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The Congressman Charles Wilson Collection - C-SPAN Call-in Program Segment (1983)

East Texas Research Center

Sound | 1983

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  •  Congressman Charles Wilson talks about the United States’ role in the Soviet-Afghani conflict 
  •  Is Afghanistan the Soviet Union’s Vietnam? 
  •  Wilson discusses the first photograph from his trip to Afghanistan 
  •  The first caller asks how Americans respond to the Soviet Union’s expansionist actions, a issue that still resonates today 
  •  The second caller questions the lack of media attention about Afghani civilian casualties 
  •  The third caller congratulates Wilson on his efforts to alert the public to the Soviet war in Afghanistan 
  •  The moderator takes a caller from Houston, who is not a Wilson supporter 
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In this segment from 1983, Congressman Charles Wilson is a guest on C-SPAN’s Call-in Program. A moderator sits with Wilson, who answers his and callers’ questions about his political views, particularly in regards to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Some of the main points Wilson articulates are the need for non-military aid for the Afghan Freedom Fighters and the failure of the press to adequately cover the atrocities the Soviets are inflicting on the Afghans. To convey this message, Wilson shows photographs from his travels to Afghanistan, including one of a young boy who was injured by a Soviet-dropped booby-trapped toy, and another boy who lost his foot to a Soviet foot bomb. Not all callers are complimentary of Wilson’s stances, but many agree with what he believes.
Charles Nesbitt “Charlie” Wilson was a 12-term Democratic United States Representative from January 3, 1976 until October 8, 1996. As a congressman, he served Texas’s second congressional district, which included Harris, Jefferson, and Liberty Counties. He is perhaps best known for his congressional leadership in Operation Cyclone, the largest CIA covert operation in history, which supplied military equipment to Afghanistan during the Soviet Invasion in 1979. Wilson’s efforts were successful in this arena, and the Soviet Army withdrew form Afghanistan in 1989.  
Wilson was born on June 1, 1933 in Trinity, Texas to Charles and Wilmuth Wilson. He graduated from Trinity High School in 1951, then attended Sam Houston State Teachers College where he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. At the Academy, he received the second most demerits in its history and graduated eighth from the bottom of his class in 1956 with a B. S. in engineering. This did not stand in the way of Wilson later achieving the rank of lieutenant, and during his time as a staff officer at the Pentagon, he volunteered for the Kennedy campaign and decided to enter political office himself. 
Wilson’s first interest in politics had come at an early age, after a fight with an elected-official neighbor who killed Wilson’s dog. The neighbor was upset that the dog had wandered into his yard and fed the dog glass, killing it. Wilson retaliated with political action, driving voters to the polls while spreading the story of his dog’s murder. His efforts resulted in his neighbor losing the election by 16 votes.  
During his congressional tenure, Wilson was often called “Good Time Charlie,” known for socializing with attractive women and enjoying alcohol. He embraced this reputation. Further, although he was hawkish on foreign issues, he was liberal on many domestic issues, including women’s rights, social security, and abortion. George Crile III captured these aspects of Wilson’s personal and political life in his 2003 book, Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, which was later adapted into the 2007 film Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Tom Hanks as Charles Wilson. Wilson died in 2010 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.