Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The War of Unintended Consequences

Best movie I have seen in a long time. It is now at the American Cineplex on Route 202 in Flemington. I cannot urge you strongly enough to see “Charlie Wilson’s War.” It is especially a must see for those who because of limited time cannot read the books or watch the documentaries on our difficulties in the Middle East but want to understand more about our Middle East problems, some of their roots and the possible ramifications of early withdrawal from Iraq. It may be helpful in sizing up presidential candidates this election year. So, yes, I recommend a movie to help with our enlightenment. This true story deftly executed by director Mike Nichols is the picture that is worth the thousands of words needed to justify US responsibility in the Middle East and specifically Iraq and why we risk serious danger to our national security would we withdraw from that country prematurely.

On December 25, 1979 without much reason or provocation other than Cold War antagonism, Russia invaded Afghanistan. Under President Carter, the US responded lamely until the philandering, Texas good ole’ boy Congressman Charlie Wilson took interest and undertook action to arm the members of the Afghani mujahadeen with the kind of artillery needed to down the Russian choppers. During the so-called Cold War years, the US and Russia engaged in proxy wars in the Middle East. This war in Afghanistan was viewed thusly until Charlie Wilson gave into his qualms of conscience with regard to little Afghan children being maimed by shiny land mines and Afghan women being stabbed or raped by Russian soldiers.

In the recesses if his own moral consciousness, which was certainly an interesting trip to explore in and of itself, Wilson decided that this type of suffering of the Afghan people caught up in the proxy war between two super powers was not acceptable. He began a campaign to arm Afghanistan in order to level the playing field. It is all there, the sex and the freewheeling but not necessarily ineffective American style of world management we have come to expect in the US. We overhear the back room deals between enemies who work together as friends when necessary. We see the shock and awe of American military firepower. And again there is the inexcusable misreading of the possible bad outcomes of the US refusal to help re-build Afghanistan after the Russians pulled out and left the mess they created behind to fester. This is a lesson we need to get so we do not leave Iraq to the doom we left Afghanistan.

For those who blame 9/11 solely on American diplomatic failure, the role of Russia instigating turmoil in the Middle East should not be overlooked. The Russian invasion, the wasting of Afghanistan and Russia’s ultimate defeat were all pivotal in bin Laden’s successful attack on America. Believing that the Afghanis had defeated one super power, surely they could defeat another, bin Laden reasoned. Foolishly, in Afghanistan’s great hour of need and in the warmth of its great gratitude to the US, America abandoned Afghanistan. After the Russians left, Afghani factions fought within and then in 1996 ultimately fell to the Taliban which hosted bin Laden after he was invited to leave Sudan. Bin Laden entertained his recruits there and his lieutenants eventually struck us on 9/11. The rest of this history we are painfully aware of firsthand.

To make a good choice in November, we Americans need to understand and be informed about a world that is a world away from us on so many levels. Viewing this movie is a painless way to begin this fact gathering process. Charlie Wilson’s war has escalated into every American’s war. I urge you to take it in.

Because of the nudity, sex, violence and language this movie is not suitable for children.

Stay tuned.

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