Making Feminist Sense out of "Charlie Wilson’s War"


Larson, Janet. 2015. “Making Feminist Sense out of ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (1): 77–99. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.835527.

Author: Janet Larson


Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Mike Nichols's film about the womanizing Congressman who engineered black funds for the CIA's proxy war in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, is historically misleading but highly instructive, because in packaging dominant American masculine identity and war politics as popular entertainment for post-9/11 audiences, it reveals the sexed and gendered ‘politics of the visual’ in global affairs. This intertextual study of ‘Charlie Wilson's war’ as movie, constructed history and legacy examines Wilson as a prime exhibit of a needy masculinity that, like the film's emasculated CIA, bulks itself up through surrogate military selves. It also analyses modes of the imaginary and specularity in brother-bonding with the mujahidin, tracks the proxy system's loops of masculine identity-and-war-making between Stateside and South Asia in the post-Vietnam 1980s and interrogates the dynamics of imperial ‘un-seeing’ in this campaign and its long aftermath. While US proxy wars proliferate worldwide, the lack of useable political memory about the ground truths of ‘Charlie's war’ continues to matter because America's second ‘good’ war in Afghanistan, bound to the first by gendered causal links, has re-empowered the forces that still menace women's rights and lives.

Keywords: Afghanistan, amnesia, bonding, Charlie Wilson, CIA, Cold War, film, image, imagination, imperial, intertext, masculinity, perform, proxy, Russians, visual, mujahidin

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism, Rights, Women's Rights, Weapons /Arms Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, United States of America

Year: 2015

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