Texas Rep an Advocate for Freedom
Former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson died this month. According to the Los Angeles Times, Wilson died of cardiopulmonary arrest at Memorial Medical Center after collapsing earlier that day.
He was best known for his fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Wilson was on the House Appropriations Committee and on its subcommittee on foreign operations, which helped finance Afghan militants opposing Soviet intervention.
The Afghani government had asked for Soviet help after noticing continuing trends that were preventing the country from taking a step forward. According to William Blum, author of "Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," Afghanistan had some of the worst living conditions imaginable, such as a life expectancy of 40, an infant mortality rate of 25 percent, horrid sanitation and an illiteracy rate of more than 90 percent.
This notion of Soviet aid to Afghanistan was considered Communist expansion by the US and there were large groups of Afghan citizens that were angered by the Soviet "intrusion." Wilson also considered it as such, and upon the urging of Houston socialite and personal friend Joanne Herring, decided to pay Afghanistan a visit.
Wilson was dismayed with what he saw, hundreds of thousands of Afghani citizens who had been displaced by the constant fighting and inhumane conditions. The Congressman decided to start funding the Afghan militants to help defeat the Soviets.
What started as a few million dollars annually in the early 1980s quickly grew to $750 million of annual aid. His assistance came in many forms and it came whenever it was needed.
According to the New York Times, when the Soviets had killed the camels and mules to slow down Afghan supply lines, Wilson flew in Tennessee mules to help transport materials. When the CIA refused to give field radios for fear of Soviet interception of radio signals, Wilson sent $12,000 worth of Radio Shack walkie-talkies.
However, the Stinger anti-aircraft missiles Wilson supplied were the most helpful. With anti-aircraft missiles, the Afghan fighters could now shoot down Soviet helicopters. With one of their major weapons useless thanks to the Stinger missiles, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan by February of 1989.
Wilson's efforts were incredibly noble considering the knowledge he had been able to garner from the situation. However, what many don't know about Wilson is his personal character. According to the New York Times, his laid back approach to his job, a cocaine scandal in Las Vegas, a playboy life and his hiring of young, attractive women in his office set Wilson up for a controversial political career.
There are those that deny this, such as Buddy Temple, a close friend of Wilson's for 45 years. Temple denies these aspects of his character. "The whole idea that he was this playboy who never paid attention to business was just as wrong as it could be," he told the Los Angeles Times.
It will be up to history to judge the success or failure of Mr. Wilson. Just as President Clinton's sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky forever changed his name in history, Mr. Wilson will also be judged. The question is how will he be remembered in a hundred years?
Are his personal matters and alleged scandals sweeping enough to override what he accomplished as a Senator and Congressman? Or is he to be commended because he cordoned off Soviet expansion into the Middle East and Central Asia?
Personally, Wilson has done enough to convince this writer that he prevented a potential disaster by funding Afghan militants. The world would probably be for the worse had Mr. Wilson not acted as he did. Let "Good Time Charlie" rest in peace.