Three cups of sincerity

Published: April 19, 2011
The writer is a visiting scholar in the Centre for South Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

The writer is a visiting scholar in the Centre for South Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

On April 17, the CBS investigative programme “60 minutes” revealed shocking details of alleged misconduct by Greg Mortenson, the renowned American humanitarian who builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan through his charity, the Central Asia Institute (CAI), and who co-authored the top-selling book Three Cups of Tea, which chronicles his life and work. The program highlighted how Mortenson fabricated key stories regarding his personal journeys in Pakistan, and how his charity has been involved in serious financial malpractice. While these are critical concerns that demand further inquiry, the real scandal is far more insidious and goes beyond Mortenson.

Three Cups of Tea is not merely about Mortenson’s humanitarianism. It is the quintessential text through which Americans are seeing one of the longest wars in US history. Primarily set in Baltistan and northern Pakistan, the text is designed to nourish western stereotypes and white knight fantasies — the region is a wild frontier filled with extremist madrassas and the Taliban, where people are waiting to be claimed and tamed by Mortenson’s schools. Because an abstract template of poverty and danger is applied to diverse locations, one gets a sense that there are mobile, multiple enemies all around in Muslim places that are self-evidently poor and ignorant, and thus potentially violent and dangerous. In a narrative that is not only distorted but plain simple dishonest, the largely peaceful, Shia-dominated region of northern Pakistan is ridiculously depicted as the birthplace of the Taliban, and the large presence of government, private and community schools in the region is completely eclipsed to create a spectre of rural ignorance. Terrorism is then conveniently reduced to this manufactured Muslim ignorance, instead of being connected to the violence of US foreign policy. By erasing the devastating consequences of US interventionism and sensationalising American humanitarian work in the war zone, Three Cups of Tea provides a palatable and therapeutic account of the war on terror for the American public conscience.

More disturbingly, Mortenson has become deeply entrenched in the counter-insurgency projects of the US military, with some of his girls’ schools now being inaugurated by the military top command. This has helped to reinvent the image of the US military as a harbinger of humanitarian development. While Mortenson’s emphasis on books appears to be an alternative to bombs, it actually complements them by helping to justify and sugar-coat the war at home. Journalists like Thomas Friedman and Christiane Amanpour dwell on the Mortenson-military partnership as if the war has really changed and its key characteristic is girls’ education, not occupation. Let’s not forget: The discourse of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’ has a long colonial history. Imperial power as the beacon of women’s empowerment and civilisation was precisely the rationale used by British and French colonisers in Egypt, India and Algeria amongst other places for explaining their occupations.

It is beyond doubt, of course, that girls need education and that CAI-created schools have been tremendously beneficial for local communities. Mortenson’s story embodies a moving account of a foreigner’s dedicated service to rural Pakistanis and has inspired many to undertake their own charitable endeavours. Yet, humanitarianism is not a license for disingenuous representation and action, and must be assessed within the larger politics that it reflects and perpetuates. What we need is an anti-colonial humanitarianism — one that acknowledges suffering as well as the relational histories that have produced it. Dr Paul Farmer’s Mountains beyond Mountains provides a fine example in this regard.

It is also striking to observe the responses to the CBS investigation. Many are gravely disappointed, of course, as Greg Mortenson is a humanitarian idol both in the US and in Pakistan. Several have been hesitant to criticise him, saying that “heroes are not saints and can make mistakes” and “mismanagement is there in all non-profits, it is ok if some CAI schools do not exist on the ground”. While my argument is beyond Mortenson’s financial practices and ghost schools either way, it is nevertheless interesting to note that such a lenient, sympathetic response would have been unimaginable if the humanitarian in question was a non-westerner. CBS has provided an initial opening. Investigations of accountability must now be made with regard to CAI’s work.

The saviour rhetoric of humanitarianism constitutes a powerful force that often claims unquestionable moral certainty and superiority, and therein lies its danger. All critiques of Greg Mortenson’s work can simply be silenced by saying, ‘he has made schools, you have not’. Hence, the bottom line for many people is that since Mortenson is doing good and making a difference in the lives of poor people, it does not really matter if there are errors in how he conducts himself because the targets of his action are basically happy to have schools. That is tantamount to saying that poor people do not have feelings or a right to due process and dignity. Ghulam Parvi, a key character in Three Cups of Tea and CAI operations director in Pakistan for many years, resigned from CAI last year partly in response to the book’s blatantly false depiction of Baltistan as Taliban-central. Several of my friends from the region who are deeply grateful for Mortenson’s services are nevertheless thoroughly disappointed that he would use his platform to spread fundamental misperceptions about their region. Others are suspicious of his work with the military. If the CBS report is indeed true, then the casualness with which the director of a Pakistani think tank is portrayed as a Taliban kidnapper in Mortenson’s writings exemplifies a form of imperialist abuse that cannot be shielded under the guise of humanitarianism.

Perhaps the lesson to draw is not about sharing tea; it’s about sincerity. It’s also about self-interrogation of American interventions abroad, humanitarian or otherwise. Finally, one hopes that Greg Mortenson recovers from his ailments soon. All the people whose lives he has helped to change will undoubtedly be praying for his good health.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (90)

  • Cyrus
    Apr 19, 2011 - 9:43PM

    Very well written put!..simply put…even if he made 3 and claimed to have built 11 schools in Kunhar…its far better than not making any and far far far better than not building any schools and ALSO decimating homes!Recommend

  • Imjee
    Apr 19, 2011 - 10:42PM

    A typical academic style critique; there is nothing new in the article except criticism for the sake of publicity. The most important thing is that the people of that region especially Baltistan have no objections. The literacy rate in that region is reasonably good. A good number of students are studying abroad and even the region has graduates from Harvard and Oxford. I have seen them welcoming Greg now and then. Isn’t it morally wrong to attribute your false perceptions to people of a region especially when you are not from that area?Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2011 - 11:02PM

    some thoughts on it’s about sincerity.

    sincerity doesn’t absolve one from due responsibility.


    in cyberworld when we read heavy criticism of mortenson, one cannot help but wonder why we do not apply the same standards of due diligence to the monies collected by madressahs and mosques…where is the accountability of those monies?Recommend

  • Apr 19, 2011 - 11:13PM

    This is an utterly absurd argument about philanthropy. With limited resources you are simply content with anyone who has opened schools — no matter how much money is wasted?
    It is precisely this kind off self-congratulation which the Pakistani elite comfort themselves with by throwing crumbs to their servants and thinking they are helping the poor. Yes, they will come and say Shukriya Bibji but is that the kind of society we want? Where precious philanthropic resources are wasted in perpetuating an elite glamorized class? Mortenson’s case is particularly troubling because there are plenty of competing organizations which are doing the same work and doing it better –Citizens Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation to name two. Valorizing one organization which is wasting resources compared to others simply so our elite get to brush shoulders with Bill Clinton et al at Mortenson fundraisers is really sad. Wake up elite Pakistanis and make sure charity is used constructively and efficiently by all.Recommend

  • Sverige
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:23PM

    very good work!Recommend

  • A.A.khan
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:35PM

    Completely ignoring the ground realities. you are talking about dignity. A person who is educated and well aware about the situation can defend his dignity more than an illiterate person. At least, he tried to educate the people n particularly girls who need more attention in that area. You said, Mortensen projected Baltistan as Taliban center, no never he did like this..he used the word northern pakistan n refering to Chitral, FATA, and parts of Afghanistan.Many people are good in playing and getting benefits of dignity of poor people but never bother to change their life in real terms by giving them education. Instead of that , I request you and to many other pakistanis to take some practical steps to educate one girl or a boy from poor family of pakistan.It is very easy to become an expert in talking n writing on Pakistani issues using your cozy rooms of Standford than building schools in Balistan n FATA. Recommend

  • beyg
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:42PM

    @ Mr. Saleem,

    You are talking about an indealistic society; we are not yet. I think you are not aware that most of the NGOs have the same practices. In fact they spend money on organizing confereneces and seminars at five star hotels. Their reports are written by foreign consultants sitting in air-conditioned suites of star hotels. Their CEOs would never visit the project sites. I can list a dozen of NGOs with similar characteristics in Islamabad only. At least Mr. Mortenson has been living there himself giving motivation and ‘light’ to the darken world. Recommend

  • Tia
    Apr 19, 2011 - 11:47PM

    Oh look, it’s another East vs West article… No offence, but I think it is more productive to talk about universal values. Even if “Three Cups of Tea” was embellished, and the allegations of financial mismanagement are true, the fact remains that he has done more for education in South Asia than all of his detractors combined. The criticism of him is over-the-top.

    Lots of charities could do with more guidance on financial reporting procedures, yet you don’t see them being torn apart on CBS! It takes time, money and resources to do the financial management work correctly. If you have limited resources, your actual charity work has to take a back seat for a little while. In which case, people would probably attack him for neglecting the schools during that time! You just can’t win.

    There should be an independent investigation into these allegations. Until that concludes, I will give Mr Mortenson the benefit of the doubt. It is worth noting that he built those schools for a fraction of what the government-funded agencies spent (USAID’s education spending in Afghanistan was $100 million in 2010 alone). Will 60 Minutes make a documentary on what happened to that money? Also, he has repeatedly turned down millions of dollars from the US Government (another reason why I believe him to be sincere).Recommend

  • khan
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:00AM

    Many Pakistanis are good researchers in west because you have published many articles in famous newspapers n social journals but actually you people are good engineers because you know the motives of editors n publishers what they want to publish n from which prospective they want to see the situation and you are more interested in publishing work, not caring about ground realities and your country. sorry to say this.
    Myself after reading this novel and being resident of this area, there was a good feeling about people and area he projected, yes, on some pages he exggerated the situation after all he has to sell that novel n gave an argument to the world that through schools we can change the situation.
    When I see the back cover page of that novel there was a good message disiminating about our people and area
    “when you handshake with us then you become our friend n when you have a cup of
    tea then you become our brother and on having second cup of tea you
    become our family memeber” he refered this statement to local numbardar. this was the whole projection from his novel being as positive reader.Recommend

  • sofia malik
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:24AM

    i stronglty agree with nosheen ali, what if the schools are without teachers and students, then these are just bulidings , i read in newsweek and other sites that schools are emptyand there are very few schools infact, so i guess its not some gud effort of getting popular by sellling million copies because there are torned million parts of greg mortenson’s name and humanitarian act!!Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:27AM

    @temporal: Here here to that!Recommend

  • Civil whispers
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Speaking from first hand experience, may I suggest to Greg that he should hire professional educationists to run his educational programs in Pakistan.

    The current practice of throwing money on the “impoverished” communities through semi-literate or illiterate handlers is not only a waste of resources, but also a threat for the young girls who are selected for scholarship.

    A case in point is the treatment meted to girls from Hunza and Gojal who were taken to three hostels in Rawalpindi on CAI scholarship. The girls had been selected for “scholarship” without any criteria, leading to serious mental stress for under-performers who could not study “scholarly”, while living at the hostels. At least one of the girls tried to commit suicide after failing a class. She was threatened by the hostel administration of being “thrown out of the hostel”.

    Trusting one or two people who have no experience or expertise, whatsoever, of managing education and who openly confess of being illiterate, also raises serious questions about the real intentions of CAI. Is it focused at showering money on the mountain people and “winning their hearts and minds in favour of USA” or is it really about bringing positive social change in the region, by literally turning the stones into schools, as one of his books has been beautifully titled!

    Not even a single employee of the CAI in Gilgit – Baltistan region of Pakistan has any experience or expertise in educational management, a highly specialized and delicate field that cannot be left at the mercy of illiterate people, even if they are nothing short of being cherubic!

    I am confident that “Dr. Greg” would also start focusing on the softer components of education, which are more important that construction of school buildings!Recommend

  • O Aziz
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:10AM

    A very well argued column. Finally a criticism of Mortenson and his collaborations/intentions worth the paper/PC it’s written on. I happen to disagree with it, but nonetheless very sincere and pragmatic. It exemplifies the general lack of trust towards anybody foreign, westerner in particular but in a very convincingly covert manner, rooted squarely in the experiences of past colonialism and modern hegemony, rather than an analysis squarely based upon sensationalized 15 minute sound-bite reporting segment on 60 minutes. I applaud you for that. Please keep on writing.

    Now, with respect to the criticism: For sixty years since independences, the country has been mismanaged, manipulated, misaligned and misinformed. Since I was old enough to remember I saw all kinds of people inaugurating new schools, industrial and infrastructure projects and all manner of improvements all over Pakistan thus committing millions of rupees each night to them, on Khabanama. I see similar acts of statesmanship and nationalism in order to usher modernity to Pakistan today. These were and still are geared to improve the lives of the ordinary people. Whenever I get a chance to visit Pakistan, I witness the same old routine, undoubtedly promised each night on TV for the last three decades. Can I ask some simple questions? How much does all that money add up to & where can I see the fruits of all that expenditure vis-à-vis the ordinary people?

    So before we criticize others, we must look at our own lot. Ideally we wouldn’t need NGOs and foreign aid agencies to feed flood victims, provide shelter to quake victims, provide medicine in remote areas, open hospitals for the poor, nor would we need foreign governments to help arm our defenses, meddle in our internal affairs, lend/donate us money and so on. Ideally we wouldn’t be pandering for foreign investment and ideally we wouldn’t need Mortenson to open schools in Pakistan to educate our own. Imagine if that is possible in our lifetime…Recommend

  • Irum Aftab Musharraf
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:13AM

    While I see the context the white man is being framed in, I feel uneasy with a line of argument that is inherently distrustful and relying on stereotypes based on someone’s skin color.

    Supremacy is a matter of mindset and perpetuated in different ways. It can be argued equally strongly that Mohammad Yunus got the Nobel Peace Prize rather than the home-grown and educated head of BRAC (also in the running) simply because Yunus had had a western-education. That the west props up the colored man who’s mind has been opened up by the west. That does not mean that we should be distrustful of every foreign educated brown man or woman.

    Would love to discuss some time. The fact that the world needs to move away from east versus west rhetoric and towards shared values. He is at the end of the day an American, and in as desperate a need for locals not to distrust him and know that Americans can be good too. We are all trying to tell each other, let’s stop fighting, we have a lot more in common than different. Why is that wrong, whether it comes from a person that is white, black, brown, or trained in military, academic or the philanthropic field? Humanity has no race, gender or profession.

    The article is very well articulated however. So thank you for sharing your thoughts.Recommend

  • Kiran
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:20AM

    Well written Nosheen – I couldn’t have conveyed the message any better. From the start to the end that white knight fantasy kept jumping out at me –Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2011 - 1:21AM

    In a country warped by corruption and miss-allocation of resources, the excuses being offered to support Mr. Mortenson. At the very least, the documented misrepresentation of Pakistanis as Taliban hostage takers is a cheap publicity stunt at best. We should have little patience for misappropriation regardless of who the monies are spent. Completely agree with Temporal – why set different standards for some and different from others. The romanticized narrative peddled by Three Cups of Tea is still milking tears. Why would a respected investigative journalistic program, leading wires and news organizations risk their own credibility by pointing to falsehood? If no wrong has been done, than Mr. Mortensen has nothing to fear and all this fuss is for nothing. Recommend

  • Sunny
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:22AM

    @Saleem Ali
    Those who cannot do talk the most.Recommend

  • Khurram
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:56AM

    Ms Ali, His sin stretching the truth bit too muchRecommend

  • amna
    Apr 20, 2011 - 2:09AM

    why are pakistanis ready to jump at the slightest chance to CONDEMN CRITICIZE TEAR APART other people? he HAS DONE A LOT OF GOOD work. in a region that is neglected by private ngos and the gov alike. the one presence there is the handful of agha khani schools. with which many families there have problems. miss ali seems happy to have jumped at this opportunity to join the bandwagon – aftrl its fashionable these days to victimize mortenson. disappointing read. inaccurate also in its attribution of evil intentions to CAI and mortenson. read his clarifications at least. Recommend

  • imjee
    Apr 20, 2011 - 2:18AM

    @sofia..why not u try buliding at least an ’empty’ school? or why not u start teaching a few poor students at your home? can you?Recommend

  • saif
    Apr 20, 2011 - 2:43AM

    So many fallacies in this article, I hope CBS does a news segment on Ms Ali and her ‘shocking’ corruption of logic:

    “Three Cups of Tea provides a palatable and therapeutic account of the war on terror for the American public conscience.” -> it does no such thing. It’s an account of a brave humanitarian who has been building schools in the northern parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Talk to any American, that’s what they get out of it. The war isn’t directly addressed in the book; most the events described here are pre 9-11. So not sure if this writer even read the book properly.
    “with some of his girls’ schools now being inaugurated by the military top command” -> how irresponsible to mention this. It puts into jeopardy not only the future of some of these schools, but also the girls who study there, not to mention Greg’s life itself (as if he didn’t have to be careful before).
    “What we need is an anti-colonial humanitarianism” -> how perfectly condescending, and well suited for our academic friend. What are they supposed to do, burn American flags inside schools every day?
    “it is nevertheless interesting to note that such a lenient, sympathetic response would have been unimaginable if the humanitarian in question was a non-westerner.” -> and who exactly are you to make that claim? If Edhi’s operations were put under the microscope and some irregularities were found, I’m sure you’ll find MANY people willing to jump to his defense on the very same grounds.
    “All critiques of Greg Mortenson’s work can simply be silenced by saying, ‘he has made schools, you have not’” -> also by the notion that these are just “allegations”. The media witch-hunt obviously suits certain people (gives them an opportunity to write articles and get their picture in the paper), but it doesn’t prove anything. Most of us would like to wait for the dust to settle before making up our minds.
    “Ghulam Parvi, a key character in Three Cups of Tea and CAI operations director in Pakistan for many years, resigned from CAI last year partly in response to the book’s blatantly false depiction of Baltistan as Taliban-central” -> Sure, it took him only 5 years after 3 Cups of Tea was published to resign in anger. According to Greg’s responses, this character is the one behind most of the allegations being leveled against CAI. If anything, HE should be investigated for the ghost schools that seem to be listed on CAI’s records.
    “the casualness with which the director of a Pakistani think tank is portrayed as a Taliban kidnapper in Mortenson’s writings exemplifies a form of imperialist abuse” -> what makes you think this “director of a think tank”, Mr. Mehsud, couldn’t be involved with a kidnapping? In the CBS expose, it’s only his word against Greg’s. If someone accused me of kidnapping someone important, I too would deny it on camera. Doesn’t mean I didn’t do it.
    “the lesson … is about sincerity” -> one that is too painfully missing in this writer’s article. Recommend

  • Tariq Ahsan
    Apr 20, 2011 - 3:15AM

    Thanks for this perceptive analysis.

  • TJ
    Apr 20, 2011 - 3:42AM

    Ms. Ali writes, “Ghulam Parvi, a key character in Three Cups of Tea and CAI operations director in Pakistan for many years, resigned from CAI last year partly in response to the book’s blatantly false depiction of Baltistan as Taliban-central.” Isn’t this resignation more likely due to not opening/maintaining the number of schools claimed? Shouldn’t this individual face prosecution for malfeasance in Pakistan?Recommend

  • Jason Lemieux
    Apr 20, 2011 - 4:08AM

    Maybe I suffer from poor reading comprehension but I didn’t take away from his books that northern Pakistan was overrun by the Taliban or even necessarily by Islamic extremism, nor did I take that the key theme was about fighting the War on Terror. Those things are brought up, yes, but the message I took was about doing the right thing with crowding out extremist madrassas being a handy secondary effect.

    I hear a lot about how American violence is the cause of terrorism but not a lot about why some tiny percentage of the affected population kill or threaten civilians in retaliation while the vast majority, no matter how angry, choose not to respond in such a way. Also, it would be nice to see someone flesh out the implication that, if only America would stop being violent, terrorism would disappear. Does sitting around being miserable on some Army base in Saudi Arabia count as violence?

    What about casually lying is “imperialist abuse?”

    Should American humanitarian interventions be subject to special self-interrogation or does this lesson follow from the coincidence that Mortenson is American? Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 4:11AM

    @amna: Indeed. As someone with Pakistani ties, I agree that Pakistanis do have a tendency to criticise in a reactionary, emotional and prejudiced way rather than offer real critique which stems from real “critical thinking”. This requires objectivity and honesty. Two qualities that Ms. Nosheen Ali is sorely lacking.Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 4:12AM

    @imjee: Well said. Could not agree with you more. Recommend

  • omar yusaf
    Apr 20, 2011 - 4:29AM

    You miss the point.
    There is a moral dimension to the questions being asked of Mortimer’s use of funds.
    You have avoided answering that.
    You are merely another apologist for three empty cups of tea.Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2011 - 5:17AM

    This particular case epitomizes why a certain segment of of blogosphere writes about the effectiveness of aid programs and charities. Most DIY aid organizations don’t like partnerships or collaborations because they are afraid of scrutiny. They want to create their own standards and rules to follow. Everyone wants to be a hero. The founders of these DIY organizations fear that someone else may get credit for their ideas and accomplishments. I call this the “Nobel Syndrome”. Being transparent might jeopardize their egotistical dreams of standing on a stage in Oslo and accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for their outstanding contributions toward humanity.

    These are some of my observations regarding the subject.

    Slactivism in Africa | Independent Global Citizen

  • farha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 5:24AM

    Nosheen ji should get out of california and come to Pak and build schools. He is a white guy from America. He does not owe anything to the ppl in WaziristanRecommend

  • Noor
    Apr 20, 2011 - 6:21AM

    Nosheen wrote, “Three Cups of Tea provides a palatable and therapeutic account of the war on terror for the American public conscience.”

    This is so true—Mark Twain said the same thing so beautifully..
    “Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception. Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”Recommend

  • Eran Fraenkel
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:16AM

    The question is sincerity, but not only in whether Mortensen built 3 schools and I’ve built none. I haven’t raised millions of dollars for an alleged cause on which I didn’t spend the money. I don’t know they details — and neither does anyone yet, it seems — but the allegations are that more of the donated money has been spent on self-promotion than on girls’ education. This jeopardizes all of us who work in international aid and development, and who depend on the generosity of strangers based on their belief that we don what we say we do. All of our credibility is impacted by one high profile case of misuse of donated funds. Recommend

  • Afridi
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:33AM

    Yet more pseudo-intellectual pap from a Pakistani in the American ivory tower.

    Have any of you actually bothered to read the books? To say that they potray Gilgit-Baltistan as Taliban Central is so far off the mark that it can’t be a good faith oversight.

    Let me say: he came to Pakistan. He saw a need. He went around begging for years to fill that need. He filled it.

    And now people like this author, who have (1) done none of the above and (2) not troubled to look over the most basic facts regarding this manufactured controversy, have the sheer unmitigated gall to attack Greg Mortenson.

    Last point. “Heros are not saints”. Maybe not, but Greg Mortenson, along with Edhi, Mukhtaran Mai, TCF, Ansar Burney etc. are about as close to being saints as any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes.Recommend

  • khan
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:07AM

    It appears that Greg Mortenson manufactured a goldmine. Yes, some schools were built which benefited young people of the Northern areas, but then that was the means for Mortenson to rake millions of dollars for himself.
    Looks like a coldly calculated business deal. Make up a story of getting lost after an attempted climb of K2, add in a kidnapping by the Taliban, and voila you have a juicy story to tell. Paint it up with ‘good works’ and well-intentioned suckers will hand over money to you. A bit of the money will be used to prop up the ‘good works’ and the rest…well it is a business after all.
    I think Mortenson should do well in our country as he has the kind of talents that flourish and bring success and fame in modern PakistanRecommend

  • Nasri Nawaz Bhutta
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:19AM

    very well! its absolutely right and based on realities as i understood….Recommend

  • Asif
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:20AM

    3 cups of pure BSRecommend

  • SM
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:37AM

    are you saying I can be get away with corruption with a little charity a school maybe think before you speak what the hell is thisRecommend

  • Balti
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:39AM

    I agree with the one who says :humanitarians are not saint, they can do mistakes”, because mortenson did established schools, provided books, uniforms and salaries of teaching staff in a remote area where even Pakistani govt didn’t bother to accept it as its territory rather put its status in limbo from more than half century. Where an american takes mercy and providing education and medical facilities to the locals residents, very commendable jobs. I hope the same from our pakistani philanthropies should do some work in our region to upgrade the social standards of very neglected peoples, if you can not than atleast go and visit the school mortenson made. I appreciate strongly any contributions made by a tourist who visit our areas (Baltistan), infact they are our friends and Saviour, projecting our region to the world, in its real shape.
    Where govt authorities nothing to do with these poverty ridden people of region except the claiming k2 is our pride, situated in pakistan and without pondering its sorrounding areas sufferings and difficulties, because they dont know whether there is any human beings reside or not, but mortenson knows all these facts.
    I dont agree with Noosheen refering Ghulam Parvi, the negation of any taliban existence in the region, Taliban is a mind set,(not necessarily those who has beard with turbans) but are those who promote extremism, sectarianism and terrorism.. that are spreading in the area day by day. Recommend

  • Malik
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:47AM

    I must tell all people commenting above that I loved Greg’s book and I read it at a time when I was already doing charity work without a salary. And I have now been doing this kind of free charity work full time since the past 2 years now alhamdulillah. But not once have I thought that accountability was something that should be thought of later. I agree with the writer that accountability is very important…I think more important than schools and self publicity. I was disappointed to see the grave accounting lapses in CAI’s case. It makes one lose hope that really good people exist. Yes I have taught poor children and yes I am also supporting a school…and I will not like to mention what else I am doing because I don’t want to brag…but I would not keep charity money in my own pocket. That is what gives me credibility and those who know me recognize me for this first and my work later.Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2011 - 10:21AM

    Jon Krakauer has compiled a detailed investigative report titled Three Cups of Deceit available at which provides a great deal information about the whole issue. I am not a supporter of Greg Mortenson just because of the fact that according to this report it is clear that he lied several times in order to polish the brand Greg Mortenson.
    That being said, I do not really trust statements of Ghulam Parvi or Naimat Gul Mehsud. According to the Krakauer’s report, before going on Hajj pilgrimage Ghulam Parvi confessed in an e-mail sent to CAI that he had misused CAI’s funds. Hence anything Ghulam Parvi says should not really be taken seriously as a theif can say anything to malign the reputation of the other side.
    Naimat Gul Mehsud is the guy claims to be the research director of some institute and who Greg Mortenson claims was a Talib and abducted him for 8 days. According to the CBS report and also the Krakauer report, Naimat Gul Mehsud claims he never abducted Greg Mortenson but kept him as a guest and always treated him with respect. That being said, the same Krakauer report later mentions claims of an anonymous person who knows Naimat Gul Mehsud and who said that Naimat Gul Mehsud is not only an infamous con-man but also falsely claimed to have abducted Greg Mortenson to be able to extort money from his relatives (but they caught his bluff).
    Now based on this, it is clear that it is quite possible that Greg Mortenson was actually held captive for a few days by Naimat Gul Mehsud & Co. However this gang can not really be called ‘Taleban’ as Taleban did not exist in FATA region of Pakistan during the 90s, and thus it seems that Greg Mortenson lied just to spice up his narrative (something he seems to have been doing quite often in order to increase the sales of his books). Recommend

  • Apr 20, 2011 - 10:58AM

    This reminds of the time the Europeans discovered tobacco when smoking with aboriginal Americans tribes. Eventually the Europeans massacred the ‘Indians’ and took over their land. Three Cups of Tea or Smoking Three Pipes that story is being reported. Learn about the tribes and eliminate them. Recommend

  • Hafeez Pasha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 11:09AM

    I don’t think the author of this article has read the book. Nowhere does Mortensen depict Baltistan as Taliban territory. I challenge the author to give the chapter and paragraph in which he makes this claim. Recommend

  • Hafeez Pasha
    Apr 20, 2011 - 11:15AM

    I bet my bottom dollar that the author, Nosheen Ali, has never even been to Baltistan. Recommend

  • Khalid Kamal
    Apr 20, 2011 - 11:30AM

    Nosheen good one, interesting approach & perhaps good rebuttal for Greg Mortensen.
    However, now a lil insight is but natural since thought process have been triggered by CBS.
    I guess nobody likes to be made a fool all at all time.Recommend

  • Saud
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:02PM

    What really needs to be taken into account when calling Mortenson’s work “humanitarian” is whether all the money that he collected in funding for his projects was utilized properly or not.

    If there are missing schools then there surely must be missing money that on paper went into setting up these schools. If the missing money ended up in his pocket then he is not a humanitarian but a crook.Recommend

  • Erfan
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:24PM

    Somebody talked about USAID spending money on Education. How about CBS doing report on that? Recommend

  • Andrew
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:29PM

    “What we need is an anti-colonial humanitarianism”

    This account is so ridiculously slanted and rife with ancient stereotypes about colonial conspiracy theories, people shouldn’t waste their time picking it apart. 

    The one thing I CAN say: “The West” is not responsible for the massive brain-drain and values-drain in this region.  

    So long as lazy victim complex-driven attitudes like this continue to thrive, life will NOT get better for the people at the center of all this debate. 

    I take responsibility for the racists, militarists, bigots and homophobes in my society – and will continue to do so until the victims of their collective ignorance are freed – and until the perpetrators of stone age ideologies give in to the idea that ALL people should be treated with dignity and respect.

    Excusing and apologizing for the victimizers (while finding strawmen to blame) will get your society absolutely nowhere.  Recommend

  • Owais
    Apr 20, 2011 - 12:33PM

    Nice article. But like all such articles on this topic, this one has also failed to address the real issue, that is, the allegations – are the allegations authentic or just to discredit the effort?
    I haven’t found a single article which has real investigative reporting, credible source, not even in the CBS program. Without being biased, I got the impression that most of the contents of the program were mere allegations to discredit the effort.
    Has any journalist (or anyone else) physically visited even one tenth of the schools that CAI claims to be operational in these areas? So easy to write articles (and pass comments) in the cozy comfort zone of your office without any authentication or investigation.
    Agreed Greg was not very successful in answering the allegation of CBS program directly but has someone seen the audited statement of CAI? If not than how come we can make a point of view.
    Suggestion CAI / Greg should make public all the names, detailed locations, no of students, amount spent, etc. of all the schools so that anyone can verify it.Recommend

  • right...
    Apr 20, 2011 - 1:13PM

    Greg Mortenson’s personal statement about the ’60 minutes’ coverage:
    The CAI board’s statement about the ’60 minutes’ coverage:
    The CAI board’s responses to the questions sent by ’60 minutes’:
    Greg Mortenson’s responses to the questions sent by ’60 minutes’:

    I found these links on the website of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. I hope those who make comments judging Mr. Mortenson or the CAI will take the time to read these defenses, and include them in further discussion. It gets discouraging to read comments that assume ’60 minutes’ is truthful in its coverage.

    And to the author of this piece, I have to ask: when you said “Because an abstract template of poverty and danger is applied to diverse locations, one gets a sense that there are mobile, multiple enemies all around in Muslim places that are self-evidently poor and ignorant, and thus potentially violent and dangerous.” what exactly are you calling out about this representation? When I read these books, I saw a clear distinction in how the Taliban were depicted, and how the natives and their Muslim faith were described. So if you agree that he is not saying the natives to this area are the same thing as the Taliban, what do you disagree with, about this statement?

    Is it the poverty of the region? “self-evidently poor”: is that what you are taking issue with? Then show me the wealth and high standard of living enjoyed there.

    Is it the danger present in the region? Maybe you disagree that these areas are remote, underdeveloped, and often under the threat of “mobile, multiple enemies”– that is, the Taliban– who make them afraid to support girls’ education? Then show me the police forces, or government institutions, that are not merely ‘present’ but would protect the values of these people from fearing such threats as the Taliban.

    Is it the ignorance in the region? ‘Ignorance’ is just a mean word for ‘uneducated’. So if you disagree with this, do you have reason to believe that the ‘rural’ people all have access to education- that ‘rural ignorance’ is just a ‘specter’ invented by philanthropists?

    I don’t understand. If you, as a human being, agree that conditions are lacking for these citizens, why do you paint Mr. Mortenson as a colonialist liar for highlighting the devastating hardships faced by them? Why is this his ‘fantasy’, to think that there is something to be helped here?

    And lastly, considering how much help and partnership he had from Pakistanis of all kinds- rich or poor, educated or ‘ignorant’- why is he called a ‘White Knight’ who tries to ‘save brown people’ with his own western ways, without regard to the ways of the friends he is hoping to serve? This accusation I find incredible.

    To me, the main uplifting point of the book was that for two cultures to work together, there must be mutual open-mindedness and mutual respect; and that in Northern Pakistan, a region that Americans (via the news, not his books!) might otherwise mistakenly think of as hugely intolerant, ‘filled with extremist madrassas’ or characterized by a Taliban presence, Greg Mortenson found a great amount open-mindedness and respect. The result was that they could work together. How is this a White Knight fantasy? To me it is more like a prayer being answered. Colonial attitude says “you belong to me.” What Mortenson says through his book is: “We belong to each other.” Recommend

  • MS - Mariya
    Apr 20, 2011 - 2:08PM

    @Erfan: Totally agree with you!! I keep hearing about the billions being spent by USAID but never seen a brick let alone schools. The USAID money is being given to the corrupt generals and politicians to do the dirty work for America. USAID is just providing a blanket to cover it from the american public. Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Haider
    Apr 20, 2011 - 2:49PM

    I dont know about the rest….but Baltistan is certainly a Shia majority area….even more peaceful than Gilgit….Excellent people…..I belong to Hunza myself and have been visiting Skardu for the last 3 years…..I never encountered a single person with extremist views…I guess I shouldnt be saying this…but they have suffered a lot due to terrorism…because foreigners, who visit the area more than our local tourists, consider Baltistan as a part of the Tribal belt…and perhaps the blame goes to confusions created by writings of the persons like Mortenson…But this is my own analysis…I can be wrongRecommend

  • Shahid
    Apr 20, 2011 - 3:25PM

    It was not his own money from which he built schools. He was ‘managing money’ and misappropriated for these funds. Recommend

  • azazello
    Apr 20, 2011 - 3:37PM

    I am in no position to criticize Mr Mortinson as i have not built a school or visited Baltistan. But as a Pakistani i know that Pakistan is a poor country and the people of Baltistan are impoverished and need as much help as they can get.They welcome Greg with open arms as not many people venture into that region with books and pens which in itself are a promise for a better future.

    I appreciate Greg’s efforts but i cant help but be somewhat unsettled buy his former military background and the extent to which he still remains involved with his former employee.
    One can only assume theres a level of understanding and support between the two, and as i am not a supporter of the war being waged in this region i cannot help but be weary of Mr Mortinson.

    Also, @ Saif: The author is correct in stating that the US military is now involved in inaugurating these schools. Please read ahead –

    In addition, i’m curious as to how the $60 million dollars in charity that Greg gathered, was used.

    From what i understand, the money wasn’t used to build schools at all. Instead the majority of it was used to promote his book, which is now being scrutinized as some of the stories are turning out to be accounts of fictitious happenings. It was reckless of Greg to allow such accounts to be published when he was well aware of the sensitive nature and delicacy of the project where the entire ‘system’ is primarily based on trust.

    I’m curious as to how the contributors to his charity will react to this as they and the people of Baltistan are the only ones who have the right to object to the mis-allocation of funds and the presence of Obama-endorsed education in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Recommend

  • S. H. Zaidi
    Apr 20, 2011 - 4:51PM

    If the CAI has built schools in the region, it is good and appreciable, but the enormous publicity given to the work, and as some object, the depiction of the region as a hotbed of religious militancy inhabited by poor and ignorant people tries to create the perception that little is being done either by the government of Pakistan or the community leaders of the region to educate the region’s children. Now here comes a ‘white man’ to take up the burden of educating them and, single-handedly, he establishes schools in the area. This is of course in the spirit and style of old colonial days and the one aspect that we need to be wary about. But the government of the day has, it is learnt, honoured Mortenson with Sitarae Imtiaz or something of that sort, forgetting that the account actually makes the government of Pakistan appear in a negative light, as doing little or nothing for the cause of education in the region.
    However, even if the government has not really done wonders, its contribution is not zero either. The people of the area are served by the government as well as the community. Both Shia and Ismaili communities have rendered substantial services for the cause of education, and as one correspondent points out, there are many people in the region with higher education, obtained in other parts of Pakistan, and even abroad.
    We should tread with caution. Colonialism may have ended but neo-colonialism and neoimperialism has taken its place. Many of our over-zealous critics and media persons do further damage by seizing isolated instances of apparently selfless work to malign the government and the entire nation as a vallian, although such isolated instances neither can nor have changed the destiny of a people. Mortenson’s work, even assuming it to be the work of a dedicated individual, is good but not enough to create a dent in ignorance and poverty of the region.
    Neverthelss, our governmental leaders, who appear to be in a trance, should wake up to the need to ameliorate the lot of their own people, so that they are not exploited for ulterior motives by foreign governments and malicious propaganda against the country is checked. The primary responsibility for health and education of their people is theirs, not of foreigners, sincere or otherwise. Recommend

  • Blue22
    Apr 20, 2011 - 6:34PM

    “white men saving brown women from brown men.”

    Yes. It’s all about racial suppression and the victimization of brown people. The US is not colonial Britain or France. We were attacked by groups organized and funded within Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whether you view those attacks as justified due to historical interventionism, the same that thwarted the Russians in the 80s, is as irrelevant as your colonial comparison. Maybe when women of your educational stature and public status stop giving a pass to the misogynistic cultures that dominate the region, there will be no need for “white knights” so girls can be educated w/ out fear or not be lashed to death for being raped. I, and many other Americans, while we abhor opression, would very much like to leave the Muslim world to it’s own devices and simply protect our own spheres from Muslim extremists. As the rest of the world progresses and evolves, Pakistan, Afghanistan and it’s ilk can stagnate in Mideival splendor while remaining tethered to your version of humanity. Recommend

  • Joseph Furuta
    Apr 20, 2011 - 6:36PM

    Noor: The UK legal system is even more strict than that. In the UK, if you have a libel suit filed against you, it is guilty UNTIL proven innocent for the plaintiff!Recommend

  • Joseph Furuta
    Apr 20, 2011 - 6:36PM

    “right…” – Many of the parties have read the responses above, and have not been convincedRecommend

  • Joseph Furuta
    Apr 20, 2011 - 6:39PM

    BTW, says that the CAI statements about Mortenson donating his own money do not match the CAI financial statementsRecommend

  • Apr 20, 2011 - 6:56PM

    We Muslims never appreciate any good deed done by a foreigner or bluntly a white man.We always find the way to accuse them and doubt their intentions.I have no answer to that.Recommend

  • Sarah
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:16PM

    Completely agree with the author as to how this work has been appropriated by the west. The book did not mention the roots of the conflict (i.e. the US/Nato war), and only talked about poverty and illiteracy in the region. The solution presented was not to stop the western barbarism but to built schools and provide employment, completely flipping the logic on its head! This cause has been taken-up by the west as humanitarian assistance to Muslim countries and winning the hearts and minds without actually stopping the bombing/killing/terrorising/maiming/disabling of a whole generation. Poverty and lack of education does not produce this much of hatered against the US, otherwise there would be anti-US sentiments all over the world. The people are protesting about the actual destruction of their lives. Recommend

  • atif
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:21PM

    the book with a semi-cultish following amongst the idealistic young folks has been outed as fabrication. that dramatic narration of his kidnapping, which ended with taliban dancing around a bonfire with greg, gave me a pause even back in 2007 – “so the talibans are into dancing now?”

    but then again, the last decade has been a funny time. a president led american into war on a cooked up pretext. countless writers made their money by milking the cash cow aka “war on terror”. i read several books written about afghanistan, iran, pakistan and iraq where some of the narration defies belief (Ghost Wars is one such example). lies are peddled as heroic truths, such as that famous story about rambo-esque Jessica Lynch in Iraq, or the pentagon cooking up an account of football star’s death which was 180 degrees different than what actually occurred. the only silver lining in this latest pile of lies aka “three cups of tea” is that at least greg’s lies resulted in some good work. he is a righteous liar, bush’s lies killed million. but bush never faced the humiliation greg is facing today. he even got re-elected!

    perhaps the future writers trying to milk conflicts should stick to the khaled hosseini of the kite runner’s format where he effortlessly blended fact with fiction but the audience lapped it up as factRecommend

  • Preachy
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:24PM

    you nailed it by talking about the colonial discourse of whites civilizing the brown, however, I am not clear what you are exactly saying. you talk about his lies and depiction of peaceful people as extremists and sensationalizing the reality but at the same time you kind of praise him… what the heck!Recommend

  • Sarah
    Apr 20, 2011 - 7:29PM

    I can’t say anything about his sincerity though. I’m just talking about the (un?)intended consequences of his books and lectures. I just think that all the good western energy should be spent on forcing their government to stop military/economic/humanitarian interventions. Just let the developing world be! Maybe we’ll sort out our situation… or not. In either case we’ll reap the fruits of our actions. Though I think we’ll be be able to look after ourselves!Recommend

  • Mehriene
    Apr 20, 2011 - 8:27PM

    @Saud: Greg Mortensen is not the one who lined his pockets with the money ! It was Ghulam Parvi,a Pakistani/ Balti, who mis-appropriated the money AND was thrown out of CAI. Recommend

  • cidpusa
    Apr 20, 2011 - 8:59PM

    One Lie leads to ten and a man claiming that he was abducted by Taliabn but is seen holding a smoking Gun in a picture shown by sixty minutes is in red hot water.Recommend

  • Leena
    Apr 20, 2011 - 9:29PM

    Just how far does someone have to go before they can be considered an “anti-colonialist” humanitarian? Mortenson has repeatedly criticised the invasion of Afghanistan in public. Sure, he could have added a few chapters about the history of US intervention in the region, but then the book would have meandered too far from its simple humanitarian aims (and I say this as an anti-war activist of eight years standing). There are already plenty of other books out there on the history of US imperialism. The world needs to move away from this East vs West rhetoric and towards universal values, i.e. it is wrong to deprive girls of educational opportunities. No ifs and no buts.Recommend

  • Dawood
    Apr 21, 2011 - 12:15AM

    Young Pakistani journalists/editorialists have a tendency to hyper-intellectualize every weak argument they can get their hands on. Going around in circles for 6+ paragraphs doesn’t equate to a credible piece of writing.Recommend

  • Apr 21, 2011 - 1:03AM

    Brilliantly said!Recommend

  • Nadia
    Apr 21, 2011 - 3:47AM

    So typical of us Pakistani’s to be judgmental and critical about a guy who does not even belong to that region. Who has nothing to gain other than a pure humanitarian act.
    Why don’t you all, who agree with Nosheen go to Pakistan and Afghanistan and together just build one empty school like you said? why can you not adopt kids from that region and bring them here for a better life? why can you all not learn to criticize yourself before you do that to other people who are trying to bring good to this world? just a few years ago Edhi was considered a foreign agent, a spy???? shame on you all and specially a journalist to talk without any evidence to support it.Recommend

  • Dave B
    Apr 21, 2011 - 4:56AM

    To make a statement that Mortenson’s has made the most impact in education in south Asia is ridiculous. India, which is South Asia, has many more charitable and govt funded organizations and schools which are training females who become engineers and come to silicon valley to add significant value. I find more female Indian engineers – from South Asia than I find American female engineers, and the number is increasing every year. What these organizations do not do is to market and hype themselves…a characteristics of the U.S. run organizations. Recommend

  • Sarah
    Apr 21, 2011 - 8:24AM

    I think this entire fiasco has been approached with so much emotion on both sides that people are missing the point. There are two completely different aspects at stake. First, the relationship between humanitarianism and militarism, which is a very different form of colonialism/imperialism that few people see or adequately criticize BECAUSE of how humanitarianism as an act is narrowly seen. I think the fact that Nosheen Ali is taking on something as uncriticizeable as humanitarianism is incredible because few people can see beyond what it is glossed to be. Most of us are unable to critique the broader phenomenon of humanitarianism and separate the act of charity or building schools from its larger construction as a means to expand empire. I’m not implying that all humanitarian work is “evil” nor am I making it a racialized thing, but if we are unable to be critical and take an honest look at the relationship between building NGO’s or other organizations (in places as diverse as Africa, South Asia, etc.) and contemporary forms of imperialism it is because it is meant to be difficult to challenge.

    The second issue is about Greg Mortenson as a person, his intentions, his accountability, his sincerity. I dont think we can judge that, nobody ever can. The allegations can be true or false, but this is a SEPARATE issue from the above one. You could have a completely accountable and sincere humanitarian effort occurring in northern Pakistan and yet it is still linked to militarization of the region if they are not consistently being self-critical of how their work is perceived, how it may justify the War on Terror, how they may implicitly or otherwise mis-portray the region and the people they work with. These are all important elements of any kind of endeavor.

    Finally, those people who are bashing Nosheen Ali for not having been to the region or not having built schools, DO YOU HAVE ANY PROOF? Just because she isnt doing a book tour across America or Pakistan doesnt mean that she hasnt been to northern Pakistan or done charity work there. That is BESIDES the point. The point is she has an opinion, it is critical, and people have a hard time negotiating that. I might love Greg Mortenson and what he is doing, but I can and should still be critical of his book, his portrayal of my country, regardless of whether is white, black, brown, pink or orange.

    Thank you Nosheen for being brave enough to keep the debate alive!Recommend

  • Aneeza
    Apr 21, 2011 - 10:02AM

    Having read both of the books by Greg Mortensen, I am not able to identify the allegations of bad image of Baltistan vis a vis Talibanisation. On the contrary, I got this message from him that those areas are pretty much interested in promoting education, particularly female education. What gets highlighted, though, in his books is the failure of the Pakistani state to be able to respond to the needs of the people. In addition, the books do not portray US are the saviour, the white man saving the brown man. Greg has categorically talked about his initial impressions on War on Terror and how they changed over time. He also talks about feeling hesitent towards getting US military help which he did in case of a medical evacuation. He himself has talked about him not being well organized and of his donors complaining of him not making everything organized and getting other people involved. These are his short comings. But we cannot deny the passion and sincerity with which a completely alien person took the task of educating our most remotely located citizens.Recommend

  • Andrew
    Apr 21, 2011 - 11:15AM

    “I agree with the writer that accountability is very important…I think more important than schools and self publicity”

    God, if that isn’t the height of navel-gazing ivory tower garbage – I don’t know what is.

    “Accountability” is a word self-righteous people throw around to make up for their own failures and fallibility.

    But, seriously, self-absorption and judgementalism is more important than building schools in isolated, destitute places around the world?

    Talk about bourgeoise B.S.!!! Recommend

  • lkhan
    Apr 21, 2011 - 11:20AM

    Twenty five years ago, a Spanish mountaineer indeed lost his way from a failed attempt to conquer K2, was saved by very poor villagers, since is working in the Skardu area where his foundation has built a school and continues to improve the life of the community through provision of water supply, health issues and other issues under extreme conditions and without publicity of the scale achieved by Mortinsen. So he actually stole another’s experience, made it his own, and abused the hospitality of the Masud tribe to add sensationalism kidnappings to earn more for his lavish life style. Shame on him.
    It would be worth an investigative reporter’s efforts to track the Spanish experience which deserves accolades rather than this bogus man.Recommend

  • lkhan
    Apr 21, 2011 - 11:27AM

    Mortenson it seems stole the experience of a Spanish mountaineer who indeed after a failed attempt to conquer K2, lost his way during the descent. Villagers, very poor saved his life. He promised the community a school for which he founded an NGO, which still has the original founders. He and others from north Spain are active in the area where they built a school, have brought hygiene, potable water supply to the locals and under extreme conditions continue to do wonders. Plus without any lucrative intentions of gaining publicity and a high flying life.
    It would perhaps be worth and investigative reporters while to report on the excellent work achieved by the group in the Skardu area under very harsh conditions. Recommend

  • Andrew
    Apr 21, 2011 - 11:32AM

    Probably the most disturbing and ironic statements in this garbage leftist-stereotype-from-hell essay:

    “More disturbingly, Mortenson has become deeply entrenched in the counter-insurgency projects of the US military”

    FYI, clueless Berzerkly author, I’d love to see you (or any woman) try to write ANY column should your noble insurgency prevail in this region.

    Sorry for harsh words, but I become quite agitated when airhead leftists hand over lots of ammunition to the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Right wingers love garbage statements like this one because they can use that ammo against common sense progressives who care more about outcomes than their personal / poorly-informed fringe ideology. Recommend

  • Andrew
    Apr 21, 2011 - 12:19PM

    “it is nevertheless interesting to note that such a lenient, sympathetic response would have been unimaginable if the humanitarian in question was a non-westerner.”

    Yeah – it’s just so obvious that the sensationalist-driven American mass media has been super sympathetic to Greg “the capitalist/colonialist/imperialist pig” Mortenson. Uhhuh.

    The author of this predictable column has obviously based her entire academic career on personal grudges fueled only by a tired century-old ideology. Surely, that’s the real definition of open-minded intellectual curiosity. Recommend

  • Bina
    Apr 21, 2011 - 1:17PM

    You all need to stop arguing and realize that Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the most educated areas of Pakistan. Greg has nothing to do with that. It’s all the work of the Agha Khan Foundation. Since the past 50 years they have been working tirelessly and have transformed the level of education.

    Today there are over 1,800 primary, 500 middle, 420 high schools, and almost 40 higher education institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan due to The Agha Khan Foundation.

    Forget about Greg and stop giving to his organisation. Donate to those who are actually bringing a change and not promoting themselves.Recommend

  • Apr 21, 2011 - 2:35PM

    Hmm… its indeed a great achievement for a part of Pakistan where normally we feel a silence or a place never to go. I agree with Montenson’s achievements and all he have done at least to have some good quality education in some ignored part of Pakistan.. That’s too much what exactly and this act should be appreciated so in future for whatever reason they come to Pakistan & see the reality of situations then start Education system like Montenson did. While in Pakistan getting a quality/high class education is just a dream for low class middle class even for high class as how come Harvard and Oxford graduate gonna come here and teach huh ?…. so we all should appreciate the efforts performed and if there are some errors we should address them accordingly and not to stop them all…



  • Tia
    Apr 21, 2011 - 3:51PM

    @Dave B
    I didn’t say that Mortenson’s work had made THE MOST impact in South Asia – I said he had done more for education in South Asia than all of his detractors combined (and yes, the people jumping on the bandwagon to criticise him fall into that category). I am in no way dismissing the efforts of other foundations who work in the sector, but why SHOULDN’T they market themselves and raise their profiles? Isn’t that what charities are supposed to do? Not just improve conditions for people on the ground, but raise awareness of the issues, thereby encouraging others to get involved?Recommend

  • Jade
    Apr 21, 2011 - 4:44PM

    I have to say, this is the most disappointing article I have read on this website. It is riddled with racial and cultural stereotypes, and employs the technique of “damning with faint praise” in certain sections. It’s a bit rich for the author to talk about sincerity when this article is anything but.Recommend

  • Apr 21, 2011 - 10:23PM

    As a cultural anthropologist who worked on women’s literacy (among other issues) in Nepal, I appreciate the depth and nuance you bring this controversy. Recommend

  • Abaabeel
    Apr 22, 2011 - 11:39AM

    A well written article and it could have been a lot better, had it not been written with a tendency to depict white Vs brown. A tendency that shows off some degree of bias. However, about Mortenson, how could one trust a guy’s words who would portray his hosts as his kidnappers. For God’s sake, there were no taliban in Waziristan in 1996 when according to Mortenson he was kidnapped. It is not about adding some masala to his book for better sell-off (though it also depicts Mortenson’s greed for money) it is, in Nosheen’s words, “Three Cups of Tea provides a palatable and therapeutic account of the war on terror for the American public conscience“, and I totally agree with that. And by the way according to a news on this newspaper, Mortenson’s host, Mansoor khan is considering suing Mortenson for wrongly painting him as a kidnapper. Recommend

  • Arsalan Haneef
    Apr 22, 2011 - 12:07PM

    Yesterday, I read Nicholas D.Krisof article ” Three Cups of Tea Spilled” in New York Times. Like statistics, the article hides more and reveals less. Thus, I could not get the picture the author of “Three Cups of Tea” was trying to pain in his book. You article cleared my head. It reinforces my perception regarding the US’s ingeneous approach to deepen its foothold incrementally starting with vulnerable segments first using carrots and sticks mix. Books like this should come as eye opener to leaders in Pakistan who appear sanguine nomatter what goes wrong. We need to focus on truely inclusive approach to development and especially in vulnerable areas like FATA and Gilgit-Baltisan, and much ( if not all of )Balochistan to stave off threats to existence as a nation.Recommend

  • Carly
    Apr 23, 2011 - 12:42AM

    I really enjoyed your take on this issue, and I loved getting “outside” the normal perspective I had on TCT and the people of Pakistan/Afghanistan. Propaganda, it seems, can be a subtle manipulation that is barely even noticed while reading TCT, but your paper definitely illuminates a lot. I do remember one part of TCT that set off alarm bells for me, it was a photo of Mortenson and his wife in Korphe I think. The photo became their Christmas card and featured the two in local garb holding giant automatic rifles. The caption said “Peace on Earth.” Honestly, with all that was happening around them, that struck me as really insensitive and kind of dumb. Your disparaging (yet highly accurate) view of the U.S. as being the biggest sponsors of terrorism that exists in the world was, surprisingly, soothing to hear. That is not because I particularly want my idealized version of the American Propaganda Dream to be popped, but because I believe our country and country men not only deserve this truth you are telling, but we need it in order to move forward towards a more respectful future. I circled a bunch of points that were fascinating and new to me, especially relating to the wests usage of humanitarianism to promote a militant agenda as “winning hearts and minds” has become U.S. military’s new M.O. I think your readership is missing a very important point, you are not really attacking Mortenson, nor humanitarian attempts abroad, your attack is upon the American idealism that allows humanitarian aid to be wrapped in the silken glove of militaristic intentions. Is it not right, no, is it not vitally imperative for we as Americans to constantly question the roles we play in countries abroad? Considering the invasive conflicts within which the U.S. is currently embroiled, I find some responses to your paper a silly waste of time in what they percieve that you are attacking. Humanitarinism? Greg Mortenson? The United States? No, none of these, you are attacking American self ignorance and our love of the idea that, because we have the best of intentions, we can do no wrong. I find some vehement responses to your work trivial because, whether they agree or disagree with your paper, they are overlooking your patriotism in favor of heated rhetoric. Patriotism calls for the questioning of our government, and when humanitarinism, no matter how beneficial for people, suddenly becomes closely associated with the military at war, resounding alarm bells should be ringing for every American. I congratulate Nosheen Ali’s work for doing just that.Recommend

  • sophia
    Apr 23, 2011 - 3:41AM

    I really liked an Afghani woman’s response to arguments like yours about eduction, she said, “you don’t need a ph.d. to know you are being screwed.”Recommend

  • Dana
    Apr 26, 2011 - 2:26AM

    I read Mr. Mortenson’s response statement at and even before I got to the end of the first paragraph, all I could think was, “What an incredible bullsh!tter.” More of the same slippery self-promotion, half-apologies, half-answers, half-truths, and blaming the messenger. Mortenson knows full well that if he keeps coming up with excuses and explanations, there are some who will be confounded by all the gorilla dung in the air and continue to support and stand by him, which is exactly what he wants.

    I laughed out loud when I read about how Mr. Mortenson and the CAI “Board of Directors” decided not to respond to 60 Minutes. That would be, the CAI Board of Directors with exactly three members, one of which is Mortenson himself. Some “board” that is. What a crock.Recommend

  • SW
    Apr 26, 2011 - 8:19AM

    What a true disappointment.

    I have traveled in Pakistan and thought the book was good for one main reason- to “humanize” people.. .which is often lacking. I can even handle a little embellishment. But the mis-use of funds-hello.. private jet.. is a bit too much. There are great people working in that area already.

    And I never made it through his 2nd book.. hanging out with the US military?? Just could not get past that. That’s why Doctors without Borders takes such care to not be affiliated with any government. It not only jeopardizes your credibility “on the ground” it also makes it twice as dangerous for people.

    Sad to see really.Recommend

  • MushyBushy
    Apr 28, 2011 - 12:19AM

    Why did it take so Long for someone, in another country to point out Mortenson’s a phony? Didn’t the people mentioned in the book read it? And whhat about all these connections who are now speaking ? What were they afraid of before? Pakistanis don’t have the guts to discredit falsities about themselves until a gora points them out…Recommend

  • May 12, 2011 - 11:52AM

    @Le Mystique and Noor:

    You both are incorrect regarding U.S. defamation law. You presume CBS is off the hook because they checked, verified, Krakauer’s accusations, but could have and should have with held the broadcast until CAI and Mortenson had time for their legal team to give them advice on how to respond to JK “cherry picking” their financial records, citing only figures that fit his theory, excluding other information that did not support his theory of fraud.

    Fraud is a crime and to be guilty one must show an deliberate intent to defraud someone. The bond traders on Wall Street were recently acquitted of fraud because the jury felt the prosecution did not prove “criminal intent” to defraud customers, which resulted in a loss of $20 BILLION dollars and nearly bankrupted the country. If they are not guilty of criminal fraud, Mortenson certainly is not. Mismanagement, yes, but that is a far cry from criminal fraud.

    Krakauer is in hot water because he called the man a “liar” a “cheat” and a “fraud.” Being partly correct in one area, and absolutely wrong in others still leaves CBS and JK vulnerable to litigation by either Mortenson and CAI. If even one fact turns out not to be true, it becomes a house of cards. Sources in “TCD” are refuting JK, Outside magazine published Scott Darsney’s (GM’s climbing partner) response that he did NOT tell JK that Mortenson had never been to the Krakorum prior to his K2 attempt. JK’s “Taliban expert” Mansur Khan Mahsud” announced he was suing GM for defamation 48 hours after “TCD” went online. The book was published in 2006, and Mahsud waited five years, or did he know Krakauer previously from his work on his book “Where Men Win Glory,” and set it up? Like Krakauer, Mahsud is refusing to answer questions, and that is not the behavior of honest men. That is the behavior of men who has something to hide.

    Mortenson’s reputation has been perhaps irretrievably damaged, the CAI certainly has lost thousands, if not millions in potential donations, and he does not appear to be guilty of fraud by a legal definition, these are the three legs of a libel case.Recommend

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