Letter: Charlie Wilson and me

Adam Hirst ’10 did not know Charlie as well as I did, but he captured much of what was important, especially that he was a dying breed. Politics has the property of emasculating those who practice it. I have known former politicians, disgraced politicians who could never again be politicians, politicians on their deathbeds, all who have never lost that overwhelming political inhibition and who fear saying anything that might upset even the smallest minority.

Charlie was never inhibited, even when he was up for election. He was pretty fearless too.

Except on matters of defense and foreign policy, Charlie was an unabashed social liberal, supporting abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment in a markedly conservative Texas district. It was this lack of inhibition and fearlessness that allowed him to take on the cause of the mujahideen. That and the fact that he was an almost peerless political dealmaker, second only to the other Cold Warrior who passed away last week, John Murtha.

And Charlie was not a womanizer. He simply loved women. He hired them. He promoted them. He moved them onto important jobs outside of his office in Washington. And he did this more, and more tirelessly, than anyone who was not considered a womanizer. And as far as the women with whom he was romantically linked, none of them could say he lied to them or took advantage of them.

He was kind of like Oskar Schindler in that way. His “womanizing” was linked to his humanism. He loved life, and he lived it full throttle. You may even call this a kind of enlightened liberalism; it was this aspect of Charlie that made him a Cold Warrior. He hated communism and socialism because they were so crushing to all that is free and open and expressive.

I remember one night, drinking with him and George Crile and Gus Avrokotos in a strip club in Alexandria, Va., where the belly dancer from “Charlie Wilson’s War” was guest dancing. I said to him, “Charlie, the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan was the single most important event leading to the Berlin Wall. You almost single-handedly ended Russian communism, and no one seems to know it.” His answer, “You and I know it, Gerry.”

He was an expert politician, but he did not care much what most people thought of him.

There will not be another one like him.

Gerry Weaver

Feb. 16

Bethesda, Md.

The writer is a 1977 graduate of Saybrook College.


  • FailBoat

    Yup, I agree that liberalism and shameless womanizing go hand in hand.

  • saybrook997


    You over simplied, I think. I’m from Texas. Others have seen the Hanks movie or PBS documentary. Charlie Wilson was more complex.

    First, the womanizer. But also, he was the last Democrat, I know of, who was willing to fight a war, and call it good and necessary (Soviet Union was dropping small bombs/mines that looked like toys to kill and maim children, and slaughtering anyone else in the way from helicopters and fighter jets.) He got guns to them through the CIA and helped convince Reagan to give Afghans stinger missiles to make the war Russia’s Vietnam. It was the final blow that Reagan orchestrated, with Thatcher, Pope John Paul, Lech W(Polish labor leader/first President, and Wilson, that brought down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire. (Then Clinton cut the military in half, budget surplus came, 9/11 was in planning, Taliban filled the vacuum in Afghan., and nuclear Muslims are the new Soviet Union threat for this generation.)

    The womanizing hypocrisy. He just lived any sophomore male’s fantasies–drank every day and filled his office, hot tubs and taxpayer junkets with pretty young willing women for fun and good company.

    It’s the Kennedy/Wilson approach–get drunk, enjoy willing young women, but get them judgeships, good federal jobs, perks, and support abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, so feminists will still love you too. (“And Charlie was not a womanizer. He simply loved women. He hired them. He promoted them. He moved them onto important jobs outside of his office in Washington.”

    Now Democrats just have hypocrits (John Edwards–almost our vice president, and feminists–“just appoint us to federal courts and jobs, and do whatever you want with any other women”), but without any will to fight or call any evil by its name, oh, except Palin.

    Obama says the Berlin Wall fell magically through “people power.” Take John Gaddis’ Cold War history course to learn that when modern weapons come up against modern democratic ideas and people power, the outcome is not in doubt. People win if they have modern weapons and are willing to use them and die. See who wins in Iran–people power has got no modern weapons. The mullahs have ’em and use ’em.

  • jihadi = taliban?

    Charlie Wilson made it possible to supply weapons and training to the jihadis that waged war on and eventually convinced the USSR to leave Afghanistan. Nice work.

    But what happened then? Did the jihadis just fade away or did they become the taliban and al queda? Did your hero CW provide training and weapons to the very people we’re fighting now in Afghanistan and that attacked us on 9-11?

    It wouldn’t be the first bone-headed foreign policy the US has engaged in or at least one with massively disastrous unintended consequences.