Charlie Wilson Dead At 76; Backed Afghan Fighters Vs Soviets

Charlie Wilson, who as a U.S. congressman funneled money to the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Sovie i

Charlie Wilson addresses the audience at the 2008 White House Correspondents Association dinner. Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo
Charlie Wilson, who as a U.S. congressman funneled money to the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Sovie

Charlie Wilson addresses the audience at the 2008 White House Correspondents Association dinner.

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo

Charlie Wilson, who as a U.S. congressman funneled money to the Afghan mujahideen during their fight against a Soviet occupation in the 1980s, died at 76 of an apparent cardiopulmonary arrest.

Wilson's unusual story was popularized by the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" starring Tom Hanks who portrayed Wilson.

While the actions of Wilson, a Texas Democrat, seemed the right course during the Cold War, in hindsight his support for the mujahideen was an example of the the problems that can come from even the best of good intentions.

Some of the mujahideen morphed into the Taliban who established an oppressive theocratic regime in Afghanistan after the fall of the Soviet backed government there.

Other mujahideen or "freedom fighters" as President Ronald Reagan called them, became al-Qaida with the most famous of the mujahadeen being Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group.

The Associated Press reports:

Wilson died at Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin after he started having difficulty breathing while attending a meeting in the eastern Texas town where he lived, said hospital spokeswoman Yana Ogletree. Wilson was pronounced dead on arrival, and the preliminary cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, she said.

Wilson represented the 2nd district in east Texas in the U.S. House from 1973 to 1996 and was known in Washington as "Good Time Charlie" for his reputation as a hard-drinking womanizer.

Actor Tom Hanks portrayed Wilson in the 2007 movie about Wilson's efforts to arm Afghani mujahedeen during Afghanistan's war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Wilson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, helped secure money for weapons.

In 2007, Wilson had a heart transplant at a Houston hospital. Doctors had told Wilson, who suffered from cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes an enlarged and weakened heart, that he would likely die without a transplant.

"Charlie was perfect as a congressman, perfect as a state representative, perfect as a state senator. He was a perfect reflection of the people he represented. If there was anything
wrong with Charlie, I never did know what it was," said Charles Schnabel Jr., who served for seven years as Wilson's chief of staff in Washington and worked with Wilson when he served in the Texas Senate.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.