Suggested Discussion Outline

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Suggested Discussion Outline

Post by johnkarls »

Bcc: Our E-mail List of Approximately 150
Date: August 7, 2010
Subject: Meeting THIS WEDNESday, Aug 11 – Greg Mortenson’s Stones Into Schools – Please RSVP To Facilitate A Probable One-Time Change of Venue

Dear Friends,

Our next meeting is THIS WEDNESday evening, August 11th. As usual, please join us for socializing from 6:15 pm > 7:00 pm or, if your prefer, come only for our formal discussion from 7:00 pm > 8:45 pm.

Our focus will be Greg Mortenson's "Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan" published last December and available from your local library or from for $16.47 + shipping.

It is a sequel to Mortenson's first book ("Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time") which was the focus for our August 2009 meeting. "Three Cups of Tea" is required reading (1) for all senior U.S. military commanders regardless of location or assignment, (2) for all U.S. officers (regardless of rank) in counter-insurgency training, and (3) for all U.S. Special Forces (including non-officer ranks) deploying to Afghanistan.


It has always been our policy that everyone is welcome to join the discussion even if s/he hasn’t had time to read the book which is the focus for that month.

This would be particularly true for this month because, although Greg Mortenson’s sequel to “Three Cups of Tea” is an equally-inspiring account of his struggles since 1994 (7 years prior to 9/11) to build schools in the most remote areas of the Tribal Regions spanning the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (and that is not a redundancy – remote within the Tribal Regions does mean literally at or beyond “the end of the road”!!!), a discussion of American military involvement in Afghanistan will almost certainly be unavoidable.

In this regard, Pat has posted on our bulletin board ( a very-provocative interview of the head of the Council on Foreign Relations recommending America pull out of Afghanistan – and the July 18 Newsweek article he authored which led to the interview last Sunday on “Face The Nation.”

Dr. Haass has particular expertise on Afghanistan because, before becoming head of the Council on Foreign Relations (which, inter alia, publishes Foreign Affairs Magazine), he served during temporary leaves from academia as (1) the first President Bush’s senior National Security Staff adviser on the Middle East (receiving the Presidential Citizens Medal for his contributions to the development and articulation of American policy during the first Gulf War), and (2) from Jan 2001 to June 2003 as Colin Powell’s Director of Policy Planning at the State Department.

It is interesting, as Pat points out, that Dr. Haass’ new position on Afghanistan lines up with our position in April 2009 seventeen months ago (when last we considered the Afghanistan War), when we issued one of our “six-degrees-of-separation CALLS TO ACTION” for everyone to send (and request all of their friends and acquaintances in an unending chain to send) an e-mail to President Obama recommending beefing up and relying on human intelligence to thwart Osama bin Laden’s fatwa to nuke 10 million Americans, rather continuing the war.

So if you haven’t had time to read Greg Mortenson’s book, the Face-The-Nation interview is only 2.5 computer screens, and Dr. Haass’ July 18 Newsweek article is only 4.0 computer screens on


All of us who have attended a Reading Liberally meeting during the last 3-4 years have met Ted Gurney, a retired U/U Biology Professor, who has been a fixture and avid participant at our meetings.

On July 1st Ted took a fall off their garden wall and suffered severe injuries, especially to his head. After 10 days in an ICU at U/U Hospital, Ted was transferred to a Rehab Unit for OT, PT and speech therapy and this past Tuesday, he was released from the hospital.

A week ago Wednesday Ted recalled our focus on "Three Cups of Tea" 12 months ago and, upon learning that our focus Aug. 11 would be the sequel, his immediate reaction was "I'll have to get that book"!!! Accordingly, Tucker (Ted's wife who is also a retired U/U Biology Professor) would like us to meet this month at their home (203 Fourth Avenue) in order to accommodate Ted’s participation.

However, since everything assumes that Ted will continue to make progress, it is requested that everyone who intends to attend the Aug 11 meeting RSVP (if you haven’t done so already) by tomorrow evening (Sun Aug 8th) by pressing "reply" and typing "I will attend" before hitting "send" - so that you can be notified 24 hours in advance if we need to meet in our normal location at the Salt Lake Public Library (we will send an e-mail by 6:00 pm on Tues confirming which venue will be used).

Thank you for your cooperation.


Topic A:

Greg Mortenson’s wonderful humanitarian work, begun in 1994, 7 years before 9/11.

Topic B:

Opium and economic development.

Afghanistan and Colombia produce virtually all of the world’s opium. With Colombia having a virtual lock on the American market and Afghanistan having a virtual lock on the European market.

Growing opium poppies was banned by the Taliban during its rule of Afghanistan following the Russian military withdrawal in 1989 until the American invasion in 2001.

European allies were appalled by the decision of the Bush Administration in 2002 to permit opium to be grown in Afghanistan without any restriction.

Greg Mortenson avoids the issue throughout his book by occasionally describing the crops being grown by his hosts across Afghanistan as being fruit trees and grain (commonly wheat and barley) OR, MORE OFTEN, BEING OMINOUSLY SILENT ABOUT WHAT WAS BEING GROWN.

According to ... os/af.html > economy, the Afghan labor force is 78.6% agrarian and the GDP per capita is only $800/year. The CIA (same website > people) reports the Afghan population is only 29.2 million people, which would imply that of the total annual GDP of only $23.3 billion/year reported by the CIA, the portion that is derived from agriculture is only $18.4 billion.

So why are we spending more than $160 billion/year on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the Obama Administration’s recent SUPPLEMENTAL appropriation request was for $33 billion, virtually all of which was related to the surge in Afghanistan) – with it being widely reported in the media this past spring that more than half of the $160 billion/year is now being spent in Afghanistan – WHEN THE $80 BILLION FOR AFGHANISTAN IS APPROXIMATELY 4 TIMES THAT COUNTRY’S GDP???

Why can’t we simply spend the same amount of money on infrastructure and economic development and, at the same time, quadruple the Afghan standard of living???

And get rid of opium production at the same time???

Topic C:


There is virtually no reporting whatsoever from Afghanistan regarding ethnicity, as if our domestic political-correctness rule bans our noticing such matters abroad, much less performing any analysis.

You really have to have had your magnifying glass at the ready over several decades to be aware of the following basic facts:

(1) The Taliban are virtually all Pashtun.

(2) Hamid Karzai is Pashtun and virtually all of the “central government” (which most international reporting describes as nothing more than the Kabul city government plus a few suburbs) is and has always been Pashtun.

(3) The CIA reports Afghan ethnicity as Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%.

(4) The United States defeated Russia in Afghanistan after a 6-year struggle = 1983 (4 years after the Russian invasion in 1979) - 1989 by arming the Tajiks in the north.

(5) The real governance of Afghanistan resembles old-fashioned European feudalism – with Tajik feudal lords and most Pashtun feudal lords paying no heed to Hamid Karzai. NB: in this regard, the term “war lord” is simply an American pejorative that means the local feudal lord, many of whom are described by Greg Mortenson throughout his book as being local leaders who gave up personal dreams of becoming historians, scholars, poets, etc. They focus primarily on “providing small-business loans, maintaining roads, digging wells, sitting as judge and jury, supporting education, levying taxes” and, of course, providing security (the quoted material appears on p. 88).

(6) All of the “hue and cry” in the American media about Afghanistan being, having been, and/or becoming, a “failed state” really comprises a failure to recognize that Afghanistan, like the 1,000-year Holy Roman Empire, is a vast array of very-effective feudal states – with all the talk about a “failed state” becoming once more a haven for Al Qaeda being more accurately analyzed as some local feudal states in the Afghan region providing safe haven to Al Qaeda, much like Al Qaeda enjoys safe haven in other small states such as Somalia and Yemen.

Topic D:

Misplaced priorities.

Captured brilliantly by Greg Mortenson on p. 251 where Greg describes a speech he made in 2002 at the Pentagon in which he stated that the cost of each cruise missile is $840 thousand, which could be used instead to “build dozens of schools that could provide tens of thousands of students with a balanced, nonextremist education over the course of a generation” followed by what he obviously intended as a rhetorical question = “Which do you think will make us more secure?”

Topic E:

The elephant in the room.

And I don’t want to “rain on Greg’s parade” since he has done such incredible work over so long a period!!!

But after all his hard work over the last 16 years, he has established only 130 schools which, insofar as he reports on size, typically have a hundred to several hundred students (if memory serves, the largest was just under 1,000).

Yet, Greg happens to mention in contrasting life under the Taliban (p. 318) that during the height of Taliban power (2000), there were only 800 thousand students in all of Afghanistan, all of whom were boys – and that by 2009, there were 8.0 million including 3.4 million girls.

So if you were awake when you read p. 318 and had a calculator handy, you realized that Greg’s efforts (approx. 0.1 million students) are only about 3% of the total for girls and 1% of the grand total.

Topic F:

Where do we go from here???

Shouldn’t we re-affirm our position of 17 months ago to beef up human intelligence to counter Osama bin Laden’s fatwa to nuke 10 million Americans???

In simplistic terms, take the $80 billion/year we are spending on the Afghan War and use half of it to double the Afghan standard of living and the other half to beef up human intelligence – which would, as a by product if the human intelligence we are beefing up are Afghans, quadruple the all-in Afghan standard of living.


I don’t want to be irreverent, but I am extremely curious about whether anyone else was as struck and mystified as I was.

Greg begins his book (Part 1: The Promise – Prologue) with an account of a group of horsemen who had been sent to Pakistan in October 1999 by Abdul Rashid Khan, leader of the last group of Kirghiz in Afghanistan’s High Pamir, to implore Greg to build his first school in Afghanistan and to do so for them.

By the time of our Aug 2009 meeting on “Three Cups of Tea,” Greg already had in operation 15 schools in Afghanistan (to add to the 66 that had been previously built in Pakistan) – he now has 130 in operation with virtually all of the 49 new ones in the last 12 months located in Afghanistan.

Please don’t get me wrong!!!

Because I think Greg should be sainted immediately!!!

Whether or not he is a Roman Catholic!!!

But he ended his book with the story of how 11 years after the request from Abdul Rashid Khan, Greg’s organization was finally racing to complete last fall the school requested by Abdul Rashid Khan with Khan on his death bed!!!

With almost literally Greg’s final words explaining that it would not be until the thaws of 5-6 weeks ago in the High Pamir that Greg would learn whether Khan had lived to see the completion of the school that he had requested 11 years ago!!!

So why did it take Greg 11 years to honor the request??? Particularly when Greg takes such great pride throughout his book over the fact that most NGO’s begin their operations in the most populated cities and then push out into the countryside, whereas Greg’s Central Asia Institute prides itself on going to (or beyond) “the end of the road” to the most remote areas first???

We hope to see and hear all of you on August 11th!!!

Your friend,

John K.

PS - To un-subscribe, please press "reply" and type "deletion requested."

PPS - Our sister organization, Drinking Liberally, usually meets twice a month on Friday evenings for socializing with like-minded individuals from 6:30 pm > 9:30 pm at Piper Down (1492 South State Street).

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