Charlie Wilson's War
I’ve recently finished Charlie Wilson’s War, which Jeff Moss suggested to me. Charlie Wilson was a Congressman from Texas. Gust Avrakotos was a CIA officer. Together, they conspired to get hundreds of millions of dollars funneled to the Afghanistan resistance. The story is simply astounding–at times you think this can’t be true, but it all makes a certain bizarre sense.
The book ends roughly with the end of the Soviet occupation, and is weak on the post-soviet history. After all, that’s not the subject of the book, but it is that history which is now most interesting. Because the destruction of one of the world’s superpowers was the crucible in which Islamic militants met and learned. Much of Al Qaeda’s leadership met there. Their terrorist tactics were taught by the Pakistani intelligence services. They learned to fight, and gained a belief that god was providing weapons. The CIA funneled all aid through the Pakistani intelligence service, for reasons of “plausible deniability.”
There’s deep irony here, in how the US was played, the gains involved, such as (perhaps) the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of militant Islam. The book is short, enjoyable, and clearly repays read if you care about international affairs.
Some other reviews include Salon, and the Houston Chronicle.