Charlie Wilson’s War
starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Ned Beatty and Emily Blunt
screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
directed by Mike Nichols
Based on the book by George Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War is based on the true story of how the United States came to fund the Islamic Mujahadim militia in Afghanistan to fight the occupying Soviet military in the 1980s. It’s a timely movie, of course, because the Mujahadim grew up to become extremist Taliban and it splintered into terrorist groups such as Al Qaida. Interesting, and true that the fiercely anti-American Muslim splinter groups are the children of America’s own policy. The question is, if America did good by enabling (through finance, weapons and training) the impoverished Afghans to defeat a great military power like the Soviet Union, why did the beneficiaries of that defeat - the liberated Afghan Muslims - develop such hatred of “the Great Satan?” Simple enough. As is so often the case Americans - politicians, policy shapers and enablers - dropped the ball after the their success. There was no follow up. Myopia and ignorance: these are not monopolized by America/Americans, but they are characteristic of those people. Do you think that Afghans under the Taliban in the 1990s knew that they were freed from the Soviets by America? No. But the topic of this film is the exposition of the defeat of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism soon after, not the exposition of contemporary terrorism. The two are faintly related, but the film ends only with a teasing suggestion of what comes next.
I suppose that the story told by Charlie Wilson’s War is/will be news to many viewers. But not to me. The Soviets invaded Afghanistanwhen I was still in high school, in 1979, and they were most heavily involved there throughout the 1980s when I was in university. I paid attention to current events then, so the story of Charlie Wilson’s War is just revisiting old news as far as I am concerned.
This is more excellent acting by Tom Hanks. He plays a rather odious, near-corrupt U.S. Congressman who, through his Congressional committee associations is able to control/divert/funnel secret funds to the Afghan resistance. Charlie Wilson becomes the unknown and rather unlikely major player in one of the most significant events of 20thcentury history - the defeat of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism. The Taliban and Al Qaida are not the subject of this story, but the funding of the Mujahadim is their foundation. I was particularly interested to see the dramatization of the workings of Congress. It’s sickening in a fascinating way to see how American politics works.