I went to see “Charlie Wilson’s War” with mixed emotions. Aaron Sorkin, of “West Wing” fame, wrote the script, so I knew I’d be in for a treat, but the treat would have a dose of nationalism at its core. It would glorify giving weapons to the people who would eventually use them against us when we went into Afghanistan in 2001. It would paint the Soviets as evil and the U.S. as good at a time when we were toppling democratic governments all over Latin America.
Indeed, the Soviets would have done for the Afghanis what we should have been doing these last five years. They’d have built roads and hospitals and schools. How do I know that? Because they did it in Khazakstan, Uzbekistan, and the other Stans. Those countries were prosperous and decently governed until the Soviets left. The Stans these days are pretty much governed by murderous megalomaniacs.
My point is that I knew I would disagree with the film’s premise. Still, we’re talking an Aaron Sorkin script. And Tom Hanks. Who doesn’t like to watch Tom Hanks? So I went. And I’m glad I did.
The dialogue sizzled and amused; and I could even forgive the chauvinism, especially since the CIA man who ran Charlie Wilson fervently pressed Charlie, once the war was won, to build schools, roads, and hospitals there.
We all know that didn’t happen, and when the film showed Charlie butting his head against a wall of indifference trying to get the funding, I thought: Yeah, well, maybe he really tried. Or maybe the filmmakers are pretending he did so that we’ll excuse him for giving the mujahadeen all those weapons.
The film ends with a sentence he wrote, and that sentence convinced me that Charlie Wilson wanted to make peace as much as he wanted to make war. Unfortunately, it’s easier to talk congressmen into funding war than it is to talk them into building societies.
So when (not if) you go to see “Charlie Wilson’s War”, look for that last sentence. It’s a zinger.