• Charlie Wilson's War

  • The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History
  • By: George Crile
  • Narrated by: Christopher Lane
  • Length: 20 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (4,192 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Charlie Wilson's War is the untold story behind the last battle of the Cold War and how it fueled the rise of militant Islam. George Crile tells how 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.

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

©2003 George Crile (P)2004 Blackstone Audiobooks
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

  • 2004 Audie Award Winner, Unabridged Nonfiction

"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." (Booklist)
"An engaging, well-written, newsworthy study of practical politics and its sometimes unlikely players." (Kirkus Reviews)

“Narrator Christopher Lane affects an even tone and pace, allowing the events of the story to carry the listener to the extraordinary highs and sickening lows of the flawed but heroic Wilson. Thankfully, Lane takes it easy on the accents and shines brightest when allowing a tinge of cynicism in his delivery." ( AudioFile)
“Put the Tom Clancy clones back on the shelf; this covert-ops chronicle is practically impossible to put down.” ( Publishers Weekly)

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What listeners say about Charlie Wilson's War

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The REAL Story of the Middle East and the CIA

This book is a complex story which will grab your attention and keep it. After reading or listening to it you will have a much better insight into why we are where we are today in the Middle East. You will also learn that Ronald Reagan DIDN'T defeat the Russians (much to my disappointment, since I am a Reagan supporter)despite what anyone says.

You will learn how our government REALLY works, particularly Congress. Trading favors regardless of political party or whether your representativr is a conservative or a liberal.
You will learn more about why the CIA wasn't there when 9/11 occurred than you ever will from the sanitized 9/11 Commission Report.

You will learn that Reagan bet on the wrong horse (Nicaragua amd the Contras) to beat the Russians while the long shot (the Afghans and Pakistan) won the race and toppled the Russians with the help of a Texas Democrat who was everything that Muslims hate about America, a drunken womanizer. His fight to unite Pakistanis, Afghans, Israelis, Saudis, Egyptians, Swiss and more into one of the most rag-tag coalitions in history all in the single goal of defeating and destroying the Red Giant. And succeeding better than anyone could have imagined.

When you read or listen to this book you will not believe your eyes or ears. You will not regret the time you spend with this vook but if you don't read it, you will miss one of the most straightforward honestly written books ever. Having read thousands of books in my life, this is something I have never said about any other book I have ever read. IT will really open ypur eyes, no matter what your political beliefs may be.

I know that I will be recommending it to all of my friends and relatives, which is something else I never do.

63 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

The Afghan War:Last Nail in the Soviet Coffin

Charlie Wilson's War is an enormously entertaining and informative history of the secret war that put the final nail in the Soviet coffin, leaving behind a vacuum into which stepped the Taliban and Al Queda. This is a truly great narrative of how we arrived in this post Cold War world with it's new terrorist wars.

(Another great book that addresses some of the same questions is, "All the Shah's Men" by Stephen Kinzer)

39 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Is it real or is it Memorx?

This book sat on my wish list for a long time before I listened to it. I guess I?ve always kept a jaundiced eye on books about the CIA. I mean, if it?s true, it?s secret, and if you tell, well, it?s not much of a secret anymore, is it?
The book is written, as I found out later, by a CBS 60-minutes producer. I?ve had personal problems with some of the stories that have appeared on 60 Minutes. Let?s just say they show you what they want you to see.
The book uses several techniques used by the TV program, the most evident is the appearance of presenting the information in chronological order. Well, things jump around in time and place, and it gets hard to follow who?s where and when.
The book mentions a documentary about the Afghan fighters created by several of the players. Neither a Google or IMDB search returned any information on said program. That was one of several issues I had with this book, which led me to develop a credibility problem.
The congressman is just too stereotyped. Alcoholic, but connected with all the necessary players. The junkets. The women. The deals. It?s all too?.
The book mentions, but glosses over (in true 60 Minutes style) the failures of the Carter administration in foreign policy. The Regan administration is mentioned, but exists only in the background of the story. Oliver North pops in, but is derided as an idiot with a group of conservative wackos. Again, more 60 Minutes modus operandi.
If the book is true, then it is an incredible story of the growth of the CIA Afghan program from a hole in the wall operation to the largest covert operation in history. This was made possible mostly on the part of a well-placed and connected congressman.
Worth the read? Yes. I figure maybe 50-60% is fact, and the rest is conjecture if not outright fiction. But don?t look at it as an expose of the intelligence operation. Rather, look at it as a story about a debauched congressman with a personal mission against communism.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome Book!

I read this last summer before it came out on audio; loved it because it sucks you right in, like a good book should! I have gone on to read other books about that period.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

One of the few

I must be one of the few who did not like this book. It couldn't seem to capture my attention. I found myself wincing at the swearing every couple of seconds in the book. Although, the person may have been quoting someone, I found it totally distracting. I couldn't listen to even two hours of this book. It seemed to me to be more about womanizing, swearing, backstabbing, drinking parties, etc.

I have downloaded and listened to more than 60 non-fiction books and by far this one of the worst. If the author would have stuck to the plot more cohesively and left out most of the swearing and how many women the guy(s) slept with, drinking parties, etc, maybe I could've stuck it out.

I did not like it at all.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A great follow up to the film adaptation

Many people have commented favourably about this book and I will throw my hat into the ring in this regard. Growing up I never learned anything about Afganistan and the Soviet occupation--if anything, my knowledge of this era was formed by watching Rambo III. Now, not to discredit the Rambo franchiase, but providing an accurate historical accounts is not Sly's strength.

Charlie Wilson's War is a great introduction to this whole topic. It gives a compelling snapshot of Afganistan, the CIA, the Soviet occupation and the root causes of Islamic fundamentalism in Afganistan and how this was the root cause of 9/11. Essentially, the book makes the point that the CIA's covert war in Afganistan planted the seeds for the 9/11 attacks.

The audio book is perfectly narrated, has compelling characters, and is much much more informative than the movie of the same name. I watched the movie before reading the book, and purchased the book becuase I had the sense that there was so much detail cut out to fit the book into a 95 minute Hollywood film.

The best thing about this book is the sheer research that must have gone into it. The research is understated, but the comments the author collects from the players in this drama and then weaves into the book is impressive.

Highly recommended--no doubt in my top 5 of Audible listens.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Everything IS a conspiracy!

Typically, I avoid political books, non-fiction or fiction. But, before I saw the anticipated movie, I wanted to listen to this book. It is well read. It reads like an intriguing novel and I kept reminding myself that this is supposed to be real-life. Every once in a while, the footnotes help keep this in perspective. I loved this book. The character development of each of the key players made them real with nuances of good and bad, of strengths and weaknesses. Then, the author tied each of the characters into their relationships with Charlie Wilson and what their impact was on him and his dream effort. The surprising fact coming out of this book is the fact that there is an extreme amount of money and goals that happens without Americans ever knowing what is going on. I lived through the extensive media coverage of the "crimes" of Oliver North. Just imagine what the media could have done with what Charlie Wilson did had they known. So, in my mind, I believe that one should be skeptical of the news media, that conspiracies happen all the time in the "background" of the government, and there must be a lot of "fall guys" to purge the real issues from the public. Bottom line - even for people who don't like politics or political novels or books - this is THE book to read. It's more lively than history, especially since we lived these days. It is every bit as colorful as a full featured epic. Oh, yes, someone thought that it would make a good movie, too.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Must read if there ever was one

This book is a must read for every American. It could not have been written as fiction because nobody would believe it. The incredible truth is that it really happened. After reading this book it is easier to understand many of the problems America faces in the world today.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

had me on the edge of my seat

The editor's synopsis makes this book seem like a dry account of one of the many battles of the cold war. In reality, this book is about a number of things: the inner workings and culture of the CIA and US Congress, the comical account of an "upwardly failing" alcoholic congressman, the incredible backdoor dealings of millionaire Texas socialites and foreign military dictators and lobbyists. I was absolutely captivated from beginning to end. I listened to this during the course of two roadtrips and would actually reduce my car speed so I could finish the book more quickly. There is a reason why this book is among the most popular books on Audible. You won't regret reading it -- while it is a non-fiction book, the story reads like complete fiction. You'll love it.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Charlie Wilson's War

This book was well written but has so much detail it becomes boring after the second part. I felt I was reading the same material in a different city or country. The description was the same-I did not finish it which is rare for me. I could not recommend this book.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Tom
  • 07-24-11

An interesting book, very well narrated

This is a very entertainingly written book about an obscure corner of modern history, namely how the CIA came to back the Afghan mujahadeen in their fight against the Russian Invasion of 1979 (?). It probably would not pass muster as serious history, but it is surprisingly absorbing and thought provoking - particularly with regard to the consequences vis a vis 9/11 and the War on Terror etc. It also shines a light on the working of government in the USA, which I for one found very interesting. Narration and sound quality are excellent.

If you like modern history and are looking for something off the beaten track, you could do a lot worse than try this book.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jackie
  • 05-14-08

Charlie Wilson's War

This is an incredible story ... they say truth is stranger than fiction! Narrated faultlessly by Christopher Lane, I was amazed at the chain of events Charlie Wilson initiated and could not help but be impressed by this rogue's relentless zeal in fulfilling his passionate quest. Apart from a slight flattening of pace towards the end, the book was gripping. I now have a true understanding of the American 'funding' process in Congress and the Senate, the reasons for America's escalating involvement in the war against the Russians in Afghanistan, and how this inadvertently shaped today's world of escalating terrorism.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Calum I. MacLeod
  • 12-01-13

Superb, Enthralling, Chilling

This book would be thoroughly entertaining, if it wasn't for the fact that it's a true and horrible story. The characters are painted vividly and I feel as though I met each of them. They are treated quite sympathetically, even when the actions are reprehensible. Christopher Lane did a good job of holding my attention, for a 20 hour long historical with a lot of detail the pace is superb. The story continues to unfold and I'm sure that Charlie Wilson's War will haunt me for years to come.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ehritchie
  • 12-06-09

Amazing and Horrific!

I learnt so much from this book. It should be compulsory reading for every American and British citizen!!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Welsh Mafia
  • 08-31-08

Tones of Wolfe - highly recommended

At close to twenty hours, this is a big commitment in listening terms - but to the author and narrator's credit, I never once lost the plot. A mixture of the familiar and the unfamiliar, lots of detail and a strict chronology in keeping with the documentary film-maker that George Crile was - before his death in 2006.
There are several departures from the documentary style which sometime left me puzzling as to how the author might have known what precisely was in the mind of any of the extensive cast of characters at any given moment. The polite response is that the book is rooted in Tom Wolfe's New Journalism.
If you are looking for a 'compare and contrast'/ next book to read after this thriller - try Noam Chomsky, not as much fun but certainly an interesting extension.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • SLM
  • 02-13-19

great read

very detailed and enjoyable. such a good insight to a programme that most people, including myself, know nothing about. highly recommend

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • gastrobart
  • 11-25-18

Charlie & Gust

Absolutely loved this book. Astounding and a good insight into why it lead us to where we are now!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • RC
  • 03-14-18

Amazing insight into modern history

AFter watching the film I bought this book.

To this day this stuff is dismissed as conspiracy theory.

IT barely registers in the collective consciousness.

The war that Russia never fought against afghanistan freedom fighters that never got weapons from the CIA or Saudi Arabia to the tune of hundreds of millions. THis book is the definition of blowback. Did the le school have it right to only give half heartedly. The doctrine of no defeats no victories? I envy Charlie wilsons breathtaking black and white absolute perspective. It reminds me of le carre. The strongest believers have an element of distance from the real consequences of their actions.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • MAGGS
  • 07-31-17

Charlie Wilsons war - not my type of book

Charlie Wilsons war - not my type of book
Although what Charlie did was I suppose astonishing it wasn't my type of book
Good narration

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Justaman
  • 05-11-16

Almost too good

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Nah, I don't have any friends.

What other book might you compare Charlie Wilson's War to, and why?

Any other biography, but it still holds out.

What about Christopher Lane’s performance did you like?

All of it. Not annoying at all.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No. Savior the precious ones, it'll make the good times last longer.

Any additional comments?

At least watch the movie.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ken C
  • 03-04-19

An amazing story, well told.

This story is a fascinating insight into a time and events that we knew very little about at the time. It is well narrated, and clearly told. I enjoyed it immensely.