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It Wasn’t Just “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Straight Talk Letter ^ | Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008 | Chip Wood

Posted on 01/26/2008 3:07:12 AM PST by LowCountryJoe

I’ve just had an amazing experience. I saw a movie where the hero was an honest-to-goodness America-loving, communist-hating patriot! When’s the last time you saw such a thing portrayed on the big screen?

Of course, he was also portrayed as a womanizing boozer who loved to party. He enjoyed jumping in a hot tub with two or three naked young ladies. And he wasn’t above doing a little dope from time to time.

Worst of all, he was a politician. A member of the U.S. House of Representatives, in fact.

Still, as soon as you saw him, you knew this was going to be one of the good guys. He was played by Tom Hanks, for crying out loud. Who could possibly be a better down-home, apple-pie, country-loving American than that?

I’m talking, of course, about “Charlie Wilson’s War.” And while there is plenty to regret about the movie – it earns its R rating in the first two or three minutes – there is much to like about it, too. So in this week’s column, I want to give you some very good reasons to celebrate its arrival in theaters – and a few examples of the incredible distortions it contains.

In case you’re not familiar with the history that “Charlie Wilson’s War” purports to present, let me summarize the movie’s plot for you. Back in the early ’80s, a U.S. congressman almost single-handedly saw to it that the mujahedeen in Afghanistan received the weapons and funds they needed to defeat the Soviet forces that had invaded their country.

The crux of the plot revolves around getting the freedom fighters U.S.-made Stinger missiles. Without them, the Soviets’ planes and helicopters could not be stopped. The rebels on the grounds would be methodically slaughtered – along with their wives and children.

I have to say, I was surprised that the film didn’t hesitate to expose the communists’ harshness and heartlessness. One of their most despicable tactics was to deploy shiny toys that were actually miniature bombs. When an Afghan child picked one up, the resulting explosion might blow off an arm or two, but it was seldom fatal. As the movie explained, a maimed child required more care than a dead one – thus removing another fighter from the field.

Using his clout as a member of a defense appropriations subcommittee, and the fact that he was owed many favors by other members of Congress, Charlie Wilson was able to increase covert aid to the mujahedeen, at first from a few million dollars, ultimately to nearly $1 billion. Even more important than the funds, however, he helped engineer a deal that enabled the rebels to get the missiles they so desperately needed. At the showing I attended, when that first missile brought down the first Soviet helicopter, the audience cheered.

(Later on, the movie accurately portrays the Afghans presenting that very same missile launcher to a proud and humble Charlie Wilson, who later displayed it on the wall of his congressional office in Washington, D.C.)

Okay, that’s what the movie got right. What did it get wrong?

The most incredible and egregious distortion is that “Charlie Wilson’s War” gives absolutely no credit to Ronald Reagan or anyone in his administration for the defeat of the Soviets! President Reagan is mentioned only once by name during the movie, and he is made to sound more like an obstacle than an ally.

For the truth about what really did happen in that tumultuous and historic decade, let me call on an eyewitness. His name is Jack Wheeler, and he is one of the most remarkable and unforgettable individuals I have ever met.

Jack was called “a right-wing Indiana Jones” by the Washington Post. He was that – and a whole lot more. Unlike the CIA agent Gust Avrakotos (played brilliantly, if inaccurately, by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the movie), who never stepped foot inside Afghanistan, Jack lived, traveled, and fought with the mujahedeen.

More than anyone else I’ve met, Jack practiced the anti-communism he preached. He fought behind enemy lines in six different wars against the communists, including repeated missions into Afghanistan. He predicted the collapse of the former Soviet Union a full decade before it happened – and explained how defeating them in Afghanistan was an essential first step in freeing all of Eastern Europe.

He is widely credited with being the inspiration behind the “Reagan Doctrine,” which called for U.S. support of freedom fighters around the world. And it was Jack Wheeler, not some socialite in Houston, who persuaded Rep. Charlie Wilson to use his influence to get more aid to the Afghan freedom fighters.

In an article he wrote for WorldNet Daily two weeks ago, Jack began with a photograph of three people, taken in France in 1986. He is on the right; facing him on the left is his beautiful new bride, Rebel Holiday (that is really her birth name). Then Jack tells about the third person in the picture:

“The dapper gentleman you see between us was serving as my best man. The reason he doesn’t look like Tom Hanks is because he’s the real Charlie Wilson.”

Jack says Tom Hanks did an amazing job portraying his friend: “Tom Hanks has Charlie spot on. His mannerisms, voice, posture, facial expressions: Hanks is Charlie, and he might get his third Oscar for playing him that he was denied in ‘Cast Away’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan.’” (An interesting footnote: Mr. Hanks is one of six actors to have won the Best Actor award twice. No one has ever won it three times. We’ll see if “Charlie Wilson’s War” helps Hanks break that long-standing record.)

Jack admits to being a bit conflicted about the movie. On the one hand, as he says, “That Hollywood would make a major motion picture about a genuine anti-communist hero, about a noble anti-communist triumph over the evil communist empire of the Soviet Union, is morally thrilling.”

But he then adds, the movie is also ludicrous. It’s ludicrous because “no one who had a critical role in helping the Afghans or winning the Cold War is in the movie except Charlie, whose sidekicks are a single CIA lone ranger and a blond chick in Texas – not Bill Casey, not Ronald Reagan [and not, I must add, Jack Wheeler].”

Since everyone in America who can read a newspaper or watch TV knows what an implacable anti-communist President Reagan was, why does the movie ignore the absolutely crucial role he played in events of the 1980s? Jack explains:

“This is due to the author of the best-selling book upon which ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ was based. George Crile was a super-liberal who refused to give any conservative, from Reagan on down, any credit for anything.

“There’s a scene in the movie where Charlie is showing a girlfriend the view from the balcony of his condo overlooking the Iwo Jima memorial, the Teddy Roosevelt bridge, the Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. Charlie’s condo really did have a balcony with that view.

“I explained the concept of the Reagan Doctrine [weaken the Soviet Union by providing aid to anti-communist freedom fighters] to George Crile on that balcony, recounting my experiences with the Afghan mujahedeen to him, as well as those with other anti-Soviet freedom fighters like the Contras in Nicaragua, the UNITA guerrillas in Angola, and the RENAMO guerrillas in Mozambique. It was like talking to a wall.”

Another major distortion in the movie concerns who actually got all that U.S. aid. Here’s what Jack says:

“The movie is about providing weapons to Afghans fighting the Soviets, yet only one specific Afghan is named in the film, the legendary ‘Lion of Panjshir,’ Ahmed Shah Massoud. Yet the CIA, in fact, provided little or no aid to Massoud for most of the war. The film never mentions who did get most of the CIA aid instead of Massoud: an America-hating, Khomeini-loving, Islamofascist named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his ‘Hezbi’ mujahedeen.”

One of Gulbuddin’s chief supporters was CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. Charlie Wilson’s balcony was also the scene of a heated argument between Wheeler and the CIA agent over the CIA’s support of the wrong people in Afghanistan. “I remember getting really ticked off at Gust,” Wheeler recalls. In fact, he was so angry that “I ended up inviting him to engage in self-induced carnal knowledge.”

Yes, there are important issues the movie gets wrong. But it gets the big ones right. Jack Wheeler puts it much more eloquently, and much more authoritively, than I can. So let me quote him extensively once more:

“It was the Stingers that won the war, just as the movie shows, just as I told Charlie after my first travels with the mujahedeen in 1983. ‘Take the Soviets out of the air and the Muj will defeat them on the ground.’

“After the loss of hundreds of Soviet war craft and pilots from late ’86 through ’88, the Soviets retreated in defeat. Less than nine months after their final retreat from Afghanistan, on February 15, 1989, the Berlin Wall was down, Eastern Europe was liberated, and the Cold War won….

“Although Charlie Wilson played a critical role, it is silly for the movie to pretend that Charlie did it by himself, without Ronald Reagan. And it is sad for the movie to end on a sour note of blame for the Taliban and al-Qaeda….

“Yet caveats aside, I am so glad this movie was made. It is so much better than the book, which is hopelessly permeated with hyper-liberal prejudice. It is wonderful that the world knows about this extraordinary man, knows what a hero Charlie Wilson is.

“The movie overplays his flamboyance, as much as the décolletage of his staff. The ladies who worked for him, such as Molly Hamilton, were beautiful but serious and professional. Charlie was a consummate pro who knew just what he was doing, including the ‘Good Time Charlie’ act. I never saw him drink to excess or act inappropriately. He was always a gentleman.”

And please pay especial attention to Jack Wheeler’s conclusion about the movie and the man it portrays:

“The moral lesson of the movie should be a very sobering one for the Democratic Party. Charlie Wilson was proudly and unashamedly a pro-American, anti-communist Democrat. His heroism should be a deep embarrassment to the party of Pelosi Galore and Lost Harry Reid, the party that apologizes for America’s existence and has neither the spine nor will to defend her.

“The Democratic Party – indeed, America – needs more Charlie Wilsons. I will always have the greatest respect for what he did for our country. And I will always treasure his friendship.”

Well said, Jack.

By the way, if anyone in Hollywood asks you to name another great American who was both a staunch anti-communist and a Democrat, please tell them about my good friend, Congressman Larry McDonald, who was murdered by the Soviets in 1984. His heroic life and tragic death would also make a fantastic film.

This Week in History

On January 10, 1870, John D. Rockefeller incorporated what would soon become the most powerful corporation in America (and make him the wealthiest person in the country) – Standard Oil.

Exactly 31 years later, on January 10, 1901, the biggest oil discovery up until then took place near Beaumont, Texas, when a 100-foot drilling derrick delivered a gusher of crude oil. The black goo shot up over 100 feet above the derrick, called Spindletop, ultimately covering several acres. It took mechanics nine days to figure out how to cap the well and bring its mighty production under control.

And an interesting footnote: The discovery of so much oil in Texas convinced a young engineer in Detroit, Michigan to bet his future on the internal combustion machine, rather than steam or batteries, to power the contraptions he was starting to build. His name was Henry Ford. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Miscellaneous; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: charliewilson; coldwar; moviereview
I saw this linked to from a weekly e-mail I get from a finacial...hmm, what term shall I use...pundit who talks about the equity and debt markets (he's always bearish, which I find agonizing yet I still read him) through his website, FrontLineThoughts (John Mauldin)

Anyhow, I thought I would share this with a wider audience since I see this has not been posted here.

1 posted on 01/26/2008 3:07:15 AM PST by LowCountryJoe
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To: LowCountryJoe

The movie is leftist revisionism.The posts after this one will explain why cause I gotta go.
Never under-estimate the inteligence of Freepers.

2 posted on 01/26/2008 3:22:12 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: LowCountryJoe; Egon
Thanks for posting this. It prompted me to subscribe to the letter for awhile to see what else the author has to say. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie now, but with an eye for omissions that Jack Wheeler described.

(To subscribe, send a blank email to

3 posted on 01/26/2008 3:46:31 AM PST by RhoTheta ("I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." NOT!)
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To: Happy Rain
Okay, that’s what the movie got right. What did it get wrong?

I'm wondering if you read the remaining two-thirds of this piece...the remaining portion after the italicized sentence I posted above.

4 posted on 01/26/2008 3:49:00 AM PST by LowCountryJoe (Do class-warfare and disdain of laissez-faire have their places in today's GOP?)
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To: LowCountryJoe
This story was previously posted here a month ago with a slightly different title:

I’m not the posting police, just for reference sake and a lot of interesting replies.

5 posted on 01/26/2008 4:28:47 AM PST by shove_it (and have a nice day)
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To: LowCountryJoe

Thanks for posting this... I haven’t seen the movie but may now, but knowing that Reagan is given no credit, it irks me that here we have another “Oliver Stone” history makeover coming to theaters near you. And I’ll add Mauldin’s website to my favorites.

6 posted on 01/26/2008 4:49:00 AM PST by ReleaseTheHounds ("You ask, 'What is our aim?' I can answer in one word: VICTORY - victory - at all costs...")
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To: ReleaseTheHounds

FWIW, having read the book, the movie is pretty much true to the book. And I’m not saying the book is 100% accurate, as I don’t believe it is.

7 posted on 01/26/2008 5:21:19 AM PST by FreedomPoster (Guns themselves are fairly robust; their chief enemies are rust and politicians) (NRA)
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To: LowCountryJoe

The movie was a movie. If you go to a flick expecting anything other than a form of entertainment you will be disappointed.
Complete history of a specific matter and a motion picture can’t be mixed due to the time constraints of a movie.

8 posted on 01/26/2008 5:34:50 AM PST by em2vn
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To: em2vn

Yep, takes a lot of time to mention Ronald Reagan’s anme and give him credit for the doctrine.

9 posted on 01/26/2008 6:10:24 AM PST by Robert DeLong
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To: em2vn
Complete history of a specific matter and a motion picture can’t be mixed due to the time constraints of a movie.

This is an excellent point. A movie must leave out entire elements of the truth to be able to fit within a reasonable time frame, because if they bring in another sub-plot, it requires a significant amount of time to make sure the audience understands it to a reasonable level and isn't just confused by facts by themselves.

With that having been said, the one "fact" that I felt was a major omission is that the Iran Contra "scandal" was in the news at the time this was going on. The press was focused on that, and the amazing thing is that this focus provided the cover to Wison et al to allow them to succeed.

And everyone knows that Wilson didn't do it alone. He provided the leadership and pulled the strings to make it happen. After all, a football team can't win with only a quarterback or a coach. It takes all the players to be successful.

10 posted on 01/26/2008 6:57:17 AM PST by Real Cynic No More (The only thing standing between us and complete victory over the evildoers is POLITICS!)
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To: LowCountryJoe


11 posted on 01/26/2008 8:35:14 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: lowbridge


12 posted on 01/26/2008 11:27:53 AM PST by lowbridge
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To: LowCountryJoe; Allegra; big'ol_freeper; TrueKnightGalahad; blackie; Larry Lucido; Diplomat; ...
I am at at the age where going to a film, I put aside all politics and just go for the entertainment. Otherwise, I would never go at all.

I just recently saw Charlie Wilson’s War and knew going in it would not be truthful toward any Conservative aspect, no film from Hollywood nowadays ever is, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear "Kill Communists!" and "Kill Russians!" spoken with such glee!

One must say fantastic acting by those liberal actors, they had me believing their characters really wanted to kill commies and Russians.

And the beautiful women in the film [Even Julia Roberts!] did add mightily to the entertainment value. If I were 40 years younger I'd chase Shiri Appleby (Jailbait) till I caughter her and if I were 30 years younger I'd chase Emily Blunt (Jane Liddle) until I caught her. If I was ten years older and a billionaire, I'd have both Shiri and Emily chase and catch me!

All in all, I had a great time! With only an occasional "Crap, that's Hollywood!" aside.

And at my small Texas town theater... it only cost me $2.25!

13 posted on 01/26/2008 12:17:19 PM PST by Bender2 ("I've got a twisted sense of humor, and everything amuses me." RAH Beyond this Horizon)
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To: Bender2

$2.25!!! Haven’t seen that price for a movie since the 1970’s round these parts (and most others).

14 posted on 01/26/2008 12:20:57 PM PST by big'ol_freeper (REAGAN: " represent certain fundamental beliefs [not] compromised..[for] expediency")
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To: Bender2
I just recently saw Charlie Wilson’s War and knew going in it would not be truthful toward any Conservative aspect, no film from Hollywood nowadays ever is, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear "Kill Communists!" and "Kill Russians!" spoken with such glee!

A friend talked me into going to see it when I was home last month. I was braced for the blatant, in-your-face liberalism that never really reared its head.

Also pleasing was the remark Charlie made towards the end of the movie, lamenting the fact that the U.S. helps these nations out and then just leaves.

This was when the Taliban had just made their appearance and they weren't even named as such in the movie.

I wonder if Hollywoood realized what they were supporting when that line was spoken? ;-)

15 posted on 01/26/2008 1:07:40 PM PST by Allegra (A chicken in every pot and a pair of new socks every day.)
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To: Bender2; Allegra
I've thought of seeing this movie but I know that Hollywood would never give credit to the Reagan administration nor recognize Charlie Wilson as a Scoop Jackson democrat. All they wanted was a hero with a (D).

Bender, you can bet your shiny ass no Hollywood types visited Lufkin to do research on the local politics or views.
16 posted on 01/26/2008 2:22:37 PM PST by BIGLOOK (Keelhaul politicians. The Ship of State needs a good scrubbing!)
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It was like talking to a wall.”

>>>Sums it up for me.

17 posted on 01/26/2008 2:34:07 PM PST by tpanther
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To: Happy Rain
The movie is leftist revisionism.The posts after this one will explain why cause I gotta go. Never under-estimate the intelligence of Freepers.

Bill Clinton did mention Fairy Tales in one of his speeches. But he got it wrong. It’s not Obama, but it certainly is the NeoComm Liberal Hollywood characters that misrepresent America and Americans 90% of the time.
Their revisionist history only hurts us. There again they call it creative license.

18 posted on 01/26/2008 2:45:06 PM PST by Doc91678 (Doc91678)
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To: Doc91678

You should create an about page.You sound like a reasonable person.

19 posted on 01/27/2008 6:23:13 AM PST by Happy Rain
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To: Happy Rain

Maybe Joe MacCarthy had it right?

20 posted on 01/27/2008 7:51:06 AM PST by Doc91678 (Doc91678)
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