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Charlie Wilson's war
Other title(s):
Extraordinary story of the largest covert operation in history

Publication Information:
New York : Blackstone Audiobooks, ¿́¿2003.
Physical Description:
17 audio discs (approximately 20 1/2 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact discs.


Read by Christopher Lee.
The untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War and how it fueled the rise of militant Islam.


Call Number
958.1045 Crile

On Order



Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story of the last battle of the Cold War and how it fueled the rise of militant Islam. Charlie Wilson, a maverick congressman from east Texas, conspired with a rogue CIA operative to launch the biggest, meanest, and most successful covert operation in the Agency's history.

In the early 1980s, after a Houston socialite turned Wilson's attention to the ragged Afghan freedom fighters who continued to fight the Soviet invaders despite overwhelming odds, the congressman became passionate about their cause and procured hundreds of millions of dollars to support the mujahideen. The arms were secretly procured and distributed with the help of an out-of-favor CIA operative, Gust Avrokotos, whose working-class Greek-American background made him an anomaly among the Ivy League world of American spies. Avrakotos handpicked a staff of CIA outcasts to run his operation and, with their help, continually stretched the Agency's rules to the breaking point.

Moving from the back rooms of the Capitol, to secret chambers at Langley, to arms-dealers conventions, to the Khyber Pass, Charlie Wilson's War is a detailed and brilliantly reported account of the inside workings of the CIA.

Author Notes

George Crile III (March 5, 1945 - May 15, 2006) was an American journalist most closely associated with his three decades of work at CBS News. After studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and Trinity College, Hartford, Crile worked as a reporter for Washington columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson, and as the Pentagon correspondent for Ridder Newspapers. Crile came from a line of pioneering surgeons. His grandfather, Dr. George Washington Crile, was a founder of the Cleveland Clinic. His father, Dr. George Crile, Jr., was a leading figure in the United States in challenging unnecessary surgery, best known for his part in eliminating radical breast surgery. Crile was both a producer and reporter for CBS. His career with the company spanned three decades until his death in 2006. Before joining CBS at the age of 31, Crile was Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine. In addition to Harper's, his articles were published in The Washington Monthly, New Times, The Washington Post Outlook Section and The New York Times.

In the late 1980s, Crile began the research and reporting on the Afghan War that led to his 2003 best-selling book, Charlie Wilson's War, which tells the story of how the United States CIA funded the only successful jihad in modern history. The book became a New York Times bestseller again in 2015. Crile died at age 61 from pancreatic cancer.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Put the Tom Clancy clones back on the shelf; this covert-ops chronicle is practically impossible to put down. No thriller writer would dare invent Wilson, a six-feet-four-inch Texas congressman, liberal on social issues but rabidly anti-Communist, a boozer, engaged in serial affairs and wheeler-dealer of consummate skill. Only slightly less improbable is Gust Avrakotos, a blue-collar Greek immigrant who joined the CIA when it was an Ivy League preserve and fought his elitist colleagues almost as ruthlessly as he fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War's waning years. In conjunction with President Zia of Pakistan in the 1980s, Wilson and Arvakotos circumvented most of the barriers to arming the Afghan mujahideen-distance, money, law and internal CIA politics, to name a few. Their coups included getting Israeli-modified Chinese weapons smuggled into Afghanistan, with the Pakistanis turning a blind eye, and the cultivation of a genius-level weapons designer and strategist named Michael Vickers, a key architect of the guerrilla campaign that left the Soviet army stymied. The ultimate weapon in Afghanistan was the portable Stinger anti-aircraft missile, which eliminated the Soviet's Mi-24 helicopter gunships and began the train of events leading to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. A triumph of ruthless ability over scruples, this story has dominated recent history in the form of blowback: many of the men armed by the CIA became the Taliban's murderous enforcers and Osama bin Laden's protectors. Yet superb writing from Crile, a 60 Minutes producer, will keep even the most vigorous critics of this Contra-like affair reading to the end. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

So, let's see. We arm Afghan rebels to fight the Soviets. The Afghans drive the Russians out of their country. We ignore the Afghans. They stew for a few years and hook up with Osama bin Laden. . . . Crile, a producer for 60 Minutes, doesn't follow this logical train to the roundhouse, but neither does he portray Texas congressman Charlie Wilson, the man who put rocket launchers into the hands of the future Talibanistas, as a hero (or villain) unalloyed. Indeed, he writes, quoting a CBS cameraman, that "you could turn Charlie Wilson into the biggest hero you've ever heard of . . . or the biggest clown." There's buffoonery aplenty in Crile's portrayal of Wilson, a cowboy-boot-clad gent who liked to squire around beauty-contest winners and drop wads of cash on the gaming tables of Las Vegas. But Wilson found his life-or-death, utterly serious cause in the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of 1979, which gave him the opportunity to stick it to the hated Russians and build a power base for himself on Capitol Hill. Not that he had to fight terribly hard to enlist support in Congress: when Wilson first raised the prospect of giving a mere $40 million to the Mujahideen rebels, "$17 million of that specifically earmarked for getting them a better anti-aircraft gun than they presently have," he was amazed to find that no one objected. Working with a shadowy Greek CIA operative and a handful of true believers in the anti-Soviet cause (one of whom, Cline writes, had trained to parachute into Russia with a "small tactical weapon strapped to his leg"), Wilson got those weapons into Afghanistan--and after them, plenty more, and all without the publicity or controversy that attended other arms deals of the Reagan era. An engaging, well-written, newsworthy study of practical politics and its sometimes unlikely players, and one with plenty of implications. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Crile, a 60 Minutes producer, offers an absorbing, thoroughly detailed look at the largest and most successful CIA operation in U.S. history: the arming of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The operation grew out of the relentless efforts of maverick U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson to aid Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of 1979. Wilson, an alcoholic womanizer from East Texas, parlayed his position on the powerful House Defense Appropriations Committee into a powerhouse for funding the Mujahideen. Although many inside the elite spy agency resisted Wilson's interference, an equally fervid anticommunist, agent Gust Avrakotos, a working-class man of Greek heritage, eventually aligned with Wilson and set up the team that ran the mission. Wilson and Avrakotos are only two of a range of colorful characters--including arms dealers, belly dancers, and powerful conservative southern belles--in Congress, the CIA, and Middle Eastern governments and factions that figure in this engrossing account of the remarkable battle that ended the Soviet Union's hold on Afghanistan. Readers interested in the politics and cultures of Washington, D.C., and the Middle East will relish this book. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

A follow-up to "Charlie Did It," a piece on CBS's 60 Minutes that Crile produced with Robert Anderson in 1990, this book is an account of Texas representative Wilson's efforts to aid covert CIA activities to get military aid to Afghanistan's Mujahideen guerrillas, who were fighting the occupying Soviet Red Army in the 1980s. As a member of the powerful House Defense Appropriations and Intelligence Oversight committees, Wilson was in a good position to play a role in the "Great Game" and may have seen himself as a new Lawrence of Arabia. This work must be based on unacknowledged interviews with the main participants, for there is no bibliography and few reference notes; more documentation could surely have been provided. With its colorful international cast of characters, this book provides powerful background for understanding our current predicament. But while this may have been the largest covert operation in U.S. history, it was not the most important; that honor goes to Operation Bodyguard, which hid the D-day invasion plan from Hitler. An interesting and readable story that is suitable for academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/02; illustrations and index not seen.]-Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.