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.