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Apr-28-2008 07:58printcommentsVideo

One Billion Dollars Allowed Afghan Rebels to Defeat the Soviets

Republished in memory of Congressman Charlie Wilson, R.I.P.

Charlie Wilson's War
The real Charlie Wilson is a former Democratic congressman from Texas, his character in the movie Charlie Wilson's War was portrayed by Tom Hanks.

(SALEM, Ore.) - Charlie Wilson's War is a movie about the Texas Congressman who, along with a diverse band of allies, funneled a billion dollars into the hands of the Afghanistan Mujahadeen in the 1980's, allowing them to defeat at the time, the world's other top super power: the Soviet Union.

The real Charlie Wilson, a
Democratic congressman from
Texas who aided Afghan rebels
in defeating the Soviet Union.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

It is a movie that makes you understand how the Soviets were waging a ruthless war, slaughtering the Afghans and raping their women. No countries were doing anything the resistance; Islamic rebels who were essentially fighting to defeat Communism, which was also our nation's enemy.

Charlie Wilson helped pave the way after going to Pakistan and experiencing the Afghan refugee camps where once proud people starved and fought each other for the sparse amounts of food humanitarian aid groups were able to deliver.

How could a band of rag tag, poverty stricken Afghans defeat one of the most advanced military systems the world has ever known for a billion dollars? Don't we fund the war in Iraq by the hundreds of billions? Yet the Afghans did it for one billion?

The Soviets were basically a death machine for Afghans once they arrived in 1979 and set up shop, though they worked hand in hand with the Afghan Army which was completely Communist and the Afghan government, which by this time the Soviets controlled.

I spent time with one Afghanistan National Army group that had an officer who had been a member of the Communist Afghan Army, one who had been a Mujahadeen fighter, and one who had fought with the Taliban. Today they fight together in the ANA, it can be hard for a person from the United States to get their mind around, still the system there seems to work in many respects.

During the 1980's the Soviets occupied bases all over Afghanistan just like our forces today, and they had Afghan interpreters everywhere they went just like we do today.

In fact, the Russians built or occupied almost all of the bases we use there today, including Camp Phoenix at Kabul where I spent several weeks over the winter of 2006/2007 as an embedded reporter covering the Oregon National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team.

Outside of another Kabul base that was Soviet for ten years, is the Kabul Military Training Center. Here the reminder of the Soviet invasion are everywhere, as hundreds of half destroyed Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers are lined up outside the base and just littered all over hillsides.

There are other types of vehicles, but the tanks make up the bulk of it. Some are blown up, some have graffiti sprayed on them, and some were actually being used by the Taliban by the late 1990's.

The abandoned and rusting military hardware is also littered along roadsides when you travel through Afghanistan right where they were blown up and disabled during the war. Kids playh on them. The number of these rotting relics of war and death show the strength of the Russian force that came to Afghanistan by storm to make sure the Communist system of government was not overthrown by Islamic rebels who resented the government interference in not allowing them to practice their faith.

The thing that got Charlie Wilson was the destruction wrought on the poorly armed and mostly defenseless Afghan people, by Soviet air power. The aircraft were used extensively throughout the country to strike people in all kinds of scenarios.

MiG-21 fighter Afghanistan, Winter '06/07
Photo by: Tim King

In other places there are junkyards of old Soviet aircraft; fighters, cargo planes, helicopters, jet fighters, some wrecked and some just left behind. The point is you can hardly arrive at an air base there and not see things like that.

At Bagram Air Field, there is a row of Russian MiG-21 jet fighters that I walked a few miles one day to photograph. They were sitting in an arrested state like ghosts, surrounded by a minefield.

When Charlie Wilson finally stepped in, the Communism had changed from women's rights and suppression of the Muslim faith, to out and out war on anyone the Soviets perceived as being their enemies. In the early years of the war beginning in 1979, the Afghan rebels were provided only weapons that were useless in shooting down the attacking Soviet aircraft. Charlie Wilson's dream was to give the rebels tools to knock expensive Soviet attacking aircraft out of the air. Soon the helicopters and fighters began to fall almost every day, and it turned out that Charlie Wilson was right on the money in the end.

One person the movie depicts through real news footage is Dan Rather from CBS News. He spent time with troops during the Vietnam War, he visited conflicts in Central and South America in the 1980's, and he went "undercover" so to speak, with the Afghan Mujahadeen rebels under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Massoud; the "Lion of Panjshir" who liberated Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion, no small feat.

Rather's work there typified a period in time when television news had guts and Dan Rather was the head of the pack in that war, reporting covertly, speaking to the camera in full Afghan garb about the Mujahadeen's progress in fighting the Russians.

When the Russian Hind helicopters attacked the people of Afghanistan, they did it to supress what amounted to a revolt against Communism. Afghanistan had been a peaceful country under Communism for the most part, The longest period of stability Afghanistan had was between 1933 and 1973, when the country was under the rule of King Zahir Shah.

Communist Freedom?

The history of this political party is both is fascinating and horrible. Communists were eventually voted in and once in power, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan implemented a liberal and socialist agenda. It permitted freedom of religion on the record, but replaced religious and traditional laws with secular and Marxist ones.

It gave women the largest number of rights and the closest thing to equality they ever knew. Sadly, this is exactly what led to the Soviet invasion and the Mujahadeen uprising; women's rights and the abolishment of forced religion, or even the freedom to have it, at least as people had always been able to.

Men were obliged to cut their beards, and women couldn't wear a burqa under the new Communist laws. Mosques were placed off limits. The political group carried out ambitious land reforms, and the forgave all of the farmers' debts countrywide.

The Communist government of Afghanistan made a number of decrees on women’s rights, banning forced marriages, giving state recognition of women’s right to vote, and introducing women to political life.

Dr. Anahita Ratebzad was a
Marxist and women's rights
leader who brought women a
level of freedom that our war
has not accomplished.

A prominent example was Anahita Ratebzad, who was a major Marxist leader and a member of the Revolutionary Council, who wrote the famous New Kabul Times editorial (May 28, 1978) which declared: "Privileges which women, by right, must have are equal education, job security, health services, and free time to rear a healthy generation for building the future of the country .... Educating and enlightening women is now the subject of close government attention."

It was the Communist government that befriended the Soviet Union and received substantial military funding for weapons, tanks, jets and helicopters and all of the things that go along with an invading military force. The Soviet angle is that they were simply invited by the Afghanistan government to defeat a rebel uprising against their own Communist government.

Ghosts of a Communist Past

When you look at the Afghan National Army today marching in formation, they still step like Soviets when they place their feet to the ground. It is like the ghost of the invasion still haunts the country, even in military drill.

But that is just formality. Another element I learned about in Afghanistan, is the lingering Soviet military tactical mentality that officers are left with. Their books teach them to do it in a way that Soviets mastered, and that is very different from the way our military goes about it.

In essence, Soviet officers of high rank typically kept their forward fighting officers mostly in the dark in terms of information, and the fighting men always relied on instructions on how to proceed.

The same mentality was true for the Soviet aviation program, which involved always using forward air controllers to tell fighter pilots what their targets were and where they were. In other words, a Soviet pilot was not trained to fly and fight on their own, but Western military pilots could fly with or without a forward air controller, making them much more capable in air combat.

This video discusses lingering Soviet military tactics in Afghanistan. Tim King sent this report from the Kunar Province of Afghanistan January 5th, 2007.

The country had been totally at the mercy of the advanced Soviet forces for years, until Charlie Wilson heard Dan Rather talking about it on the CBS Nightly News.

The increasing delivery of weapons from Israel, smuggled through Pakistan to the Afghan rebels, all funded with the money Charlie Wilson worked so hard for, allowed an unimaginable victory for Afghanistan.

And he couldn't have done it without Charlie Wilson.

The lesson is clear; it doesn't take hundreds of billions to win a war. Ruthless, the Soviets killed over a million and half of Afghanistan's people before they were through, and that dwarfs any numbers relevant to the war in Iraq. There have not been a million casualties or even close to it even when you consider all the innocent people.

So what is it? Clearly it is a lack of waste. Maybe it was because the Afghans had a defined goal. Either way, they accomplished something far larger than we have set out to do and once they began dropping Soviet aircraft with missiles and rocket launchers provided with U.S. money, the beginning of the end was well underway.

This is a mind boggler, and I hope people watch Charlie Wilson's War and remember what even a reckless, drunken, skirt chasing Democratic Texas Congressman can accomplish when people get on the same page and fight evil and just have a good heart.

The Soviets as I learned in Afghanistan, use rape as a tool of war. Throughout Afghanistan today there are kids and young adults clearly of Russian descent. The Russians believe "planting their seed" is one way to take a country over and it makes our soldiers today look like saints.

When I think back at all the blown up and wrecked Soviet military equipment laying all over this rugged country, I will always think of this movie and consider how hard people worked together, uniting countries like Israel and Pakistan, in order to defeat the Communists. The alliances at the time were unheard of and once again today, they are again.

Charlie Wilson and the CIA and a certain wealthy Republican lady out of Texas played by Julia Roberts in the movie, worked tirelessly to fund the efforts of the Mujahadeen and it worked.

Movies about the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

The movie Rambo 3 is based around the Soviet slaughter of the Afghan people who resisted them and the need for U.S. intervention. The new Rambo movie highlights the problem in Burma today, also known as Myanmar, where political oppression is operating at extreme levels, thus keeping a Hollywood focus on world problems overlooked by American policy.

Another movie, The Beast, which is also sometimes titled The Beast of War, is the story of a Soviet tank crew that attacks a small Afghan village, then becomes lost in the Kandahar Valley and restlessly pursued by a small band of Afghan rebels who eventually overtake the tank, or "beast" as it is analogized by a crazy prophet in the movie to the story of David and Goliath.


Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Henry Clay Ruark April 29, 2008 1:18 pm (Pacific time)

To all: For further documentation on Tim's story and other reference here to U.S. empire-building at cost of "wasting wars", see "Teaching Imperialism One" in Tomgram at This on details the horrors built from work by the Rand Corp. on "the militaristic cast" reflected in U.S. empire building ever since. "Patriot" should seek this out to remedy his essential misunderstanding of love of country.

Henry Clay Ruark April 29, 2008 11:47 am (Pacific time)

To all: "Just for fun" listened to that Chicago tape, learning (again!) that those suffering "racialism as psychosis" also usually suffer "denial of any prejudice". Reason(s) vary widely, but most usually denial is "due to social pressures" reflecting "rational, reasonable longterm research", and with fact of denial also unconsciously buried by affected person. Thus "racism" reflects symptomatic danger of real psychosis --fact I remembered; and reason I mentioned it here, and now add further information for all concerned as sharing via S-N channel. Again I state, check with own doctor or psychiatrist for current undrstandings; my tape was made in late '70s as side issue on another project.

Henry Ruark April 28, 2008 6:49 pm (Pacific time)

TO ALL: Tim is really being very kind to this kinkeroo. On some media spots I've worked, we would turn over his email trace to police for proper action, surely gained in some of his early-stuff on record. Check with authority showed it up as harassment, liable for damages, on his worst work. (Documented.) Whether admitted or not, the electronic footprint can be traced back, at considerable cost and demanding special equipment, which is why it is not yet used often. I know, having had occasion to seek such professional service out personally several years ago, with some success. Here we rely on honest, open and democratic good faith, and find 98 percent work with us on that basis for sharing and learning as intended. That extends the traditional role of any ethical and still truly professional daily newspaper, often neglected today with heavy costs to our democracy. Fact of anon-hiding or obvious cover-name tells all. If you can't sign it, ready for ID-request when it is earned by continuing comment, when really needed to qualify responsibility and proper accountability to protect publishers here, better not use it as public statement. Would you rise in any public place, right out there in the open, and shout the same stuff then, with the audience able to ID-you by appearance ? If not, then you are hiding behind some level of psychosis when you seek unwarranted concealment here; ask your doctor or psychiatrist for the accuracy of that statement. I still have tape of strong interview with one of Chicago's leaders in that profession, seeking solid information on precisely this kind of dangerous and irresponsible situation in the early days of Internet.

Patriot April 28, 2008 4:29 pm (Pacific time)

All Americans deserve detailed, in depth reporting on all news and on current candidates, with the good, the bad and the ugly, so they can make decisions based on "facts", not opinions, especially by those wimpy wannabe losers out there. The Fox News Network (Obama is a regular now!) is a place to get excellent, unbiased information. All the losers flock to scum like Olberman and other genetic filth like him...peas in a pod?!


Tim King to this sad individual: OK, I am deleting all of your racist comments and leaving this one up just to tell you about it. Your other comments being deleted suggest that I don't know anything about the military because I went through "some whimpy boot camp." What the hell kink of logic is that applied to the U.S. Marine Corps?

You call us a blog, you need to look in a dictionary.  A blog is a Web log and it is a continual forum where one person takes a news story from a source like ours, and posts it in order to gain opinions and comments on the subject and to generate basic conversation.  A news site like is connected with news sources all over the world and takes stories from an infinite variety of sources.  Many begin as news releases, others are found by doing beat checks with police.  This is generally the way we do news in the United States and over my twenty years in the industry only the technology has changed, the ideas stays rock solid.  I hope this helps you understand the difference between a mainstream news organization and a blog.  By the way, blogs are very cool, Eat Salem is a good example, but they are not news sites nor to they attempt to be.

You suggest that Hank doesn't have experience in life that qualifies him to write here, yet he is 90 years old and has been a reporter for almost 70 of them.  He has worked for large newspapers and publications.  You are a fool for the cruel things you write and you will never send an email to me because you don't have the courage to do it. You use names like Jefferson and whatever else to spread your smelly politics around, but we have your number and you will be banned today, yet once again.

My favorite part is you accusing Dr. Leveque of being a "wanname Audie Murphy" and that one takes the cake. Leveque captured 26 Nazi officers by himself one day in 1945. Only a person like you with a "swiftboat" mentality would try to put that down. So, you think I am bad because I care about people and I hate unfairness and greed? I have plenty of friends in the VFW and every other group like it and they appreciate my work and know I care about veterans like there is no tomorrow, you obviously don't, or you never would support sending them into a war with so many unaccounted for problems.  People like yourself, imaginary patriots, are the ones who got us into this mess and the only thing you are is a little cheerleader like George W. was in college, not exactly studly, you know?

Well take a hike and take your morbid and unkind soul along with you, because we are gaining in numbers each and every single day and most people send supportive thoughts. Dealing with like you here is like having the Anti-Christ over for dinner.

You can put me down for having been a Marine if you want to; most people wouldn't, and you wouldn't do it anywhere but through an electronic communication like this comment section. I liked your suggestion about not my knowing anything about the military when I am one of the only working reporters in Oregon who has spent time in a combat zone as a reporter, produced a WWII documentary, go figure.

Good Riddance, Tim King

Henry Clay Ruark April 28, 2008 8:31 am (Pacific time)

To all: Nothing like straight-stuff from someone who has been there and "seen with own eyes" for the realities involved. Thanks for that unique and professional work, Tim. Again, S-N demonstrates media's demanded role in review and reminder of history for solid citizen guidance on current issues. We should, could, MUST now learn from our own past and from world history. One of our greatest leaders said: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable" --John F. Kennedy Will we learn-now how to put to work what the Founders gave us as principled, rational and reasonable start ? Does anyone seriously refuse that "equal under law" part ? To do so, denying full and strong diligence to uphold the principle, is to invite and make inevitable what we have already experienced once, very painfully for all concerned, with great consequential harm and ongoing damage to what has remained of our democracy.

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