Humor & Satire: Hearts and Minds, the story of Afghanistan (featuring Charles/Charlene)

Note: the italics bold are fictional pure fantasy. Regular typeface in the article is political events.

Us President Ronald Reagan ( 1981-1989) was a  Victorious hero  of Afghanistan war defeating the mighty,  Red Army and the US dismantling of the Soviet Union. But the real tragedy of “benign neglect” that instead of peace Afghanistan, the never ending internecine tribal warfare from Bush/Obama.  Even now. Newly installed, President Trump says, “It’s a mess” and working on new strategy on Afghanistan. Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who now heads the Senate Armed Services Committee (2017), has publicially said that US with peace with Afghanistan.
Thus Afghan policy comes to a full circle.
A little background.
Charles Dickens or Charlene Dickens – depending on how he dresses up that day, in drags or polo shirt and shorts- owns Nancy’s Astro Readings in Greenwich Village New York. So named to honor the First lady, Nancy Reagan. She was one of his first celebrity clients to come out of the closet and publicly declare that it was ok to believe in astrology. That was the day, when astrology and palm readings catapulted from a flaky Village thing to a fashionable cult status with the White House blessings.
To understand the connection between the White House, Presidents Reagan, Charles/Charlene Dickens, Obama and Afghanistan you have to know Charlie Wilson.
Well, remember the Hollywood movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War” with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts in lead roles?
The movie was based on a  maverick 12 term Congressman from Texan and how he and his rogue CIA buddy Gust Avrakotos planned to launch Operation Cyclone,, one of the biggest ever covert operation in history and helped the US win first Afghan war in the 1970s-80st. One of the few war movies that are actually based more on facts than propaganda.
It is about the first American real victory after the World War 11. And what a victory! The other super power, The Russians, soundly defeated and sent packing home. Imagine that the dreaded Red Army, pushed back and humiliated!!
A little history here. Ronald Reagan was our President when the Russians invaded their neighbor Afghanistan in 1979. Yes, the same country where the NATO forces (read American) are bogged down today with over 2,000 US soldiers killed so far.
Rewind to the 1970s. Congressman Wilson knew that area very well. Years ago, his fondness for inhaling., took him to Pakistan’s legendary frontier town Peshawar, which had the reputation of having the best of the best and the purist of the pure, pot ever, in the whole wide world.. Charlie Wilson was not disappointed. However, one of the unintended consequences of his adventures was that he developed a strong bond with the people of the region, the Pashtuns. They live in Afghanistan where they are in majority and in Northern Pakistan. They go across the artificially drawn border between the two countries.
The Pashtuns were a lot like the Texans- fiercely independent, loyal friends, great hosts and fond of guns.  His mixing with the Pashtuns and the legendary bouts of inhaling the purest of the pure pot soon extended to Pashtuns and few American CIA operators in the area, who shared Charlie Wilson’s fondness for the Afghan pot and the friendship with the Pashtuns.
After the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Congressman Wilson, again visited Pakistan. The pure air of Peshawar the purest of the pure pot cleared his mind and he could think straight. He knew what the challenge was: Mindful of the Americans dead in Vietnam (58,000), he wanted to defeat the Russians, without the American boots on the ground. He and his rogue CIA buddy on the ground came up with a brilliant plan:
Win the hearts of the local people and arm them to fight the common enemy, the Russians. Involve the Pakistani spy agency I.S.I some of whose top spooks were Pashtuns.
Charlie Wilson knew that Americans were not familiar with the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, hopelessly ignorant about the tribal culture and mores. No one he knew spoke Pashto or Dari the local languages. They will be killed by the thousands if the US sent troops there, with no guarantee of a clear victory  (A lesson well learnt from Viet Nam experience).
The plan was radical, because it meant that the CIA would not directly control the war operations. Charlie Wilson and Gus knew it will be a challenge to get it going.
With big egos at the CIA headquarters at Langley, the idea will not fly because they will not get the full credit for the operations. sadly, if the end result is a disaster as in Viet Nam and Iraq.
With the trust of the local population and funneling funds and arms through Pakistan’s I.S.I, America not only won the war against Russians. The domino effect led to the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union and The United States of America as the sole super power in the world. Earth shattering events that only a Charlie Wilson and his like-minded friends could pull off.
Back in the United States, Congressmen Charlie Wilson met Charles/Charlene Dickens at a chance meeting at the While House. Charlene was visiting Nancy Regan on their regular monthly astro readings. At the White House Charles Dickens was fondly known as Charlene, because he would dress up in drags for his meetings with Nancy. Congressman Wilson was astounded to find out that his secret successful plan to bypass CIA top brass and defeat the Russians was well known to Charlene.
You see, Charlene mother was from Texas and while on a Peace Corps mission to Peshawar, she met a young handsome Oxford educated Pashtun chieftain, Zor Zamin Khan or ZZK , fell madly in love and married him. Though they had a Muslim marriage ceremony, her husband never insisted that she change her religion. He would say proudly that Muslims are allowed to marry the followers of Bible and Torah, like the Koran, the books of God. They both had fondness for English fiction and loved Charles Dickens books. Every day they would read Dickens to each other. And when their first-born came into the world, they named him Charles Dickens.  An unlikely name for a Pashtun. Charlene would take her son every Sunday to the elegant All Saints Church (established in 1883) in Peshawar. It did not bother her husband. However when Charlie grew up and turned out to be  his open flaunting for his sexual preferences became too much for his father and his clan. His mother suggested that perhaps their son should move to Greenwich Village and practice his god given talents for the stars and astrology. She moved with her son to New York settle him and set up his shop. But the constant ill health of her mother kept her in Texas, away from his beloved son in New York and her husband in Peshawar.
While in Texas Charlene kept herself busy by helping her father’s the local political head of the Republican Party. Since it was election time, she followed her father to local  Regan for President election committee. That was when she met Nancy who was touring Texas on the election campaign.  They talked over lunch and Charlene mentioned her son Charles and his astrology. That was the starting point of their long lasting bond. After elections, Nancy invited Charlene and Charles to White House and the rest is history. Charles dressed up for the occasion in drags and Nancy liked his dress so much that she asked her designer James Galanos to make a dress very similar to Charles.  That was how moved into the high world of fashion and they into his world of astrology and stars.
Congressman Wilson then realized that President Reagan, known for inattention to details, could follow the intricacies of the Pashtun culture so clearly. Up to that point, he did not know that Charles Dickens was not only doing the readings for Nancy, he had also become her adviser on Afghanistan and the Pashtuns. His astute advise to Nancy and Reagan’s ear for Nancy’s advise, was the primary reason why things flowed so smoothly and we won the war in Afghanistan with the loss of not a single American soldier. Why Regan was more popular in Afghanistan than in the Untied States.
Charles Dickens at this point introduced Charlie Wilson to the pleasure of Hookah and shisha smoking. You see, Charles Dickens not only did the readings but also learnt in his days in Pakistan, the art of Hookah making. Soon, his hand crafted hookah and the shisha smoking became the thing to do. So many senators, congressmen CIA hands, presidential aspirants came to his back rooms of his shop to smoke shisha that the constant presence of unmarked FBI cars and throngs of uncover cops, made the neighbors believe that cops were casing the nearby meeting place of the notorious Mob boss Vincent Gigante on Sullivan Street.
They came to smoke Shisha and seek the advise of Charles Dickens on the present Afghan war. The CIA operatives, the Neo -Cons, White House advisers, the Pentagon operatives. They all came out of a habit from the Reagan era for different reasons. The Neo Cons came because they were worried that the end of the war would slow down productions of smart weapons used in Afghanistan; lower the stock value of defense equipment manufacturers and thus hurting their stock portfolios. The neo-cons were anxious to get Charles views on whether they should start another war in Africa or stay on course to destabilize Pakistan; the State Department and the Pentagon operators, came as this was the only place they could meet informally to calibrate their requests for the future budgets to Congress.
Charles Dickens has been advising them that best way to long lasting stability of the world is to reassure a nuclear armed Pakistan and start to build a level of trust that existed between the US and Pakistan during the glorious years of American ascendancy to the lone super power status in the Reagan era.
There is a worrying lack of vision, as the neocons reportedly still seem to cling to the notion that if the citizens of Baghdad did not welcome the US invading forces with flowers, the denizens of Islamabad surely will once the US seizes Pakistan’s nuclear triggers and restores peace and tranquility in the region.
As they smoke the hookah, Charles tries to tell everyone that for the immigrants the US is still a heaven where they can pursue and realize their dreams. The only country in the world that gives them the opportunity to start anew and live their lives in dignity. “They do not hate us!” reminds Charlene. Thus the saga of love and hate goes on.
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    1. Nayeem

      I agree with Leni Wolfenson, great article!

  1. Michael S

    Charles v. Charlene are not far removed from the absurdity of the long, bone-headed US involvement in Afghanistan. Nicely done.


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