Jerusalem, Stateless City, in “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Yesterday, I went to a showing of Charlie Wilson’s War, the Tom Hanks film about the Texas congressman who nearly single-handedly funded the Afghan mujihadeen in their fight against the Soviet invading forces. It was a good, fun movie overall, but I was struck by a minor, but telling, detail.

There is a scene in the film that takes place in Jerusalem. The subtitle that flashes on the screen reads just ‘Jerusalem’. However, when the movie takes us to Egypt, the subtitle reads, “Cairo, Egypt”.

Apparently, it is safer to antagonize the Jews, who, at the very worst, will write a few letters to the editor.

16 Responses to Jerusalem, Stateless City, in “Charlie Wilson’s War”

  1. Joel says:

    I think you’ve gone a little too far this time.

    I’m guessing that the screenwriters assumed that everybody has heard of Jerusalem and know’s where it is.
    They probably assumed that many of us don’t know Cairo is in Egypt.

    Who really knows?

  2. Joanne says:

    I was just going to say the same thing as Joel. I think you may be reading too much into this. Plus, the Israeli character is shown rather sympathetically.

    I thought it was a good movie. I noted that it’s “based on a true story.” Of course, the word “based” can mean a multitude of things. I wonder how much of this account was true, how much was exaggerated, and how much of the real story it left out.

  3. lazar says:

    Of course, one cannot say for sure what the producers intended. But everyone knows that Cairo is in Egypt.
    The script itself is not problematic vis-a-vis Israel. Nor is the movie overall. It would seem, however, that the producers decided it would be safer not to portray Jerusalem as part of Israel.
    Joanne- You will get a much more accurate picture of the true story by reading the book.

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  5. Richard Landes says:

    i don’t think i wd have made this a post. too many more important issues.
    but this does raise an interesting issue:
    many of my students (and colleagues, friends, etc.) mention the american support of the Mujehadin in Afghanistan along the lines of “Well, we supported Osama bin Laden.” The implication seems to be, “how can we complain about him when we helped ‘create’ him? we’re (partly) to blame for his deeds.”
    i cannot get a good handle on this logic. any thoughts?

  6. Windy Wilson says:

    Well, I suppose they had to make sure the viewers weren’t confused with Cairo, Illinois, but the film makers then facilitate confusion with Jerusalem, Texas and Jerusalem Ohio and Jerusalem, New York.

    Richard Landes. This line of reasoning is similar to the idea that if one had lingered over coffee before driving to work one would have missed the accident, or if one saves another’s life then one is responsible for the deeds of that other person. Not everything can be foreseen, and if we follow that logic, then parents are responsible for the crimes and misdeeds of their children. I doubt your students, colleagues and friends would want that; indeed if they were to be held responsible personally for the wrongs of another you can bet they would suddenly discover the concept of personal responsibility for one’s acts and apply it with breathtaking quickness.
    More generally on your question, I think the way to combat strange courses of logic is to test them out with thought experiments in both the macro (political) life and the personal life. A good question to ask is “what would society be like if everyone did X?”

  7. fp says:

    why is it hard?

    the carter and following administrations were ignorant about the ME (as are most of the american elite and public) and incompetent. they were blind to the monster they were propping up in their anti-USSR fervor. (now brzezinsky has the nerve to criticize what are direct consequences of his foolish policy).

    in fact, take an inventory of many of the non-left tyrants around the world and the US is some way or the other responsible for their creation or support, including saddam and OBL. and in many cases the US had to pay the price and even fight its own creations.

    the US is partly to blame but not exactly for what OBL does, but for making it possible for him to do it. in that sense it is hard to fault the logic.

    the US is now doing the very same thing with the palestinians. it never learns from its mistakes, because it does not operate on the basis of knowledge and reason. it never has, actually.


  8. Eliyahu says:

    fp, zbig brzezinski was interviewed in LeMonde several months after 9-11. He was asked specifically if he had any regrets about building up Islamic extremism and bin Laden in particular in his effort to fight the USSR in Afghanistan. He said he had no regrets because the failed Soviet war in Afghanistan had brought down the USSR. And that was such a great thing, etc.

    I disagree with you about how much the carter administration [not jiminy cricket himself who is fairly dumb & iggorit] knew about Islamic jihad. Maybe zbig had a pretty good understanding of it. Zbig is not dumb, sinister maybe but not dumb. Maybe the State Dept got their money’s worth out of bin laden. Don’t forget that they have been pro-Arab since way back, since before the rebirth of Israel in 1948. Likewise the British Foreign Office and Colonial Office and –surprise, surprise– the bolsheviks who took a pro-Muslim position back in 1917 shortly after the Bolshevik putsch in Petrograd. See link:
    In fact, Yves Ternon in Les Armeniens [p 158] points out that the Bolsheviks were vehemently opposed to letting an Armenian party join the Second International at the Stuttgart Conference of the 2nd Int. [ca. 1907]. They claimed that this party was too nationalist, not enough class-based, which did not stop them in 1917 from flattering the Muslims inside and outside the Russian Empire and from favoring the nationalism of Muslim peoples over that of non-Muslims. The 1917 manifesto linked to above favors Turkish nationalism over Armenian, this in the wake of the Armenian genocide. In fact, the Bolsheviks helped to continue that genocide. Indeed, the Bolshevik pro-Muslim policy converged with the British openly pro-Muslim, pro-Arab policy starting in 1920, and more obvious perhaps starting in 1922, which harmfully affected Armenians, Greeks, Jews, and Egyptian Copts.

    fp, let’s also recall how many State Dept and White House big shots like jiminy cricket, and jim baker, etc. are on the Arab payroll. Carter’s Carter Center in Atlanta gets big bucks from the Saudi Bin Laden Group of companies. How come the so-called “left” doesn’t talk about that or about the major Arab ownership of much capital and real estate in the US and other Western countries, including Germany and UK???

  9. fp says:


    i have problems with parts of what you say.

    it is not a question of dumbness, but of ignorance. zbig comes from a background where all his focus and worldview was USSR and bringing it down. at the time he knew and understood little what monster he was building. the tragedy of it is that the USSR would have fallen anyway, so zbig did not know even the USSR system well enough. lots of clever men without a clue about the ME, because it’s outside of their cultural makeup.

    foreign ministries are normally sucking to the arabs and the state department is not any different. but the current US pro-arab stance is a more recent development: it is a result of continuous incompetence and failures of ignorant US policies in the ME. they are starting to realize that they fucked up royally and want to appease their asses out of the hole the US dug itself in. this is in itself is based on ignorance, because the worst you can do with islamists is to try to appease them.

    the total lack of a rational energy policy is suicidal and probably what forces the US to kiss arab ass, and what it is bringing it down the drain. it’s very much over for the US, and the consequences for the public won’t be pretty. I advise people to read about the fall of rome.

  10. fp says:

    i don’t agree with parts of your argument.

    zbig is member of a generation so obsessed with the USSR, that they knew and understood little else, let alone islam and jihad. his polish roots are anti-semitic, not pro-arab. despite his so-called expertise on the cold war, he did not see that the USSR would collapse even without supporting the jihadist monster. neither did he have a clue about iran. He sounds impressive when he talks, but he is as ignorant about other cultures as most in the US elite. there are lots of smart but clueless people like that.

    most foreign ministries are pro-arab and anti-semitic and the state department is not different. but the politicians have managed to keep it at bay. the dumping of israel by the latter is a relatively recent phenomeon. it has to do with the realization that– due to horrendous policy fuckups during decades–the US is now in a huge hole and the appeasement illusion is too great relative to alternatives, to resist. when america can no longer overwhelm with its power, beware. the world has not seen a nastier collapse. we saw glimpses of that in vietnam, but that was not a full collapse as is the current phenomenon.

    the absence of a rational energy policy — due to ignorance and inability to reason, political and economic corruption and indoctrination with the notion that america is so superior that it can continue to dominate and prosper forever– has been suicidal and its consequences cannot be fixed. the power is moving elsewhere and the US does not do what it must to deal with it.

    the notion that the US is somehow unique and any better than past empires is balderdash.

  11. fp says:


    zbig is a member of a generation who was obsessed with the USSR and nothing else mattered. this had to do with his polish roots, which also contributed to anti-semitism, not pro-arabism. in fact, like the rest of the US policy elite, he is ignorant about islam and jihad, hence his cluelessness about islamists and iran, and the disastruous ME policies of the carter admin. the elite is full of shrewd (not wise) people who have no clue about other cultures in general and the ME in particular.

    most foreign ministries are pro-arab and anti-semitic and the state department has not been different. the politicians managed to keep it in check. the recent “dump israel” policy by the latter is a more recent phenomenon, as is rabid anti-semitism in the US. they are first indicators that the US has conducted suicidal policies and is realizing that it has dug such a huge hole for itself that the temptation to appease itself out of it, relative to the harsh alternative, is too strong. beware of america in decline — Vietnam was nothing relative to what will happen in the next 10-20 years.

    the zbigs, bakers, carters, walts and mearsheimers simply sense the decline and badly need a scapegoat. and who has always been the target of such?

  12. Joanne says:

    I’m not very sympathetic to statements that we “created” Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, nor am I sympathetic to arguments that we “created” the monster that was Saddam Hussein.

    In the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, they did show one congressman saying that supporting the Mujehadin would allow them to make trouble later on, but I don’t know how could anyone have realized that in 1980. We can blame our government for lacking a lot of things, but lacking a crystal ball should not be one of them. In any case, the issue was likely a lesser of evils. We strengthened the Mujehadin, true. But would allowing the Soviets to be strengthened (along with a Soviet-backed Afghan dictatorship) have been the better choice?

    The Cold War was a chess game in some respects, with the USSR and the USA trying to win allies in every region of the world in pursuit of economic and military ends. We had a lot of awful bedfellows, but so did the Soviets. Before condemning US actions in these cases, I would like to know what the alternative actions could have been, and what the consequences of those alternative actions would’ve been. In some cases…in many cases…the US actions were clearly wrong. We should never have overthrown Mossadegh or tolerated the overthrow of Allende or launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, for instance. And then there was the horror that was the Vietnam War. I’m by no means suggesting that everything we did was right. Far from it. But I cannot say with confidence that everything we did was wrong. As for Afghanistan, I don’t know. It’s not as if Quakers and democrats were thick on the ground there.

    Another example is Saddam Hussein. “Oh,” a lot of people say, “but the US supported Saddam against Iran.” My answer is, so what? So did the USSR, China, France, West Germany, and Britain. In his book What’s Left – How Liberals Lost Their Way, Nick Cohen refers to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which got access to Iraqi government archives after the fall of Baghdad. It found that, in terms of actual deliveries of major conventional weapons to Iraq between 1973 and 2002, 57 percent of Saddam’s weapons came from the USSR, 13 percent from France and 12 percent from China. The USA sold Saddam the grand total of 1 percent, and Britain only .2 percent.

    Any weapons of mass that did come from the West, Cohen says, came from West Germany, “whose companies provided Saddam with with one of the largest chemical weapons manufacturing industries in the world.” And East Germany provided instructors on how to use chemical weapons. Also, France built the Tammuz nuclear reactor, which may have provided Saddam with the bomb had Israel not destroyed it later.

    The US helped Saddam against Iran in their war in the 1980s when Iran’s forces seemed about to overrun the oil fields of Iraq and even Saudi Arabia. It supplied Saddam with intelligence on Iranian troop deployments garnered from its AWAC spy planes. Was this out of kindness or support for Saddam? Of course not. Cohen writes that Kissinger wished that both sides would lose that war.

    No Western or Communist country was an angel in either affair. They all acted to promote their own national interests, whether that meant geopolitical strategic advantages, oil, or access to arms contracts. To say that “the US did this” and “the US created that” is to miss the whole picture. The US was only one player among many.

    I heard that one reason why the French opposed the US invasion of Iraq was that Saddam owed them $4 billion in payments for arms purchases.

    I’m not saying that the US was angelic, but to attribute everything to the US is simplistic…or, rather, simpleminded.

  13. fp says:


    Attributing ALL responsibility to the US is, of course, nonsense. But relieving it of ANY responsibility is equal nonsense.

    The europeans have always been whores and have done little to deny it. Only the US PRETENDS that it’s different than and superior to everybody else.

    The problem with the US is that it is utterly ignorant of the ME cultures, islam and jihad and it has conducted incompetent, suicidal policies there for decades. Support of the jihadists is but one failure stemming from that ignorance. Lack of a rational energy policy and Iraq are two others. Pakistan and Iran are two others. And the Palestinian state is yet another. It’s going from worse to worst.

    Whenever it comes to ME policy, the US is a failed banana state.

  14. Joanne says:

    Just another tidbit about blaming the US for “creating” the Taliban. This is from an article in The New York Times by William Dalrymple:

    “It was under Ms. Bhutto’s watch that the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, first installed the Taliban in Afghanistan. It was also at that time that hundreds of young Islamic militants were recruited from the madrassas to do the agency’s dirty work in Indian Kashmir. It seems that, like some terrorist equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster, the extremists turned on both the person and the state that had helped bring them into being.”

    I didn’t know this. So, it was Pakistan that created the Taliban government in Afghanistan and the US that had a tactical alliance with the Taliban against the Soviets. So….why isn’t anyone saying “But Pakistan created the Taliban…” Well, I guess Dalrymple is, but you don’t hear it elsewhere.

  15. fp says:


    it’s a rather well known fact — though not to the public and MSM — that the taliban is a creation of Pakistan’s ISI.

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