Monday, December 24, 2007

Charlie Wilson's War

Back before there were all these rifts between the US and Osama bin Laden, we cooperated in a war of resistance against Soviet aggressors in Afghanistan. Remember when we were the good guys in Afghanistan? So, there were two main points to the movie.
  • Our foreign policy is arbitrary and sentimental. JoAnne Herring (who insists that Zia Ul-Haq didn't kill Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he had him properly convicted on [trumped up -- ed] charges and executed) convinces Charlie Wilson to go to Pakistan, where President Zia brings him to refugee camps. The refugees convince Representative Wilson that they're upset. He's on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and can insert unlabeled requests for money into the budget. The chairman of the subcommittee, George Long, is subsequently brought to the same refugee camp as has the same experience. So, we (and the Saudis) give them a billion dollars worth of arms.
  • T&A can really spice up a story. While all of these machinations are burbling along in the background, we get to look at a lot of fine female bodies. This is really the whole reason the movie's watchable. Really, any story is tellable in film once you find a way to inject scantily clad buxom nubiles.
Remember when we were the good guys in Afghanistan? Or at all? At the end of the movie, Charlie Wilson is convinced by CIA Afghanistan Desk Analyst Gust Avrakotos that schools and roads are called for, and goes forth to get money for those. But, frankly? It's not about killing Russians anymore, and the Defense Appropriations subcommittee only does defense appropriations.

Nation building was in those days the province of the State Department (and to some extent the Peace Corps! Shout out!) who made decisions in their own famously opaque way that had nothing to do with Congressional appropriations. So, we didn't do it.

Oh, well.

[note -- to clarify, this is a positive review. I like looking at attractive women's bodies, and think movies should lean on them more! While I might complain about the plutocratic thrust of the depicted government, I have no reason to think that it's not accurate. While there's undoubtedly some mythologizing, I don't doubt that West Wing got made in order to shut up a corruption witness.]

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