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December 21, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Charlie's movie
Conservative officials who served in the Reagan administration are upset by the left-wing slant of the new movie about the covert action program that helped Afghan guerrillas defeat the Soviet army during the 1980s.

"Charlie Wilson's War," out today, is based on a book about former Rep. Charles Wilson, Texas Democrat known widely on Capitol Hill during his tenure as "Good Time Charlie" who helped fund the semi-secret war that ultimately helped fell the Soviet Union.

The Reagan-era officials said the movie promotes the left-wing myth that the CIA-led operation funded Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and ultimately produced the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Bin Laden, the officials said, never got CIA funding or weapons, and was not directly involved in Islamist extremist activities until years after the Afghan operation ended after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.

That anti-American aspect of the film, namely that the Afghan operation ultimately caused the September 11 attacks, reportedly was altered after protests from Mr. Wilson and his former fiancee, Joanne Herring.

The movie also erred by showing Mr. Wilson and his CIA collaborator, Gust Avrakotos, as enthusiastic backers of supplying advanced U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan rebels.

Fred Ikle, the undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration, said the CIA initially fought against sending Stingers, while Mr. Wilson was lukewarm on the matter. Both later supported the plan once rebels began downing Soviet gunships with them.

"Senior people in the Reagan administration, the president, [CIA Director] Bill Casey, [Defense Secretary Caspar] Weinberger and their aides deserve credit for the successful Afghan covert action program, not just Charlie Wilson," Mr. Ikle said in an interview.

The officials blamed the anti-Reagan slant of the film on the movie's screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, the Hollywood liberal who regularly attacked conservatives on his television drama "The West Wing," also known as "The Left Wing" because of its liberal bias.

Cruise missile sub
The Navy this month completed its fourth conversion of a U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine into an extremely powerful, conventionally armed cruise missile launcher and covert transporter of U.S. special operations force.

The last converted missile sub the USS Georgia is now being readied for deployment around the world at its home port of Kings Bay, Ga., said skipper, Cmdr. Rodney E. Hutton.

The conversion of the nuclear missile submarines into Tomahawk-firing submarines is one element of a new Pentagon strategy of building up forces to be ready to counter any emerging threat from China.

Cmdr. Hutton said the Georgia will operate in the Pacific, as well as other oceans and can swap out its entire crew at Guam, a major strategic U.S. military hub in the Pacific.

In a telephone interview from the submarine, Cmdr. Hutton said the new Tomahawk submarines are "extraordinary force multipliers." Two of the submarines, each equipped with 154 long-range cruise missiles, can provide the same firepower as all the Tomahawk-firing ships in the 2003 Operation Enduring Freedom, as the Iraq invasion is called.

"I see the SSGN becoming one of premier platforms for any conflict today or in the future," said Cmdr. Hutton, using the Navy's term for nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines.

Christmas message
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday sent out a holiday message urging all Pentagon and military workers "to remember our many blessings as Americans -- perhaps chief among them are the dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who protect our nation."

The troop surge in Iraq reduced violence sharply and Afghanistan operations "inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban, launched a comprehensive, nationwide reconstruction effort, and strengthened civic institutions," he said.

"We are in our seventh year of war -- the first sustained combat with an all-volunteer force since our nation's inception," Mr. Gates said.

"Our troops and their families -- active, guard, and reserve -- are giving so much. This holiday season, many of those in uniform are on repeat deployments or have had their tours extended. Many will miss midnight Mass or have already missed Hanukkah's Festival of Lights. Many will not hear the squeals of delight from their children on Christmas morning. Many will sing neither carols nor hymns. Instead, they serve halfway around the world to honor a pledge they made to the country they love. Please keep our troops in your thoughts and may God forever bless them and this wonderful nation we call home."

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202-636-3274, or at

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