I just saw Charlie Wilson’s War tonight and it was one helluva romp. Directed by Mike Nichols and scripted by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, it will remind you of Primary Colors, a Nichols film about another captivating American politician with prodigious appetites for vice and virtue. Tom Hanks’ performance is stellar, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s really is a sleeper and deserves an Oscar nomination. In fact, the film would be much less interesting if not for Hoffman’s gruff, funny, salt of the earth CIA spy. Even Julia Roberts, who I haven’t really enjoyed in a role in many years, does a decent job portraying a wealthy born-again Texas anti-Communist true believer.
One thing that I missed in the film was a sense of the irony of Wilson’s full-throated embrace of the mujahadeen struggle in Afghanistan. Except at the end, there was hardly a glimmer of recognition that all this would bite us in the ass. I also detested the glee with which Wilson and the CIA agent said: “Let’s go kill some Russians!” I guess the film is being true to the characters, but the notion is disgusting.
But one of the most telling lines in the film spoken, if I recall correctly, by Hoffman’s spook is “we always leave.” In other words, we invade countries to get what we want from them, but then we abandon them when we’ve achieved our interests or been defeated in the process. “We always leave,” of course will apply to Iraq, yet another country which will likely turn into the type of shambles Afghanistan became after the mujahadeen came to power, tearing the country apart in the process, and we exited.
Unfortunately, we are a country with a short attention span and easily bored when things don’t go our way.
On a related note, I listened to an excellent On the Media interview with Michael Hodges, author of AK-47: Story of the People’s Gun. He interviewed Mikhail Kalashnikov, who said he often wished he’d invented a lawnmower instead of a gun. The Russian weapons designer called his gun a “golem,” a being created to protect a people, but who runs amok and endangers the very people it was supposed to protect. This was especially telling to me because I wrote an essay here likening the IDF to the golem myth. And I suppose the mujahadeen were the U.S.’ golem. They did our bidding to rid Afghanistan of the Russians and then ran amok afterward. Now they rise up in the form of Al Qaeda against their former creator to overthrow him.