My Charlie Wilson War

Fatima Bhutto in The Daily Beast:

Fb Pakistan’s new government, the only in the world headed by two former convicts—who have their fingers on the button of a nuclear-armed state, no less—is nothing if not a keen purveyor of irony. There’s currently an effort underway by the Pakistani diplomatic mission in Texas to raise funds for a chair of Pakistan Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. The chair, a dream of the Pakistani diplomatic community, is to be named after Charlie Wilson. For those who missed the movie, it’s worth noting that of all the people to name a chair of Pakistani Studies after, Charlie Wilson is possibly the stupidest.

“Good-Time Charlie,” as Wilson was affectionately known by Afghan warlords and Texan socialites alike, has the dubious reputation of being the godfather of what would later be known as the Taliban in Afghanistan. (He was also buddies with Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza.) In the 1980s, Wilson led Congress into supporting the CIA covert operation aimed at funneling money and arms into Afghanistan through Pakistan’s military and secret services, the ISI. That money, it should be said, did not go to Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet’s communist invasion. No, it went to the mujahideen in the form of $17 million worth of anti-aircraft weapons, armaments, and other war toys. By the end of 1983, Wilson had managed to siphon $300 million of unused Pentagon cash to the Afghan mujahideen. Before they were the Taliban bad boys of the region, the mujahideen were one of Wilson’s pet projects. And now, Pakistan has decided to honor him by naming a chair of studies after him.

More here. (Thanks to Professor C.M.Naim)