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Charlie Wilson's War

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  6,148 Ratings  ·  705 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
Rob Maynard
Mar 28, 2011 Rob Maynard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 30, 2008 Leslie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2014 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 14, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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.
Mar 31, 2008 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 16, 2008 Naeem rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 Steve Kettmann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

Jan 04, 2013 Jerome rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 31, 2013 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 14, 2013 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 14, 2007 Mrn rated it it was ok  ·  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.
Mal Ratz
Aug 06, 2015 Mal Ratz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting retrospective, especially given that the interviews largely preceded 9/11.
May 09, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Colleen Clark
Mar 02, 2014 Colleen Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: afghan-cenasia
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
Amit Tyagi
May 02, 2014 Amit Tyagi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 18, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hellofastory. Vets from our latest long wars should read this book then, if capable, get involved in politics asap. The US needs militarily experienced leadership. The war on Salafi jihadis should not be run by professors, lawyers and career politicians. God forbid another ground war.

Charlie and Gust Avratakos are mostly superhuman in the utterly complex tale. Thanks to George Crile for unraveling this. It is one of those books like The Looming Tower that just slaps you in the face with it's des
Michael Prelee
Feb 23, 2015 Michael Prelee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 03, 2008 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Erik Graff
Jul 24, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Jun 10, 2013 Caleb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2008 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is overly long and unnecessarily repetitive, and constantly displays a dumpy fratboy's hero-worship of dudes who get chicks, but if you want to understand how and why the United States government and its surrogates established the Afghani terror schools that trained people like Osama bin Laden, Crile is your man. He's not exactly what I'd call writerly, but the coda about the war's aftermath among Soviet soldiers is beautiful, and for you wonks at the Central Asia desk, he calls Flashm ...more
Jun 19, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Douglas L.
Dec 29, 2008 Douglas L. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2008 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many and complex aspects of Afghanistan's war with Russia (e.g., Saudi weapons improved by Israeli technological adjustments delivered to Pakistan for transfer to the mujahideen to fight the Russians). The author points out that an unintended consequence of this "just war" initiated by a rogue congressman and rogue CIA agent was to replace the mujahideen with the taliban. Was the not-so-covert op worth it? Wilson argues it was because it brought down the Berlin wall. Guess history will ...more
Oct 25, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, non-fiction
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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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 Washington Crile.

From obituary:

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 mi
More about George Crile...

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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
“On every front, the CIA was turning its guerrillas into a far smarter and more lethal fighting force.” 0 likes
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