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Charlie Wilson's War

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  5,243 ratings  ·  655 reviews
s/t: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress & a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times
In a little over a decade, two events have transformed the world we live in: the collapse of the USSR & the rise of militant Islam. Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War & how it fueled the new jihad. Cri
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2003)
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Will Byrnes
Charlie Wilson's War is a chilling tale of how a few determined people can undermine all existing law, use their positions of power and influence to get unseen funds allocated, and pursue a major war without the approval of the American people. Crile was clearly enamored of Wilson, regarding him as a charismatic, larger-than-life figure, who performed a major service to the West by tipping the Soviet Union over the edge.

Crile (foreground) with Wilson (suspenders) and an unnamed ISI agent (shade
This book was too long and poorly written. It repeated itself and skipped around quite a bit. It took me a very long time to get through this, despite being interested in the material. The author would have done better with a condensed book that flowed better. The story is over dramatized and extrodinarily biased. I'd like to hear from Casey, George, and others who were denigrated in this book. I think this is overinflated and a very egotistical version of an important turning point in US Histor ...more
Rob Maynard
Charlie Wilson's war is indispensible for anyone who wants to understand the roots of our current war in Afghanistan. It's also a primer on how Washington worked in the 1970s-1980s under Reagan, Tip O'Neill, and others. Congressman Charlie Wilson and the CIA funneled billions of dollars worth of money and equipment to the Mooj, or Mujahadeen, in Afghanistan to "bleed" the Soviet 40th Army. Every penny, every bullet, went via Pakistan's ISI, as a condition of Pakistan allowing it all. Wilson, his ...more
An incredibly entertaining history of Amercia's most successful covert war via proxy. When the Soviets went into Afghanistan, Congressman Charlie Wilson pushed to support the mujaheddin.

It's true that this eventually turned against us, providing the training that militarized those who would eventually become terrorists, but those dots wouldn't be connected until many years later. At the time, many thought it plausible that Afghanistan would be solidly a U.S. partisan. The U.S. State Department i
This definately falls in the category of truth being stranger than fiction because this story is so unlikely that no one would believe it if it hadn't happened. Not only is there much more detail and depth than the movie even hinted at, it's also a great inside look at how the American government and intelligence community actually work.
I guess now that Tom Hanks starred in a movie based on this book, I'm obligated to write a review. If you're into politics , intrigue, and war stories, this will be your favorite book. It's a completely true story, yet it reads like the best fiction in the genre. The movie covered a lot, but of course, a lot was left out, like Charlie's short marriage and long decline into alcoholism, which was only symbolized in the movie.

Charlie Wilson was a Democrat hawk who saved freedom for the world from t
I stumbled across a copy of this book while on vacation. I haven't seen the film version as of yet, but I always prefer to read the book if given the choice between the two.

This book is an astonishingly well-written report of how easily one man, in the right position, can circumvent due process and the rule of law. Everyone involved in the events described here seems to think of the incidents reported here as a great patriotic endeavor. I think it's a tremendous primer on the use of raw power.

A tremendously fun read and how many books on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the jihad against the Soviets can you say that about? I'd give it 5 stars, if I felt I could trust it completely, but if it isn't entirely true, you'd want it to be. An alcholic dissolute Congressman brings down the Soviet Union, working with renegade CIA agents, right wing Christain fundamentalists aligned with fundalmentalist Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan. How can you not like this story? It's a bit like ...more
Jan 10, 2009 booklady marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Bear and I watched this movie last night and while on one hand I have to say it earned its "R" rating and then some, due to nudity, excessive profanity and immorality, it is nevertheless the incredible story of an unknown second-district Texas Congressman playboy who almost single-handedly procures millions of dollars (which were then matched by the Saudis) to support the Afghani mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union during the 1980s. Of course you know the outcome. What's so amazin ...more
Mar 16, 2008 Naeem rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Naeem by: Christine Kosmicki
This is a popular book which will soon be a film. But more goes on here than meets the eye. On the face of things, it seems like a book about the heroic efforts of a one man to help the Afghan Mujahideen take on the Soviets.

But the author is actually telling three stories. The second on is about the journey to find meaningful desire. Charlie Wilson is a wreck of a human who moves from false desire to false desire until he gets to the Mujahideen.

The question is: does he ever find his desire? If
I'm pretty conflicted about this one. It is an amazing true story with tremendous consequences (it could be argued for both good and bad) to every American. The story is very well told but filled with profanity (all of it, I presume, authentic). That was conflicting enough, but the most unsettling of all is how to weigh out the whole thing. It is fairly clear that the Russians' war with Afghanistan was the straw that financially broke the proverbial camel's back (along with an arms race with Ron ...more
Steve Kettmann
I read this book to review it for the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2003, long before Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts made what I consider a pretty good movie out of it. An important book. Here's my review from 2003:

An army of one
How a fast-living Texas congressman secretly funneled billions of dollars to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets
Reviewed by Steve Kettmann

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Charlie Wilson's War

The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History

By George Crile

This book explains Charlie Wilson's involvement in getting funding for the CIA's Afghanistan operation. Here is what I learned:
1. Charlie Wilson and his CIA buddies use the F-bomb (or some crass equivalent) constantly
2. Certain congressman are great at persuading others to co-operate with them, even when they do not agree with the plan.
3. Afghanistan is a crazy place
4. Charlie Wilson earned his nickname "Goodtime Charlie"

One conclusion that I draw (I do not think the author or the historical pr
Michael Linton
Charlie Wilson's war is a fascinating story with very interesting characters. It's a long book but it's necessary. It involves the CIA, how Congress funds wars or projects, world leaders and the CIA. It involves so many entities and characters, I don't see how the book could be any shorter.

It's not written in a traditional linear way for most of the book. It tends to have two stories running parallel with each because the main characters work for different organizations.

This book has given me a
May 14, 2007 Mrn rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lay reader
Shelves: militaryhistory
Introduces the reader to Charlie Wilson, a former Texas representative, and his involvement in the covert support provided to the mujihadeen. Loose on facts and long on speculation. The book does not provide a thorough history of US involvement nor does it attempt to. If it reads like fiction, a large of it may very well be just that.
Colleen Clark
Charlie Wilson, a flamboyant Congressman from Texas, took on the project of funneling arms to the Afghan opponents to the Soviet army, which had invaded Afghanistan in December, 1979, a couple of geopolitical eras ago.

The United States saw an opportunity to oppose Soviet power by supporting Afghans who were opposed to the invasion. They were called the mujahideen. Here's a paragraph from the Wikipedia article on the Soviet war in Afghanistan. "National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, known
Michael Prelee
This book fills in many missing chapters between American backing of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980's to the attacks of 9/11. It's incredible what one congressman and dozens of CIA operatives were able to accomplish and what the "unintended, unforeseen consequences" of those actions were. Clearly, we used the Mujaheddin to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan just as much as they used us to accomplish the same goal. The book makes clear that the American government may have been naive a ...more
Fascinating. George Crile is a master storyteller that critically portrays both the vices and virtues of the major players in the era of the Soviet-Afghan war. His vivid illustration of guerrilla warfare, congressional horse trading, political rivalries in the CIA, and much much more all culminate in a well rounded history that is also balanced in its judgement of the aftermath of Charlie's war. It leaves me wondering how one man could pull so many sources from so many different nations and remo ...more
Amit Tyagi
There are people who are destined to leave their mark on history, like Churchill, Lincoln or hundreds like them; but nobody would have ever given a chance in hell to this skirt chasing, cocaine snorting nobody congressman from the Bible Belt of Texas. And what an impact he made, not just on the war he made his own, but how he came to high jack the foreign policy of his country without holding neither the office nor the mandate to do it. It was entirely Charlie Wilson's zeal and his love for the ...more
I enjoyed the movie starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman when it first came out and bought this book to get the full story. And, I have to say, the old rule that the book is better than the movie holds true here as well. Mr. Crile has certainly done his research for this one, taking you deep inside the workings of Congress, the CIA, and Middle Eastern governments from Egypt to Pakistan. Not only is every nugget of information laid out in detail, but is written in such a ...more
In this book George Crile idolises Congressman Charlie Wilson, a good ol' Texan, a coke-snorting, whisky-guzzling, whoring, skirt-chasing arms-dealing, freeloading, hit-and-run drunk-driver, who constantly broke US laws to support the mujahideen, known as "freedom fighters" in their day, now known as something else entirely.

I found this implausible, yet true, story so captivating that I had a hard time putting the book down. Not only is Charlie Wilson's War a compelling story that flows like a n
Charlie Wilson is a bit like everyone - a good side and a bad side. His "public" persona displayed a lot of what many would think is bad. His personal mission as a congressman from Texas was to help the Afghans who were being invaded by Russia in the 1980's. He did this through funding and close work with the CIA. His problems with alcohol will strike a chord with any recovering or former drinker.

It is an intriguing book, and somewhat scary that one man could wield this much power. The movie by
Dave Gaston
Crile’s real life history reads like an excellent spy novel. The largest covert CIA war in history (Afghanistan / USA vs. Russia) was launched by a wild-man Texas Congressman named Charlie Wilson and two gifted CIA agents. They had three things in common; a deep hatred of communists, an addiction for wild risks and a gift for swaying people and politics. Charlie Wilson, through his Appropriations Committee influence, had the balls to funnel 100’s of millions of dollars and act as a illegal spoke ...more
Dana Stabenow
Charlie Wilson’s War I can best describe as a tale of Robin Hood and his merry men, a bunch of Washington D.C. true believers who never got over the Vietnam War, robbing the federal government to give to what they called the Afghan freedom fighters virtually unlimited funds and war materiel to boot the Soviet’s invading army back across their own border. It is a very entertaining read, it’s well written and incredibly well researched, but reading now what happened then through the prism of curre ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 24, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Afghanistan fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is indeed an entertaining book about a moral reprobate, Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, substantially responsible--along with the CIA, the Saudis and other authoritarian allies of the USA--for the defeat of the Soviet's attempts at nation building in Afghanistan during the eighties. Although this edition doesn't go into it, the history of American support for the Afghan "freedom fighters" is a good case study of unintended consequences as the withdrawal of Soviet forces supporting an alli ...more
A good yarn about Charlie Wilson, a Texas playboy Congressman who somehow found his calling as the lead advocate for the Afghan mujihadein (sp) fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. He worked with a maverick CIA agent on the project. The story is fun and wacky. The problem is the book is about 100 pages too long and the author goes to the well far too often about how crazy Wilson is or how much of a maverick the CIA agent can be and it becomes a bit trite in the middle. That all being said, it's an ...more
Larry Gallishaw
Hard to believe this is a true story because it reads like a good novel. I enjoyed it and learned a lot.
Larry G.
Douglas L.
An eye-opening look into the most successful CIA operation of all time, a secret war to bring down the Soviet empire. It was an interesting description of how a partnership between a whiskey swilling, womanizing congressman from bible thumping east Texas and a foul mouthed uncouth street kid from Pennsylvania conspired to bring down one of the biggest superpowers of the planet. While it felt a little long in some parts, there were enough comical and unbelievable details given to keep me interest ...more
Mal Ratz
Interesting retrospective, especially given that the interviews largely preceded 9/11.
Besides being an incredibly interesting history of America's involvement in Afghanistan's war against Russia in the 80's, this book was also an insightful exposé of the way that the United States Congress, and to some degree the CIA, actually work. While the author did repeat himself a few times, I don't think it took away from the overall story, instead, it served to reinforce the important actions that had led to certain events. Overall, I think it was very well-written, engaging, well-researc ...more
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Henley-Putnam Uni...: Historical Covert Action Cases 1 4 Nov 03, 2013 09:11AM  
  • Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
  • Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam
  • Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
  • The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran
  • See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism
  • Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda
  • The Gun
  • Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander
  • The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One
  • Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
  • The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
  • Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987
  • The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive & the Secret History of the KGB
  • The Triple Agent: The al-Qaeda Mole who Infiltrated the CIA
  • The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB
  • The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy
  • Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present
  • Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan
George Crile III was an American journalist most closely associated with his three decades of work at CBS News.

Son of George Crile, Jr.; grandson of George Crile.


George Crile, a television news producer who specialized in attacking difficult, controversial subjects, most famously in a documentary for CBS alleging that Gen. William C. Westmoreland and his military colleagues
More about George Crile III...
The Crile Cornball Collection of Fiction, Fact and Fantasy

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“Operating in the black market is like trying to get laid in a city you don't know. In a strange city, if you have enough money, you're bound to find something, but there might be a disease contracted, you might get rolled or arrested, and there's no telling how much it will cost. With you wife, its predictable and in a steady quantity.” 1 likes
“I do,” he remembers the matronly lady saying. “You haven’t missed much. She’s such a greedy cunt.” Wilson says he had a hard time keeping himself from spitting the soup out on the table. When he recovered, he said in his most courtly manner, “Baroness, I think you and I are going to have a lovely evening.” 0 likes
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