Charlie Wilson has passed:
Wilson, a Democrat, represented Lufkin in the U.S. House from 1972 to 1996. He gained notoriety for his efforts in the 1980s to support the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation during the 1980s.
Wilson secretly secured congressional funds to arm the Afghans. The funding eventually grew to billions, roughly half in hidden U.S. taxpayer money, half in matching Saudi Arabian funds.
The secret funding was spelled out in a 2003 bestselling book by former CBS News 60 Minutes producer George Crile and dramatized in a movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Tom Hanks.
Wilson said he saw an opportunity to hurt the Soviets militarily and in their standing in the world after visiting Afghan refugee camps in 1982. The Soviets eventually pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989.
A faulty and imperfect man as are we all, but a fellow who understood that Democracy was better than Communism, and that elites are not better-suited to accrue power simply by virtue of their elitism. Wilson was a plain, down-to-earth fellow; he knew that when he did wrong and got away with it -as when he was involved with a DUI hit-and-run in DC- he had genuinely “got off easy” and admitted it. He knew that he had “earned” no special consideration, simply because he worked for the people of his district.
Come to think of it, that may be what I liked best about Charlie Wilson. He understood that he worked for the people of his congressional district, and his country. Not the other way around.
One of the things that bothered me about the film, “Charlie Wilson’s War” was that it portrayed Democrats as they used to be -as indisputably pro-American as anyone, and ideological only to the water’s edge- and only served to remind me how far away we have all come since his like filled the halls of congress.
I must wear the label “conservative” only because “classical liberalism” has been displaced by something that has appropriated the name, “liberal,” and built upon its foundation something so narrow, closed-minded and thought-police-friendly as to disorient and daze the world.
As I wrote to some friends just now, “if Democrats were still like Charlie Wilson, I would still be a Democrat.”
I think I’ll file this under “American Genius.”