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2-min read

Playboy US senator Charlie Wilson dead

He helped secure funding for US operations during Soviet Afghan war.

News18test sharma |

Updated:February 11, 2010, 2:36 PM IST
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Playboy US senator Charlie Wilson dead
He helped secure funding for US operations during Soviet Afghan war.

Houston: Former US Representative Charlie Wilson, the swashbuckling Texan chronicled in film for helping secure billions of dollars to fund covert US operations against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, died of cardiac arrest. He was 76.

Wilson, a Democrat, served 12 consecutive terms in the House of Representatives, and was known as the ''Liberal from Lufkin,'' the town in mostly conservative east Texas where he lived.

He had complained of chest pains Yesterday and was pronounced dead when he arrived at Memorial Health System of East Texas in Lufkin, the hospital said in a statement.

In the 2007 movie Charlie Wilson's War, actor Tom Hanks portrayed Wilson as a boozy womanizer who found his life's cause in helping mujahedeen freedom fighters in Afghanistan fight and eventually repel occupying Soviet forces.

As a long-time member of the House Appropriations Committee, Wilson quietly helped steer billions of dollars to the US Central Intelligence Agency, which distributed the funds to buy Afghan fighters high-tech weapons like Stinger missiles used to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships.

''I just saw the opportunity to grab the sons o'bitches by the throat,'' the fiercely anti-communist Wilson told the Dallas Morning News in a 2007 interview.

After the Soviet withdrawal, Wilson expressed reservations about US lawmakers' decisions to cut funds to Afghanistan, blamed for creating a void that led to the rising influence of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the Islamic militant group accused of the September. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

On a less flattering side, the movie opens with Wilson in a hot tub in a Las Vegas hotel, flanked by two strippers who are high on cocaine. The US Justice Department in 1980 investigated Wilson for possible drug use, but the probe came up empty.

''The feds spent a million bucks trying to figure out whether, when those fingernails passed under my nose, did I inhale or exhale, and I ain't telling,'' Wilson told author George Crile, who included the material in his book, Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History.

Wilson was known for hiring attractive young women to staff his congressional office in Washington, where they were known as Charlie's Angels after the then-popular TV show.

Representative David Obey, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, in a statement called Wilson ''a man of courage and conviction who worked hard, loved his country, and lived life to the fullest.''

While known as a defense hawk, Wilson had a liberal voting record on social issues despite his district's conservative leanings.

Wilson was born in Trinity, Texas, in 1933, attended the US Naval Academy, and served in the US Navy. He was elected to the Texas legislature and went on to serve in the US House from 1973 to 1997. He is survived by his wife Barbara and sister Sharon Allison.

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