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Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile
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Charlie Wilson's War (2003)

by George Crile

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1,294219,319 (4.05)26
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If you've ever seen (or never seen) 'Charlie Wilson's War', a good little 2007 movie starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who earned an Oscar nomination for his role as an angry and embittered CIA operative), this is the book behind the Mike Nichols movie. And a fact-filled, completely comprehensive tome it is.

Penned by 60 Minutes journalist George Crile, this is the behind-the-scenes story of the CIA's involvement in, and support of, the successful 1980s Afghan rebellion against the Soviet invasion.
Charlie Wilson was a devil-may-care playboy member of the US Congress, and thanks to a strong suggestion from Texas socialite Joanne Herring, Wilson decided to make the Afghan rebellion his cause célèbre. The book describes in great detail the machinations of Wilson's covert actions to shame the CIA into increasing their financial support for the Afghan rebels from a few million dollars a year to a BILLION dollars a year ($500 million from the US budget plus a matching amount from the Saudi government).

If you want to read this book (and I recommend that you do), be prepared to spend weeks with it. At 530 pages, it is packed full of fascinating, previously Top Secret facts about how covert operations are managed, the internal and external political machinations necessary for success, and the details of how US Representative Charles Wilson became the only civilian recognized internally as a hero at the CIA.

Author Crile spent years researching this work, and it shows. His interviews included presidents and princes, senators and spooks. The detail is not impressive, it is amazing. If the secret world of James Bond appeals to you as a reader, indulge your interest by reading a cracker of a true story, the greatest (and perhaps only) successful CIA covert operation of the Cold War.
( )
  MHStevens | Aug 19, 2018 |
An account of the U.S. intervention in the Russian/Afghani war, led by Senator Charlie Wilson ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
Mkaes you wonder abou tbothe the good and the folly of the U.S. Government. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Although I never saw the movie, it made me curious about the book. This is a sad and crazy story, and anyone interested in the background of the US involvement in Aghanistan and the Middle East in general would be well advised to take a look. The book paints a picture of Charlie Wilson as an unbalanced, alcoholic megalomaniac who manipulated rules (with great success) to pursue his agenda of driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Of course, it turned out he was also arming and training the Taliban, who clearly did not share the rest of Charlie Wilson's values.... I listened to the audiobook, which was well done. ( )
  LizHD | Mar 28, 2015 |
Wonderful book with much to be gleaned from within its pages. Two criticisms: the book needs a map or two. I greatly dislike having to find an atlas whenever I need to locate a geographical entity. Second, the book needed a competent editor when it was put together. Atlantic Monthly Press puts out quality books, but the number of typos in the book should be embarrassing to somebody at the Press.
The book concerns itself w/ politics, war, and women, more or less. There are several good quotes regarding women:

"The CIA's Gust Avrakotos suggests that Charlie had a kind of James Bond syndrome: 'As I saw it, the tie that bound us together was chasing pussy and killing Communists.'"

"The suggestion was reportedly made that a three-year contract for $600,000 might be available to Gust once he left the Agency, with $500,000 of that up front.
'Shove it up your ass,' Avrakotos shot back. 'I'll pretend I didn't hear what you just said, because the last thing you want is for me to tell Congress you were trying to bribe me.' The worldly Swiss executive did not seem insulted or in any way put off, instead he responded to a question more to Gust's liking.
'Do you like blondes?'
'Well, that's different,' Gust replied."

The book centers around the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the ensuing years when the war was funded by the CIA at a time when the 'Guns for weapons (for hostages)' was playing out w/ Oliver North, the Contras/Sandanistas, and company. Very well written, the book makes sense of some of the confusing history we get by reading newspapers and magazines as well as the garbage of TV. ( )
1 vote untraveller | Feb 22, 2015 |
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"Four things greater than all things are, – Women and Horses and Power and War." (Rudyard Kipling, The Ballad of the King's Jest)
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To Barbara Lyne, without whom this story would not have been told
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The entrance to CIA headquarters is just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, about a ten-minute drive up the Potomac from the White House.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802141242, Paperback)

Charlie Wilson's War was a publishing sensation and a New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times bestseller. In the early 1980s, a Houston socialite turned the attention of maverick Texas congressman Charlie Wilson to the ragged band of Afghan "freedom fighters" who continued, despite overwhelming odds, to fight the Soviet invaders. Wilson, who sat on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee, managed to procure hundreds of millions of dollars to support the mujahideen. The arms were secretly procured and distributed with the help of an out-of-favor CIA operative, Gust Avrokotos, whose working-class Greek-American background made him an anomaly among the Ivy League world of American spies. Avrakotos handpicked a staff of CIA outcasts to run his operation and, with their help, continually stretched the Agency's rules to the breaking point. Moving from the back rooms of the Capitol, to secret chambers at Langley, to arms-dealers' conventions, to the Khyber Pass, this book presents an astonishing chapter of our recent past, and the key to understanding what helped trigger the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and ultimately led to the emergence of a brand-new foe in the form of radical Islam.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:35 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Describes how, after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, maverick Texas congressman Charlie Wilson persuaded his colleagues to fund the CIA's efforts to arm the mujahideen and recounts the repercussions of that covert operation.

» see all 11 descriptions

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