Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Greg Mortenson controversyGreg Mortenson became famous through his book Three Cups of Tea (2007) and his charity that builds schools for kids in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). Now a CBS 60 Minutes investigation has raised serious questions as to the accuracy of his memoir and, more seriously, about how responsible CAI is, which Mortenson runs himself. This PBS Newshour report describes the issues (Questions Linger Over 'Three Cups of Tea' Author Mortenson's Tales, Charity 04/22/2011):
Marianne Elliot, who has worked in the region, writes in Three Cups of Humble Pie Huffington Post 04/21/11 about how dilemmas of cutting corners in a memoir, especially for someone who is using it to prominently promote his charity:
If we plan to then leverage our story to encourage our readers to donate money to our cause then we bear an even heavier responsibility not to mislead them in any way. Greg Mortenson appears to have taken this responsibility too lightly.She also reminds us that good intentions are not enough to make effective projects:
Without teachers or ongoing operating budgets, perhaps built in the wrong place in the first instance, the image of Central Asia Institute (CAI) schools being used as warehouses or sitting completely empty has shocked many people.In the PBS segment, Margaret Warner interview Daniel Borochoff on the financial doubts about the CAI charity:
DANIEL BOROCHOFF, [President of the] American Institute of Philanthropy: Well, first, we found out that he didn't have an audited financial statement, so very little in the way of accountability.Borochoff also questions Mortenson's judgment in publicly associating himself so closely with the US military:
Also, his connection with the military is curious, because these are really dangerous areas. And why does he want to publicly identify with the military? He could advise them secretly, in private, but that's dangerous. And there's groups like Doctors Without Borders that purposely don't -- don't accept money from the -- even the U.S. government, because they don't want to have that association that could lead to their facilities and programs being attacked.The American Institute of Philanthropy has a Charity Watch website that people can use to research the transparency and financial accountability of charities to whom they are considering contributing.
Tags: afghanistan war, greg mortenson
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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