Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Cups of Deceit

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson is a bit of a staple in college classrooms, including my own.  It is a poignant story of one man's struggle to help educate the girls of Afghanistan.  A promise he made after being rescued by the villagers of Korphe following an unsuccessful bid to scale K-2, the world’s second highest mountain.  He struggled mightily in his cause; the Taliban kidnapped and held him hostage in Waziristan and blew up the schools as fast as he could build them.

His book gave me hope for Afghanistan as it struggled against the Taliban and a purpose for our presence there.  I agreed with columnist, Nicholas Kristoff, when he said, “So a lone Montanan staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration.”  But it appears Kristoff and everybody else has been hoodwinked.

Yes, duped, and in the worst sort of way.  Not only were Mortenson’s exploits embellished or outright lies, but he also pocketed the majority of the  funds he was raising for CAI, the nonprofit outlet he created to build schools in Afghanistan.  He took out full-page ads in the New York Times to promote his books and then bought them with CAI funds, while taking private jets to give lectures with paychecks of $30,000.

So, what has Mortenson accomplished?  Less than nothing.  It is con men like Mortenson that destroy whatever empathy people once had for Afghanistan’s plight, especially its young women, and those young women are the biggest losers in a country where the Taliban reigns.

For more on Mortenson's fall from grace, read the full story in Commentary Magazine.


  1. This story is very painful to read, it is shocking to see how far people go to make money, lying about such tragedy and using the misery of millions of people is disgusting.
    Afghanistan is a beautiful country with amazing people, unfortunately all we hear about is a picture of hell which is the result of decades of international interference and Afghans were hostages of the situation. Years later they still suffer from the result of other countries decisions and usage of the situation to serve their interests.
    Today we hear that it's a cultural situation, this aberration is false and needs to be more often explained, talibans are not an afghan "creation"!!

  2. This some how does not surprise me at all. Instances like this are not uncommon because every political leader or public activist, good or bad, has proven to be corrupted in some way or another. Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. Adolf Hitler lead was a catalyst for WWII and the Holocaust but he completely brought Germany out of the depression it was suffering. Martin Luther King Jr. was unfaithful to his wife. Julian Assange real eased thousands of secrets of the U.S. government and multiple corporations to the public while also endangering thousands of lives in the military and else where. Richard Nixon was very good in handling foreign relations with the Soviet Union and China but he was the key player in the water gate scandal. John F. Kennedy sent the U.S. to war with Vietnam. The organization The Invisible Children, advocated for the arrest and punishment of warlord Joseph Kony but also most of their proceeds went to advertising, employees, and so on, rather than the people they advocated for. In fact, now that I think of it I cannot find a single political leader or otherwise who has been completely free of sin. So yes it is truly tragic that the people we place in power do really shady things but it does not surprise me in the least bit.