Sunday, April 27, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War

"A stiff drink. A little mascara. A lot of nerve. Who said they couldn't bring down the Soviet empire."

I rented Charlie Wilson's War yesterday. Had wanted to see it in the theatre but alas, it was not meant to be.

Tell me, please, how I managed to get through the whole movie without realizing that I was watching Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Duh! Still don't know how I managed that. I guess I still think of Tom Hanks ala his Big days. He will be, for me, forever young. Or at least he was, until yesterday. And Julia, I have no idea how I missed her. True enough her hair was always up but I found her voice very different, she had an accent I have never associated with her. I might have recognized the teeth though!

All that aside, I really liked the movie. I had never heard the story before. Sure, I knew the Afghans beat the Russians when they tried to invade. Which is one fact people love to throw around when they argue that our current efforts in Afghanistan are all for naught. "Read your history", they say. "They beat the Russians, why do we think we can conquer them?" Or some variation on that theme ... But, like many apparently, I had never heard the story of the US involvement.

Besides the story and the delivery of the movie itself, I thought the ending was quite profound. When $2 billion later and the Russians have gone packing, Charlie is unsuccessful in getting $1 million to rebuild schools. "The Soviets are gone, are we still even in Afghanistan?" seems to be the feeling of the day. And as Charlie's argument that over half of the Afghan population is under the age of 14, that we always 'come in and do things our way' and then we leave, with no thought as to what we are leaving behind fell on deaf ears, I couldn't help but draw the parallel to today.

The story behind how the Afghans repelled the Soviets is not proof that what we are trying to do in today in Afghanistan is a waste of time. It's the very reason why we have to do what we are doing today in Afghanistan. It's the very reason why pulling out now would be the worst possible example of history repeating itself.

That old saying that those who don't know history are bound to repeat it, seems very apt here. Just not in the way many are using it.

When the world wasn't watching, they changed it forever.

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