Afghan hearings takeaway: Charlie Wilson, swimming pools

December 2, 2009

They weren’t the most “important” words said today at congressional hearings on President Barack Obama’s new Afghanistan war strategy, but the following snippets were memorable.

AFGHANISTANAfghanistan and swimming pools:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “We’re not just going to throw these guys into the swimming pool … and walk away.”

Senator Joe Lieberman responded: “I appreciate what you said. We’re not just going to throw the Afghans into the pool and — and — and run away until we’re sure that they can swim on their own.”

Remembering Charlie Wilson’s war:

Senator Bill Nelson:  “During the ’70s and the ’80s I had the privilege of serving with Congressman Charlie Wilson in the House of Representatives.” USA/

Nelson says to Gates: “I am so happy to see in your statement and I quote you, ‘We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989 when we abandon the country only to see it descend into civil war and then into Taliban hands.’

And it was Charlie Wilson at that time who singly had been in large part responsible for us getting in in the first place that fought us getting out. So thank you for stating the United States policy as strongly as you have.”

Gates replied: “This situation in Afghanistan has been, shall we say, personally of interest to me having worked with Charlie Wilson back in the 1980s … which was always an interesting experience.”

Fire and dynamite, old and new:

Rep. Gary Ackerman: “We have a shack that is on fire but it is located next to the dynamite factory.”

He also said: “As of 8 o clock last night, do we have a new war, or do we have an old war under new ownership? Or is it the same war with a new management strategy to muscle up and have a more elegant exit plan?”

And the question of the decade:

Rep. Eliot Engel: “Where is Osama bin Laden?”

Yes indeed…

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Darren Whiteside (children at public pool in Kabul in 2002), Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (President Bush greets former Congressman Charlie Wilson in 2008)

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see