Charlie Wilson’s Warts

Lots of boffo obits for former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-Afghanistan), who inspired the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” (also boffo at the box office).

One news organization wearing industrial-size pom-poms: The Wall Street Journal, whose Friday editorial began this way:

The average Member of Congress casts votes along party lines, passes out pork to the folks back home, attends fund raisers, and if he can’t find anything better to do with his life serves long enough to revel in being called “Mr. Chairman.” Then there are the rare likes of Charlie Wilson, the 12-term Texas Democrat who died this week at age 76, having helped to win the Cold War.

A same-day WSJ opinion piece by John Fund elaborated:

Charlie Wilson was a Texas Democrat who in the 1980s teamed up with other Cold Warriors to funnel arms to the Afghan rebels, humiliating the Soviet Union and hastening its end.

But not everyone has the same high regard for Wilson.

Exhibit A: This blog post at Telegraph.co.uk, which begins:

Would British and American troops be giving their lives in Afghanistan today if not for the late Charlie Wilson?

The former Texas senator’s intended legacy has been preserved forever on the silver screen by Tom Hanks in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War,’ the true story of how, almost single-handedly, he drew the United States in supporting Mujahideen fighters in their fight to overthrow the Kabul government and drive out the Soviet Red Army which propped it up.

The CIA military aid he generated strengthened the Mujahideen and eventually forced Moscow to withdraw its Red Army from Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson’s War celebrates his role as an anti-Communist Cold War hero and perhaps his actions played a part in the later collapse of the Soviet empire.

Today, the impact of his intervention is not so tidy.

Exhibit B: This Huffington Post post headlined, “I Come Not to Praise Wilson, But to Bury Him.”

Sample copy:

We all know that it was blonde bombshell Joanne Herring (played by Julia Roberts in the film) who recruited Wilson to the “cause of the Afghans.” However, it would really be more accurate to state that Mrs. Herring, as Honorary Consul for Pakistan, actually recruited Charlie Wilson to the “cause of the Pakistanis.”

And that cause, according to the HuffPo piece, was all about oil:

[I]n both the book and movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, we are told that Mr. Wilson was living on $700 a week. However, his 1981 Financial Disclosures show that, as of May 1982, he was holding between $100,000 to $250,000 worth of shares in an oil company called Supron, which he had purchased in March and September of 1981. On $700 a week? That’s a man who knows how to stretch a penny! Coincidentally, in April of 1982, Union Texas Petroleum purchased a controlling interest in Supron, and in October of that year, Congressman Wilson made his first official visit to Pakistan. Owning a plump share in Pakistan’s oil business could not fail but to heighten the good Congressman’s sympathy towards the Pakistani point of view. Such sympathy is further evidenced by the fact that, upon retiring from Congress in 1996, Wilson promptly became a high paid lobbyist for Pakistan, to the tune of over $300,000 per year.

Campaign Outsider Official InfoAlert™: The hardworking staff vouches for absolutely none of the aforementioned assertions.

We’re just saying . . .

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