Friday, February 20, 2009

Tomahawk Missiles Won’t Solve Afghanistan Problem

A gentle, kind man from Montana has got far better weapons than the expensive weapons of war!
by Charlie Leck

I just finished (10 minutes ago) a remarkably interesting and inspiring book and I thought I needed to tell you about it; though most of you are probably way ahead of me on this one.

First, let me tell you about how I came across it.

As Christmas was approaching, I was out shopping for gifts for the children and grandchildren. I’m more and more into buying unusual books these days, hoping I can find something just so appropriate for one of the kids or another in particular. As I was sifting through a counter of books, I overheard a clerk promoting a volume to a couple of interested customers a few paces away. He was nearly effervescent in his praise, saying something like this.

“I’ve never heard of anyone who hasn’t been inspired beyond measure by the reading of this book!”

Beyond measure? I remember that fastidious phrase.

I watched carefully to see the particular book he was waving at them as he spoke, and then, after they had dispersed, I sidled on over to take a peek.

Three Cups of Tea – One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin [Penguin Books, New York, 2007 (first published by Viking Penguin in 2006) paperback].

Mortenson? Mortenson? Oh yes, I'd heard of him. He was speaking at my wife’s high school alma mater at a breakfast affair in a few weeks . We tried to get tickets to hear him. Sold out! Great excitement, and all, about his appearance.

I read a few of the promotional blurbs within the first pages of the book.

“Greg Mortenson represents the best of America. He’s my hero. And after you read Three Cups of Tea, he’ll be your hero, too.” [Mary Bono, U.S. Representative (CA)]

“Mortenson’s book has much to say about the American failures in Afghanistan.” [New York Review of Books]

“The Astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his remarkable humanitarian campaign in the Taliban’s backyard.” [Penguin Books]
Yup! Yup! Yup!

Listen! I could tell you a lot of wonderful things about my read, but here’s a leader: I held on to this book with as much intense interest as I do when I read a John Grisham thriller. And, I do believe that Greg Mortenson, a regular, frumpy guy from Montana, is one of my new, special heroes.

I’ll tell you another thing, and that’s that I do hope President Obama has been reading this book, but I don’t believe he has. We’d do something other than increase our troop strength in Afghanistan if he had.

In a Nicholas Kristof column of 13 July 2008,(It Takes a School – Not Missles), he wrote about Mortenson and his astonishingly successful work.

“Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

“Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

“Mr. Mortenson… takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

“The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools. “Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.”
Yup! I kid you not. This is one book, unless you are a piece of concrete, you will never be sorry you read.

I’ll write more about it in the coming weeks – after you’ve had an opportunity to go through it.

“Mr. Mortenson found his calling in 1993 after he failed in an attempt to climb K2, a Himalayan peak, and stumbled weakly into a poor Muslim village. The peasants nursed him back to health, and he promised to repay them by building the village a school.

‘Scrounging the money was a nightmare — his 580 fund-raising letters to prominent people generated one check, from Tom Brokaw — and Mr. Mortenson ended up selling his beloved climbing equipment and car. But when the school was built, he kept going. Now his aid group, the Central Asia Institute, has 74 schools in operation. His focus is educating girls.” [Please read… the rest of the story (column)]
This book is, indeed, inspiring beyond measure!
"Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business: the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything -- even die." [Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan]

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