Charlie Wilson’s War, the Culture of Imperialism and the Distortion of History





Mr. Kuzmarov is Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Bucknell University. His first book, The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs, will be published by the University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

In his provocative 1993 book, Culture and Imperialism, Edward W. Said examines how cultural representations in the West have historically helped to stereotype Third World peoples as being passively reliant on foreign aid for their social and political uplift, thus engendering support for imperial interventions ostensibly undertaken for humanitarian purposes. This was true, he argued, even in works critical of Western interventions, like Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness and Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, where the indigenous characters appear to be either incidental to the story or dependent on Westerners (as is exemplified in the Vietnamese character Phuong who latches onto the “quiet American” Alden Pyle as a means of escaping a life of poverty and prostitution).

Said’s final chapters focus on Hollywood’s promotion of demeaning stereotypes of Arabs as religious fanatics and terrorists and universally oppressive towards women. He highlights, further, how the Vietnamese people in most American films on the war have been deprived of human agency, with the U.S. defeat frequently blamed on ineffectual liberal bureaucrats and incompetent senior officers rather than the strength of Vietnamese nationalism and mobilizing abilities of the revolutionary leadership. Said would likely argue that Charlie Wilson’s War is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to promote underlying cultural stereotypes of Third World peoples and Muslims, while sanitizing the American record and its promotion of imperial violence.

Based loosely on true events, the film focuses on the efforts of a Congressional representative from Texas, Charlie Wilson, to raise funds for mujahadin “freedom fighters” seeking to “liberate” Afghanistan from the Soviets. A playboy renowned for his womanizing and high-lifestyle, Wilson becomes a lonely voice in support of the CIA’s covert war. He works closely with Gust Avrakatos, a master of the clandestine arts and supporter of a fascist coup in Greece (a fact unmentioned by the directors), who uses underhanded methods to funnel supplies through intermediaries in the Pakistani secret service. In the mould of Dirty Harry and Rambo, both Wilson and Avrakatos are portrayed as heroes for circumventing bureaucratic constraints and confronting the Russians – even if it entails making a quid-pro quo with the murderous Pakistani dictator Zia Al Huq as well buying arms from a shadowy Israeli black-marketer.

While the film is accurate in portraying the ends justifies the means philosophy embraced by the CIA and its alliance with murderous dictators, one major distortion is that the directors portray U.S. policy in Afghanistan as being largely reactive to the Soviet threat and a product of a well-intentioned desire to “save” the Afghan people. This ignores the aggressive policies pursued by Washington throughout the Cold War, its sponsorship of massive state terror in Central America at this time, and its long-standing desire to exploit the Middle-East’s oil supply. It further ignores comments made by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Adviser under Jimmy Carter, who told Le Monde in a 1998 interview: “According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the mujahadin began during 1980, that is to say after the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan, 24 December 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion the aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”  He added: “What is more important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred up Muslims or the liberation of central Europe and the end of the cold war? Now we can give the Russians their Vietnam War.” Where exactly does the well-being of the Afghan people fit in this grande design?

The most egregious misrepresentation of the film is in its portrayal of the mujahadin as being inexperienced in the handling of weapons and idealistic refugees fighting for the salvation of their people. This obscures that the CIA often shunned legitimate nationalists like Abdul Haq in favor of militant Islamic fundamentalists seeking to impose a fascist theocratic state along the mold of the Taliban. Among Washington’s key favorites was Gulbuddin Hikmatyar of the Hizb-Y Islami, who was valued for his hard-line anti-communism in spite of a reputation for abject ruthlessness. Hikmatyar was also a renowned opium smuggler and warlord, and was alleged to have sprayed acid in the faces of women who did not wear the veil. One of colleagues referred to him as “a true monster,” though he allegedly impressed the CIA (revealing something of its character) by wanting to take the war against the Soviets to Central Asia and roll back communism in Kazakhstan, Azerbajaan and Uzbekistan. One CIA officer said, “We wanted to kill as many Russians as we could, and Hikmatyar seemed like the guy to do it.”

Whitewashing these facts and over-sentimentalizing the CIA-mujahadin alliance, the film makes it seem as if they were genuine “liberators” who did not harm any civilians and whose ultimate victory over the Soviets represented a great moral triumph. The producers also imply that the chaos that ensued in Afghanistan after the war resulted from rogue forces taking over the country – ignoring the impact of their training in terrorist methods by the CIA (including specialization in high explosives). The agency of Afghans, moreover, is denied. In one telling scene, which fits with Said’s model, a group of rag-tag Afghani refugees beg Wilson for weapons and financial aid. After Wilson is able to deliver on his promise through intensive lobbying, the same men are shown struggling to maneuver a stinger missile and finally succeed in destroying a Russian aircraft bombing their village. Within a short time, a huge number of Soviet fighter planes are shot down and the mighty Russian Army is forced to retreat. Wilson’s support coupled with Avrakatos’s street savvy and guile appear as the key determining factors shaping this outcome -  rather than the ingenuity of the Afghan resistance and will of its people.  

The stereotype of Afghan dependence on the West remains entrenched at the end of the film. The lack of effective governance after the Soviet withdrawal and resultant suffering of the Afghan people is blamed on Congressional unwillingness to carry on the crusade further and build hospitals and roads for the country. One Congressmen is quoted as saying, “Who the hell cares about building hospitals or schools in Pakistan?” While this quote may convey where the true priorities of the government lie, there is no implication that the U.S. had contributed significantly to the destabilization of the country by helping to induce the original Soviet invasion, or would go on to support the Taliban while seeking to construct an oil pipeline through the country (as is documented for example in Mahmood Mamdani’s book, Good Muslim, Bad Muslim). Neither is there any recognition that indigenous leaders might be able to develop the country independent of Western patronage or support.

Viewers are left with the image of Afghans as being a helpless people, whose fate is dependent on political actions in the United States. The message is that Americans should intervene more in foreign countries to alleviate their miseries – notwithstanding the reality that U.S. policy is usually based on underlying geo-hegemonic and economic agendas and frequently contributes to mass human-rights violations and suffering, as in Afghanistan and Iraq today. By sanitizing and distorting history, and presenting Western militarism as a force for good, films like Charlie Wilson’s War ultimately help to perpetuate the ideological mindset shaping continued foreign policy blunders and crimes of historic dimensions, which the American public has yet to fully come to terms with.  

Related Links

  • Max Boot: Loves Charlie Wilson's War
  • MESH: Who Charlie Wilson's War appeals to
  • Melissa Roddy: The fiction sold in Charlie's War gives the CIA a free pass

  • comments powered by Disqus

    More Comments:


    mark safranski - 1/10/2008

    Perhaps the "right-wingers" presume that anyone throwing around unprovoked rudeness with such obvious venom must be a man?

    Steve Coll is a great journalist and Ghost Wars was a fine book but it did not focus on upper tier Soviet politics. Since you strike me as the type of HNN reader who only reads books and magazines by leftists, try Out of Afghanistan by the progressive Selig Harrison and Diego Cordovez. They at least, did not let Brezhnev and company off the hook.

    Chalmers Johnson on the other hand, is the kind of scholar who tends to begin with a result in mind, make a kitchen sink list of evidence that agrees with the result while ignoring any that contradicts the point in mind.

    Pretty much the kind of source that I'd expect you to rely upon.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/8/2008

    What gives rise to this penchant right-wingers have to confuse my gender?

    May I refer you, Mr safranski, to the following passage in a recent article by Chalmers Johnson -

    'Open Steve Coll's aptly titled book, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, at almost any page and you're likely to find something that makes a mockery of the film Charlie Wilson's War.'

    'Charlie Wilson's war thus turned out to have been just another bloody skirmish in the expansion and consolidation of the American empire -- and an imperial presidency. The victors were the military-industrial complex and our massive standing armies. The billion dollars' worth of weapons Wilson secretly supplied to the guerrillas ended up being turned on ourselves.'

    Mr safranski, in a world where much is based on one's subjective knowledge/opinion (it is hard to find an objective opinion) of what has led to the event under discussion - I will draw upon the knowledge of people like Chalmers Johnson rather than the 'official story'.



    mark safranski - 1/5/2008

    Invited? Who invited the Soviets?

    Actually, Mr. Paul, President Taraki -who came to power in a KGB supported coup against Mohammed Daoud (who deposed Zahir Shah with Soviet backing) - attempted to murder his younger and far more dangerous partner, Prime Minister Amin. Unfortunately for Taraki, Amin escaped the assassins, brutally killed Taraki and seized power. At least until Soviet SPETSNAZ troops killed him and his family in the Tajbeg Palace shortly thereafter.

    That pretty much ended the independent Communist government of Afghanistan, such as it was.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/5/2008

    I meant that the thread itself was convoluted.


    N. Friedman - 1/5/2008

    Lorraine,

    You will note that your post falls within Ms. Fay's post which answered my post about Prof. Said's background. Nothing I said was convoluted. Read back and you will see that I was direct and to the point, quoting a source - an expert on the topic - who notes Said's background rather explicitly.

    This is not a controversial matter. It is a matter about which Prof. Said preferred to skit around in order to suggest a greater connection with Palestinian Arabs than he had. But, again: he is an American who grew up in Egypt.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/5/2008

    This debate has become so convoluted that starting a new heading may avoid missing any new posts.
    I could be either or either. However, I prefer Ms. I began to wonder if calling me mister was an obscure insult.

    Regarding Edward Said's birthplace, forgive me if I continue to stick to the truth, as I know it. How is that for a qualification? <g>


    N. Friedman - 1/5/2008

    Maarja,

    Your points are well taken. Yes, mine was, for the most part, anecdotal evidence. The only exception was the use of stainless steel filling and the efforts that prevented people from immigrating. They are well established facts.


    N. Friedman - 1/5/2008

    Lorraine,

    I have been calling you "Mr." in all the posts. Now that you tell me you are not a Mr., I shall await to learn whether you are Ms. or Mrs.

    As for qualifying things, read my post to which your posts is addressed. Note what I quoted Karsh as showing.

    Again: Said was an American who grew up in Egypt. That is not a qualified statement. It is a straight forward and unqualified fact.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/5/2008

    What a lucky man you are, Friedman. '...as far as I know,', 'Internally...'. Quite a way with words. Qualifying all over the place but still pressing on as though what you say is so true as to be etched in stone.

    Strange behaviour from a man who, after numerous posts still has not worked out, even though I have told you already, that I am not a 'mister'!




    Lorraine Paul - 1/5/2008

    Two interesting posts, Ms Krusten. Thank you very much for that information. Thank goodness for people such as yourself who are prepared to take a principled stand. More power to you!

    When people are all too willing to view world events in black and white they do themselves a disservice. I did not just call on my own experiences in answering Friedman's comments. I have many friends who also visited the former USSR. Like myself they found life there good and bad. One had several operations on her eyes over a six or seven year period (the USSR was the world leader in that area for several decades).
    These operations meant several weeks' stay in hospital over there and she came to have a great affection for that country. The only cost of these operations was her plane fare there and back. I can't think of any other country who does that for their citizens, let alone 'foreigners'.

    Another friend, Jacob, who is Polish by birth, was given refuge in Leningrad during World War II. Some refuge, the Siege started soon after he arrived!! However, he received the same daily ration of food and other 'comforts' along with the rest of the people of that Hero City. Is it surprising that he now has a deep love and gratitude towards a people and a country which did such a thing?

    I travelled both to Leningrad (I can't bear to call it by that colonialist appellation, 'St Petersburg'), and to Volgagrad (as you know once known as Stalingrad). We in Australia, like the people of the US, have never had a foreign invasion on our own soil (that is if you do not count the colonial invasion of Australia by the English- but that is another story). Therefore, with that fact in mind, when I saw the 'battlefront' at Stalingrad I was totally in awe of those who fought in that conflict. It was a fortuitous occasion for our group as the day we arrived was none other than the Day of the City.

    May I refer to you two books that I have been reading - don't worry, I won't do a full bibliography (g)

    The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
    and
    Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity by Roy Porter.

    If you have not read them already there is much to think about in both of them.

    warm regards
    Lorraine








    N. Friedman - 1/4/2008

    Mr. Paul,

    My comment was directed to showing that Prof. Said is not a Palestinian Arab. Rather, he was an American who grew up in Egypt. That is, so far as I know, not subject to serious doubt.


    Maarja Krusten - 1/4/2008

    Here's some of what Sy Hersh wrote about me and my colleagues in an article in the New Yorker in 1992. There are systems of government (Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union) where the fact that someone such as Hersh identified me by name as someone who waged a fight involving access to the records of a former leader would have ended my career. Not so for me as a U.S. federal employee, I've actually been promoted twice since 1992. And my late twin sister, who as a federal employee served as an archivist, a supervisory archivist and team leader within the National Archives' records declassification division from 1983 until her death in December 2002, never suffered any retribution for anything that I did or said, either. (My late sister specialized in reviewing classified State Department records for potential disclosure.)

    That said, consider what Hersh wrote. Again, I suffered no damage to my career, nor did I fear any, due to Sy Hersh having written this.

    "The [NARA Nixon tapes] group was led by Frederick J. Graboske, an intense and energetic native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania., who had joined the National Archives in January of 1976. He and his colleagues were quiet and sturdy workers who understood that their political ideology must not interfere with their professional responsibilities. Graboske had voted for Nixon in 1968 and 1972 but had grown skeptical of his performance during Watergate. Maarja Krusten, who by all accounts was one of the most dedicated and talented members of the group, had been an enthusiastic volunteer in Nixon's 1968 Presidential campaign, and was until she put in some years Iistening to the tape recordings, at least, a Nixon admirer. She had worked on the staff of Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., of Tennessee, a Republican. She was eventually put in charge of training archivists assigned to the Nixon-tape project. The Graboske group had a strong sense of mission and spirit. "I enjoyed it," Paul A Schmidt, of Salt Lake City . . . recalled.

    . . . . Nixon and his attorneys did object [to the proposed release of Watergate tapes], in mid-1989, and they registered their objections by going directly to one of [then NARA Presidential Libraries chief John] Fawcett's deputies with a list of seventy deletions they required from the tapes to be released, none of them Watergater elated. It was the same issue that had been haunting the processing of the former President's documents since 1977.

    Nixon claimed that the archivists were violating his privacy. The archivists . . . feared that management was prepared once again to cave in, as it had caved in to the Justice Department's intervention in 1985. Fred Graboske, unfortunately, was no longer around to lead the protests: after eleven years on the job, he had moved on to an important new archival assignment, in the White House. The fight was waged by Maarja Krusten and Paul Schmidt; Joan Howard, then the Archives' leading expert on the Nixon papers, joined them."

    There are countries where people would have been terrified at the thought of taking on a former President's attorney -- or having a journalist identify them as having done so. Not so here in the U.S., at least for me. Just another sharing of anecdotal information about my particular experience, in this case as a fed.


    Maarja Krusten - 1/4/2008

    What we have here in some portions of this thread - both in your recounting of your experiences in visiting the Soviet Union during the 1980s and in the accounts provided by Mr. Friedman's wife of her life under Soviet rule - is the sharing of anecdotal evidence, not "definitive opinion." I didn't get the sense that Mr. Friedman was offering his wife's perspective as definitive opinion, any more than you were when you described your tourist experiences.

    If I were an historian writing about the Soviet Union in its last decades, I would use a combination of written material (including archival sources) and oral history interviews. If done well, oral history interviews can elicit description of experiences which are authentic reflections of the different speakers' experiences. But it is unlikely that an historian would point to information in a single oral history interview as dispositive of all the issues under review.

    I think you're right in saying that what generally is under discussion here is an area where people simply have to agree to disagree. Freedom is a relative concept there is no absolute "freedom" anywhere. There couldn't be, civilized society depends on the rule of law to regulate matters in multiple areas (to protect children and the vulnerable from harm; to regulate businesses which might harm the environment or produce shoddy or dangerous consumer goods; or to impose certain other limits in various other areas. This is going to vary from country to country).

    You mention Seymour Hersh, with whose work I am familiar, he having written about me and my colleagues among other things. There are many ways to look at Sy Hersh's work. It's kind of like the old question, is the glass half empty or half full. The half full way of looking at Sy Hersh is to say that he has had a successful career as an investigative journalist in a country where his work, starting with his Vietnam war-era reporting for the New York Times on My Lai, may have annoyed the authorities but his voice has not silenced. Far from it, he continues these days to publish hard hitting pieces in the New Yorker.

    Or in a lesser sense, look at me. I've had a successful career working for the U.S. government (it will be 35 years this year). Although I'm a federal employee, I feel free to draw on the public record and to describe areas in which I've disagreed with the National Archives and the U.S. Department of Justice in matters relating to Richard Nixon's records. I've felt free to have some 15 or 20 letters to the editor published on such matters in the New York Times and Washington Post and elsewhere since 1995. I could not have done that and continued rising during the course of a successful career (as I have here in the United States) in the Soviet Union in the period from the 1920s to the 1980s. Or in Nazi Germany during the 1930s or 1940s. Or under any dictatorial regime of the right or the left.

    Of course there's room for improvement in the U.S. There is in Australia, too. There would be in any nation. Not every government allows its citizens much leeway in talking about such things. I agree with Mr. Friedman that the fact that we can discuss such matters in open forums on U.S. websites such as this one on HNN is in itself a good thing.

    Posted on personal time


    Lorraine Paul - 1/4/2008

    The USSR did not 'invade'. It is my understanding they were asked for help by the 'democratically' elected government. You do know about democracy, don't you, Mr safranski?

    It is what many countries loudly proclaim but so seldom practise themselves!


    Lorraine Paul - 1/4/2008

    I forgot to mention Alger Hiss, another scholar vilified by vested interests. Even to the present day!!!


    Lorraine Paul - 1/4/2008

    Further, Friedman - here is another list of names of people who stood up to a 'cruel government'!

    Charles Chaplin, Joe Hill, Martin Luther King, the Hollywood Ten and others who refused to 'name names' before HUAC and thus were blacklisted never to be employed again - (see 'Hollywood Red' by Lester Cole, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Harry Bellafonte, Tim Robbins, Seymour Hersh, H G Wells, George Bernard Shaw.

    The people of Iraq aren't 'free', but you discount their plight by differentiating with the weazel words - 'Internally the US remains among the free-est...'. Well, that isn't an accurate statement either.

    As for your wife, forgive me if I don't accept her, or you, as the definitive opinion on the USSR.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/4/2008

    Friedman, You are only continuing to embarrass yourself by persisting in this fantasy regarding Edward Said.

    In my studies I have encountered many historians who have skewed the relevant details in their books and articles. Some have even descended to blatantly leaving out facts that, if stated, would have weakened their argument. For example, much of what I studied regarding Sacco and Vanzetti showed that some historians were determined to prove them guilty. Why should I take the word of this Karsh bloke over an internationally renowned scholar and academic, such as Edward Said?

    You, Friedman, may pat yourself on the back regarding your polite responses, but unfortunately a polite manner doesn't necessarily indicate an open mind.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/4/2008

    It appears we will have to agree to disagree.


    mark safranski - 1/4/2008

    Apparently the author, who chides Hollywood for denying "third world peoples" sufficient "agency" because of their poverty goes ten steps further by denying "agency" to the politburo of the Soviet Union.

    Evidently Brezhnev, Ustinov, Suslov, Andropov, Gromyko and Ponomarev were helpless before the tiny - it was really, really, tiny BTW - trickle of Carter administration aid to Afghan rebels and were forced to invade Afghanistan by the CIA.

    I'm curious if any of the pre-invasion aid authorized the Carter administration had even reached any Afghans by the time the USSR had invaded in December. Even after the invasion the sluices of American military aid did not flow for several years ( with Pakistan's military ripping off a fair percentage along the way).

    The reality of the record on the Soviet side and that of the Taraki-Amin Parcham-Khalq regime in Kabul tells a different story. It's a more interesting read to investigate than this piece that's trying to excuse the dead USSR of aggression.


    N. Friedman - 1/4/2008

    correction:

    The following, from the above post, were quotes:

    His hypocrisy was flagrant. Not only did Said present legitimate questions about the narrative he presented about his childhood in Palestine to be evidence of persecution, but he would also deny that he had ever claimed to be a Palestinian refugee, albeit continuing to write about his "fifty years of living the Palestinian exile"[17] and in reiterating his claim that he was "born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there,"[18] despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.



    Indeed, Said's description of his childhood years in Mandatory Palestine, on which he staked personal, and by extension, national claim to victimhood and dispossession, was more imaginary than real.[15] Said, a U.S. citizen by birth, grew up in Egypt and made only periodic visits to family in Jerusalem (or for that matter in other Arab countries). Mona Anis, an Egyptian journalist and admirer of Said, recalled her shock and surprise when, in her first personal encounter with Said at a conference at Essex University in 1984, she heard him speak Arabic in "perfect Egyptian dialect." She recalled, "I remember being so taken aback by his unexpected Egyptiannness that I hardly spoke. When Said left I burst out with the question that had been perplexing me: ‘How come he sounds as Egyptian as you and me?'"[16]


    N. Friedman - 1/4/2008

    Ms. Fay,

    Middle East historian Ephraim Karsh disagrees with you. He notes the following about Professor Said:

    His hypocrisy was flagrant. Not only did Said present legitimate questions about the narrative he presented about his childhood in Palestine to be evidence of persecution, but he would also deny that he had ever claimed to be a Palestinian refugee, albeit continuing to write about his "fifty years of living the Palestinian exile"[17] and in reiterating his claim that he was "born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there,"[18] despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.

    Moreover:

    Indeed, Said's description of his childhood years in Mandatory Palestine, on which he staked personal, and by extension, national claim to victimhood and dispossession, was more imaginary than real.[15] Said, a U.S. citizen by birth, grew up in Egypt and made only periodic visits to family in Jerusalem (or for that matter in other Arab countries). Mona Anis, an Egyptian journalist and admirer of Said, recalled her shock and surprise when, in her first personal encounter with Said at a conference at Essex University in 1984, she heard him speak Arabic in "perfect Egyptian dialect." She recalled, "I remember being so taken aback by his unexpected Egyptiannness that I hardly spoke. When Said left I burst out with the question that had been perplexing me: ‘How come he sounds as Egyptian as you and me?'"[16]

    I think that skepticism about Said's mythology is well taken. He was an American of Egyptian background.


    N. Friedman - 1/4/2008

    Ms. Fay,

    Middle East historian Ephraim Karsh disagrees with you. H notes the following about Professor Said:

    His hypocrisy was flagrant. Not only did Said present legitimate questions about the narrative he presented about his childhood in Palestine to be evidence of persecution, but he would also deny that he had ever claimed to be a Palestinian refugee, albeit continuing to write about his "fifty years of living the Palestinian exile"[17] and in reiterating his claim that he was "born in Jerusalem and spent most of my formative years there,"[18] despite conclusive evidence to the contrary.

    Moreover:

    Indeed, Said's description of his childhood years in Mandatory Palestine, on which he staked personal, and by extension, national claim to victimhood and dispossession, was more imaginary than real.[15] Said, a U.S. citizen by birth, grew up in Egypt and made only periodic visits to family in Jerusalem (or for that matter in other Arab countries). Mona Anis, an Egyptian journalist and admirer of Said, recalled her shock and surprise when, in her first personal encounter with Said at a conference at Essex University in 1984, she heard him speak Arabic in "perfect Egyptian dialect." She recalled, "I remember being so taken aback by his unexpected Egyptiannness that I hardly spoke. When Said left I burst out with the question that had been perplexing me: ‘How come he sounds as Egyptian as you and me?'"[16]

    I think that skepticism about Said's mythology is well taken. He was an American of Egyptian background.


    Mary Ann Fay - 1/4/2008

    Edward Said was a Palestinian, not an Egyptian, who was born in West Jerusalem in 1935. His father, Wadie, was also born in Jerusalem and his mother was born in Nazareth. Palestine was created out of Greater Syria and given to Britain as a mandate in 1920. Thus, Said was a citizen of Palestine. His father owned a business that had branches in Palestine and in Egypt. The family lived in both places and had homes in both places. The Said family was living in Palestine in 1947 when they left to escape the unofficial war between the Haganah and the Arab irregulars fighting for control of the country before the British departure in May 1948 and implementation of the U.N. partition plan. According to Israeli Law, all Palestinians who left the country around November 1947 until the cessation of hostilities between the newly-declared state of Israel and various Arab armies were declared absent and could not return nor claim their property. Edward Said ended up in the U.S.and became a citizen. You can read about his life in his memoir, Out of Place, or about the Said family in the memoir of his sister, Jean Said Makdisi, Beirut Fragments. What Said experienced, not being able to return to his homeland as a citizen, meant he could only return to Jerusalem on his U.S. passport as a visitor, which he describes in his memoir. Since Said published his memoir in 1999 there have been attempts to discredit him by claiming he was not Palestinian, which is demonstrably incorrect.


    N. Friedman - 1/4/2008

    Mr. Paul,

    Thank you for a civil answer although it does not appear that you have addressed the issues I raised. My issue concerned living in a country, not a country's relations with other countries.

    Consider that no country acts civilly in foreign policy. In that the USSR was founded on the Marxist view, it believed that its philosophy ought become the property of all mankind. That led it on evangelical missions all over the world, employing much violence in its efforts. Was its violence worse than the violence used by the US in its agenda? I do not know. I do not see, however, how that matters to the question of what life was like to live in the US or the USSR or France or Australia.

    Internally, the US remains among the freest, if not the freest nation, on Earth for its citizens. I note you mention that the US blocks entry to some people (e.g. of people who come from cultures which are hostile to Americans). But, in fact, the US has the most robust immigration policy of any country on Earth. Which is to say, we take in large numbers of immigrants - probably more than any other country - every year. Frankly, people who vow to do us harm can go elsewhere. It is right to say no to barbarians.

    Consider, by comparison, how the USSR treated immigrants. Did they have more than a few? In fact, the USSR built walls and fences, not to keep people out - as few wanted to come in - but to keep people in. That says a lot, it seems to me. Which is to say, the country's policies required it to become a prison to its population.

    As my wife says, you could read about other countries, in the USSR. You just could not visit them. And, that was not just due to the lack of wealth. It was that the USSR was concerned that those who would leave would defect.

    So, I think that comparison goes to the US, the world's great melting pot.

    I certainly was not addressing the early days of the USSR. I was addressing the period when my wife lived there. Read back. That period, which is after the rest of the world had recovered from WWII, the USSR remained undeveloped, its population unable to make toasters that worked well. Why? Because the country's employees did not much care because they were not paid well. And, they did not work very hard in reaction to that fact, there being no hope for improvement.

    Of course, there were some brave people who stood up to that horrid regime. The name Natan Sharansky, Yelena Bonner, Alexander Ginzburg, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov - heroes standing up to a cruel government - come to mind, among many other brave people.

    You say that the US no longer is free. That is, for the most part a myth. This website is located in the US. You can publish anything you want. The one issue that could get you in trouble is committing treasonous acts, which is what many Islamists advocate.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/3/2008

    Ms Krusten, I do understand what 'posted on personal time' means. I have seen it in your previous posts when you have commented on other posts.

    This post is also addressed to Mr Friedman.

    I am not here to give a history of the Czarist Russian Empire, nor the early days of the fledgeling USSR. Especially the days of the interventionist war waged by the western powers, including Australia.

    Looking around the US today, both of you would be well aware of the effect external and internal threats have on countries. Freedoms have been lost or curtailed. People have been abducted, jailed and tortured on the flimsiest of evidence. Those from overseas have often been refused entry to the US on the merest excuse; including having the wrong name.

    I can list many human rights abuses in other countries - many of whom had tottering military regimes supported by the US government of the day. Indonesia had a military coup overthrow the elected government, which was supported by the US. Even down to the CIA supplying the military with names of 'dissidents'. A conservative estimate is one million dead. Chile 1975, a bloodless coup in Australia, Vietnam, Nicaragua - four American nuns raped and murdered by US funded contras.

    On US soil alone, the first Red Scare, the plight of African-Americans, Sacco and Vanzetti, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Joe Hill for trying to organise a Union. the Bonus Marchers.

    The United Kingdom built concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War - quite possibly the first country to formalise this type of incarceration. They also built them in Archangel in the Russian north during the War of Intervention. Countless women and children died in those particular camps.

    Bad things happen and no country has an unblemished record

    I am lucky to live in Australia, one of, if not, the free-est countries on the planet (in comparion with the US) but we also have our problems. We have a universal health system, social welfare, subsidised pharmaceuticals. What we do not have is a sense of being surrounded by nuclear missiles pointing right at us.

    Just remember, it was the USSR which took the brunt of the invasion of Nazi Germany - fought them to a standstill and prevailed. For that alone we owe a debt of gratitude to the people of the former Soviet Union.




    Maarja Krusten - 1/2/2008

    Forgot to add my tag line (and yes this is going to sound funny but Mr. Friedman will understand it)

    "Posted on personal time"


    Maarja Krusten - 1/2/2008

    If the Soviet Union was just a country which had some problems, like any other country, Solzehnitsyn, Sakharov, the Medvedevs, Sharansky, and countless others would not have had the experiences they did. (Consider The Gulag Archipelago.) Dissent, the expression of which we in the West often take for granted, including here on HNN, all too often was attributed to mental illness or foreign influences. I don’t advocate removal from your job, placement in a psychiatric institution or prison, banishment to a provincial town, or deportation from your country as a reaction to the public expression of reasonable opinions that did not happen to fall within the boundaries approved of by the authorities. I respect for their courage many of the Soviet dissidents of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

    As it happens, yesterday, shortly before I read your post, I watched on DVD for the first time the German film _The Lives of Others_. This beautifully crafted film from 2006 is very evocative of a surveillance society (East Germany in 1984) where it was all too easy to land in an interrogation center, either as a target or as a potential informant. I for one am grateful that I have never had to live under such circumstances. Nor go through the horrors of the Great Famine of the 1930s in which millions of people died of starvation during Stalin’s forced collectivization of agriculture.

    As to your assertion that Mr. Friedman supports war, I haven’t picked up on that sentiment in anything that he has written here during the last three or four years. I have to say, I just don’t see the basis for your stating that about him, it seems unwarranted to me.

    I generally find unpersuasive as a style of argument attempts by posters to label each other broadly in HNN’s marketplace of opinions. That’s because at least in my experience, most people don’t fit into cookie cutter shapes. Also, for me, disagreement on one particular issue does not have to result in my rebuffing everything else that person says on every topic. I think it is entirely possible to argue against some points and concede other points to other posters, without weakening one’s positions in the initial areas of disagreement. I’m leery of name calling because I once encountered it in a high profile manner from Richard Nixon’s advocates as a result of work my colleagues and I did as U.S. National Archives’ employees with Nixon’s then secret White House tapes. I would have respected them more had they taken a different approach to disagreeing with what we did in screening his records for public access. The issues, like many others, could have been resolved without name calling. Here on HNN, the goal is not resolution. People interpret history too differently for that to occur. They do all have the right to speak up to express their views, you and Mr. Friedman among them. For me, it is interesting not just to read what people say, but also to see the different styles of argument that people use.


    N. Friedman - 1/2/2008

    Mr. Paul,

    Where did I say I like war? War is a terrible thing. On the other hand, I do believe that the destruction of the USSR was a good thing, notwithstanding your views, which are based on little knowledge of what life was actually like for those condemned to live in that country under its horrid regime.

    The USSR had the trappings, but not the substance, of Western life - something which you no doubt expect. So, they had universal health care. That is fine. They have it in France as well. Were I sick, I would rather be in France. So would you, especially if you were really sick.

    And, if you had a toothache, you would like to be pretty much in any Western country before the USSR. In the USSR, they drilled and also pulled teeth without anesthetics. They filled teeth with stainless steel fillings - which only serve to make cavities worse.

    They also had universal education. In the sciences, the education was quite good, perhaps in some ways considerably better than in the US.

    But, the humanities are another matter. In such subjects, if you did not toe the party line, your life was effectively over. Why? Because the state was everything on the pretext that it was the property of all. In reality, it was the property of a ruling class of bureaucrats who would allow no criticism at all. So, they advanced "yes" men who would enforce the current party line.

    The model for what occurred in the USSR was explained for me by one of my wife's cousins. Food traveled to central locations for distribution. The czar of such a location would not, however, allow the food to move on unless he was paid off. Such people became fabulously wealthy. As a result of this system, food often rotted while people, in most parts of the country lived on substandard nutrition. You will note that the life span of people in the country is low by Western standards. That has a lot to do with the quality of food and medicine.

    Unlike in the US where there is certainly a percentage of the population which has substandard access to good food, such was, in the USSR, the norm. Food was often sold rotten, as a result. And, there was no one to whom a complaint might be sent. Why? To do so could get you in trouble (i.e. ruin your life). So, frankly, Mr. Paul, you might judge things less on a visit as a tourist and listen to what people from the USSR say. It was a horrid regime.

    The thing that the USSR mostly did not offer was a dignified life. Rather, it offered a life for "yes" men (and women) willing to keep their thoughts to themselves and advance the party line without any - as in no - questions.

    As for watching TV news, I rarely watch it. In fact, I watch very little TV. You should not pigeonhole people.

    As for selling body parts, I really doubt Israel gets more than its share of parts, as Israel is not as rich per capita or by any other measure as, for example, the UK or France.

    The USSR was not just a country with problems. It was a country in which people were afraid. I have story for you. I have a family friend who, as an adviser to a government, used to visit the USSR regularly during the 1960's. They, like you, returned with glowing reports. However, on one trip, they spoke with a family relative who, for whatever reason, pushed them into an alleyway. While in the alleyway, she told my family friends that things were not what they thought and that a show was put on for outsiders. Now, that view of the country coincides with what my wife tells me. I bet also that it corresponds with what Maarja's relatives have told her.

    Further, the USSR oppressed and persectued its Jewish population. That, you will note, is why Jews were so anxious to leave the country. My wife had rocks thrown at her head, with police standing by and laughing at it. No offense, Mr. Paul. Your understanding of the USSR, based on a visit in the 1980's, was no basis to judge a country. As my wife says, you do not know what oppression even smells like.

    By the way, the USSR actually did have unemployment. And, there were beggars - although not as many as in the US. However, those Soviet people without jobs for long (and this was more common than you think) were jailed, since unemployment was a crime. So, the unemployed were in jail!!!


    Lorraine Paul - 1/2/2008

    I see, so you do not condemn war. Or have I misinterpreted your words? You find nothing but nobility in killing if you consider your purpose high enough?

    Your wife lived under a 'horrid regime'? Piffle, it was no worse and a lot better than many other countries. For a start, when I visited there in 1988, there was a free and open universal health system. I became ill whilst there (one of the hazards of travelling) and received free treatment.

    Further, everyone had a job, a roof over their heads and they were educated to a certain standard. I would presume a standard commensurate with their capabilities.

    It was a society which had problems, but which society doesn't? In Australia the condition of many of the indigenous population is a disgrace to our government and lack of a popular will to do more than is down at the moment. You could say that the indigenous live under a 'horrid regime', and you would be correct!

    We can see how worse off the peoples of the former USSR are now. For example Moldava was a prosperous, mainly agrarian, republic. Now it is the poorest country in Europe and the people there are reduced to selling their body parts to the rich, mainly in Israel.

    When you address me, Mr Friedman, you are not talking to someone who gets their information from Fox News. Or who has prejudices rooted in racism or religion.

    We do not seem to have any common ground, Mr Friedman and, frankly, with your penchant for war, I am glad this is so.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/1/2008

    Yes, I was very saddened to hear of his death.


    Stephen Cipolla - 1/1/2008

    It is Carter who has gotten a free pass on his support of radical Islamic "freedom fighters" in the Afghan war.

    This is about as clear a case of "blowback" as one can imagine.


    N. Friedman - 1/1/2008

    Correction:

    He was, not is, an American. He died.


    N. Friedman - 1/1/2008

    Mr. Paul,

    Mr. Said is an American of Egyptian background. He was not driven out of anyplace. He pretends to be of Palestinian background because he had some relatives from the region and spent some time there.


    N. Friedman - 1/1/2008

    Mr. Paul,

    Surely you recognize that funding research influences it. If not, I suggest you consider why people pay money to fund elections.

    As for the war against the USSR, I certainly do not condemn it. My wife is a refugee from the USSR. It was a horrid regime. Its demise was a victory for all people who love freedom.

    As for Said, I certainly have read him.


    Lorraine Paul - 1/1/2008

    Mr Friedman,
    Firstly, I am well aware mean was a typo for meal. Secondly, if you are going to refer me to material which you feel validates the opinions you expressed in your above post then forgive me if I do not bother to follow through on your suggestion. As the song goes ...the days dwindle down to a precious few...and I do not intend filling them with reading the tired-out arguments which I have already renounced.

    May I suggest you read 'Orientalism', before condemning it out of hand as a mere political tool. From your critique of it it is obvious to me that you have never read it.

    I found myself amused by your condemnation of funding by Saudi Arabia to further mid-East studies. (Something that may be more or less an exaggeration. Although if its basic premise is to clear away the obfuscation surrounding most people's pre-conceptions of that area, I would have thought you would appalud it). However, you fail to condemn the funding by the CIA to the Mujahadeen killing of Afghanis and the soldiers of the Soviet Union.






    Lorraine Paul - 1/1/2008

    Ms Krusten
    I understand that you are defending your friend, Mr Friedman, therefore, let me assure you that the indignation, exasperation and anger which his post aroused in me has cooled overnight and I was about to offer him my apology for the strong terms and words that I used in my post. On the other hand I will not apologise for my defence of Edward Said. Although, he more than adequately defended himself whilst he still lived.

    If Mr Friedman has found something positive in the funding of the Mujahadeen by the CIA, then good luck to him! Although one would quite possibly have to give him the Award as the world’s greatest living “Pollyanna”!

    You say that your ‘close relatives’ lived under “Soviet” occupation whereby they ‘...endured...deportations and other repressive measures...’. Edward Said would have had much in common with those relatives of yours as his family was also driven from their home by a repressive and brutal regime. Perhaps one day that unhappy land of Said’s birth may once again achieve a high level of civilisation and thus be able to face the mistakes their leadership made in the past – and refrain from making the same ones in the present.

    In the meantime, Ms Krusten I wouldn’t worry too much that my words may have wounded Mr Friedman so deeply that he will flee from his computer, never to return. I’m sure he is made of sterner stuff than that!


    N. Friedman - 12/31/2007

    Maarja,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I also plan to answer your comment on your testimony. It was fascinating material and I have some thoughts.


    N. Friedman - 12/31/2007

    1. CORRECTION.

    I meant MEAL TICKET, not MEAN TICKET.

    2. Here is some additional reading material for you.

    No offense but Said is a basis for politics, not scholarship.


    N. Friedman - 12/31/2007

    Mr. Paul,

    I consider Professor Lewis' critique of Said to be telling. Here is the beginning:

    Imagine a situation in which a group of patriots and radicals from Greece decides that the profession of classical studies is insulting to the great heritage of Hellas, and that those engaged in these studies, known as classicists, are the latest manifestation of a deep and evil conspiracy, incubated for centuries, hatched in Western Europe, fledged in America, the purpose of which is to denigrate the Greek achievement and subjugate the Greek lands and peoples. In this perspective, the entire European tradition of classical studies—largely the creation of French romantics, British colonial governors (of Cyprus, of course), and of poets, professors, and proconsuls from both countries—is a long-standing insult to the honor and integrity of Hellas, and a threat to its future. The poison has spread from Europe to the United States, where the teaching of Greek history, language, and literature in the universities is dominated by the evil race of classicists—men and women who are not of Greek origin, who have no sympathy for Greek causes, and who, under a false mask of dispassionate scholarship, strive to keep the Greek people in a state of permanent subordination.

    The time has come to save Greece from the classicists and bring the whole pernicious tradition of classical scholarship to an end. Only Greeks are truly able to teach and write on Greek history and culture from remote antiquity to the present day; only Greeks are genuinely competent to direct and conduct programs of academic studies in these fields. Some non-Greeks may be permitted to join in this great endeavor provided that they give convincing evidence of their competence, as for example by campaigning for the Greek cause in Cyprus, by demonstrating their ill will to the Turks, by offering a pinch of incense to the currently enthroned Greek gods, and by adopting whatever may be the latest fashionable ideology in Greek intellectual circles. Non-Greeks who will not or cannot meet these requirements are obviously hostile, and therefore not equipped to teach Greek studies in a fair and reasonable manner. They must not be permitted to hide behind the mask of classicism, but must be revealed for what they are—Turk-lovers, enemies of the Greek people, and opponents of the Greek cause. Those already established in academic circles must be discredited by abuse and thus neutralized; at the same time steps must be taken to ensure Greek or pro-Greek control of university centers and departments of Greek studies and thus, by a kind of academic prophylaxis, prevent the emergence of any further classical scholars or scholarship. In the meantime the very name of classicist must be transformed into a term of abuse.

    Stated in terms of classics and Greek, the picture is absurd. But if for classicist we substitute “Orientalist,” with the appropriate accompanying changes, this amusing fantasy becomes an alarming reality. For some years now a hue and cry has been raised against Orientalists in American and to a lesser extent European universities, and the term “Orientalism” has been emptied of its previous content and given an entirely new one—that of unsympathetic or hostile treatment of Oriental peoples. For that matter, even the terms “unsympathetic” and “hostile” have been redefined to mean not supportive of currently fashionable creeds or causes.


    Now, the reason that Said is currently fashionable is not his scholarship about the Muslim regions - which does not exist - but because he expresses the political mood of certain academics, most especially those who receive funds from the Arab regions. As scholar Walid Phares notes, 90% of the funding for Middle East studies programs comes from Saudi Arabia. As with polluting industries funding research about air pollution and the tobacco industry funding research about tobacco, no one says bad things about his or her mean ticket.

    You might also read Ivory Towers on Sand, by Martin Kramer, in which he discusses the negative impact on Middle East studies that Saidism has caused.

    Or, you might read some good critiques of Said's writings by famed Islamicists. It is to be noted, for the record, that Lewis has had at least one book published in Arabic by the Muslim Brotherhood. They evidently thought his scholarship to be pretty good, even though Said thinks he demeans Muslims. Of course, anyone reading the likes of Lewis knows that he does not such thing.

    Here is an analysis of Said's work by Ibn Warraq, an apostate from Islam.


    Maarja Krusten - 12/31/2007

    Ms. Paul, as someone who has been reading HNN for three or four years, I’m stunned at the tone you use above in responding to Mr. Friedman. For the life of me, I can’t tell where it is coming from and why the post he wrote triggered such a response.

    Of all the people who post on HNN, I’ve found comments from Mr. Friedman (who happens to be a lawyer) always worth reading and considering. The fact that I earn my living as an historian and he does not does not mean that I believe that he has nothing to offer us historians here. I have no reason to be afraid of someone such as Mr. Friedman – because he makes me think. Just as much as some of the historians who post here (and, actually, more than some of them), what he writes sometimes leads me to consider various perspectives and viewpoints. He is well-read, knowledgeable, and invariably thoughtful and reasonable in his presentations. While there is no one on HNN with whom I agree every single time, in every assertion that he or she posts, I respect Mr. Friedman for the intelligent and thoughtful way in which he presents his arguments.

    As someone whose close relatives once had to live under Soviet occupation in a country which endured Stalin-era deportations and other repressive measures, I have a visceral dislike of intimidation and force fits. I value free speech and debate, including the ability to disagree on historical interpretations. No nation is perfect (how things work depends, after all, on people such as us) but I greatly appreciate the traditions in the United States that allow us to debate issues here on HNN. Many of those issues are incredibly complex and nuanced. A template that works for one historian or reader may not for another. People look at issues through many different prisms. From where I sit, it is unnecessary to try to force a single interpretation on readers. I would think that most people who post here have the confidence in themselves to accept that if they do not see things the same way, “you can go your way, I can go mine, we simply can agree to disagree.” I hope Mr. Friedman is not discouraged by your post and that he continues to post here in the same manner as he has done in the past. I would miss his contributions if he did not do so.


    Jay Henry Janson - 12/31/2007

    Dear President Carter,
    Heaven knows how much the world appreciates your efforts for peace. But 26 pages come up on Google upon punching in "Brzezinski brags" -
    how he brought down the USSR by alarming it with the arming, funding and training of the fundamentalist hill tribes against the socialist
    leaning Kabul government, thus suckering it into entering into Afghanistan.

    Can you help us put into perspective the fundamentalist phenomenon used as a cold war tool so we may stop unnecessary bloodshed fostered by ignorance and blind hatred.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/janson120607.htm

    Confessions: Cindy re Casey, Bill Moyer re Vietnam, Jimmy Carter re Funding Terrorism

    By Jay Janson, 12 June, 2007
    Countercurrents.org

    One can't help often noticing that certain of our celebrities with a fine reputation for being helpful to the peace movement have dark
    secrets of personal anguish in their past, which upon candid revelation would help people understand events purposely distorted by
    corporate media and thus contributive to political education and consciousness raising amid a public so grossly misled by the war
    propaganda through news selection that purposely disinforms.

    FORMER PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER

    Jimmy Carter enjoys prestige and respect for his work as a dedicated promoter of peaceful solutions. What a enormous contribution to peace Carter could make by enlightening us on the process of covert murderous intention during his presidency. If he would just 'fess up'
    about his now no longer secret orders funding, training and equipping the fundamentalist tribes of the mountains against the socialist
    (women liberating) government in Kabul, a full six months BEFORE the first units of the Soviet army entered Afghanistan. One would imagine
    that Carter himself would see the great value of an honest admission and welcome an opportunity to unburden himself of whatever feelings of anguish and self-recrimination he might be experiencing.

    It was Carter's advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who bragged to French news magazine, Le Nouvel Observateur, in Paris, 15 January 1998, of
    suckering in the Russians, by frightening them into believing the U.S. was threatening to create a hostile Muslim nation on its doorstep amid the Soviet Muslin republics, by our pouring in money to arm and train fundamentalists, fundamentalist tribes who would later receive much more, openly, from successive U.S. administrations, and which would include the funding, along with Saudi help, of tens of thousands of extreme Wahhabi sect madrasahs, schools that would
    eventually produce the Taliban, who along with Osama bin-Ladin, would eventually also receive U.S. aid.

    “Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services
    began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser
    to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

    Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for
    secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained
    to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

    Peace loving Jimmy, please tell us candidly of the times when you weren’t for peace and the mitigating circumstances thereof. Help us
    understand that the roots of today's genocidal belligerencies go way back to a history of nefarious foreign policy.

    Appreciatively in advance and in highest respect for your recent book on Palestine,
    jay janson


    Lorraine Paul - 12/31/2007

    Friedman, you should be ashamed of yourself! Edward Said wrote a book that became a text for any serious student of mid-East studies. To denigrate his work brings only brings your own shortcomings in understanding the world outside of the US into sharp focus!!

    Grow up, Friedman, and throw off your prejudices and bigotry and look at events in the cold light of reality.

    If one believes that the US lured the USSR into intervening in Afghantistan, and they, the USSR, had refused at least twice to do so, and then the US used that intervention to intervene on the side of the bloodthirsty mujahadeen, as I do, then your post becomes an empty and sad denial of the truth.

    Why didn't you quote Brzinszki when he said that what are a few Muslim fanatics compared to the downfall of the USSR. Well, I can't remember the last time the USSR attacked a NYC and killed three thousand innocent people going about their every day lives.

    Even though it may get me banned from HNN, I have to attack your pathetic utterances on a personal level as well as a historical level. I hope you don't have the audacity to claim to be a historian - if so, I can only tremble for the students you indoctrinate with your half-truths and bigotry!

    The US has been the greatest danger to the planet for the last 50 years. This danger has now culminated in a President who knows less about the rest of the world than any President preceding him! A fool who took the advice of bigger fools.

    It is the age of mediocrity - and yhou fit in beautifully!!


    N. Friedman - 12/31/2007

    Charlie Wilson's War does not demean people. Wilson's effort to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan may or may not have been good one. One has to wonder about whether it was such a good idea.

    On the other hand, the movie portrayal of the Afghanis is extremely sympathetic. It shows the suffering such people endured at the hands of the Soviet military. And it shows Afghanis risking limb and life to drive the Soviets out.

    The movie's portrayal of General Haq of Pakistan, a religious fanatic, is not sympathetic. He was, for the record, a vicious dictator who did much to bring Islamist politics front and center in his country.

    Some people really are fanatics. Some cultures have been overtaken by fanaticism. Islamist ideology, which has large numbers of adherents in the Muslim regions, is a fanatical ideology, willing to use any means to advance its aims. Denying that reality is a delusion.

    Saidist BSing makes it more difficult to investigate this fanatical ideology, not to mention a serious study of the Muslim regions and Islam. The impact of pseudo-analysis such as the Saidist one is eliminate critical examination of a society, by making believe that descriptions of fanaticism serve a political, rather than a scholarly, agenda.

    In fact, Saidists have a political agenda which, at present, is served by not criticizing the Islamist agenda. Hence, nonsense articles such as the one here.

    As for the movie, it was not bad. In fact, it was pretty good as entertainment and as a study of a particular type of politician.