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Letters 5/9/11

- May 9th, 2011
The legacy of bin Laden
While it is just and proper for our government to do whatever is necessary
to protect we citizens, is that a moral justification for dancing in the
streets at the death of another human being? Bear in mind this individual
is highly regarded in a large segment of the earth’s disenfranchised
people. Our revelry will serve to infuriate these people.
Bin Laden himself once said that he did not hate Americans, only American
foreign policy. Didn’t we learn anything from our meddling in the affairs
of Iran? Or Venezuela? Most Americans do not realize that OPEC originated
in South America because of our exploitive practices there.
While we find it abhorrent that anyone would resort to terrorism to
achieve their political ends, Bin Laden did not set this precedent. Nor
was he the first to appeal to religious zealotries to serve his cause. Now
we must address the reprisals that are sure to come and the ones following
our actions against them etc. etc.
Again, while we must do whatever is necessary to protect we citizens, the
first thing we must do is stop exploiting other nations for our own
interests. The next thing is to admit to and address the wrongs we have
committed in the past. The last thing is to try to learn from and avoid
such actions in the future. This is not going to be easy or happen
overnight. We are still suffering from the resentments caused by the
exploitation of Native Americans and Africans more than a century after we
began to try to atone for our actions.
While it is just and right to have executed Bin Laden because of the
threat he posed to the United States and indeed the entire world, before
we rejoice in the streets we need to consider the part we played in
creating him.

Roger Paupore • TC

Cheers for ‘Bodies’
In response to Keith Lint’s letter in the April 18 issue, I say hooray to
the Dennos museum’s current exhibit “Bodies Human.”
I went this past weekend, and found it fascinating and educational. The
bodies were displayed in tasteful, athletic poses, illustrating how
certain muscle groups are engaged.
The exhibit gave me an appreciation to rededicate myself to getting fit,
and also helped explain some of my own physical limitations.

Deanna Hergt • via email

Support motherhood
Congrats:Your recent article on Jamie Kramer (“The ART of Motherhood”) was
perfect for the Mother’s Day timeline. She has a vision and an intuitive
sense of doing the right thing. Her support of these families is an
incredible reminder to me of how important it is to be loved.

Joani Braun • Elk Rapids

Mortenson’s response
I’m amazed. How could you take anything from 60 Minutes as truth without
really checking more thoroughly? (re: “Three Cups of Uproar,” Random
Thoughts, 5/9) Through the years 60 Minutes has repeatedly stretched the
truth and embellished to their own design.
Here is Greg Mortenson’s response from his email (I’m on his mailing
list). Did you contact the Central Asia Institute before writing your
article? Did you talk to Greg Mortenson? Did you not realize that remarks
from people who speak English as a second language or not at all could get
lost in translation?

Nancy Johnson • via email

(Thanks Nancy, but Mortenson apparently chose to speak only to his
hometown newspaper in Bozeman, Montana, declining a chance to speak with
60 Minutes, journalist Jon Krakauer, Newsweek, the New York Times and the
worldwide media in general. Following is Mortenson’s response to his
supporters. -- R.D.

Dear Nancy,

Asalaam-o-Alaikum (Peace Be With You). Greetings from Montana and on
behalf of the dear children and communities we serve in rural Afghanistan
and Pakistan.
Thank you (Tashakur and Shukuria) for the overwhelming response to the
news in recent days, for the outpouring of support, prayers and the
confidence that you, our supporters, have showered upon Central Asia
Institute, Pennies For Peace and my family. In the midst of these
difficult and challenging days, I keep thinking about the Persian proverb,
“When it is darkest you can see the stars.” You are all shining lights and
we are grateful for your compassion.
Although we would like the world to be linear, orderly and peaceful, the
reality is that our world is a dynamic, fluid place, often filled with
chaos and confusion. In that space, I thrive and get the courage to help
bring change and empower people. I also feel great pride that you have
chosen to support those who live in the ‘Last Best Places’ where other
organizations or governments offer few or no services.
I welcome and am used to facing criticism, which sometimes even turns into
hostility and threats, over the important work we do in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. As an introvert and shy person, it is also not easy to have
to enter an arena of a media circus at the drop of a heartbeat. But, as
those of you who know me and have supported my work over the years will
recognize, the story being framed by 60 Minutes to air in a few hours
today - as far as we can tell -- paints a distorted picture using
inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s
(2009) IRS 990 financial, and a few points in the book Three Cups of Tea
that occurred almost 18 years ago. Apparently, the CBS program is to be
followed in the near future by a similar negative piece by Jon Krakauer in
an unknown magazine, which I only recently heard about last week (the
e-book, Three Cups of Deceit).
The Board of Directors and I made the very difficult decision to not
engage with 60 Minutes on camera, after they attempted an 11th hour
aggressive approach to reach me, including an ambush in front of children
at a book signing at a community service leadership convention in
Atlanta. It was clear that the program’s disrespectful approach would not
result in a fair, balanced or objective representation of our work, my
books or our vital mission. We also turned down a last minute request for
an interview with Jon Krakauer.
The 60 Minutes program may appear to ask simple questions, but the answers
are often complex, not easily encapsulated in 10-second sound bites.
Working in isolated areas, in communities that are not on any map, and
often in areas of turmoil, religious extremism or natural disasters where
education is still relatively rare and ancient codes of conduct and social
hierarchies still dominate - all these things demand constant adjustment,
accommodation and patience.
We have always maintained that our work is about investing in
relationships, respecting elders, and listening over a time span that
stretches generations, not in one that lasts just a few minutes on prime
time television.
So although I did not do an on-camera interview, CAI’s Board of Directors
and I have duly responded to questions provided us late last week by 60
Minutes with both statements and answers. And as always we pride ourselves
to be transparent with our financials and IRS 990 forms.
All of this can be found on our website,, and more
information will be added in coming days.
Because of a medical condition mentioned below, I have spoken with our
hometown newspaper, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, about this attack, and
the newsroom is closely following developments on this story:

• Mortenson under fire from ‘60 Minutes’ - Bozeman philanthropist denies
allegations (Friday, April 15, 2011)
• CAI responds to Mortenson allegations (Sunday, April 17, 2011)

I also recently returned from Afghanistan, and was amazed to see how
incredibly well everything is going there, including having five female
managers (out of 15 total) and a plan to establish and build over 60 new
schools this year. Our board chairman, Dr. Abdul Jabbar, also recently
returned from an extensive trip to Pakistan.
I would like to take this opportunity to disclose that for the last 18
months, I have been struggling with hypoxia (low oxygen saturation), which
made it very difficult to get through a grueling schedule. My physician
told me I had to stop and rest, however the urgency of what we do spurred
me on. Last Friday (4/15/11), I came home and was diagnosed with a hole in
my heart that was shunting blood, causing my low saturations.
Tomorrow, I will have further tests and then a heart surgical procedure
this week to fix the hole. After a few weeks my doctor says I will be as
good as new. For the first time in 18 months, I will have tremendous
energy, strength and lots of oxygen. At that time, I will come out
fighting for what is right and just, and be able to talk to the media.
Regardless of what happens, our work must go on. It’s most important to
know that education is the only thing one can never take away from an
individual; it remains forever.
It is a true blessing to be at home now, with family and friends. In the
meantime, I send you my heartfelt thanks for your continued support, and
if you have any questions or concerns at all, I urge you to contact our
office. Our small committed staff will be responding as quickly as they
can to answer your calls, e-mails and requests for more information.

Greg Mortenson • Bozeman, MT

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