The media has been ablaze with the story of my recent local congressman known as Charlie “Good Times” Wilson.
The History Channel ran a story about the life of Charlie based on a book by George Grile. Hollywood picked up the story and produced a movie called “Charlie Wilson’s Secret War.” The movie stars Tom Hanks as Wilson and Julia Roberts as his mistress, Joanne Herring.
There is a scene from the saga in which Charlie is sitting clothed only with a glass of bourbon in a hot tub with a couple of Playboy bunnies. Depending on the version of the account, cocaine may or may not have been present. Charlie is watching Dan Rather on a news program. To lots of people in my region the most severe among the moral lapses mentioned here was watching Dan Rather!
After viewing Rather’s report on Afghanistan, Charlie becomes convinced that he needs to use his position as a congressman from Texas to help these freedom fighters. He uses his influence to double the secret support given to the people fighting the Soviet Union.
Joanne Herring, a wealthy anti-Communist leader, learns about Charlie’s efforts. She meets with Wilson and tells him to keep up the effort. She encourages him to help the freedom fighters defeat the mightiest army in the world, destroy the Soviet Union and end the cold war. Charlie responds that he does not have time, because he has Dairy Queens to worry about in Lufkin.
Wilson takes up the cause, however, and the rest is a history most of us did not know about. The war was secretive, with the United States giving increasing aid to the fighters to the tune of almost $200 million a year. Our government did not want to get directly connected with the freedom fighters for fear of engaging the Soviet Union in a world conflict. Thus Charlie conducted a secret war with the aid of a rogue CIA agent not officially recognized as conducting foreign policy.
Another interesting moral dilemma happens in Egypt, when Wilson gets a belly-dancing woman friend to dance before the Egyptian in charge of Soviet stashes of arms. This works, and using Soviet weapons further hides American involvement in the war. Eventually President Reagan allows Charlie to get Stinger Missiles, which the Afghanis use against Soviet helicopters. This ends the war. The Soviets retreat defeated. As a result of the war their economic system is dealt a death blow.
During this legendary story, Wilson is almost derailed by an election. Word gets out about the cocaine use, and Charlie becomes known as “Cocaine Charlie.” Local loyal Democrats voted against Charlie in his election during this period, and he almost lost his seat. He went to bed election night thinking he had lost his place in Congress.
What saved the candidate was the black voter precinct in Lufkin. The black voters of this city had always been loyal to Charlie. The case could be made that the black voters of Lufkin, Texas, saved the world from Communism and ended the cold war.
The point is that ethical possibilities abound regarding voting our “values”. So-called Christian conservatives could have messed up a secretive war that did not cost one drop of American blood.
Foreign policy is complicated, and simply voting for candidates who share our values regarding abortion and gays oversimplifies the issue. The famous picture of Roosevelt and Churchill standing next to Stalin is an ethical case in point.
Wilson lamented the fact that we did not go and help the people of the region rebuild their schools and hospitals. Thus these peoples never knew who helped them. That failure helped produce a Taliban, 9/11 and Iraq. Wilson claims that many of his friends who helped defeat the Soviets are now in the Taliban.
One author said the reason why people liked Charlie Wilson was because he did the one thing politicians were not supposed to do. He told the truth.
Christians might consider some of these concerns as they go to the polls to voice their concerns this fall.
Don Wilkey is pastor of First Baptist Church in Onalaska, Texas.