Thursday, February 11, 2010

Charles Wilson (1933-2010)

Rep. Charlie Wilson, a Democrat who served Texas's Second District from 1973 to 1996, has died at the age of 76.

Give him some credit, I suppose, for being a driving force behind Operation Cyclone, the covert and ultimately successful CIA effort to arm the Afghan Mujahideen during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Of course, that short-sighted effort helped unleash al Qaeda and the Taliban, but at the time there were good humanitarian, if not geopolitical, reasons to oppose the Soviet brutalization of Afghanistan, and he certainly doesn't deserve the blame for the direction of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Take a lot of credit away from him for supporting right-wing dictatorships like the one in Nicaragua.

Otherwise, let's just be generous and say he was an interesting man worthy of a really good movie.

And, indeed, Charlie Wilson's War, about his role in arming the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels, was one of the most underrated movies of the last decade, with a typically fine performance by Tom Hanks as Wilson. (Philip Seymour Hoffman is also excellent, as usual, and Amy Adams is solid, while Julia Roberts is terrible and almost ruins the whole thing.)

Yeah, he certainly was a character.

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