Charlie Wilson’s War – Movie
I watched Charlie Wilson’s War several times and would certainly watch it again due to its historical importance and cinematic success. This is an American comedy-drama film, based on the story of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson and CIA operative Gust Avrakotos, whose efforts led to Operation Cyclone, a program to organize and support the Afghan mujahedeen during the Soviet–Afghan War. For some reason, (maybe due to the title of the movie) the film did not get expected attention though it was a critical and financial success. Had it been named something to do with Afghan-Soviet war, this would have left deeper memories in the world cinema. At a time when films that had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden were called “Osama,” this movie deserved something related to Afghan war. Charlie Wilson is unknown to many except US political circles I guess.
Charlie Wilson’s War is Mike Nichols’ final movie direction and it was written by Aaron Sorkin. He adapted the movie from George Crile III‘s book Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History which was released in 2003.
My favorite Hollywood actor Tom Hanks plays the title role while Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman play the other two main roles. The movie was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including “Best Motion Picture”, but did not win in any category. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. My favorite character in this movie is Gust Avrakotos (Philip Seymour Hoffman,) the maverick CIA officer. His role is so unassuming and natural that you will feel he is apparently not acting but living the character. Julia Roberts is as good as in any of her previous roles.
This movie clearly states that how a lesser known unimportant bigot like Senator Charlie Wilson can move a whole government, with the support of his paramour, the influential socialite Mrs. Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). against an enemy thousands of miles away with using influence and connections to define the fate of an entire region by killing thousands and leaving millions of people in destitution and making an entire region a never-ending battle field.
The inveterate drinker and irresponsible womanizer Senator Wilson, with the help of the CIA officer Avrakotos, and with the influence of Mrs. Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts) convert the budget of a measly $5 million USD to a double of that amount. The CIA’s anticommunism budget evolves from $5 million to over $500 million later (with the same amount matched by Saudi Arabia) for covert operations against the legitimate Afghan government and their northern allies, the Soviet Union who enters Afghanistan on the request of the Afghan President Najibullah Khan. The way it is done, if the story is true to the true events in the history, tells a lot about how light the world’s fate is taken by the vile people of American politics.
Mujahedeen rebels of Afghanistan wage a guerrilla war against Najibullah Khan’s legitimate Afghan government and when things get worse, Khan invites the Soviet forces to depend Afghanistan from the rebels. By this time the USA’s covert operation is of a small budget. When the war worsens millions of Afghan refugees cross the Afghan-Pakistani border and enter Pakistan. General Zia-ul-Haq is forced to spring into action and he turns to the US help according to a manipulated plan by Senator Charlie Wilson. This makes the bloody Zia who was in the bad books of the US government for hanging the then legitimately elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in an unfair trial and declared Pakistan a military state to an American ally. Zia visits America and gets the funding to train Afghan and Pakistani youth as mujahedeen fighters to fight Afghan and Soviet forces. Zia makes use of this opportunity to show the Pakistani people that he is pro-Islamist and uses religion to claim the popular support him. This is the major turning point of secular Pakistan to become an extremist one. As anywhere in the world, people are fooled and Pakistan loses its way to development and gets entangled in a quagmire of a religious extremism something which it has not been able to come out of to date. Pakistan’s defense budget is increased by manifold and in addition to its traditional enemy India; it has to fight an unnecessary enemy too. The mujahideens who were indoctrinated, funded and trained by US-Pakistani coalition started waging their war against Pakistan government (and that of Afghanistan) in the form of Taliban and you know the rest.
Anyway, the money pumped to Afghan operations ends up with leaving powerful Stinger missiles on the hands of bloody mujahideens who fire them at Soviet MI 24 gunships and make the Red Army abandon Afghanistan unceremoniously without accomplishing the mission. This is a major victory of America’s Cold War against the Soviet Union. With the US help, America is able to create “a Vietnam for the Soviet Union” and making Ronald Reagan, the then US president a happy man.
I can remember this series of events as a schoolboy as I remember how the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan and the war started thanks to CNN news on local TV, Rupavahini telecast the world events for few minutes every night during their newscasts.
At the end, the movie comes to a universal truth. The parties who engaged in the war by supplying millions of dollars hesitate to fund for education and development. Charlie Wilson also understands the unhappy truth. However, his pride is damaged by his reasonable fears of what unintended consequences that his clandestine efforts could result in the implications of US disengagement from Afghanistan. Wilson follows Gust’s guidance to seek support for post-Soviet occupation Afghanistan but finds almost no enthusiasm in the US government for even the modest measures he proposes. This is common to many other battlefields the USA got involved in from Vietnam to Syria I guess.
P.S. There are a number of interesting dialogs in the movie and I prefer these two of all of them.
Larry Liddle: Miss?
Charlie’s Angel #1: Yes sir?
Larry Liddle: It seems to me lookin’ around, that it’s almost all women workin’ here; and that they’re all very pretty. Is that common?
Charlie’s Angel #1: Well… Congressman Wilson, he has an expression. He says uhh, “You can teach ’em to type, but you can’t teach ’em to grow tits.”
Larry Liddle: Well, that’s… charming.
Charlie Wilson: You’re no James Bond.
Gust Avrakotos: You’re no Thomas Jefferson, either. Let’s call it even.
To read the rest of the dialogs, please click this linkhttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472062/quotes.