Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2008 11:33:10 EST
Subject: Charlie Wilson's War (critical review)
Inside the ranks of the CIA's career service there has always been a fundamental conflict between (1) those who believe that the primary mission of the Agency should be the clandestine collection of accurate information, objectively evaluated and resolutely unbiased, in support of national foreign and security policy ( i.e. Intelligence); and (2) those who have preferred to think of the Agency as a convenient instrument for the waging of secret underground war against America's enemies as perceived by the incumbent political administration ( i.e. Covert Action). This has always been, and certainly remains today, primarily a deep cultural divide more than simply a difference of operational policy and procedure.
This movie ("Charlie Wilson's War") should be viewed and evaluated with that underlying reality very much in mind. As entertainment, apply your own artistic judgment. However, as an illustration of how U.S. national policy is conceived and implemented, it is an absolute horror show by any standards. My fear is that the movie, already reaping Oscar nominations by the dozen, will in effect become just one more instance, of which there has been a flood recently, where the macho culture of killing enemies is glorified and celebrated at the expense of the much higher values of accurate and objective intelligence collection and analysis, disciplined by professional and intellectual integrity.
I strongly recommend, incidentally, that everyone see this movie. It should not be missed!
Ray Close (CIA Clandestine Service, 1951-1977)
Tom Hank's Charlie Wilson Movie: An Imperialist Comedy
Reviewed by Chalmers Johnson [published at Tomdispatch.com]
Posted on January 8, 2008. Printed on January 8, 2008
I have some personal knowledge of Congressmen like Charlie Wilson (D-2nd District, Texas, 1973-1996) because, for close to twenty years, my representative in the 50th Congressional District of California was Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, now serving an eight-and-a-half year prison sentence for soliciting and receiving bribes from defense contractors. Wilson and Cunningham held exactly the same plummy committee assignments in the House of Representatives -- the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee plus the Intelligence Oversight Committee -- from which they could dole out large sums of public money with little or no input from their colleagues or constituents.
Both men flagrantly abused their positions -- but with radically different consequences. Cunningham went to jail because he was too stupid to know how to game the system -- retire and become a lobbyist -- whereas Wilson received the Central Intelligence Agency Clandestine Service's first "honored colleague" award ever given to an outsider and went on to become a $360,000 per annum lobbyist for Pakistan.