Opinion Blog: Deceit Reveals Need in Afghanistan, Pakistan

May 13, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

Posted by Sydni Brass
sbrass@smu.edu

Three or Four Cups of Tea?

In 1993 Greg Mortenson failed attempt to climb K2, the second-tallest mountain in the world. The experience gave him the resolve for a greater achievement and he took it upon himself to build schools in regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His memoir, “Three Cups of Tea,” details the obstacles he faced and emphasizes a favorable outcome. Consequently, it spent 220 weeks on the bestseller list.

Mortenson was hailed as a hero for his accomplishments… until now.

Recently, Mortenson was accused of fabricating key elements of his experience in the Himalayas and of misusing the funds he raised with his organization, the Central Asian Institute (CAI), after donors began to realize the numbers didn’t match up.

The newsmagazine “60 Minutes” covered the topic in a report last month and author Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) followed up the report with a 75-page manuscript entitled “Three Cups of Deceit,” available on byliner.com.

The controversy surrounding his fundraising efforts to promote education overseas, the issue is garnering adverse attention. However, the need for schooling in the Middle East is legitimate, whether Mortenson’s accounts are or not.

He may not have followed through with his plan, but he certainly spread a message to a mass audience.

In his “memoir,” Mortenson stresses that schools are the greatest weapons of war and that education abroad promotes peace. Schools certainly won’t put an end to war and terrorism, but they are a step in the right direction.

So is Mortenson the thief he is made out to be by recent reports? Probably. Did he do more harm than help? Maybe.

He conned a lot of good people out of their hard-earned money and he should be publically humiliated (as is happening now). However, we should continue his message and his claimed plan of action.

After all, the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan did not deceive CAI donors. They should not get the shaft because someone, with the intent (or maybe distant dream) of helping, was found to be a fraud.

The Daily Update: Thursday, April 28

April 28, 2011 by · Comments Off 

Obama released his birth certificate after rising criticism from “birthers.” Coverage for the Royal Wedding starts at 3 a.m. CDT tomorrow, and Ke$ha performs at Moody Coliseum tonight. Find out all this and more on today’s Daily Update.

Karzai Tells Bush Institute Conference Afghan Women’s Rights Gains Will Be Maintained

April 3, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Praveen Sathianathan
psathianat@smu.edu

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai told an audience of business leaders and entrepreneurs that Afghan women would keep the gains they have made as the country moves forward.

Karzai spoke via satellite Thursday as part of a two-day conference promoting human rights and women’s economic opportunities hosted by the Bush Institute, the policy arm of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, and held at SMU’s James M. Collins Executive Education Center.

“Definitely, affirmatively, I can assure you that the gains will be maintained,” Karzai said. “They [Afghan women] want peace definitely, but they also want peace that keeps the gains they’ve made. They also want peace that respects the gains they have made.”

Under Taliban rule women were denied basic freedoms. They were not allowed to go school or work and had to live under house arrest. If they wanted to go outside they had to be accompanied by a close male relative and had to wear a burqa, a full-body covering.

Today, women have returned to the workforce. Karzai said 28 percent of Afghan teachers are women, 15 percent at the university level, 40 percent in media and 18 percent of college students are women.

“We will work towards a brighter future for Afghan women, who have indeed suffered because of the Taliban … They bore the brunt of the suffering in Afghanistan, and from peace they should have the maximum gain,” Karzai said.

George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, addressed the audience of about 250, prior to Karzai’s remarks.

“We believe every life has dignity and life is important, whether it be an American woman or a woman in Afghanistan,” the former president said. “To this end, we will be enablers, we will be mentors and we will encourage and support the women of Afghanistan.”

Laura, who serves as the honorary advisor to the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council and spearheads the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute, opened the conference with a photo slide show and radio address she gave in November 2001 describing the rights and the plight of women in Afghanistan.

After Karzai spoke, Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group, also addressed the audience on the economic status of women in Afghanistan.

Two panels, moderated by journalist and Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren, followed. Students from the American University of Afghanistan and representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul participated via video during the panels.

The first panel, Fostering Entrepreneurs: Developing Small and Medium Enterprises, included Rahela Kaveer, director of the Afghan Women Empowerment Organization, Terry Neese, founder and CEO of Institute for Economic Empowerment Peace through Business and Mina Sherzoy, founder of Afghanistan World Wide Shopping Online Mall.

The women discussed the challenges of assisting women from all of Afghanistan not just those in the cities. Kaveer said there is a need for new markets in rural areas. Neese said Peace through Business has helped many women, but there are still more to be done.

The second panel, Corporate Investments: Creating Sustainability, included business leaders from Abbott Fund, Goldman Sachs Foundation and Kate Spade New York, as well as an Afghan mother and daughter team of entrepreneurs.

Dina Habib Powell, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and global head of corporate engagement, said the foundation’s 10,000 Women Project, an initiative to provide business education for 10,000 women entrepreneurs from communities around the world, has helped 120 women in Afghanistan.

Powell said 70 percent of the program’s participants have seen revenues of their businesses increase and 50 percent have created more jobs for the community.

“When you invest in a woman, they turn around and help others,” Powell said. “When a woman begins a business the whole family becomes involved. The husband becomes the sales person. Ninety percent of a woman’s earnings go back into the family.”

Powell told the audience that Fatema Akbari, one of the project’s graduates, told her that she would participate in it if her daughter got a place as well.

With the assistance of an interpreter, Fatema told the audience her furniture-making business in Kabul has 90 employees, 73 of whom are female. Her daughter Shahla’s shoe-making business in Kabul has 20 workers, 14 of whom are women.

Shahla said to start her business she had to borrow $2,000 from her mother and when she turned a profit a year later, the first thing she did was pay her back.

Both Fatema and her daughter said the program taught them many skills, including how to develop a business plan, market their goods and time management.

Johanna Saum, director of public relations for Kate Spade New York, and Sydney Price, senior vice president for the direct to consumer division, discussed the company’s relationship with women in Afghanistan.

Saum said in 2009 the company renewed a partnership with Women for Women to support artisans in Afghanistan. Kate spade will provide the creative direction and WFW will train the artisans.

“Afghanistan has some of the most beautiful natural resources,” Saum said.

She said the company is hoping to launch Afghan-made cashmere soon in its stores through the “hand in hand” line.

The company, whose partnership with WFW has already helped artisans in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda, hope the investment in the country will help it rebuild itself.

“We are investing to revive a nation,” Price said.

The day-long event concluded the conference, which began Wednesday evening with a dinner featuring the conference’s participants, business leaders and philanthropists and featured keynote speeches by the Bushes.

PHOTOS: Bush Center Supports Afghan Women

March 31, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Sydney Giesey
sschmidt@smu.edu

The Afghan Bazaar sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, offers crafts made by Afghan women. The bazaar was held in the James M. Collins Executive Education Center on Thursday, March 31. The bazaar is part of the George W. Bush conference that focuses on advancing human rights and economic freedom for Afghan women.

Check out the slideshow from the Afghan Bazaar:

The Daily Update: Wednesday, Oct. 6

October 6, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Wednesday, Oct. 5 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

We’ll tell you about a historic meeting talking peace today, the possibility of your favorite mockingbird retailers in the basement of new dorms, and how Obama reacted to something slippery in his speech.

Opinion Blog: Charlie Wilson’s Second War

February 12, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Colin Hogan

More than $250 billion and thousands of lives have been spent on the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, but it should have ended 20 years ago.

The recent death of former Texas congressman Charlie Wilson has brought the long history of American involvement in Afghanistan back into focus. Beginning in the mid-1980s, while serving on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the famous “Good time Charlie” led the charge to funnel money and weapons to the mujahedeen, who were rebelling against their Soviet occupiers. Although the Afghan rebels eventually secured their independence, thanks in part to Wilson’s efforts, their country was left in tatters. Once the war was over, the U.S. funding stopped, and former freedom fighters were left with no prospects, no opportunities, no livelihoods. They did have plenty of weapons.

It wasn’t long before the former militias regrouped as the Taliban, an extreme Islamist political movement that tyrannized the nation for more than a decade, until the American military interceded in 2001. Many of the same people that the Americans had helped liberate were now enemies, corrupted by their impoverished conditions following the Afghan war of independence.

Now the United States is engaged in a seemingly unwinnable war, while the economic and human costs continue to rise. Perhaps if America had continued to support the Afghans after the Soviets left, and helped to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, Afghanistan would be better off today, and a second American intervention would not have been necessary.

Why was the U.S. army willing to buy weapons for freedom fighters, but not food for Afghan citizens? The CIA and politicians like Wilson thought that they could choose to intervene in Afghan affairs just enough to defeat the Soviets, America’s archenemy at the time, and then withdraw completely. Instead of helping those who were desperately in need, U.S. support only complicated the problem. America should have both funded the mujahedeen and assisted in nation-building efforts following the war. Instead they escalated the war and left before picking up the pieces.

It is no small undertaking to rebuild a war-torn nation, but if America chooses to leave a country in ruins, that country becomes a security threat to all nations.

Politics Blog: Obama Plans to Send 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan

December 2, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Allison Donnelly

President Obama spoke from West Point Tuesday night on his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. In his 40-minute speech debuted on prime-time television, Obama defended his controversial decision to extend the eight-year-long war.

Although the President is sending in a significant number of soldiers by next summer, he pledged to bring out U.S. forces in July 2011.  “I do not make this decision lightly,” said Obama, “I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Obama continually referenced 9/11 and how the future of Afghanistan is an international threat. What he did not mention, however, is how he plans to pay for the additional $30 billion a year plan.

This decision comes as a surprise to most people because one of Obama’s campaign platforms was his opposition of the war, something that set him apart from his Democratic counterpart, Hilary Clinton. He alluded to this in his speech, but Obama believes sending in more troops is a necessity for national security.

“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow,” said Obama.

If you are interesting in reading the full text of the speech, click here.

Global News Blog: Afghan TV Stations Find Censorship Line is Blurry

February 15, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Rachel Champlin

Afghanistan has experienced huge changes in its government and its people’s daily lives since the United States attacked the ruling Taliban regime in 2001. One of the largest changes is the country’s new interest in television and entertainment. And, even as U.S. based democracy is beginning to flourish in the region, our culture is not taking hold. Which begs the question, should we be spreading our values with our democracy? Also, are we seeing that you can take the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but you can’t take the extremists’ ideals out of the Afghanis?

These questions come to the forefront when examining the censorship practices of the largest TV station in Afghanistan, Tolo TV. According to a Yahoo article, some of the most popular programming in the country is Indian and Korean soap operas, but they also enjoy American shows such as Barney and 24. While censoring Barney may not be too stressful, but large portions of the soap operas and 24 are blurred or cut in order to satisfy the Islam viewers. Though the censorship laws in the country are unclear, the stations try to stay “within the framework of Islam.”

As an American I value the Constititution and the freedoms that our founding fathers have fought for. However, these are our values and every society deserves to have their own. How would you like the Afghans to come here and enforce their ideals?