succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame."

Why do we have to be so Goddamned bad at learning? That's what I kept thinking walking out of Charlie Wilson's War last night. Initially, I wanted to post a rave review, jumping up and down about how every citizen and politician should go see it right now. And while I still think it's a great movie, after a night of sleep I'm a bit more tempered about it. Then again, maybe I just like my movies to be a bit more heavy-handed politically. The movie does a great job of showing just how up to our eyeballs we were in Afghanistan's war against the Soviets. And it even makes a pretty compelling argument as to why we were so invested. But about halfway through the movie I started wondering if they were somehow going to just tell this story in blissful isolation, without any acknowledgement of the straight line you can draw through history from our funding of the mujahideen through to the Taliban, then al-Qaeda, then 9/11. What we get is one last scene of Charlie begging the appropriations committee for $1 million to fund schools in Afghanistan (as compared to the $1 billion they eventually invested in weapons and training) and then the above Charlie Wilson quote just as the credits start to roll. Just imagine how different things might have been if we had worked to provide Afghanis with some alternative to madrasahs. I know, I know, our government investing in schools in another country when we have our own problems here can be a hard budgetary item to sell. But a) we were invested enough to recognize that our own interests would be served by helping the Afghanis fight the Soviets, so we should be invested enough to recognize that it also serves our interests to help the Afghanis get back on their feet instead of abandoning them to the whims of the Taliban and b) I'm just so fucking tired of the bottomless pit of money we're willing to throw at wars and then the oh-we're-so-poor routine we play whenever money needs to be allocated to the sorts of things that might prevent wars.

What I also thought was interesting is that we get one brief mention of Massoud, and none of bin Laden. Now, my knowledge of this particular bit of history comes from just a handful of essays, so I'm hardly an expert, but my understanding is that by this time bin Laden was already a mover and shaker within the mujahideen and, at least according to Sebastian Junger, the CIA wasn't investing much in Massoud as they found him too independent to be trusted to carry out American interests. But maybe talking out loud about our direct support and funding of people like bin Laden was too much for Hollywood.


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