Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story Of the Largest Covert Operation in History Paperback – Apr 28 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Put the Tom Clancy clones back on the shelf; this covert-ops chronicle is practically impossible to put down. No thriller writer would dare invent Wilson, a six-feet-four-inch Texas congressman,liberal on social issues but rabidly anti-Communist, a boozer, engaged in serial affairs and wheeler-dealer of consummate skill. Only slightly less improbable is Gust Avrakotos, a blue-collar Greek immigrant who joined the CIA when it was an Ivy League preserve and fought his elitist colleagues almost as ruthlessly as he fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War's waning years. In conjunction with President Zia of Pakistan in the 1980s, Wilson and Arvakotos circumvented most of the barriers to arming the Afghan mujahideen-distance, money, law and internal CIA politics, to name a few. Their coups included getting Israeli-modified Chinese weapons smuggled into Afghanistan, with the Pakistanis turning a blind eye,and the cultivation of a genius-level weapons designer and strategist named Michael Vickers, a key architect of the guerrilla campaign that left the Soviet army stymied. The ultimate weapon in Afghanistan was the portable Stinger anti-aircraft missile, which eliminated the Soviet's Mi-24 helicopter gunships and began the train of events leading to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. A triumph of ruthless ability over scruples, this story has dominated recent history in the form of blowback: many of the men armed by the CIA became the Taliban's murderous enforcers and Osama bin Laden's protectors. Yet superb writing from Crile, a 60 Minutes producer, will keep even the most vigorous critics of this Contra-like affair reading to the end.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
A longtime Sixty Minutes producer investigates the expenditure of what eventually amounted to $1 billion a year to support Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their battle against the Soviets.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
When Congressman Charlie Wilson set off for a weekend in Las Vegas on June 27, 1980, there was no confusion in his mind about why he had chosen to stay at Caesars Palace. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
At the heart is a cast of colorful characters, including Wilson and CIA man Gust Avrokotos. Wilson--a socially liberal, staunchly anti-Communist Democrat from a conservative and religious district of Texas--womanizes, drinks, (maybe) does drugs, is involved in scandal after scandal (including a hit-and-run car accident), and yet is re-elected over and over and singlehandedly secures funding for the freedom fighters. Avrokotos is the foul-mouthed (he has a sexual analogy for just about every situation), tough-talking son of Greek immigrants from a steel town near Pittsburgh, who joins the Agency in the 1960s and eventually heads up the Near East division, where he adeptly manages the Afghanistan operation.
I loved the book, plain and simple, but I did have a problem or two with it. Crile seems to accept as fact nearly everything Wilson and Avrokotos said in their interviews. Their accounts form the backbone of the book, and Crile seldom questions their veracity. More than that, he usually adopts their opinions as his own: if Avrokotos dislikes this or that CIA colleague, then so does Crile.Read more ›
The author and veteran producer of CBS news magazine 60 minutes and 60 minutes II, George Crile, tells the tale in an engaging and well-written fashion. Yet it appears that he never learned the lesson I was taught in my first journalism class: "avoid minor mistakes so your readers will be more forgiving when you make a large one."
I was not through 10 per cent of the book before I had found three factual errors. Let me give you an example. On page 43 and 44, Crile refers to the Hall of Fame football player, Mike Ditka, as a linebacker. Ditka played tight end. This mistake does not change the point the author was trying to make. But what happened to the "check every fact before using it in your story" lesson taught in the same journalism class?
The lesson is this. I know a little about football; I know nothing about CIA Appropriations or the Mujahideen. Why should I believe Crile's reporting is any more credible?
This book reads as well as any well-written non-fiction thriller. Whether you should assign any more credibility to it than you would a fluffy novel, is a troubling question?
Somehow, despite the fact that I despised the boozing, womanizing, schmoozing, and politics of "Good Time Charlie," I found myself rooting for him throughout the story. I had a similar feeling about Gust Avrakotos, the Greek immigrant CIA case officer who teamed-up with the Congressman from Texas to wage a revenge-inspired war through the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets. Despite Gust's crudity and roughness of character, I rooted for him too. I think it would be hard not to root for these rogues. They and their associates form a cast of outrageous characters that I found myself amazed at and at other times laughing out loud at their antics.
Unfortunately, there isn't a cozy and happy ending to this well-written story. The broad outlines of what happened most of us know: The Soviet Army retreated from Afganhistan in defeat - an event that many historians believe may have been a catalyst or accelerator for the events that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.Read more ›
As a stereotypical woman, I usually consider books about war history to be a dull collection of grim facts. Nonetheless, I randomly looked at the jacket of this book at our local bookstore only to find THE MOST RIVETING BOOK I HAVE EVER READ! It's an extraordinarily engaging narrative of the personal relationships leading to events that not only do I remember (as in, many occurring during my lifetime), but that profoundly affect my life today as an American.
The book is ingenius on many levels. But the one that meant the most to me is how the author explained the interplay of characters' backgrounds, perceptions, beliefs, and feelings so that I could see how individuals and relationships have shaped decisions. Had military policy and history been presented in this manner while I was still in school, I would not have been turned off to the subject, and I would know a lot more today about the world we live in. One of the many things this book shows is how important it is that women be educated about international military issues. My being so thrilled while reading proves that stereotypical women like me can be just as enraptured by the drama as so many men seem to be!
I could go on, but the truth is that I simply cannot say enough wonderful things about this book. I am extrordinarily grateful to the author and those who helped him write it.
Most recent customer reviews
When anyone sets out to establish the historical record of any particularly murky period of history like the 1980s and the collapse of Communism, they would be well advised to have... Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2008 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
If this were fiction I would have to give it three stars or less for being unbelievably over-the-top. Read morePublished on July 15 2004 by joe-maryland
Apparently many more awake than i knew the story Crile tells (in great detail) in this book of how 1) the Cold War really ended, and 2) why the Middle East is a hotbed of... Read morePublished on July 15 2004 by Carroll Straus
Author George Crile has documented America's initial plunge into the cauldron of fundamentalist Islamic politics in an account that is both eye-opening and disturbing. Read morePublished on July 11 2004 by Amazon Customer
This story is so unbelievable that it has to be true... right?
It should be called Gust's and Charlie's War, but that just wouldn't flow, now, would it?
Poor Gust. Read more
We purchased this book as a Christmas gift for my Father-in-law, who is incredibly difficult to buy for. This is the first gift ever I think he has actually enjoyed. Read morePublished on June 3 2004
How would you like to meet Charlie Wilson, Carol Shannon, Mike Vickers, Gust Avrakotos, Joanne Herring, Doc Long and Zia ul-Haq? Read morePublished on May 1 2004 by Brady Buchanan