A Visit to Conspiristan: Obama, Osama, Krakauer, Kroft — and Mortenson

Sydney, Australia May 9 – I know it’s not customary to dateline blogs, but I’m in Oz and I’m going to write about perspective, so it seems fitting.  Here in an antipodal suburb of the global village, I’ve just watched Steve Kroft interview President Obama on my laptop, and let’s give 60 Minutes their due:  they pulled off a journalistic coup, and Obama made plenty of news with his remarks.

(As an aside, it looks really good from Down Under to have a U.S. president say, “We don’t spike the football” instead of gloating “Mission Accomplished” after breaking the wrong country on purpose.  What do the good football coaches say?  “Act like you’ve been in the end zone before.”)

I said I’d write about perspective, so here goes.  Once, when I was on Larry King Live discussing the murder of a six-year-old named JonBenet Ramsey, Larry was about to take a commercial break and said, “Tomorrow!  On the show!  Yasir Arafat!”  When the cameras were off, I muttered something about feeling a little sheepish being on the show when there were so many bigger stories going on in the world.  Larry brushed me off, and in a few seconds we were talking about the Grand Jury’s refusal to indict the child beauty queen’s parents for murder.   The show went on.

I’m not saying that 60 Minutes, and the rest of the news industry, shouldn’t cover all sorts of stories, including improprieties of do-gooder organizations.  We should and we do.  But when I first commented on the 60 Minutes piece on Greg Mortenson and the Montana-based Central Asia Institute (CAI), I said that the piece lacked “basic elements of fairness, balance, perspective, insight and context.”  In light of recent events, the statement stands, and then some.

The interview with Obama makes a pretty good counterpoint, as far as relevance, importance, and perspective go.  Besides getting a glimmer of a backstage pass to the situation room during a defining moment in history, we also learn that the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is fraught, difficult, and challenging.  Obama takes pains to remind the American people that Pakistan has been, since 9/11, the “chief ally in the fight against Al Qaeda” and that “good relations with Pakistan are still vital to U.S. interests.”  That’s going to remain true, even if some elements of the Pakistan military or intelligence services knew where Osama was hiding for five years.  Maybe the nice things the president said about our good friends in Islamabad were 50 percent bullshit or more. But the truth is that even people who couldn’t find Pakistan on a map after you spotted them the right continent should now understand that Pakistan is maddeningly, incessantly important.

And oh, isn’t that where Greg Mortenson has been working for the past 16 years or so, building literal schools and metaphorical bridges?  In a country so distrustful of the United States that the president decided not to release photos of a very dead Osama bin Laden because there are plenty of people who wouldn’t believe the photos were authentic, anyway?

(Then again, there are still plenty of people in this country who don’t believe that Obama’s long-form birth certificate is real, either.  Maybe we could put them all together with the climate change deniers on a Pacific Island nation about to be inundated with rising sea levels, and call the place:  “Conspiristan.”)

Back to Bozeman and the CAI, rather than Abbottabad and the CIA.  Since my first post, I’ve heard both privately and publicly (please do read the comments on my earlier posts; the include some very intelligent discourse) from people who have admired Greg in action, but suspect he has sometimes bent a 501(c)3 reporting rule or two to get things done.  I’ve heard from one of the pilots who flew Greg around in one of his “private jets,” saying that Greg often goes where commercial flights don’t, and certainly not on the grueling speaking schedule he keeps.  We now know from a CAI update that some of the allegations about financial impropriety were likely because 60 Minutes and Krakauer cherry-picked some records, and the allegation that Greg used CAI as “an ATM machine” might have been a great quote but might not have a damned thing to do with Mortenson being personally enriched by having the PIN number.

As the details of Greg’s questionable bookkeeping and exaggeration or lying become clearer (he still has some ‘splaining to do), I ask again about the contextual importance of the allegations and “revelations” about Mortenson.  Some of these clarifications will still make some people uncomfortable, while others will shrug them off.   For instance, Jon Krakauer makes a big deal that Mortenson had never been to the Himalayas before his ill-fated K2 climb, and I know for a fact that he had been in Nepal climbing at least one 20,000-foot peak, because I’ve talked to somebody who was there with him.  The truth may yet be – and I’m guessing it will – that Mortenson never climbed any of the big peaks that the book claims he did.  And I sure want to know why he fabricated that fact if he didn’t.

I’m not denying there are still some big, fat questions out there:  did Mortenson donate six figures to CAI, and are they on his tax returns and CAI’s donor lists?  Is there a multi-million dollar endowment ready for the right moment to build schools and pay teachers from Fayzabad to Mingora?  Can Mortenson agree to assemble a Board of Directors that supplies real oversight?  (In most non-profits, the executive director serves at the pleasure of the board, not the other way around.)

But in the big picture (and that’s what I’m talking about from across the international dateline), I still don’t get why Mortenson’s antics warranted the kind of howitzers that 60 Minutes and Krakauer launched.

Here’s why:  Osama’s dead.  My guess is that we need Mortenson and people like them more than ever.  Clay feet and all.

 

This entry was posted in Mortenson and Krakauer. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Visit to Conspiristan: Obama, Osama, Krakauer, Kroft — and Mortenson

  1. Guy Montag says:

    “… when I first commented on the 60 Minutes piece on Greg Mortenson and the Montana-based Central Asia Institute (CAI), I said that the piece lacked “basic elements of fairness, balance, perspective, insight and context.” In light of recent events, the statement stands, and then some.”

    I just posted a revised version of my “Jon Krakauer’s Credibility Problem” at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com (now a whopping 130 pages; try the 3-page Executive Summary, then did deeper if you wish). At the end of my piece, I used a quote from Dan’s previous post (I just read it a couple of days ago):

    The Daily Beast’s Nick Summers wrote, “Used to elephant hunting, Krakauer brings the same gun to the smaller task, obliterating Mortenson in the process.” However, I agree with journalist Dan Glick who wrote, “I believe in the importance of journalism to … hold people and institutions accountable. That said, it’s hard to believe why 60 Minutes decided that Greg Mortenson … qualified on any of those fronts – much less why Jon Krakauer joined in this recent barrage.” It’s worth pointing out that, in their puff-piece hagiographic profile of Gen. McChrystal on September 27, 2009, “60 Minutes” didn’t press McChrystal about his role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.
    . . .

    Jon Krakauer has accused Greg Mortenson of deceit. However, Krakauer himself displayed deceit by embellishing his story of how he “discovered” McCrystal’s central role in the cover-up of Tillman’s friendly-fire death. Was Krakauer embarrassed to admit that he had failed to uncover this new material by himself? And missed it the first time around? Like Greg Mortenson, it appears that Jon Krakauer embellished his story to boost his esteem and protect his ego.

    Regardless of his motivations, Jon Krakauer stole credit for his “discovery of evidence of deceit.” To his credit, Krakauer didn’t spare Gen. McChrystal and other Army officers from his “withering gaze.” However, to his shame, Krakauer did shield President Obama and the Democratic Congress from accountability for their whitewash of Gen. McChrystal’s central role in the cover-up. Krakauer certainly didn’t “win glory” with his telling of the Tillman story.

    Greg Mortenson may be guilty of deceit, but Jon Krakauer displayed hypocrisy by “throwing stones” at Mortenson when his own hands are not clean and without sin. Just as Krakauer pointed out with regard to Gen. McChrystal, he has “credibility problems” of his own with his revised book “Where Men Win Glory”. And, as he said of McChrystal, “He should come clean, and tell what really happened.”

  2. Kate O'Hehir says:

    Daniel:

    It occurred to me regarding Krakauer’s decision to post “TCD” online, rather than through his publishers Random House or Knoff/Doubleday. The most obvious reason is not length (75 pages plus addendums make a paperback). The reality is “Three Cups of Deceipt” would never have made it through the legal departments of reputable publishers. He clearly sought no legal council prior to publication, and he may well rue that decision.

    I’m am being dissed by readers on Outside online for bringing up the fact that Outside did the same “attack journalism” on the father of outdoor literature Peter Matthiessen over his book, “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” where he passionately defends Leonard Peltier’s and the injustice of his life sentence for allegedly killing 2 FBI agents at Wounded Knee, S.D. in the 1970s.. Outside writer Scott Anderson took the stand Peltier was a lazy Indian who deserved what he got, and then proceded to attack Matthiessen, bascially accusing him of being “anti-American” for supporting Native causes. Matthiessen fought back. GM should do the same as soon as his health allows.

    PM assisted me on an article I was writing about his Sherpa guide Tukten Sherpa. I sent him a photo (which he did not have) and began both corresponding and speaking with him on the phone. When the article was complete, we discussed which publication would be the best fit. I (now regretfully) suggested “Outside.” His response was “HELL NO! Not Outside. Never Outside.”

    I wrote an open letter to the editorial board reminding them they have a reputation for this type of attack reporting (the Donald Trump school of urnalism) and it smells.

    No writer or publication is given a reputation. It is earned, for better or for worse, and all I see published in Outside is worse.

  3. Tory Hunter says:

    Awesome article, Mr. Glick. If Mr. Mortenson needed a wakeup call, so be it. NO ONE is claiming he’s a perfect manager. He wouldn’t be the first one. He did not transition his organization fast enough to the next level? SO – fix it. Unfortunately, I do believe that Mr. Krakauer has A LOT of PRACTICE with these types of skirmishes (check his track record). So, now he realizes that he can “MANUFACTURE” them! Brilliant. the question is – how to stop this technique of RUINING REPUTATIONS through “cyber-allegations” w/o giving him (JK) too much free publicity. I agree – it’s the use of the Internet here that is particularly heinous. I hope Mr. Mortenson knows a GREAT lawyer…

  4. Julia Bergman says:

    Greg Mortenson’s response to allegations by Jon Krakauer are below. Also go to: http://www.ikat.org for more documentation about these false and misleading accusations.

    1. If CAI’s primary mission is to build schools and educate girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan, isn’t public education really about CAI’s fundraising efforts?
    CAI has two purposes– as described in the original 1996 certificate of incorporation and in its application for recognition of exemption as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization filed with the Internal Revenue Service– to establish
    and support education in remote mountain communities of Central Asia and to educate the public about the importance of these educational activities.
    From the beginning, Greg Mortenson’s presentations (educational outreach) have inspired people to support CAI’s mission with time, money and awareness. His presentations and his books help fulfill the stated corporate and charitable purposes of CAI. While it is true that during 2009-2010 a significant amount of CAI’s resources were dedicated to domestic and international educational outreach, the result of that effort makes possible CAI’s ambitious plans overseas for 2011 and beyond.

    “CAI plans to establish more than 60 schools in Afghanistan this year,” Mortenson said. “However, in Pakistan, CAI plans to establish about a dozen schools; the emphasis there is not so much on new schools, but to improve the education quality, scholarships, teacher training – human capacity building.

    In Afghanistan, we still need new buildings. In many ways our work in Afghanistan at this point resembles where we were 10 to 15 years ago in Pakistan.”

    2. Please provide total expenditures broken down in percentages spent on overhead vs. program. Is CAI really spending 59% of earnings on fundraising?
    CAI is dedicated to using every dollar as efficiently as possible. In 1996, 100% of donor dollars went to programs, while 0% went to overhead. In 2009, 88% went to programs and 12% to overhead. The average annual percentage CAI has spent on programs throughout its history is 78%. In those figures, the programs category includes money set aside in CAI’s Talim (Pashto for “education”) Fund, a nest egg dedicated and restricted solely for overseas projects. The amount raised and set aside in that fund constitutes about 38% of the total of about $60 million that CAI has raised in the past 15 years and brings total program funding to a level that reflects CAI’s mission and donors’ desires.

    With the explosion of support over the past three years, the Talim Fund has grown from $2 million to $20 million, while the number of schools built or significantly supported by CAI increased from 78 to over 170, with plans for more than 70 additional schools in 2011.

    3. Every nonprofit must file an annual tax return. According to reports, your nonprofit only filed once in 14 years – is that true?
    No. IRS 990 forms filed for every year since CAI’s inception are available on our website,
    http://www.ikat.org/about-cai/financials/

    4. What is your response to allegations that many of the schools you claim to have built do not exist, were built by others, or stand empty?
    Every single day, CAI’s work helps to improve the lives of tens of thousands of people, especially girls, in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Throughout the school year (which varies, depending mostly on climate), thousands of students are in classes at CAI schools. Teachers are teaching. And women are meeting at vocational centers, where instructors are providing literacy, health, and myriad other lessons.

    At least once a year, a U.S.-based CAI staff or Board member travels to the region to collect documentation, dedicate new schools and check on CAI projects. However, routine checks of the schools are, like the long-term relationships necessary to sustain this type of work, the responsibility of individual in-country project managers in conjunction with local education committees. That includes insuring that education is indeed taking place in these
    schools. “In order to function successfully, our first priority is to put the local people in charge,” Mortenson said. “Sometimes that is risky, more risky than some people may be comfortable with. But by empowering the local people and putting them in charge, the results are far more sustainable and lead to a much greater sense of ownership or
    pride in the project.”

    Recent media reports have alleged that several CAI schools in Baltistan, in northern Pakistan, were either not being used at all or were not receiving funds. Since those reports did not always cite particulars, it is hard to respond with precision except to say that there could be several reasons for that, including:
    • Many schools in the remote, mountainous areas close for two months or longer in the winter.
    • A disgruntled former manager for programs in Baltistan was not completely honest with Mortenson and

    CAI’s Board in recent years about the status of schools for which he was responsible.
    “Since 1993, CAI has had 15 primary regional managers running the show or in charge of projects and in only one case, in Baltistan, did that system go awry,” Mortenson said. That case involved a manager who may have,engaged in “a confidence trick.” “Confidence tricks have been around for a long time, since colonial times, including where I grew up in Africa,
    where an individual will bend over backwards to help you, refuse to take money for services, befriend you and then after a period of years, begin to test you by committing small infractions to see what your response is,” he said.

    “They also make you very dependent on their services as a vital part of the operation.
    “One of our great dreams in Baltistan was to set up a hostel in Skardu for students from the outlying regions to continue their education and pursue their dreams. Although the Board approved the original hostel plans, not long after it got started the manager told us he needed more money. Over time this manager said, ‘We have such a great need, we need to make hostel bigger, the price has increased, we need more funding.’ This went on until a
    point where CAI discovered he had manipulated the books.

    “I trusted him and loved him like a brother. Unfortunately, for the first time in our history CAI wound up on the short end of stick,” he said. “My mistake was that this was the only project CAI has ever done that didn’t have an education committee exercising local control.”

    • In one village, the CAI school was closed after more than a decade when locals formed a social welfare organization to help people on numerous fronts. The organization, founded and run by a former CAI student, opened a new school, rendering the original CAI school obsolete.

    About the same time as the former Baltistan manager resigned in 2010, some teachers began complaining that they hadn’t been paid. As a result, other CAI workers spent countless hours reconnecting with the communities where that manager had established schools over the past decade. Reinstating those relationships, and trust, takes time.

    As for allegations that CAI “claims” schools it did not build, the organization has numerous relationships with communities where schools were built by other entities that were not providing adequate support. Leaders in those communities approached CAI for help to pay teachers and buy school supplies. In some places, CAI also added additional classrooms to existing schools. In such cases, CAI becomes the key supporter of the school, providing money and advice for long-term sustainability. Finally, CAI staff members in the U.S., Pakistan, and Afghanistan have embarked on a comprehensive survey of all schools and programs to insure our information is current and accurate. CAI is also working closely with
    officials in the Pakistan and Afghanistan governments to verify the status of all CAI projects.

    5. Does CAI pay teachers at CAI schools or are they paid by others and if so, by whom?
    In Pakistan, CAI’s regional managers are wired funds for teachers’ salaries, which are then given to the education committees in each village for distribution. In some cases that happens monthly; in more remote areas, the money is distributed by CAI quarterly or semiannually. In addition, some communities charge a small tuition to families that can pay – the equivalent of a couple of U.S. dollars per month or less – and that money is then used to pay additional teachers as the schools grow.

    In Afghanistan, CAI helps with construction of the schools, but upon completion, the schools belong to the Afghan government, which is supposed to provide the teachers and pay them.
    v
    But in some cases, CAI supplements government funding with additional money for additional teachers. And in the more remote areas, when the government does not make good on its obligation to pay teacher salaries, CAI steps in to pay them and ensure they continue to come to work every day.

    6. Please address the allegations that many Board members have resigned.
    Over the years, some Board members have resigned due to philosophical and/or managerial differences with other Board members and/or with Greg Mortenson. Since its inception, CAI has had 14 board members, with an average 5.2-year term of service.

    7. Also, three Board members, including Greg Mortenson, are too few. Is the organization giving any consideration to beefing up the Board?
    Yes, the current CAI Board is in the process of expanding the number of Board members and is reviewing qualifications of potential candidates.

    8. How do you defend the fact that of the 11 schools claimed to have been built in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, there were really only three?
    CAI has built four schools in Kunar Province and has another five schools under construction, according to its Afghan operations manager, Wakil Karimi. Work on those five has been suspended several times because the ongoing fighting creates a “risky situation.”

    “In Kunar, the situation is dangerous and we had to suspend building in some places, pending negotiations with the Taliban,” he said. “Al Qaeda and Taliban, they control roads and just kidnap people for the money. We communicate with Taliban and when they say, ‘you can start your work,’ then we start again.”

    Plus, establishing schools in this region is long-term work; three of the four that are now complete took several years from inception to completion. Often a school is established first by providing a teacher, with classes in a tent or rented building.

    Meanwhile, CAI staff work with the local education committee to address all community concerns, including those of extremists, and identify land. In some cases, schools were well into this process when negotiations fell apart due to “no land,” or “Taliban not agree,” Karimi said.

    The provincial and district education managers have assured CAI they are more than satisfied with CAI’s work in Kunar, as are the communities CAI serves. “Go inside of the village, talk to the local people. Their children are coming to the school. They are the ones who know,” Karimi said.

    9. How much of Greg Mortenson’s books were fabricated or embellished?
    The contents of Greg Mortenson’s books Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools are based on events that actually happened. Media allegations that Greg did not visit Korphe in 1993 are false; he first visited Korphe in September 1993 after failing to reach the summit of K2 and later built a school there.

    And Greg was, in fact, detained and held against his will in 1996, with his passport and money confiscated, although his captors did treat him well, as he accurately described in his book. Greg’s initial rebuttal to some of the allegations can be viewed at http://www.ikat.org.

    10. Has Greg used funds for private jets unnecessarily?
    There are three reasons Greg has used charter planes.
    Number one, Greg’s schedule often presents difficult logistical scenarios that are nearly impossible to accomplish with commercial airlines. Generally, he has to fly late at night to accommodate his hectic schedule, which in the past four years put him in an average 126 cities per year, plus international travel and overseas project visits. Number two is his health, which has been in decline for the past 18 months. And number three is security.
    Greg has received threats against his life, and commercial travel sometimes presents over-exposure to threatening elements.

    Greg began paying his own travel expenses in January 2011.

    11. The Board statement that “counsel concluded there is no ‘excess benefit’ – that is, CAI
    appropriately receives a greater benefit from Greg’s activities than Greg does himself,” is vague. Please elaborate.
    Any time Greg gives a presentation about how he came to dedicate his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and people are inspired, those people donate to CAI, not Greg personally, in furthering CAI’s mission. In addition, his presentations and his books, although his alone, do help CAI accomplish its stated charitable purposes by educating the public and drawing awareness to the significant needs of that region and the significant
    cultural differences between the U.S. and that region.

    While Greg has benefitted from this collaboration, CAI has benefited even more.
    Greg and the Board initiated a self-imposed analysis and evaluation, with outside advice, of their collaboration in January 2011. The results of the inquiry were presented to the Board on April 13. Based on that assessment and the Board’s longtime confirmation of the effectiveness of its collaboration with Greg, the Board confirmed its intention to continue to refine and address the particulars of their relationship on an ongoing basis.

    12. What about the possibility of turning over accountability of running the schools to a local
    organization; if there is no organization, then perhaps an organization under the umbrella of CAI?
    In Afghanistan, CAI already operates under the auspices of three organizations: CAI; the Marco Polo Foundation, a registered nonprofit that primarily covers central and northern Afghanistan and has schools in Badakhshan (including the Wakhan Corridor and Pamir), Takhar, and Baghlan provinces; and Star of Knowledge, a registered nonprofit that covers Urozgan, Khost, Paktia, Nangarhar, Logar, Wardak, Kunar, Panshjir, Kapisa,
    Parvan, and, this year, Bamiyan provinces.

    Our Pakistan operations all remain under the auspices of CAI, although they are divided into regions: Baltistan, Gilgit-Hunza, Azad Kashmir, and Punjab. The staff that run the regional operations are all from those areas.

  5. Guy Montag says:

    Here’s the 800-word condensed version (the unabridged version is about 30 pages with 100 pages of Appendices) of “Jon Krakauer’s Credibility Problem” (posted updated version a couple of days ago):

    Last month, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired their expose of Greg Mortenson (best-selling author of “Three Cups of Tea” & “Stones Into Schools”) accusing him of fabricating his inspirational story and mismanaging the funds of his charitable organization. Jon Krakauer (best-selling author of “Into Thin Air & “Into the Wild”) said that Mortenson tells a “beautiful story, and it’s a lie.”

    Shortly afterwards, Krakauer published his e-book, “Three Cups of Deceit.” I haven’t closely followed the scandal, so I won’t comment on Mortensen’s deceit. However, I do have first-hand knowledge of Krakauer’s own deceit in his updated edition of “Where Men Win Glory – The Odyssey of Pat Tillman.”

    Pat Tillman was the NFL football player who enlisted with the Army Rangers and was killed in 2004 by friendly-fire in Afghanistan. Although Gen. Stanley McChrystal learned the next day about Tillman’s friendly-fire death, he didn’t notify his family, his legal officer withheld that information from the medical examiner, and McChrystal supervised the writing of a “misleading” Silver Star medal recommendation (with altered witness statements).

    In the first edition, McChrystal was barely a footnote. But just a month later, Krakauer published a “Daily Beast” piece, “Gen. McChrystal’s Credibility Problem,” and later further described McChrystal’s “central role in the scandal” in his updated paperback edition. However, in his Preface, it appears Krakauer prevaricated where he wrote, “Following publication of the first edition in September 2009, I discovered additional evidence of deceit by high-ranking Army officers.”

    “I discovered”? In reality, just two days after the release of the first edition, my Aunt Candy literally placed two binders of my research (about 200 pages) into Krakauer’s hands at his Boulder book signing. My analysis of interviews and revisions indicates my material was the source of nearly all of Krakauer’s “additional evidence.”

    I don’t care (much) about Krakauer stealing my credit. But, his greater act of deceit was one of omission. After reading his book, you’d believe the Democratic Congress was “stonewalled” by President Bush. But, even after being handed my “untold story,” Krakauer still failed to describe in his updated edition how President Obama and the Democratic Congress continued the Bush administration’s whitewash of McChrystal’s central role in the cover-up of Tillman’s friendly-fire death.

    In the 2010 Foreword to her paperback edition (at blurb.com) of “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” Mary Tillman wrote, “Over the last five years, the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the cover-up of Pat’s death. Each time they’ve failed. … “The Tillman Story” [documentary] illustrates the corruption, deception, and indifference that is systemic in our government. … The cover-up of Pat’s death was orchestrated at the very highest levels of the Pentagon, and elsewhere in our government … the government didn’t just lie to us; it lied to a nation.”

    And, this story is not over yet; President Obama has continued to shield General McChrystal from accountability. Just last month, Obama appointed McChrystal to head the “Joining Forces” program despite the protest of Mary Tillman. The White House said, “The circumstances … have been thoroughly investigated, and General McChrystal was found to have acted honorably…” and Michelle Obama said, “we’re proud to have him on board.”

    Perhaps Krakauer choose to omit the “untold story” from his updated edition because it didn’t fit into his simple black-and-white fable? Or out of Democratic bias? Perhaps, his ego would be bruised to admit he (once again) had gotten the story wrong the first time around? Regardless, Krakauer embellished (at best) his “discovery” of Gen. McChrystal’s central role and omitted the “untold story.” Like Greg Mortenson, it appears Krakauer wanted to boost his esteem and tell a better story.

    Perhaps Mortenson is guilty of the charges leveled against him by Krakuaer in “Three Cups of Deceit.” But, Jon Krakauer has his own “credibility problem” and displayed hypocrisy by “throwing stones” at Mortenson when his own hands are not clean of deceit.

    It’s worth mentioning that CBS’s “60 Minutes,” in their September 2009 hagiographic profile of Gen. McChrystal, didn’t bother to press him about his role in the Tillman affair. I agree with journalist Daniel Glick who wrote in his blog, “I believe in the importance of journalism to … hold people and institutions accountable. … it’s hard to believe why “60 Minutes” decided that Greg Mortenson … qualified on any of those fronts – much less why Jon Krakauer joined in this recent barrage.”

    . . .

    “Guy Montag” has been a firefighter the past twenty years. Previously, he was a yuppie with Andersen Consulting (Accenture) after earning an Engineering MSE. For eight years he was an Airborne Ranger with Co. “F” (LRSU) 425th Infantry. His 135-page document, “Jon Krakauer’s Credibility Problem,” and his other Tillman research files are posted at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com.

  6. Kate O'Hehir says:

    Over the next few days I think we will be hearing if not from Mansur Khan Mahsud (or spelled Mehsud) about his dubious law suit. The Daily Beast quotes Mahsud admitting that he got a phone call from Krakauer (about the eve of his online publication “TCD”) telling him he had been defamed and should sue.

    I reported last week I suspected this was true, because as an American journalist, living abroad for many years, non-U.S. citizens do not know anything about the specifics of our libel laws. I knew someone had to have explained it, and JK was the most likely person. Now we know this is true.

    What is also true is that it looks like Mahsud acidently copied and pasted an email he either sent or received (or both) from Krakauker as the first word in the first two paragraph is:
    “Jon Naimat Gull is my Uncle and a respectable…”
    “Jon as you know South Wazirstan is a tribal Agency …”

    I suspect Krakauer edited the text for him to rebut McKenzie Funk’s information (from an informant from Peshwar who claims to have known Mahsud since childhood” that he is a con man, and was found guilty of the kidnap of a little girl).

    My question for Krakauer at this point is, “Are you going to fund Mansur Khan Mahud’s defamation suit against GM?” I think not, I think he knows there isn’t a prayer in hell of a non-U.S. citizen even filing the suit (he would have to hire an attorney licensed in Montana).

    Careful what you wish for Krak, when the God’s wish to punish us, they answers our prayers. You want a defamation suit? You may well have one, and the collusion with Mahsud could be seen by a jury as “malice” against Greg Mortenson.

  7. Kate O'Hehir says:

    Oops, the McKenzie Funk informant claims Mahsud’s, uncle Naimat Gull was found guilty of kidnapping, not Mahsud. Sorry for the error!

  8. Janet T. Lang says:

    Karin Ronnow, a long time journalist, who has been in Afghanistan and Pakistan nine times on the trail of Greg Mortenson, is now writing periodic communiqués for the Central Asia Institute, which contains updates on the topic of Mortenson.

  9. Janet T. Lang says:

    Here is the right website – sorry for multiple posts:
    https://www.ikat.org/cai-communique/

  10. Sayaf Mahsud says:

    Note: There have been rumours that Naimat Gul has died two months ago in South Waziristan Agency. He had advised me to unveil the reality about Greg Mortenson, how we visited South Waziristan in July 1996. He had not been kidnaped, never tortured, he tells volatile lie. So what he said is pasted word of word in correction, i had been told by Naimat Gul.

    Three Cups Of Tea

    Correction
    Some days back I scanned through the book Three Cups of Tea. It shocked me when I found Greg Mortenson giving such a negative impression of the inhabitants of South Waziristan. He writes that they smelled as if hashish oil was seeping from their pores, and they ate lamb like barbarians with the sharp points of their knives. What elaborate lies Greg tells! I, Naimat Gul Mahsud, am the man who brought Greg Mortenson to Tehsil Ladha in South Waziristan [a tehsil is a Pakistani administrative division, larger than a municipality but generally smaller than an American county]. We were together for 15 days, mostly in the village of Kot Langer Khel. He had not been abducted, and was never threatened.

    I have photos of Greg, as well as hand-written post cards he gave me. I think Greg must remember me well. I asked him what his name meant. He explained that he is easily astonished, which is why his father had chosen this name for him. He told me that Greg means “watchman.”

    In its history of Ladha, the Pakistan army wrote that Greg Mortenson intended to visit Ladha but had to postpone his visit. This history is untrue. I drove Greg to Ladha and introduced him to many people there. I am not afraid to unmask Greg’s lies. The story he has narrated in the book Three Cups of Tea pretends to be complete and comprehensive, but it is fiction written for commercial purposes.

    Three Cups Of Tea

    Greg Mortenson knows how to get into the minds of readers by playing psychological tricks. He starts the chapter about his visit to Ladha, on page 154 of his book, by introducing the Wazir tribe with a quote from the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica:

    The Waziris are the largest tribe on the frontier, but their state of civilization is very low. They are a race of robbers and murderers, and the Waziri name is execrated even by the neighboring Mahommedan tribes. They have been described as being free-born and murderous, hot headed and light-hearted, self-respecting but vain. Mohammedans from a settled district often regard them as utter barbarians.

    We met in July 1996 at the Rawalpindi Sudder Bazaar, in the hotel Habib. It was just after dawn. There were light rain showers, and a cool breeze was blowing. I am in the habit of getting up early in the morning to enjoy the pleasant weather. On this morning I got up early as usual, and stepped out of my room in the hotel to enjoy the merciful day. I saw a person making videos, and he suddenly turned his face towards me and waved his hand. I went near to him, shook his hand, and asked, “Where do you come from?” He said his name was Greg Mortenson. He had been working for the Central Asia Institute in the Northern Areas of Pakistan to build schools. I responded with passion and told him that I was from Tehsil Ladha in the South Waziristan Tribal Agency. I further told him that we tribals are deprived of our basic needs; the Mahsud tribe in particular has been ignored by the government. His face filled with curiousness, and he said he was anxious to visit the Tribal Areas. He asked me if this was possible. I said yes, why not? You may go with me if you are seriously intended. He again shook my hand. He seemed enthusiastic. I briefed him that he would be bound not to tell to any Government official. If he did, he would be forbidden to go to the Tribal Areas because of security measures.

    After two or three days we started our journey from Rawalpindi to Peshawar. We had to stay overnight in Peshawar to buy him Shalwar Qamiz and a topi [the traditional Chitrali prayer cap]. We arrived at dusk in Peshawar and rented a room in the hotel, situated in Sudder Peshawar.

    Once again, in Three Cups of Tea, he tells the lie that

    from his second story hotel room in the decrepit haveli, Mortenson watched the progress of a legless boy, dragging himself trough the chaos of the Khyber on a wooden skid. He looked no older then ten, and the scar tissue on his stumps led him to believe, he had been the victim of a land mine. The boy made grueling progress past customers at a cart where an old turbaned man stirred a cauldron of cardamom tea, his head level with the exhaust pipes of passing taxis. Above the boy’s field of vision, Mortenson saw a driver climb into a Datsun pickup truck loaded with artificial limbs and start the engine.

    Nothing of this sort happened. We went to the market to go shopping for the aforementioned Pashtun clothing. But only for what could be needed during the visit to South Waziristan. From the places I took him in Peshawar, it would have been impossible for him to see what he described:

    Exhausted refugees, fleeing the fighting, were flowing east in equal numbers, and straining the capacity of muddy camps on the margin of Peshawar.

    We did not go to visit the outskirts and muddy camps on the margin of Peshawar. The reason for buying him Pashtun clothing was to hide his identity. Foreigners were strictly prohibited from visiting the outskirts of Peshawar. We spent our night together in the hotel.

    To win the trust of his readers, Greg tells another lie:

    From inside his room Mortenson heard a knock and answered the door. Badam Gul slipped past him with cigarette dangling from his lip, a bundle under his arm, and a pot of tea on a tray. Mortenson had met the man, a fellow hotel guest, the evening before, by a radio in the lobby, where they had both been listening to a BBC account of Taliban rebels rocketing Kabul. Gul told him he was from South Waziristan and had a lucrative career collecting rare butterflies all over central Asia and supplying them to European museums.

    The truth, as I mentioned, is that Greg and I came together from Rawalpindi to Peshawar. No persons were allowed to meet him. I had warned him about the sensitivity of the volatile situation in the Northwest Frontier Province. Badam Gul actually exists and he is my actual brother, but Greg did not meet him in Peshawar. In the month of July Mahsud families migrate to the mountains of South Waziristan to relax and enjoy the cool weather instead of living in the hot settled areas. Badam Gul had also gone to South Waziristan that month, and I introduced him to Greg when we arrived in Ladha. Presently Badam Gul is still performing his duties as assistant entomologist in the city of Dera Ismail Khan. Badam Gul did not drive Greg to South Waziristan or anywhere else. I, Naimat Gul Mahsud was Greg’s driver. What Greg wrote is a clever lie, a dramatic fiction intended make his book a bestseller.

    Once again, Greg dreams fictitious things to write in his book:

    The gray Toyota Sedan was waiting when Mortenson came carefully down the stairs at dawn, afraid of splitting the seams on his clothes…. Gul, smiling reassuringly, told him he had been called suddenly to Afghanistan on business. The good news, however, was that the driver, a Mr. Khan, was a native of a small village near Ladha and had agreed to take him there.

    As I mentioned that Badam Gul had already gone to Ladha. Nobody else accompanied Greg, except me. I had rented a Toyota car model 1986. The following morning we headed to South Waziristan via Dara Adam Khel,
    Bannu, and Miranshah, on our way to Ladha subdivision. Greg writes in Three Cups of Tea that one hundred kilometers south of the city they pass into South Waziristan, the most untamed of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Provinces. The Wazir were a people apart, no tribe captured Greg’s imagination more. The Wazir were also underdogs. He soon saw the region for what it was: bands of tribal powers, shunted into states created arbitrarily by European nations that took little account of each tribes primal alliance to its own people. No tribe captured his imagination like the Wazir. Loyal to neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan, they were Pushthuns.

    The Toyota passed through six Militia checkpoints before entering Waziristan proper. Greg felt sure he would be stopped and turned back. At each post, sentries pulled aside the sedan curtains and studied the large, sweating foreigner in the ridiculous ill-fitting outfit, and each time Khan reached into the pocket of the leather aviator jacket he wore despite the heat and counted out enough rupees to keep the car moving South.

    Greg says that he had been abducted. If this was true, why then did he not attract the attention of sentries to tell them that he was kidnapped?

    Before starting our journey I had taught Greg a few words of traditional greeting. That was, when you shake hands with someone on the way, he has to be asked, “May you not be tired,” and “How is your family?” The car was driven by me: No imaginary “Khan” was there, as he wrote. I did not pay any money at any checkpost. I was tribal and knew tribal customs and tradition, how to behave with sentries at checkposts. It is considered awkward to bribe someone when traveling in the tribal lands.

    Greg writes, “They passed squat gun factories, where Wazir craftsmen made skillful copies of many of the world’s automatic weapons.” There are not any factories in North and South Waziristan where skillful copies of automatic weapons are made. Before arriving in Waziristan we stopped in the city of Dara Adam Khel and went into the arms shops there. Skillful copies of automatic weapons have been made at Dara Adam Khel since the British era. Greg should have known the geographical details about Waziristan before narrating such vile lies. Dara Adam Khel is situated at a distance of only 40 kilometers from Peshawar. The factories we visited are 120 kilometers far from Waziristan. Dara Adam Khel is a part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. It has never been a part of Waziristan. Any slightly learned man can understand the map of Peshawar, if he chooses to look. The only place in Waziristan where broken 303 rifles could be repaired was Kaniguram, situated at six kilometers distance from Ladha. Nowhere in Waziristan do weapons copying factories exist.

    Mortenson wrote that

    we stopped for launch in Bannu, Waziristan’s biggest settlement, where they wove through dense traffic of donkey carts and double-cab pickups. At a tea shop, Mortenson stretched as much as his shalwar would allow, and tried to strike up a conversation with a table of men, type of elders Haji Ali had advised him to seek out, while the driver went looking for a shop selling his brand of cigarettes. Mortenson’s Urdu produced blank stares, and he promised himself he would devote some of his time back in Bozeman to studying Pashto.

    As I mentioned, Dara Adam Khel has never been a part of Waziristan. It is a part of the Khyber Pass, which is situated near Peshawar at 40 km distance. Dara Adam Khel is considered FR [Frontier Region] and is administrated by the assistant Political Agent of Khyber. Khyber and Waziristan are far away from each other. Both of the agencies Khyber and Waziristan have their own Political Agents. In both agencies Pashtuns are the inhabitants, but
    Khyber and Waziristan Pashtuns have each inherited a distinct culture and Pashto accent. From Dara Adam Khel up to Bannu, the Wazir do not own one square foot of land. In Bannu, members of the Bannuchi caste inherited the land from their ancestors, while around the fringe of the main city of Bannu, the Wazir have bought land, and in addition the Wazir have fought against the Bannuchi and occupied their land by force. Some of the Wazir have inherited land in Domil on the east side of Bannu. These properties are still owned by Wazirs.

    Bannu is not the biggest settlement of Waziristan, as Greg has written. Bannu is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The people of Bannu live their lives under the shelter of Pakistani law, Police agencies, and courts. In contrast, Waziristan is a part of FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which are administrative entities beyond the jurisdiction of many Pakistani laws, roughly analogous to American Indian reservations]. Greg is in error when he writes that Bannu is Waziristan’s biggest settlement.

    Greg unmasked himself when he writes that I went looking for a shop selling my brand of cigarettes, while he tried to “strike up a conversation with a table of men, the type of elders Haji Ali had advised him to seek out, but his Urdu produced blank stares.” It is commonly understood and recognized that no criminal would leave a kidnapped person alone. Kidnappers never like to expose themselves to law enforcement agencies. Upon entering Waziristan one must visit a Police station and a frontier constabulary checkpoint.

    We arrived in Bannu having pleasant moods. I never thought that one day Greg would portray me as the fictitious “Khan,” the driver. We stopped in Bannu at a tea hotel adjacent to the Police station, took tea, and headed to Waziristan. The only true thing Greg wrote in this passage is that we wove through dense traffic of donkey carts and double-cab pickup. Nothing has changed: donkey carts and double-cab pickups are still seen on the roads here.

    Sometime I become astonished that the minds of those who live in a highly developed superpower nation such as America are not so advanced and learned as we in underdeveloped countries imagine them to be. I feel proud to be who I am, being a tribal, whom 99% are illiterate. A little more I can judge the phenomena of Greg’s writings. Greg is ignorant about the geographical situation and realities of the area. It is shocking, what Greg tries to tell to the world, specifically what he tells Americans who are unaware of the his geographical lies. Greg writes,

    Across the dusty street, behind high walls was the Saudi-built Madrassa-I-Arabia, where two years later, John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban,” would come to study a fundamentalist brand of Islam called “Wahhabism.” Lindh, fresh from the crisp climate of Marin County, would reportedly wilt under the anvil of Waziristan’s sun, and cross the passes into Afghanistan, to continue his education at a madrassa in the mountains with a more temperate climate, a madrassa financed by another Saudi, Osama Bin Ladin.

    The way the road from Peshawar to Bannu is constructed, as soon as one enters Bannu city, the road turns from Bannu to Miranshah. There was no madrassa of the sort Greg describes on either side of road when we started driving from Bannu towards Waziristan.

    At Baka Khel we were halted by the customs and Police checkpoint. Just beyond this place called Baka Khel is where the land of the Wazir begins. Baka Khel is in the Frontier Region like Bannu, and is administrated by the assistant political agent, who is accountable for his duties to the commissioner in Bannu. Beyond Baka Khel, the land of the Wazir is considered a Federally Administered Tribal Area [FATA]. At the Baka Khel checkpoint, a Police officer came and looked into the car. He inquired after the foreigner (Greg Mortenson). I simply replied to him that foreigner (Greg) was a friend of mine. He further asked me some questions and demanded my national identity card, noted down my whereabouts and other details mentioned in ID card. Then he allowed me to drive ahead.

    There are four checkpoints on the way to the tehsil of Mir Ali: (1) Baka Khel, (2) Dhree Ghundari, (3) Isha, (4) Kajuri Kuch. We were dealt with in the same way at all checkpoints.

    Kajuri Kuch is the entrance checkpoint to Mir Ali. This road straightaway leads to Tehsil Ladha, the Mahsud homeland, after passing through Wazir land. From the Kjuri Kuch checkpoint, a Madrassa has been built at about 4 kilometers away. When we arrived at this Madrassa, I pulled up the car on the left side of the road opposite the Madrassa’s main gate. I told Greg that I needed to wash my hands and face with cool water. As I got out of the car he opened the door and asked me if he could come with me. I told him, Why not? You are my guest; according to custom and tradition you can go everywhere freely; I am responsible to provide you safety and comfort.

    We entered into the Madrassa, went to the place specifically built for the faithful to perform their ablutions. We sat down on concrete seats to wash our hands and faces. I suggested that if he was keen, he was welcome to walk about the Madrassa. He said that he would indeed like to roam about the Islami Madrassa. In those days Osama Bin Ladin was not so popular among the tribal men; he didn’t at that time finance Madrassas to train Talibs. People of Waziristan from both of the Mahsud and Wazir tribes were impressed by the Haqqani and Mullah Omar groups.

    Greg did not talk to any of the Madrassa students or the Mullah. All that he wrote about the Madrassa in Bannu is plainly false. Greg might have later studied about Lindh and his visit to study Wahhabism and added it to his book to make it more commercial. During that era there was no concept to differentiate Wahhabism from other Islamic views and creeds.

    We walked about the Madrassa, inspected it thoroughly, and then came out to drive to Ladha. There were some five more checkpoints to be passed. These checkpoints are manned by the Khasadar Force; the Khasadar Force is a paramilitary militia comprised of local tribesmen under the command of the FATA Political Agent. The men in the Khasadar Force who perform such duties are all from a lower caste. They are traditionally obligated to behave with deference toward the tribal men passing through the checkpoints. If ever they behave violently, they can be impeached by the tribal men, so they oftentimes take care not to trouble or enmity for themselves. Therefore we were treated politely at every checkpoint. They never asked for bribes or anything like that. Throughout the long drive I remained calm, fresh, relaxed. I had nothing on my mind, not any burden, because I had nothing to give me a guilty conscience. I was just going to my home with a foreigner guest.

    All the checkpoints are linked and to each other with communication equipment. The Khasadars inform the Political Agent about all the events they experience during their duties. Because of this, criminals do not usually travel on any route where they must pass through checkpoints. Criminals and miscreants prefer to travel on the substitute routes, which are built in hilly areas where they will not be stopped, and can travel unchecked on their own accord. If ever the Khasadars at a checkpoint see someone who seems to be suspicious or doubtful, first they are obligated to immediately inform the Political Agent, and then suspicious person would be stopped at further checkpoints. If a suspicious traveler resists in any way, he would be arrested on the spot with the help of the Frontier Constabulary. The Frontier Constabulary Force is unrelenting. They would not hesitate to open fire and shoot dead the suspicious person. Anyone would understand that it would be insane for a kidnapper to attempt to pass through 10 or 12 checkpoints with the person he has kidnapped.

    Greg writes in Three Cups of Tea:

    All afternoon, they drove deeper into Waziristan, while Mortenson practiced a few polite Pashto greetings the driver taught him…. [Mortenson says,] “We were really getting to the heartland of the tribal areas and i was excited to have made it so far.” Just south of Ladha, as the sun dropped into Afghanistan, they arrived at Kot Langerkhel, Khan’s ancestral home. The village was just two general stores flanking a sandstone mosque and had the flyblown feel of end places the world over. A dusty goat relaxed across the center of the road, its legs splayed so flat it looked like roadkill. Khan called out a greeting to men in a warehouse behind the bigger of the two shops and then told the driver to pull the car inside, where it would be safe overnight.
    The scene inside the warehouse set Mortenson immediately on edge. Six Wazir men with bandoliers criss-crossed on their chests slumped on packing crates smoking hashish from a multinecked hookah. Piled against the walls, Mortenson saw stacks bazookas, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and crates of oily new AK-47s….
    The scruffiest of the smugglers, who smelled as if hashish oil was seeping from his pores, offered Mortenson a mouthpiece of the hookah, which he declined as politely as possible.

    This warehouse Mortenson tells about in Three Cups Of Tea is situated in Zai village, which is a 45-minute walk from Kot Langer Khel. We arrived at this warehouse on July 15, 1996. There was no road to Khot Langer Khel. So we pulled the car inside the warehouse where it would be safe overnight. This warehouse is owned by a person whose name is Rahim Jan. He is still alive and has been living at Dera Ismail Khan since the residents of Ladha got displaced from their houses by terrible violence in 2009.

    We tribal people are bound by the strong traditions of Pashtunwali to offer our guests protection and hospitality; there is nothing more important to us except our religion. In tribal society it would be shameful to offer hashish to a guest, whether that guest was a foreigner like Greg or a local. Smoking hashish in public, in our culture, would be like appearing naked in public. I have never heard or seen such a disgraceful thing during my life. Hashish is considered by the people of Mahsud tribe to be an unlawful (haram) drug, as our religion Islam describes it, too. The warehouse is a traditional house, built of mud and stone; warehouses of this sort are seen all over South Waziristan along the roadsides, built close enough to houses on the hillsides above so people can walk to their homes carrying their luggage.

    Rahim Jan is humble, gentle, typical tribal man. He is not ever seen smoking cigarettes, let alone hashish. Greg’s claim that he smoked hashish with a hookah in his warehouse is an unforgivable smear of Rahim Jan’s honor.

    The region of South Waziristan that is the Mahsud homeland is surrounded by North Waziristan to the north and Tehsil Wana to the south (both inhabited by the Wazir tribe). To the east is the territory of the Bhittani tribe; to the west, beyond the Koh-e-Hindu Kush hills, lies Afghanistan. The Mahsud tribe do not own even one piece of land where hashish and opium could be cultivated to smuggle abroad. We have built small fields where barley and wheat are commonly cultivated. Anyone who has visited to the Mahsud territory, or simply looked at a map of the globe, should be able to understand that the routes used by smugglers and drug traffickers do not go through this part of Waziristan. The majority of the Mahsuds work in the UAE [United Arab Emirates], or work as domestic help in Karachi. So it shocked me when Greg wrote that I introduced him to the scruffiest of smugglers, and offered him a mouthpiece of the hookah. It is not a part of the Mahsuds’ tradition to smoke the hookah even seldom; Greg’s account of smoking a hookah with the Mahsud tribe is a dramatic fiction. We place tobacco (Naswar) inside our lips inside, but not to be chewed.

    “Only a day’s drive from the modern world, I really felt we had arrived in the middle ages,” Mortenson says. “There was no moat to cross, but I felt that way when I walked inside.” The walls were massive, and the cavernous rooms were ineffectually lit by flickering lanterns. A gun tower rose fifty feet above the courtyard so snipers could pick off anyone approaching uninvited.

    As I explained, Kot Langer Khel, where we stayed, is a forty-five-minute walk from the warehouse in Nai village where I parked my rented Toyota. We took his luggage on our shoulders and walked to Kot Langer Khel. Greg and I spent the days described in Three Cups of Tea in the house of the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of the Police, who is a close cousin of mine. He seldom comes to Waziristan. His house was under my supervision when he was away, and I often used it to offer clean lodging to respectable guests. The rooms and latrines were built in the modern Western style. Greg was given warm hospitality, and was served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Contrary to what Greg has written in Three Cups of Tea, no Mahsud would ever watch a person using the toilet. This would be forbidden by tradition and custom, even for prisoners held in jail. To do this to an honored guest like Greg would be unthinkable.

    In 1972, the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto [president of Pakistan at the time] visited Ladha, South Waziristan, and after his visit a regular electric supply was brought to South and North Waziristan. Greg visited Tehsil Ladha in July 1996, many years after the “flickering lanterns” he described in Three Cups of Tea had been replaced by electric lights. One can imagine that a residence built for the DIG of the Police would be very nice. Attached are photos of Greg that I took in the bedroom of this house where we stayed during his visit to South Waziristan, where he can be seen writing.

    “Mahnam do die,” Hajji Mirza announced, “Dinner.” The savory smell of lamb lured Khan out from under his coat. Urbanized as he appeared, the driver still drew a dagger at the site of roasted meat with the dozen other Wazir at the feast. Hajji Mirza’s servant placed a steaming tray of Kabuli Pilau, rice with carrots, cloves, and raisins, on the floor next to the lamb, but the men only had eyes for the animals. They attacked it with their long daggers, stripping tender meat from the bone and cramming it into their mouths with the blades of their knives. “I thought the Balti ate with gusto,” Mortenson said, “but this was the most primal, barbaric meal I have ever been a part of. After ten minutes of tearing and grunting, the lamb was nothing but bones, and the men were burping and wiping the grease off their beards.”

    In our religion, and especially in our tribal society, using daggers or any other eating utensils is religiously forbidden. The Mullah says that for Muslims, using or eating with fork, knives, and spoons is a sin and impious. Cutlery is used by atheists and infidels. Muslims are taught since childhood that when eating a meal, the right hand should be used to handle food; the left hand is Evil’s hand. In the current modern era, it has become widely known that the tribal people of Pakistan are extremely religious. They have faith in one God. Since 1980 they have been resisting and performing Jihad against the invaders of Afghanistan, under the shelter of one God.

    All this has been confirmed by Sir Olaf Caroe, the respected international scholar who thoroughly researched the Pashtun culture in his book, The Patans.

    Mez is also respected research, written by Alvin Hall.

    Nobody on this planet who is knowledgeable about the Pashtuns would write that members of the Mahsud tribe are ever seen eating with the sharp points of daggers—this is the sort of ridiculous fiction that one expects in a Hollywood movie, not a book that claims to be truthful. All of what Greg has written goes against our basic teaching of Islam. I invite intelligent persons from all over the world to provide evidence that the Mahsud tribe are barbarians as Greg has described us. It cannot be proven because it is not true, and has not been true throughout history. It would be a disgrace to the creed of Islam to eat food in this fashion. It is forbidden in Islam even to eat big morsels, to say nothing of eating with daggers. We do not even eat with five fingers; only four fingers are used when eating.

    Three Cups of Tea is a work of complete invention, meant to be an inviting commercial success. We visited some prominent persons in South Waziristan who can refute Greg’s lies. We had had lunch at Chalwishti Buder with General Alam Jan’s brother Malik Anayatullah. The same day on our way back to Kot Langer Khel, we visited and had three cups of tea with Sangi Marjan, the commissioner of education, who was living there in those days. Greg admired that Sangi Marjan expressed himself fluently in English.

    We came back to Kot Langer Khel. But during Greg’s visit the Political Agent was informed that a foreigner was seen stationed at Kot Langer Khel, and the political authorities demanded that I produce him to appear before the Political Agent. I replied to the concerned authorities that Greg would be immediately returning to Islamabad and would never be produced before the PA court. According to the customs and traditions of Pashtunwali, I was morally obligated to make sure Greg had a safe return to Islamabad. After some days we departed for Peshawar in my car. When I checked my bag some amount of Rp 10,000 was missing. I kept silent and gave Greg a hug, saw him off for Islamabad.

    Years later, when I scanned through the book, Three Cups Of Tea, and read that Greg had been abducted and threatened with guns, I was shocked. Instead of telling the world about our frustration, deprivation, illiteracy, and tradition of hospitality, he invented a false story about being abducted by savages. I do not understand why he did this.

    I, Naimat Gul Mahsud, am the man who brought Greg Mortenson to Tehsil Ladha, South Waziristan, an area inhabited by the Mahsud tribe. We never traveled into the areas of Waziristan inhabited by the Wazir tribe. He spent approximately 15 days with me in Kot Langer Khel, Tehsil Ladha. He was never abducted or held against his wishes. As my honored guest, he was treated with hospitality and kindness.

    Greg Mortenson’s lies have brought dishonor to me and the Mahsud tribe. I would like to invite intellectuals and journalists from all over the world to investigate this matter and bring Greg Mortenson to justice.

  11. Guy Montag says:

    “With Three Cups of Luck?” — How Jon Krakauer’s Take-Down of Greg Mortenson Launched Byliner.com

    “It’s [“Into Thin Air”] there in print forever. It’s part of history. People should be above taking someone else down. And for what? For money and egos people are willing to destroy other people to further their careers.”

    — David Breashears, (“Improper Bostonian”, Sept 24, 1997)
    . . .

    On April 17, 2011 CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired their expose of Greg Mortenson (best-selling author of “Three Cups of Tea”). Jon Krakauer (best-selling author of “Into Thin Air”) said that Mortenson tells a “beautiful story, and it’s a lie” and “uses Central Asia Institute (CAI) as his private ATM machine.”

    This expose resulted in a dramatic drop in Mortenson’s book sales and donations to CAI. So, it’s rather ironic that after his break with Mortenson in 2004, Krakauer had written: “I still believe in CAI’s mission … I don’t want to make any public statements that would have a negative impact on Greg’s work….”

    So then, seven years later, what prompted Jon Krakauer to speak out on “60 Minutes” and write his e-book “Three Cups of Deceit”? Well, Krakauer was not just a “jilted crank” or “crusading do-gooder” outraged by literary deceit and lax accounting practices. It appears that Krakauer’s e-book was also a publicity stunt whose publication was timed with the “60 Minutes” broadcast (that was largely based on research spoon-fed to them by Krakauer) to create the “buzz” to raise the investment capital needed to launch his old friend Mark Bryant’s start-up of Byliner.com.

    Once Mortenson comes out of seclusion, he certainly needs to answer questions about his literary and financial practices. However, I believe Krakauer also needs to answer questions about how he “got onto the Mortenson story” (but, like Mortenson, Krakauer isn’t talking to the press).

    And, while it certainly appears that Greg Mortenson confabulated parts of his ”inspirational story,” Jon Krakauer has also had “credibility problems” with his own books. Krakauer displayed hypocrisy by “throwing stones” when his own hands are not clean of deceit.

    Overall, I believe Daniel Glick (at danielglick.net) has offered the most balanced commentary on this affair: “[‘60 Minutes’ and Jon Krakauer’s assault was overkill] lacking in basic elements of fairness, balance, perspective, insight and context. … Mortenson is neither a saint nor a charlatan; Krakauer is not either a jilted crank or a crusading do-gooder. There are nuances, debatable “facts” and conflicting motivations in almost every situation, messy and at times seemingly irreconcilable. This is no exception.”
    . . .
    Note: An un-abridged version of this post (with hyperlinks, more detailed quotes, and complete references can be found in the chapter, “With Three Cups of Luck?,” in the post, “Jon Krakauer’s Credibility Problem” at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com

    P.S. How come Alex Heard didn’t address Jon Krakauer’s Byliner publicity stunt in his 2-20-12 “Outside Magazine” article “The Trials of Greg Mortenson”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>