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Charlie Wilson's War: The Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History [Paperback]

George Crile
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Nov 2007
In the last decade, two events have transformed the world: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of militant Islam. This is the first book to explain the link between these two occurrences. George Crile spent nearly a decade researching and writing this original account of the biggest, most expensive secret war in history: the arming of the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation. Moving from the secret chambers in CIA headquarters to stand-offs in the Khyber Pass, Charlie Wilson's "War" is one of the most thorough and vivid descriptions of CIA operations ever written. It is the missing chapter in the geopolitics of our time.

Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (8 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843547368
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843547365
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 371,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'The piece of investigative journalism that most impressed me this year.' Mark Mazower, New Statesman Books of the Year 'A gripping read' Economist 'Riveting, beautifully researched and profoundly disturbing... An astonishing glimpse into the world of the CIA.' Jason Burke, Observer"

About the Author

George Crile was an award-winning journalist and a producer for the American news programme 60 Minutes. He died in 2006.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
When Congressman Charlie Wilson set off for a weekend in Las Vegas on June 27, 1980, there was no confusion in his mind about why he had chosen to stay at Caesars Palace. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary story of the Largest Covert Operation in History," by George Crile is an eye-popping account of how a "rule-breaking" Congressman from the Bible Belt of east Texas took revenge on the Soviet Union for American blood spilled in Vietnam. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 27, 1979 and pulled out on February 15, 1989. All and all, 28,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson is the man that made it happen.
Charles "Nesbitt" Wilson is a 1956 graduate of Annapolis who worshipped Winston Churchill and entered politics in 1961 at the age of 27 as Texas State Representative. Wilson won a seat to Congress in 1973 as a Liberal. He regularly voted against Vietnam and eventually became of strong defender of Israel. Wilson's appointment to the House Appropriations Committee and a strategic alliance with irreverent street-wise CIA veteran named Gust Avrakotos ignited the biggest covert action since the Vietnam War. It wasn't easy...Wilson took on the CIA's regional masters and won. He did so by dramatically increasing CIA funding for the Afghan fighters. His primary mission was to find a weapon that could knock the powerful Russian Mi-24 Hind Helicopter gun ship out of the sky.
The author is knowledgeable. He reports the towering importance of revenge in Afghan society. He also details the cruel and disturbing side of the Afghan tribal warriors. To this end, Crile shows how the Afghans were seen as freedom fighters before 9/11 and as terrorists afterward. Moreover, Crile explains how the Afghans grew confident with the defeat of a superpower. Ultimately, this book is a strong account of how the CIA funded the war against Moscow's army and how the defeat at the hands of the Afghans contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fun read but limited insight... 20 Jan 2008
I have read a few books about the covert war in 1980's Afghanistan. Recently I wanted to read a book that gave a greater critical overview of the operation to supply and support the mujahuddin. This, sadly, is not that book. This book seems more of an authorised biography of Congressman Charlie Wilson and CIA agent Gust Avrakotos. Huge sections of the book deal with their early careers and personal lives. There is quite a bit of unnecessary hero worshipping by the author towards Charlie and Gust. The author also paints an unflattering picture of all the other US agencies and politicians involved in the operation. It also seems that no criticism is made of the decisions the two men made, often in a frighteningly adhoc manner. Decisions such as their financial backing and arming of dubious people such as Zia ul Haq, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Jalaluddin Haqani and the Pakistani ISI. Backing which has had very serious consequences for peace in the region.

This book is a light hearted tale of two rather engaging and rebellious characters, rather than a critical 'warts and all' history of the biggest covert operation of the cold war. It is easy to read and fun but don't expect too much.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What really happened... 3 Jan 2008
By lifeclearout VINE VOICE
This is a really enjoyable book - a great read from start to finish and a fascinating account of how the CIA - together with Saudi Arabia - funded the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. And how did it become possible for the CIA to mount its biggest ever covert operation? Well, it was largely down to two men - a maverick CIA field agent and an (equally maverick) American politician. Thoroughly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Mr X
I had initially put off reading this book due to its length, especially after I heard from friends who had seen the film that the film was quite short. However having started to read the book I was engaged almost immediately.

The book, whilst long, is interesting almost the whole time (there are some bits about two-thirds of the way through the book where I feel it flags somewhat). The story is relatively well known so there's no need for me to summarise it here. The book gives a very valuable and worrying insight into how a lone congressman, albeit quite a character, can deal with foreign governments, militaries and intelligence agencies without the knowledge, or in the face of the opposition of, the appropriate US authorities. The author is a very good writer and keeps the book moving; and despite the fact that it often deals with congressional politics of the eighties this is not boring (if it was I would be the first to lose interest) as he tells the story in a logical and focused way.

I think the book could be made even better by having the end section expanded at the expense of the middle section to deal with the consequences of the funding of all the mujahadeen groups. Mr Crile is not critical at all of the actions of Congressman Wilson; certainly Wilson helped contribute to the withdrawal of the USSR from Afghanistan but the long term cost for the West of the policy of Mr Wilson and Mr Avrakotos is not looked at in any detail.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting book.
Published 1 month ago by A. Buchan
3.0 out of 5 stars A revealing Book
Very important and little known historical events,presented in this Book, are drowned in too many details included it its text
Published 8 months ago by Sotirios Georgiadis
4.0 out of 5 stars DRIVE-BY VOTERS HAVEN'T A CLUE
Charlie is proof-positive that the public can be fooled into electing anyone for anything. Its the packaging that counts because the drive-by voters keep electing politicians based... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mervyn O. Hagger
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
If you want to understand how Afghanistan works and why the Taliban are as effective as they are read this book. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Simon Keyes
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel
I bought this book as I have seen the film and wanted to get the book. I have kind of started reading it. Considering it is a used book, not brand new, it is in good condition. Read more
Published on 4 Oct 2011 by DW
2.0 out of 5 stars Charlie Wilson - Batman or the Joker?
I misread the blurb of this book and thought it said the author had worked for the CIA for 30 years. Read more
Published on 24 July 2011 by John Fitzpatrick
4.0 out of 5 stars Sins of the Father
I believe that this book is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the current 'War' on terrorism. Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2009 by pumps100
5.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force
I think this is a very important book. It is made from the most painstaking research not mainly of the academic kind, but the kind of research which involves travelling all over... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2008 by conjunction
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating & entertaining but a bit long winded
For those who have seen the recent movie version of Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hank and Julia Roberts, and are expecting the book to be a similarly fast paced, witty, Aaron... Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2008 by C. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars How one man helped to create the USSR's Vietnam
A very interesting book about how a senator successfully conducted American foreign policy without the knowledge of the White House. Read more
Published on 6 Mar 2008 by BS on parade
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