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The Congressman Charles Wilson Collection - Wilson in Pakistan (1984)

East Texas Research Center

Silent | 1984

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  •  Wilson speaking to a gathering of the Afghan mujahideen 
  •  Wilson's companion for the trip, Cynthia Gale Watson, aka "Snowflake."  Wilson was notorious for bringing with him on political trips glamorous U.S. women.  Snowflake, a winner of the Miss Northern Hemisphere beauty pageant, accompanied Wilson even to the most clandestine meetings during this mission to Pakistan to encourage the adoption of a particular Swiss-produced weapon. 
 
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Filmed during Congressman Charles Wilson's January 1984 visit to Pakistan, this footage showcases the legislator's key goal for the trip: to encourage and bolster support for the work of the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union.
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.