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Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Timesby George Crile
"Crile, a producer at 60 Minutes, has hold of a story here that everyone else missed, and his elation at having a big scoop dovetails with the enthusiasm that Charlie Wilson brought to his cause — arming the Afghan rebels to defeat the invading Soviet army in the '80s. Crile has written an extraordinarily entertaining piece of reportage that has much to tell us about how the U.S. armed a group of people who are now using the weapons we provided them to kill us. A fiction writer would be hard-pressed to come up with a comparable tale of American shortsightedness, or one with more hairpin reversals and rich, comic irony." Stephanie Zacharek, Salon.com (read the entire Salon review)
Synopses & Reviews
Hailed by Dan Rather as "a tour de force of writing and reporting," and by Molly Ivins as "a whale of a tale," Charlie Wilson's War was a publishing sensation and a New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times best-seller — the previously untold story of a whiskey-swilling, skirtchasing, scandal-prone congressman from Texas, and how he conspired with a rouge CIA operative to launch the biggest and most successful covert operation in U.S. history.
In the early 1980s, a Houston socialite turned the attention of maverick Texas congressman Charlie Wilson to the ragged band of Afghan "freedom fighters" who continued, despite overwhelming odds, to fight the Soviet invaders. The congressman became passionate about their cause. At a time when Ronald Reagan faced a total cutoff of funding for the Contra war, Wilson, who sat on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee, managed to procure hundreds of millions of dollars to support the mujahideen. The arms were secretly procured and distributed with the help of an out-of-favor CIA operative, Gust Avrokotos, whose working-class Greek-American background made him an anomaly among the Ivy League world of American spies. Avrakotos handpicked a staff of CIA outcasts to run his operation and, with their help, continually stretched the Agency's rules to the breaking point.
Moving from the back rooms of the Capitol, to secret chambers at Langley, to arms-dealers' conventions, to the Khyber Pass, this book presents an astonishing chapter of our recent past, and the key to understanding what helped trigger the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and ultimately led to the emergence of a brand-new foe in the form of radical Islam.
"The result is a vivid narrative, though a reader may wonder how much of this story is true in exactly the way Crile presents it. Still, few people who remember Wilson's years in Washington would discount even the wildest tales." David Johnston, The New York Times
"The stories George Crile tells in Charlie Wilson's War must be true — nobody could make them up. This is a rousing tale of jihad on the frontiers of the Cold War, infighting at the CIA and horse-trading in Congress, spiced by sex, booze, ambition and larger-than-life personalities. " Thomas Lippman, The Washington Post
"An amazing tale, made all the more amazing because it was missed by the press. George Crile has written a book revealing the extraordinary details and intrigue of a secret war, and that alone would be a monumental achievement....all of this comes with a breathtaking cast of characters worthy of a LeCarre novel. Only it's all true. And just as vivid." Ken Auletta
"Americans often ask: 'Where have all the heroes gone?' Well a lot of them come roaring through in this tour de force of reporting and writing. Tom Clancy's fiction pales in comparison with the amazing, mesmerizing story told by George Crile. By resurrecting a missing chapter out of our recent past, Charlie Wilson's War provides us with the key to understanding the present." Dan Rather
"A cross between Tom Clancy and Carl Hiassen, with the distinguishing feature that it's all apparently true....Throw in a middle-aged Texan belly dancer, an assortment of Congressional looinies, a few beauty queens, some ruthless Afghan rebels, and a murderous Pakistani dictator who only wants to be understood." Gerard DeGroot, Christian Science Monitor
"[W]hile this may have been the largest covert operation in U.S. history, it was not the most important; that honor goes to Operation Bodyguard, which hid the D-day invasion plan from Hitler. An interesting and readable story that is suitable for academic and large public libraries." Library Journal
"So, let?s see. We arm Afghan rebels to fight the Soviets. The Afghans drive the Russians out of their country. We ignore the Afghans. They stew for a few years and hook up with Osama bin Laden." Kirkus Reviews
"Give Crile his due. He has unearthed some startling details about this chapter of our covert history...and lent a great deal to a better understanding of our recent past and our troubled present." Denver Post
A gripping and vibrant book soon to be released as a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and directed by Mike Nichols, Charlie Wilsons War was a New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times best seller when it was published in 2003. Criles book is the true story of how a Texas Congressman and a rogue CIA agent conspired to launch the biggest, meanest, and most successful CIA campaign ever — the operation to fund the mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet army that had invaded Afghanistan. Moving from the back rooms of the Capitol to secret chambers at Langley, from arms dealers conventions to the Khyber Pass, Charlie Wilsons War presents an astonishing chapter of our recent past, and the key to understanding what helped trigger the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union and ultimately led to the emergence of a brand-new foe in the form of radical Islam.
A bestseller in hardcover, "Charlie Wilsons War" tells what became of the largest covert operation in history. Moving from the back rooms of the Capitol to arms-dealer conventions to the Khyber Pass, this is a compulsively readable account of the inside workings of the CIA.
About the Author
George Crile is a veteran producer for 60 Minutes. He lives in New York.
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