1980 — Soviet tanks, troops, and helicopters invade a rugged region that has never been conquered; Afghanistan.
Soviet soldiers are raping women, killing civilians, and placing toys in towns for children to pick up. These toys are equipped with bombs. Thousands of children are either killed or maimed beyond recognition.
The United States’ budget for Afghanistan’ defense is embarrassing. Yet, the Afghans fight back with throwing rocks at the helicopters and refuse to surrender.
These atrocities go unnoticed until a congressman, with many character defects, including womanizing, excessive drinking, and alleged drug use visits a refugee camp.
Despite his flaws, he also gregarious, brave, and despises communism. He knows that if the Afghans can win, the Soviet Union will begin to crumble.
But, he is facing another serious issue. A young prosecutor has been assigned to investigate whether he used illegal drugs on a trip to Las Vegas. After months of investigation, Rudolph Giuliani decides that there is not sufficient evidence to present the case to a grand jury.
As the months pass, the Congressman is convinced by a wealthy Houston socialite to visit the Pakistani leadership. After meeting with them (and being refused whiskey during the meeting) he was taken to a major Pakistan-based Afghan refugee camp so he could see for himself the atrocities committed by the Soviets against the Afghan people.
After that visit, he later said that “the experience that will always be seared in my memory, was going through those hospitals and seeing, especially those children with their hands blown off from the mines that the Soviets were dropping from their helicopters. That was perhaps the deciding thing ... and it made a huge difference for the next 10 or 12 years of my life because I left those hospitals determined, as long as I had a breath in my body and was a member in Congress, that I was going to do what I could to make the Soviets pay for what they were doing.”
Because he had just been named to the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Defense, which is responsible for funding CIA operations, he requested a two-fold appropriation increase for the warriors known as the Afghan Mujahideen. His request was approved.
That was not the last time he increased the CIA budget for its Afghan operation. In 1983, he secured an additional $40 million, $17 million of which was allocated for anti-aircraft weapons to shoot down Soviet helicopters.
The next year, CIA officer Gust Avrakotos directly approached the Congressman, breaking the CIA’s policy against lobbying Congress for money, asking him for $50 million more. He agreed and convinced Congress, saying, “The U.S. had nothing whatsoever to do with these people’s decision to fight ... but we’ll be damned by history if we let them fight with stones.”
Later, he succeeded in giving the Afghans $300 million of unused Pentagon money before the end of the fiscal year.
This influx of weapons led to the retreat of Soviet forces in 1988. The Congressman said that this covert operation succeeded because “there was no partisanship or damaging leaks.” Both political parties were on board.
The Soviet defeat in Afghanistan also crippled their Empire. Within three years, the Soviet Union would collapse.
Rep. Charlie Wilson was a warrior. Like all of us, he was also a person with flaws. (Although, his were perhaps farther, wider, and more public than most folks.)
However, God used his flawed warrior, despite his imperfections, to help carry out one of His greatest missions; the total defeat the Soviet Empire.
Jason Swindle is a Carrollton attorney.