Pennies for Peace
(Image credit: Amy Frost for The Oklahoma Daily)
Sources: Congressional Research Service.
All estimates are of the costs of military operations only and do not reflect costs of veterans’ benefits,
interest on war-related debt, or assistance to allies.
For those of you not good on the big numbers, that's a TRILLION dollars in the post 9/11 Iraq, Afghanistan War Cost column. That trillion dollars is going toward the great military behemoth that is both ineffective in this war (it's been nine years people), is decimating the civilian population and thereby creating more hatred of Americans, and is robbing, right before your eyes, your children's and my children's economic future.
The solution that Kristof proposes is to take money it costs to fund a few soldiers and build schools. Ah, you say, the Taliban in Afghanistan would never allow this. Well, it has and it will.
Greg Mortenson at his Gultori school
attribution unknown, ikat.org
As a longtime follower of Greg Mortenson (a fellow climber!) and his splendid Central Asia Institute, I can tell you that if you read Greg's books, and look at Greg's results, they speak for themselves. At no small personal risk (especially since in a lot of places in Pakistan and Afghanistan Americans are now regarded with not just suspicion but open dislike if not hatred) Greg Mortenson goes into villages and respectfully talks with tribal leaders about the benefits of building schools and educating not just their boys but their girls. Not those fake schools, like madrassas in Pakistan where many boys can only recite the Qu'ran but cannot read it. Real schools. Where you learn to read, write and do basic math so you can keep track of your sales of whatever goods or services you can offer because now you have the ammunition intellectually to have a useful trade when you finish school, as opposed to being a potential terrorist and cannon fodder.
As Nick Kristof points out in his articles, not a single one of Greg's schools has been destroyed by the Taliban. And Greg's built well over 200 of them and is operating dozens more in buildings that already existed. The projects themselves are successful, and indeed, protected by local interests, because CAI engages people at a local level and gets them to actively participate. (Somehow I think you are slightly less likely to tear or burn down something that you yourself built...) And believe me, if you've read Greg's books, you know just how vested people are in building these schools. And how hard lugging the supplies to build them is. They WANT these schools.
Porters carry roof beams 18 miles to Korphe School. Pakistan.
attribution unknown, ikat.org
Mortenson estimates to Kristof that the cost of maintaining 239 US soldiers in Afghanistan would provide funds to build schools throughout the entire country.
I am really hoping that Sasha and Malia are reading Nick Kristof's columns because based on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, they appear to be some of the only people asking Barack Obama the tough questions about what he's doing to fix things these days.
What can you do, other than write your Congressman? CAI has some simple programs to raise funds to build schools. Mortenson's original project, which started out in Pakistan has now broadened to comprise Afghanistan, and outreach programs in Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan. His simplest to implement project is one in the schools of American children. They've been doing it in my child's school. Pennies for Peace educates children about the broader world and tries to engage them in helping children elsewhere attain what they have in abundance here: education, healthcare, and the promise of a future freer of poverty. You can also view other fundraising options here.
Check out these excellent books if you want to see Change You Can (Really) Believe In.
And subscribe to Greg's Newsletter, Alima. Alima means wise and learned woman in Urdu. Alim is the male counterpart.
It would be great if American dollars could be the way to create many of them.