Charlie Wilson pessimistic about future of Afghanistan
From the man who single-handidly shored up the Mujadeen in their defense of Afghanistan agains the Russians, the man who got the U.S. Congress to pour millions into that fight Wilson fears Americans have unrealistic expectations about what Afghanistan can be. Wilson says “As far as I know, and I think I’ve read as much as there is to read about it, there has never been, and I use the word never — n-e-v-e-r — never been a strong central government in Afghanistan. It’s valley to valley. And most of the different political viewpoints are based on some sort of religious parameters,”. Read our October 18, 2009 Charlie Wilson story here.
Read the whole story from a Ken Herman interview with Charlie Wilson in the Austin-American-Statesman below:
Before it was Barack Obama’s war, before it was George W. Bush’s war, Afghanistan was Charlie Wilson’s war. And now, Wilson doesn’t see much good happening in Afghanistan, even with 30,000 more U.S. troops. “This is really a tough one for me because I’m trying not to run my mouth too much, which is an unusual situation for me,” the former East Texas congressman — immortalized in a book and a movie about his exploits that helped the Afghans drive out the Soviet Union — told me from his Lufkin home.
Wilson’s assessment is not positive. “Generally, I’m a pretty optimistic person, and I’m not very optimistic about this,” he said. “I feel like I would not be surprised if in two years we’ve taken a lot of casualties and spent a lot of money and don’t have much to show for it.” Afghanistan, Wilson reminds us, is known as “the graveyard of empires” for its track record of defending against outside forces. Nevertheless, he believes the U.S. had to do what it did post-9/11.
“You can’t let somebody come and just blow up a couple of massive skyscrapers in New York and not do anything about it. So at the time I felt there was a great danger in what we were doing, but I didn’t see any choice,” he said. Two weeks after 9/11, Wilson, then a Washington lobbyist for Pakistan and other interests, told me about watching from his high-rise Arlington, Va., apartment as the Pentagon burned on 9/11. “I feel guilty about it. I really do,” he said then, remorseful that he didn’t do more for Afghanistan after the Soviets were routed.
“The part that I’ll take to my grave with guilt is that \u2026 I didn’t stay the course and stay there and push and drive the other members of Congress nuts pushing for a mini-Marshall Plan,” he said back then. “And I let myself be frustrated and discouraged by the fact that (the Afghan) leadership was so fragmented that we were unable to do the things we needed to do, like clear the mines, like furnish them millions of tons of fertilizer to be able to replant the crops.” Now, Wilson recalls he had harbored hope that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan would lead to a “gradual birth of a fledgling democracy. It damned sure hasn’t led there. It’s led to an unsatisfactory mixture. I’m trying to think of a way to phrase this. You just don’t see any significant and hopeful evidence of a serious movement toward a democratic, less corrupt society,” he said.
Wilson fears Americans have unrealistic expectations about what Afghanistan can be.
“As far as I know, and I think I’ve read as much as there is to read about it, there has never been, and I use the word never — n-e-v-e-r — never been a strong central government in Afghanistan. It’s valley to valley. And most of the different political viewpoints are based on some sort of religious parameters,” Wilson said. Are more troops the answer? “You just don’t know. From a political standpoint, it probably wasn’t a mistake. But most other ways it probably was,” he said. Is there a good chance of no return on the investment of more troops and treasure?
“That’s right,” Wilson said “If I were writing this, I would look back and look at Vietnam a little bit,” he said. “I just don’t see anything that’s really encouraging. And I don’t see anything that leads any way other than failure, although I very much hope that’s not true.”
Wilson knows the big difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan. We could and did walk away from Vietnam. Afghanistan could follow us home.And Wilson notes another potentially horrific difference when and if we walk away with anything short of the victory he sees as improbable. It involves U.S. sympathizers left behind. “It will be a lot worse (than in Vietnam). The torture and maiming and the separation of people from their limbs and all that sort of thing will be a lot worse because the Taliban is just awful,” he said.
At age 76 and two years removed from a heart transplant, Wilson’s public schedule is down to about nothing. Travel wears him out, and he’s stopped making speeches about Afghanistan “because I’m just so torn and don’t have any answers and see things kind of tough.”
“But you always have to hope that the secretary of defense and the national security advisers know something that we don’t know,” he said. “I kind of doubt that they do.”
Write to Ken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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War causes death and serious injuries. The United States troops hurt or dead is over 70,000. WHEN IS ENOUGH ENOUGH? End the War(s) NOW.
Read the story here: Last Week: US Iraq Casualties Rise to 72,548 From Voters For Peace By Michael Munk
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