Ralph Benko

Last week, passing nearly uncelebrated, occurred the 20th anniversary of the formal dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There is much to celebrate about the December 25, 1991 implosion of a totalitarian, bellicose, imperialistic regime with 45,000 nuclear warheads, captor of dozens of nations, killer of tens of millions, sociopathic in its brutality against the innocent in its quest for world domination.

Without, in any way, diminishing the roles of the great — Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and others -- the end of the USSR was, more than anything, the work of three regular people: beginning with one citizen-socialite from Houston, who recruited a drunken roué of a Congressman, who, in turn, engineered the critical funding for one malcontent CIA Agent who armed the Afghani freedom fighters.

Today, then, I sing of arms and the woman: Joanne King Herring, destined to live forever in history associated with a tiny handful of beautiful, regal, woman warriors: Queen Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Queen Boadicea. Like her historic counterparts Herring widely was, and is, counted among the great beauties of the world. But Helen’s kidnapping was the casus belli of the Trojan War — she played no strategic role herself. Queens Cleopatra and Boadicea lost their lands and lives to the imperial storm troopers. Joanne Herring, “Queen of Texas,” won.

Herring recruited Rep. “Good Time” Charlie Wilson to her cause of championing the Afghans against the Soviets. She helped Wilson persuade House Appropriations Committee chair Doc Long to turn on the funding which allowed CIA maverick agent Gust Avrakatos to arm the freedom fighters. This is extensively documented in 60 Minutes’ producer George Crile’s galvanizing work Charlie Wilson’s War. This book, far more than Mike Nichols’ movie starring Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, shows how the world really works. And it’s not like the High School civics texts. It’s about passion.

Crile, quoting CIA Director James Woolsey: “’The defeat and breakup of the Soviet Empire is one of the great events of world history. There were many heroes in this battle, but to Charlie Wilson must go a special recognition.’” Crile observes:


Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.