April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Deceit

This is a very disturbing read, not pleasant for me in any way. It is written in very strong terms. Central Asia Institute has done amazing things in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and I very much support their mission. Greg has done stacks of wonderful work in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This hot off the presses e-book exposes a different side of the story that I am sorry to report seems more than slightly credible and certainly makes me a little sad. I'm not sure what more to think of it at this point, having read it once through. Rock and Ice also issued something preliminary which can be found here. These are important issues for those interested in the health of people living in mountain environments around the world, in education, nonprofit management, and trustworthy spending of their donated dollars. For now, I am taking it with a grain of salt and waiting to learn more. I hope that the way that this has been presented overreaches the data, but for now will just have to wait to learn more.


  1. I read all 79 pages too, and was looking for others who had done the same. It is very disturbing. But financials tell a lot, and it seems that Krakauer captured them aptly. It's sad because Greg is the hero we all wanted to believe in --even when his books made me a bit nervous. My thoughts are here.

  2. Thanks for your comments. There is a lot of activity around this happening on Facebook at the moment. I am a huge fan of the work that Greg as well as his parents have done internationally, but sadly the emerging information is indeed very worrying and appears to be well researched, at least in the case of Jon Krakauer's e-book. Best to you and yours.

  3. Thanks for posting the link to the e-book and to R&I's article, Sam. This is a tough one from every angle.

  4. I bought this book last year and a couple of chapters in it failed to captivate me at first reading I returned to the book finding it interesting and touching and reached chapter 14 in no time when I was shocked to read 'the Guradian' artcle yesterday. One can only hope that, on balance, the benefits to these communities have been realised and that the 'fiction' in the book only serves to engage the reader. That said I am not sure I will continue and nor have I read Krakauer's account who obviously has credibility. Sad state of affairs. Ros Connolly

  5. The saddest aspect of Mortenson's fraud is the effect it has had on American policy toward, and strategy within, Afghanistan. Originally introduced by the wife of a general officer, this book has done more to shape the approach the Department of Defense takes toward operations in Afganistan than does the DoD's own works. This is due to the shameful lack of human intelligence gathered in this part of the world.

    Obama should:

    1) Instruct his Justice Depsrtment to arrest Mortenson and shut down CAI.

    2) Order all copies of "Three Cups of Tea" in the hands of any military member, or any State Dept., CIA official, or any bureaucrat, be confiscated and burned.

    3) Encourage the publisher to issue refunds for anyone who wants to return this piece of fiction.

    4) Most importantly, order the return of every military member and governemnt official from Afghanistan immediately.

  6. Thanks for your comments. This is an issue of import for many.

    I, however, would advocate for a restructuring of CAI as opposed to a shut down. Yearly financial audits and a transitional board change would be an absolute minimum of oversight for the organization during this time of great doubts and questions.

    Having visiting several of the schools and observed some of their positive effects, I think it would be a disservice to Pakistani and Afghani youth to cease educational support. The alternatives include hardline radical muslim education as Afghani and Pakistani governments are unable or unwilling to further fund and support early eduction efforts in these areas.

    What CAI will look like in the future is indeed a big question.

  7. Here is some evidence that there may be more misinformation in Jon Krakauer's writing, than in Three Cups of Tea. Read this interview with his climbing partner Scott Darsney, and how Krakauer is misquoting him.


  8. Thanks very much! If you click the main blog page for AlpineEssence, there are some recent links to Outside Online regarding the Scott Darsney misquoted information. Hope things will get clarified further here in the next month or so. Some serious issues and misinformation perhaps occurring throughout this debate.

  9. I have worked for both Save the Children and UNICEF and I will tell you that all the major non-profits lie through their teeth to their funders. THis is how they do it. They say that one of their missions is education (not as in build schools in godforsaken lands a does the CAI) but they tell compassionate stories of need (written by slick ad agencies) and slap these stories on their marketing pieces and send them out to you and me. THEN they tell their sponsors that 80% of donations go to good works. REALLY? NO! Most of the money goes to those quarterly fliers to raise money...but because they have "educational stories" the charities tell you the marketing piece comes under their mission statement to educate. Money magazine carries the BEST Charities articles and completely misses the fact that most of these charities really have not a 20% or less overhead, but really more like 80% overhead. Then of course there is the adoption racket where you get a photo of your child (many times that photo gets sent to several families) VERY little of your $20 a month gets to that kids, or even that village.
    AT LEAST there are 170 schools FOR 58,000 GIRLS in a harsh land where the Taliban would rather have them enslaved. Why are the BIG charities not being busted. Hmmmm? Something about the AID money and the 20% a charity gets to keep for overseeing the grant. I bet you CAI miss used about 1% of their funds compared to the BIG name charities. Take the log out of thy own eye!


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