time knows nothing about Afghanistan. For some reason he takes an interest in a Dan Rather news piece and uses his position on the House Appropriations Committee to add covert support for the Afghans. Believing he is doing a good thing by doubling a 5 million dollar covert budget with the encouragement of Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). Wilson, a liberal-Democrat partners both romantically and politically with right-wing millionaire socialite Herring. She hated the Communists and wanted them to stop killing the brave Afghans building on what Wilson witnessed in his trip overseas to observe firsthand the hard fighting and suffering Afghan people.

Upon Wilson’s return, he partners with a moody, long time CIA man named Gust Avrakotos (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) to help supply high-tech weaponry through Pakistan. The heavy set, chain-smoking agent handles Afghanistan at the CIA with “three other guys,” and knows just the Israeli they need to talk to about weapons. Between Charlie’s ability to call in political favors, Joanne’s skills at schmoozing and cozying up to her fellow millionaires, and Gust’s knowledge of secret operations, the three are able to get the money and weapons needed to help the Afghans to victory. When this whole thing began, the U.S. was supplying the Afghans with a virtually pointless amount of money “just to keep the Russians fighting — as did the U.S. in Vietnam,” but the amount was quietly raised to $1 billion a year by the end of the fighting.

Eventually the 1980’s near a close, the USSR falls and the Afghan people celebrate victory in pushing the Soviets out of their country — suffering terrible losses. Congress shuts down funding for the undercover weapons and to Charlie’s dismay leave the country to suffer and rebuilt without help. All he asks was for a small amount budgeted to build schools in hopes to retrain the young people left behind. Nothing is appropriated and eventually the young and poor Afghans are brought under Taliban training and Sharia law. In the end, a quote is placed on the screen from Charlie Wilson warning that the U.S. hasn’t learn from mistake of the past. So true.

If you enjoy history and a celebration of what the passion of one man can do in a corrupt Washington, you’ll appreciate Charlie Wilson’s War.


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
My Desultory Blog