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August 3, 2008

Books: Charlie Wilson's War

I read Charlie Wilson's War while I was in Montana. Read may be inaccurate; I became completely obsessed with the book and worked it into nearly every conversation I had. For those not familiar, the book is a history of the secret CIA war that was waged in Afghanistan in the 1980's, when the Soviets were occupying the country and created a puppet government sympathetic to communism. The mujahideen freedom fighters were supported by the CIA to the tune of a billion dollars a year, even after the Soviets were pushed out of the country. (I hope I didn't ruin the ending for anyone...)

When I picked up this book, I was expecting another "US Government Does it All Wrong" sort of thing, a la the Woodward book State of Denial, and any number of books about 911, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The thing is, the operation in Afghanistan in the 80's was the biggest success that anyone could ever have dreamed of. People were scrambling to take credit for it in the end; Afghanistan was the Soviets' Vietnam. So you see these Americans fighting to get money and weapons for the mujahideen, and you're rooting for them, they're the heros! It's just such a perfect example of black and white turning into a muddy gray.

I haven't seen the movie, but I can only think that it must've sucked, or it would've been a huge hit. This is a fantastic book. Read it if you like politics, mystery, secret spy operations, history, or if you care about the future of the middle east.

The day I finished the book, I was walking through downtown Bozeman and saw a spray painted image on a dumpster. It had the Uncle Sam "We Want You" picture, with the words "You Bought the Bombs!" stenciled underneath. All I could think, is yeah, but buddy it's way more complicated than that.

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