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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lessons from the Congressman Who Looked Beyond the Hot Tub

How Charlie Wilson Brought Down the Soviet Union & Congress “Screwed Up the End”

The opening scene of “Charlie Wilson’s War” is a hot tub party featuring both strippers and a Texas Congressman (no, not “Hot Tub Tom” DeLay) – but one who looked beyond the confines of the hot tub and saw something no one else did. Charlie Wilson had a vision that lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union. But it is the last scene that you really need to watch closely.

Charlie Wilson saw from the hot tub a TV news report by Dan Rather, portraying a people with no weapons fighting the Soviet Invasion of their country, Afghanistan, in the 1980’s. Joanne King Herring was the woman who got Charlie to see the global picture and its potential impact on the U.S.

So Charlie got other key Congressmen interested. With their funding --for Soviet anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles acquired with help from both Israel and Egypt -- he helped rain hell on Russian Gunships that had been shooting civilians until the Soviets couldn’t take the body count anymore and got out of the country.

But then, as he says in the book and movie: “We screwed up the end.”

After his fellow Congressmen had gladly voted for billions in weapons for the Mujahedeen, when the Russians left and Afghanistan was in shambles, Charlie couldn’t get them to fund even a couple million for a school. Without schools and an economy, a vacuum was created in which stepped Osama bin Laden, who provided money in return for a safe haven.

Moral: If we don’t provide schools and education to failed States like Afghanistan (Somalia, etc.) then the extremists fill the void and tragic events like 9/11 will happen, again.

Charlie would say the same today about Pakistan. If all we do is provide weapons and we don’t help countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan provide education for tens of thousands of children, then the extreme religious schools will continue to fill that void, filling their heads with extremist views instead of math and science. Instead of getting to know American books, the young students get a message of hate towards us, feeding the never-ending stream of suicide bombers willing to die.

Don’t forget Charlie’s lesson. It takes more than weapons to protect us. I am sure that Joanne King Herring will remind you of it -- if you listen to her. We need more Congress men and woman like Charlie Wilson and Americans like Joanne King Herring, people who think beyond the box.

Check out the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” in honor of Charlie, and pay attention to all of it. You’ll get a lot of laughs and be a wiser person as a result.

We salute you Charlie. You were no angel but you did a world of good.

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