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By Scott Bennett
Jun 26, 2013
photo by Forest Woodward
I've never been to Pakistan, though not for lack of trying.

In late 2011, Blake Herrington, Graham Zimmerman and I were captivated by the pictures and stories of Kyle Dempster, and his 2008 solo attempt on a peak named Tahu Ratum. We had climbed in the bigger ranges of the Western Hemisphere, and felt ready to seek out a challenge in the greatest range of all. Though we knew that Pakistan was a country beset by conflict, we focused on the overwhelmingly positive experiences of our friends who'd visited. All returned with stories of kindness and beauty; friendships formed and cultures, once foreign, now understood.

Tahu Ratum (6651m), the mountain that calls us to Pakistan.
Tahu Ratum (6651m), the mountain that calls us to Pakistan.


We successfully applied for grants (from the amazing Mugs Stump organization and the indispensable American Alpine Club!) and began working with a Pakistani tour operator. Tahu Ratum, our objective, was 151m over the 6500m threshold, and therefore required a Peak permit. Anything under 6500m is considered simply “Trekking” and only required a generic (and much cheaper!) trekking permit. We managed to receive our peak permit in April, and then applied for visas at the Pakistani consulate in Los Angeles. An approved peak/trekking permit is required before a visa will be issued. Nervously, we sent our passports off to LA along with the approved peak permit, visa application, and the $120/person fees.

As spring edged towards summer, though, we had heard no response from the consulate. Our near-daily calls went to voicemail 90% of the time, and the voicemail boxes were always full. When we did manage to speak to an employee of the consulate, he or she would assure us that our applications were being processed and we would receive our visas “soon”.

Our planned date of departure came and went. No visas, no word from the consulate. By late June, we decided to move on to “Plan B”, and enjoyed a fantastic three weeks of climbing in British Columbia's Waddington Range!

Peace, and big mountains, in the Waddington.
Peace, and big mountains, in the Waddington.


January 2013. Graham and I were ready to try again. We applied again for grants, and we applied again for a peak permit. Again, we dreamt of Tahu Ratum.

By June, though, our dreams were again in doubt. For six months, our permit application had languished. Our Pakistani tour operator, who had applied on our behalf, sent us updates, saying our permit “would be ready soon” and “only awaited ISI security clearance.” Pakistan's Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) is immensely powerful and secretive, and we wondered why they'd be taking such an interest in our application. Other climbers, who also hoped to visit Pakistan in the summer of 2013, reported similar delays. In previous years, permits came through quickly, but now we were left to speculate about an opaque and frustrating process. We began to wonder “What if the ISI thinks we're CIA spies...?”

While this may seem ridiculous, the more I read about US-Pakistan relations, the more plausible this idea seemed...

A short digression concerning Pakistan's (justifiable) mistrust and paranoia towards the US:

In 2005, a devastating earthquake struck Northern Pakistan. Covert American forces exploited the chaotic aftermath to insert spies, under cover as aid workers, into the country.

In 2010, during the search for Osama Bin Laden, the CIA organized a fake Hepatitis vaccination program, in order to surreptitiously gather DNA. This program, once revealed, has inadvertently lent credibility to the wild conspiracy theories about vaccines as tools of Western domination, and led to many aid groups being expelled from the country. Aid workers are now actively targeted by religious extremists, which has major consequences in a country still struggling to eradicate Polio.

In 2012, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor working under cover as a diplomatic assistant, shot dead two men on the streets of Lahore. A third man was run over and killed by an American SUV, as other CIA assets sped to the scene to rescue Davis. Davis was arrested by Pakistani authorities, and his case immediately caused anti-American riots among a public already enraged over drone strikes. President Obama fraudulently asserted that Davis was indeed a diplomat, and demanded Pakistan grant him immunity. After weeks in jail on murder charges, a backroom deal was struck to pay $2.4M in blood money to the victims' families, and Davis was released.

Less covert, but still officially unacknowledged by the US Government, is the air strike campaign over the last eight years. An estimated 700 people have been killed, mostly by drones, and only 14 have been known terrorist leaders . This brutal campaign continues over the forceful public objections of Pakistan's elected leaders.

These incidents, formerly secret, have only been fully exposed by leaks and investigative journalists. One must assume that many more breaches of Pakistani sovereignty have taken place, and that paranoia of covert American activity is well justified.

Git dem Terrists!! Yeehaw, 'Merica!!
Git dem Terrists!! Yeehaw, 'Merica!!


The aftermath of a strike on Damadola, Jan 13th 2006. 18-25 were killed. The US initally claimed 4 terrorists were among the dead, but later admitted that all were innocent.
The aftermath of a strike on Damadola, Jan 13th 2006. 18-25 were killed. The US initally claimed 4 terrorists were among the dead, but later admitted that all were innocent.


More about Damadola

---------------------------

By mid-June 2013, with our planned departure again rapidly approaching, we didn't know if our permit delays were again the result of a sclerotic bureaucracy or mistaken paranoia. For us, it didn't matter. Without a peak permit, we couldn't even begin the visa application process (which had taken two months the previous year!). We decided on June 28th as our deadline; we'll either have permits in hand or move on to Plan B.

On the morning of June 22nd, while leisurely drinking coffee and working the Sunday crossword, I opened my email to find a messages from my family, climbing partner, and friends in Pakistan. Ten climbers had been massacred at Nanga Parbat basecamp. Baltistan, the supposed island of peaceful security, was not immune to the violence that ravages the rest of the country.

Nanga Parbat, taken from near the site of the massacre.
Nanga Parbat, taken from near the site of the massacre.


After poring over all the available news, I realized that our tour operator was also running the trip for the Ukrainians killed. So I guess he'll have his hands full... no time to lobby for our permits. The military, in an effort to secure the area and find the killers, closed the Karakorum highway, and began turning away climbers.

One email, from climber and author Greg Mortenson, suggested that the security lockdown and delays had actually started well before the shooting: “The ISI has blocked a K6 or K7 expedition in Skardu for 19 days, even though they have an LO and Army, government approval. ISI also closed Gondogoro pass this year to all foreigners.”

The BBC reports that “climbing will soon be suspended on other mountains, including K2, the world's second highest peak.”

The stepped-up security in Baltistan seems, at least in part, to be a reaction to the attack. I also have the feeling, though, that the ISI has been increasingly interfering in mountaineering expeditions. This is definitely speculation, and I'd be very interested to hear more from people with firsthand knowledge.

--------------------------

For us, the decision to bail on Pakistan was an easy one, but still very painful. The beauty of the mountains calls to me, as do the mysteries of a culture so different from my own. I would very much like to travel and climb in this part of the world in the future, and it saddens me to see the violence and hatred that threaten to tear it apart.

What began for me as simply a desire to climb amazing peaks has developed into a heartfelt connection with Pakistan, a country I've never visited. My eyes have been opened by learning about the people, talking to friends who've visited, and reading about global events.

It shames me as an American to read about the aggressive, arrogant, and destructive actions taken under our flag (though mostly in secret). I believe that, in the name of security and pursuit of terrorists, we've not only sacrificed civil rights and privacy, but also moral standing and dignity. Our actions are shortsighted and will ultimately engender more hatred and violence in the world.

The government and military of Pakistan are far from innocent victims, though. Duplicitously accepting American aid, while supporting terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan and India, the leaders are playing both sides.

Ignorance and religious intolerance motivate terrorists, like the gunmen at Nanga Parbat, to react with violent barbarism against geopolitical forces outside of their control. Brutality is their strategy, aiming to cause as much damage as possible to a regime and society they view as corrupt.

I feel like I'm whining about "first world problems" when I lament not being able to climb in Pakistan. A nation of 176 million is being terrorized by many sides, and my heart goes out to them.

Thanks for reading, please share your thoughts,
Scott

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By Ali Jaffri
From Westminster, CO
Jun 26, 2013
At the village in Hunza Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
Scott,
Here's a thread where this was discussed two days ago:

mountainproject.com/v/nanga-pa...

I just read your post and as a Pakistani-American I feel a range of emotions from being embarrassed at the Pakistani consulate's handling of your visa, to anger at the way the ISI runs the show in Pakistan, to frustration that no matter how hard I or people like Greg Mortensen try, it takes 10 fundamentalist pieces of shit to ruin it. Ruin people's climbing season, destroy those climber's families and the image of Pakistan in the international community.

My advice, despite whats happened is not to get discouraged. The mountains will be higher and more beautiful next year. Who's your tour operator? if you would like I can call the ISI office in Gilgit directly and talk to them about the safety situation.

If you're in Colorado, Id be happy to meet and discuss this in detail. Here is a piece I wrote about people planning expeditions to Pakistan:

unclimbed.com/planning-your-fi...

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
What needs to happen is Pakistanis need to rise up fully and say enough is enough and destroy the "fundamentalist pieces of shit"s and the corrupt bastards. If that happened the US wouldn't have to send drones there. For all the carnage they cause, I bet it is less then sending in ground troops to do the same job, and also less than if the targeted people were allowed to keep up their mayhem. Ending the asinine feud with India would be a good start too. It is a shame a bunch of good people get lumped in with the bad, but there comes a time when a country as a whole has to take responsibility for not reigning in it's crackpot citizens (as we Americans must do too)

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By Scott Bennett
Jun 26, 2013
photo by Forest Woodward
Hey Ali-

Thanks for replying. I appreciate your role as "Pakistani Ambassador" to MP, I think your thoughtful contributions go along way towards creating a positive image for your country.

Sent you a PM about meeting up, I'd like to make that happen. I definitely still want to visit Pakistan, hopefully next year, assuming the recent attack isn't a harbinger of more to come.

-----------------

I did read your post on the earlier thread, and that was one of the reasons I wrote down my thoughts.

I'd be interested to hear more about your statement:
"The Ukrainian team that was attacked had hoisted a Nepalese Flag at base-camp and performed a Puja (Hindu worship) ceremony at base-camp prior to the incident.

This is the least liberal part of Pakistan, and the news of a Puja ceremony (which is never done in predominantly Muslim-Pakistan) must have have been a huge deal.

By no means does that 'justify' killing someone, but is explains why this particular group was attacked amongst the 50 foreign climbers there. "


Have you learned any more, and do you stand by this explanation? I find it difficult to credit, given the statements made by the Taliban since the attack:
From NBC news

"In a phone call to The Associated Press, a spokesman for Junudul Hafsa, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, said they will continue attacks against foreign tourists, especially those from Europe and the U.S., until drone attacks in the tribal regions are stopped.

'These attacks will become more aggressive and frequent,' said the spokesman who identified himself as Abdullah Ghazi."


And from the same piece:

"The attack also demonstrated a high degree of planning. Just getting to the base camp takes roughly two days of hiking.

The militants, disguised in paramilitary uniforms, first abducted two local Pakistanis to take them to the remote camp in Gilgit-Baltistan. Late Saturday night, a group of about 15 gunmen attacked the camp. Some climbers and guides were able to run away, but those that weren't were shot dead."


This does not sounds like a spontaneous reaction to a religious affront in a overly-conservative region, but rather a well planned mission carried out to kill foreigners. I would speculate that the Taliban chose the base camp as their target because mountaineering is an international point of pride for Pakistan, as well as a source of revenue. They wanted to do as much damage as possible to Pakistan's government and reputation. The fact that the climbers killed were mostly Chinese and Ukrainian was probably coincidental, they just happened to be the only ones in camp.

A friend of mine was on his way towards the Charakusa Valley on the KKH when the attack took place, and returned quickly to Islamabad afterwards. There, he spent a few hours with the Ukrainain teammates of some of the victims. He posted the following on Facebook:

"I just spent the last couple hours with the Ukrainian (remaining) climbing team in my hotel here in Islamabad. I cant fathom what they went through the last 48 hours. It is truely a horror what they went through. Both men hardened Soviet climbers broke out in tears as they told me their story and showed me their photographs. Their friends and climbing partners were each individually questioned to their religion and then executed... according to them not a single non Muslim was spared. Its heavy over here and really cant express how much I want to be home after hearing and seeing this.

Again, it doesn't seem like a particular group was targeted in reaction to a Hindu ceremony. Rather, it was a wholesale slaughter of all available targets. It's worth noting that at least one Muslim was also killed.

Obviously I don't have all the facts, and it sounds like you have sources close to the situation, so I'd be curious if you've heard any more.

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By Scott Bennett
Jun 26, 2013
photo by Forest Woodward
M Sprague wrote:
If that happened the US wouldn't have to send drones there. For all the carnage they cause, I bet it is less then ... if the targeted people were allowed to keep up their mayhem.


How did you come to make this assessment? The US Government releases almost no information on its targets. In fact, they don't even know the identity of roughly 25% of the supposed "militants" they kill. The President offers no evidence against these men, even when the targets are American citizens.

It's certainly comforting to assume that Uncle Sam is killin' the right bad guys. I think, though, that history offers ample evidence that our leaders often make mistakes (or worse). If there is no transparency and no accountability, we have no way of knowing who is being killed and why.

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By Ali Jaffri
From Westminster, CO
Jun 26, 2013
At the village in Hunza Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
I agree, buts its easier said than done. I'll give you a small example. A few years ago a mosque and associated madrassa (religious school) decided to implement shariah law. They went around shutting down brothels, confiscating DVDs from stores etc, and confronted the police in Islamabad. The Pakistani army got involved and after a 3-day showdown the fighters will killed and a large number of arrests were made. Peace prevailed - you would think this was over and done with, but it wasn't.

The same mosque was used by the American CIA back in the 1980s as almost a 'welcome center' if-you-will when the US was funding Afghan Mujahideen (freedom fighters) against the Soviets. Jihadis would show up from all over the world, would spend a few days there, and then would head off to wage holy war against the Russians. A group of loyalists in Uzbekistan who call themselves Jundullah decided they would take revenge when the mosque and madrassa were shut-down. They travelled into Pakistan through the Pamirs and Hindukush and since then have launched several attacks on Pakistani military installations. The same sunni-wahabi types have waged a war against the Shi'a population of Pakistan.

The war is funded by Saudis who being leaders of this sect of Islam, want it to prevail in the Middle East (same guys are involved in Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, you name it). So its a super inter-connected messed up situation.

Getting back to what happened at Nanga Parbat. The police have identified the group. This particular group was again set-up during General Zia's time (when the US funded and trained mujahideen). They had a training camp operating for the past 20 something years in a forest above the village of Jaglot (see N35 on the map). Periodically members of this group would descend and slaughter local shias in the area and then retreat. This periodic shia killing never bothered anyone, even though it has been happening almost every year for the past 5-6 years now. Now the same group has claimed responsibility for killing the climbers at Nanga Parbat base camp.

The terrain is ridiculous (if it were not, we wouldn't be discussing this on a mountaineering blog). All those guys have to do is cross one mountain pass before they are in Pashtoon territory, one more crossing and they are in Afghanistan.

When you read this I dont want you to think "well there he goes blaming the US for Pakistan's problems" - thats not the point. The point is that its super complicated between Saudi money coming in for sunni control in Pakistan (Pakistan's north is largely Shia and Ismaili dominated - both groups are considered infidels by the Saudi brand of of Islam), Uzbek, Chechen and Arab jihadis, the ISI wanting to use these groups to their own advantage, and then the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The only way this will stop is through education, though empowering women in the area, and educating them. Following Raymond Davis's arrest in Pakistan several American school teachers in Hunza were deported - to me that was a huge loss. There needs to be cross-cultural exchange. A student taught by an American, or one who attends a school built by Greg Mortensen would never pick up a gun, and thats what we need down there.
Map of the area around Nanga Parbat.
Map of the area around Nanga Parbat.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
Great post, Ali. I agree with everything you said, particularly "The only way this will stop is through education, through empowering women in the area, and educating them". It is a very complicated and difficult situation and is going to take a lot of sacrifice to change it.

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By MC Poopypants
Jun 26, 2013
Dropping a deuce
I disagree that this is a complicated issue. I feel that all the problems we are experiencing around the world stem from the same place. A dysfunctional conditioning of the human mind where the egoic self dominates our thoughts and actions. Men in particular being highly dysfunctional.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ego_(spi...

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
Scott Bennett wrote:
How did you come to make this assessment? The US Government releases almost no information on its targets. In fact, they don't even know the identity of roughly 25% of the supposed "militants" they kill. The President offers no evidence against these men, even when the targets are American citizens. It's certainly comforting to assume that Uncle Sam is killin' the right bad guys. I think, though, that history offers ample evidence that our leaders often make mistakes (or worse). If there is no transparency and no accountability, we have no way of knowing who is being killed and why.


Get real. It is a war situation, not a neighborhood police action where you can go in, arrest everybody, interview them all etc. If there is a know terrorist leader they have been tracking and he is hanging around with a bunch of armed people in an ineffectively governed part of western Pakistan, it is damn good odds that they are of the same ilk.

As far as the American citizens, I think if you have declared war on Americans and are advocating killing innocent people and are an actual danger, than you have no basis to squeal "Unfair!" when you get smoked by a missile. If they could be caught safely and brought back for a trail, sure, it should be done, but even a common criminal hostage taker in the United states will get killed by a sniper if need be to save others.

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By sonvclimbing
From bolder city
Jun 26, 2013
cowboy over tower
M Sprague would you find it justified if a small group of Americans and Joe American went over to China and killed as many People as had happened at 9/11 and they retaliated killing your innocent brother and sister in the process? But, they killed Joe American.

edit: I forgot to mention innocent

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By sonvclimbing
From bolder city
Jun 26, 2013
cowboy over tower
Don't let the acts of a few people affect the rest. You have no right to violate any other countries. Look more into protecting your own than violating others.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
sonvclimbing wrote:
M Sprague would you find it justified if a small group of Americans and Joe American went over to China and killed as many People as had happened at 9/11 and they retaliated killing your brother and sister in the process? But, they killed Joe American.

If my government didn't have effective control over the region where we were and wouldn't or couldn't arrest them, sure. It would suck to say the least, but if my brother and sister knew what they had done they should get the hell away from them. (yes I know, easier said than done, especially for the women in the case of western Pakistan). Assuming it wasn't a case of incompetence or complete disregard on the Chinese part, I would direct my anger to the terrorists who created the situation.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
sonvclimbing wrote:
Don't let the acts of a few people affect the rest. You have no right to violate any other countries. Look more into protecting your own than violating others.

If a country claims sovereignty, that includes taking responsibility for law and order and making sure their citizens don't harm others. If we had armed groups living in the US that constantly attacked Canada and wouldn't do anything about it, Canada would have every right to hold us responsible and do something.

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By MC Poopypants
Jun 26, 2013
Dropping a deuce
M Sprague,

Are you really ok with a foreign country flying remote controlled planes over the US and killing your family and many other innocent civilians in an attempt to kill someone who had not been charged with a crime or had any public evidence produced against them but instead had been deemed fit for assassination without trial by a secret court instead of trying to apprehend them while not allowing the US to do the same in their country?

Currently the US military has bases in over 130 countries around the world and they do not recognize the laws of the occupied countries. Number of foreign bases on US soil? 0. Would you be ok with another country having a military base in the US and not recognizing our laws?

Sorry if this is getting off topic. Don't give up the dream Scott.

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By GMBurns
Jun 26, 2013
Climbing at Morro Anhangava in Southern Brasil. <br /> <br />(photo by Isa Vellozo)
M Sprague wrote:
If a country claims sovereignty, that includes taking responsibility for law and order and making sure their citizens don't harm others. If we had armed groups living in the US that constantly attacked Canada and wouldn't do anything about it, Canada would have every right to hold us responsible and do something.


Mark, how much have you lived outside the US? I don't mean traveled for a few months, but actually lived for an extended period of time? And if you have, how many were developing countries or less-developed countries? I'm curious what your education is regarding intl security. I don't mean how much you read the newspapers, but do you have an MSc. or PhD in the subject? For starters, my answer is two developing countries (Chile and Brazil) and I have an MSc in Europen and Intl Politics from the University of Edinburgh. I focused my dissertation on Intl Security and the role of NATO outside of Europe. I'm now an artist, so I could be completely out of the loop. I've been known to be stupid, too, so apologies in advance.

I ask because from my perspective it seems your education on the subject is lacking. I could be wrong, and if I am, my apologies, but seriously, it's not that easy. Culture varies greatly not just from country to country, but from region to region within countries, and this can make the country almost seem to more than one (Brasil is a wonderful example of this - the north and south really could / should be two different countries...and I have a great joke on this but I'll defer until someone is actually curious to hear it).

I don't want to justify the 9/11 attacks, but this mindset with the drones is not that dissimilar to what you're advocating with the drones. Yeah, the US was attacked, but who really fired the first shot...and when? A lot of this would not be as much of a problem today if our leaders of the 80s hadn't bailed from Afghanistan. And don't buy into the idea that the US couldn't support in the region because then the Soviets would know who helped...that's a crock of shit. The Soviets knew before they even started losing. Also, many colonial countries were often created or developed based on a western idea of government, and this doesn't always work with the existing culture as a framework. So, throw a foreign structure at a region and force all to comply and what do you get? A helluva lot of pressure that isn't resolved via discussion because they never wanted discussion. They just wanted to continue leading their lives. But since you tossed it together, they might as well fight for it, especially if it means the winner gets the bomb.

It's about education, and it's about walking a really fine line. Corruption is a great excuse for instability, but it's not like people can protest and end corruption over night. There needs to be YEARS of education, years of ensuring that the bomb doesn't end up in the wrong hands, years of building a model society based on THAT society's culture, and not pissing people off. It may mean breaking up countries and helping each of those countries succeed.

I'll give you anecdote. My dad used to visit on occasion. He, my wife, and I would be sitting on the couch watching TV and he'd blast his forearm across my chest for no apparent reason other than to be a pain in the ass. I'd look at him and his "what are you looking at expression" and I'd turn around and slap my wife's knee. I'll give you a hint...my dad never got in trouble.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
I'll answer a couple of your questions, Mike, but I don't want to get into a huge political discussion that takes over the forum and drowns out the positive thoughts the OP expressed about the region. It is also obvious that people are taking my comments as an apology for any bad decisions our (or any western governments) have made in the past, which I don't mean to do at all.

Mike Oxlong wrote:
M Sprague, Are you really ok with a foreign country flying remote controlled planes over the US and killing your family and many other innocent civilians in an attempt to kill someone who had not been charged with a crime or had any public evidence produced against them but instead had been deemed fit for assassination without trial by a secret court instead of trying to apprehend them while not allowing the US to do the same in their country? ... Scott.


No, but conditions in USA are not at all analogous to western Pakistan. For one thing, we have a (somewhat) functioning police force and judicial system and a government which has full control, therefor an adequate agent for the foreign government to seek redress. If a rogue American group attacked China, we would most likely be hunting them down ourselves. Pakistan has been very inconsistent in that regard. There are plenty of examples of duplicity on the part of Pakistani security services, some that could easily be construed as acts of war, imo.

As far as your point about not trying to apprehend them, what do you want the US to do, send a friendly sheriff over to knock on the door with a warrant for arrest? Trying to arrest a terrorist warlord would be very dangerous for our forces and likely end up being a huge fight that would kill the target, people around and maybe even Pakistani forces, more so than most drone strikes. That is ridiculous.

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By M Sprague
Administrator
From New England
Jun 26, 2013
Lichen head. Me, with my usual weatherbeaten, lichen covered look from scrubbing a new route.
Mr. Burns, does anything you wrote have anything to do with my words that you quoted? Are you claiming that my interpretation of international law is incorrect? (I wasn't really attempting to make a technically perfect legal argument) Rather, I see an attempt to front load your comments with something like "I climb 5.15 and you only climb 13s, so what is your opinion on how to bolt worth?". To answer you though, no, I do not have a MSc. or PhD. in international politics from U of Edinburgh. I did study a bit while at Harvard though. I haven't lived extensively in third world, oops, "developing" countries, though I did have an Italian girlfriend for a while, so your statement that "Culture varies greatly not just from country to country, but from region to region within countries" was very helpful. I should have added that to my " It is a very complicated and difficult situation".

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By GMBurns
Jun 27, 2013
Climbing at Morro Anhangava in Southern Brasil. <br /> <br />(photo by Isa Vellozo)
M Sprague wrote:
Mr. Burns, does anything you wrote have anything to do with my words that you quoted? Are you claiming that my interpretation of international law is incorrect? (I wasn't really attempting to make a technically perfect legal argument) Rather, I see an attempt to front load your comments with something like "I climb 5.15 and you only climb 13s, so what is your opinion on how to bolt worth?". To answer you though, no, I do not have a MSc. or PhD. in international politics from U of Edinburgh. I did study a bit while at Harvard though. I haven't lived extensively in third world, oops, "developing" countries, though I did have an Italian girlfriend for a while, so your statement that "Culture varies greatly not just from country to country, but from region to region within countries" was very helpful. I should have added that to my " It is a very complicated and difficult situation".


You made multiple comments that appeared to me to be obviously construed from rose-colored sunglasses, ones made by Americans for Americans without consideration for which other hues, tones, or values, for example, may be more or less important to other cultures than they are to Americans. I didn't quote all of them for context, so I chose the final quote that resonated with me the most in the end.

Going after it's "crackpot citizens" isn't so easy. For one, what is defined as "crackpot" could be totally different from one culture to the next. A crackpot in the U.S. could be totally normal and valued in another country. That's not up to us to decide that, but we certainly do try to do so. I'm not condoning the killers's actions, but the answer isn't really just about policing and corruption and taking control; there's a bigger picture involved that requires one to look at the source of tension. Why does Pakistan exist in it's current state? Why does Afghanistan have the history that it does? Why is it important for powerful governments to play such a role with these countries in the region, and why does it matter that "Western culture" be applied. And, does this tension derive from said outside pressure? In the U.S., business is done with organizations and companies. In South America, business is done with people. It's different.

To go back to my anecdote, if another country bombed my family in an attempt to kill a terrorist who wasn't with my family, you damn well better believe I'm going to be pissed at the bomber. I might already not like the terrorist. If he's local and bad news, and if I'm a good person just trying to live my life, I may not want anything to with him and hope every day that the police arrest him...but I'm not going to let the bomber off for free. They're the ones who pulled the trigger, they're the ones who misfired, they're the ones who should have been better at nailing the target, etc. If the police shoot up my house when the gang leader lives next door, the police are absolutely, positively not getting away with it if I can help it. Simply put, they need to do a better job at their jobs. How they are encouraged to do so is up to debate, but the reaction shouldn't be a surprise.

We're making the same mistakes we did in Vietnam. Win the hearts of the locals...by torching their villages because we suspect they are housing the enemy. Except now we have different technology.

The answer lies in changing the tension. In my opinion that's done via dialogue and understanding. How that's achieved is another matter and can be debated many times over.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 27, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
I've been to quite a few "developing" nations- the shitty parts. Think Harlem compared to Manhattan. What I can say is this: These places will likely never change. This is because US policy will not change. Our govt's policy is basically "give us what we want or else". History is replete with examples, so I won't delve into them or debate this utterly obvious fact.

Many nations, and more every day, are becoming aware of this, and they don't like it- I'm talking about the citizens, not the leadership. They don't like that we shit on sovereignty with force. Most, at least in my experience, would rather be oppressed by the indigenous dictator, then be asked to change their religion and customs, or see their sister walk down the street in a mini-skirt. To them, this is what western influence entails. That, and plundering resources, causing general violent political uproar, and then cutting out once we have what we want, and abandoning those that we needed to accomplish our mission there to starve, die, and be massacred by the people they opposed.

Was what happened to these climbers awful and atrocious? Absolutely.
Will their murderers be brought to justice? Probably not.

The general lack of knowledge of westerners and others about how the US is viewed, and how people that are affiliated or allied with the US are viewed, is largely what contributes to a lot of these overseas incidents.

They fucking hate us. All of us, and deeply. And they (foreign "friendly" governments) have about as much control over these wild regions and the incidents that take place in them as average US citizens have control over what bills get passed in Congress.

Also, and I'll get flamed for this but I don't give a fuck- I just love it when someone references 9/11 and the fact that we were attacked. They blame everything except the immigration policy, which is really what allowed them in, allowed them to be trained in our American facilities and allowed them to crash American planes into American buildings.

And here we are, 3,000+ dead military members, trillions of dollars in spending, international relations worse than ever, air travel gone awry, TSA fuckheads- all this bullshit, and the immigration policy, the CHIEF catalyst to 9/11 remains basically untouched. Travesty doesn't quite cut it.

If you have not been to places like these, and if you refuse to at least consider how the rest of the world views the US, then you really are talking out of your ass in the most obtuse way imagineable.

This is why if you're going to travel to one of these nations, in Africa, in South America, in Asia, in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, it would behoove you to think twice and to educate yourself on the inherent dangers of these places before you go. These incidents can happen almost anywhere, at any time, and with very little warning if any. You can talk cheaply about the percentage of climbers that travel abroad and never have any problems ad nauseum, until it's you with the barrel in your face, and then those stats seem pretty fucking silly and useless.

Ok, sorry for the rant. Feel free to rip me a new one. At least it'll be interesting.

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By Jonathan Dull
From NC High County
Jun 27, 2013
Edge of a Dream
Jake Jones wrote:
I They fucking hate us. All of us, and deeply.


People have been pissed at other people and murdering in masses long before United States existed. And not everyone "hates" Americans. There are a ton of private American organizations doing great things in tough parts of the world; giving time, compassion, and resources to those less fortunate without trying to assimilate or proselytize everyone.

I'm sure you guys have a fantastic liberal arts education and carefully construct you opinions from the very best liberal media sources available. However the facts stand; those being that historically (over the past 20,000 years) America is far less violent than countless other cultures and civilizations. Also you can't tell me that If any other civilization had the chance to assert global colonization they wouldn't jump at the chance (many tried and failed). We (mostly the British) just did a better job than anyone else.

This was completely off topic considering the original post, however, so were the last few responses. Also, by the way, I think Pakistan is a beautiful county with a rich and interesting history. I would love to visit someday. I have heard great things.

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By Eric G.
Jun 27, 2013
GMBurns wrote:
Mark, how much have you lived outside the US? I don't mean traveled for a few months, but actually lived for an extended period of time? And if you have, how many were developing countries or less-developed countries? I'm curious what your education is regarding intl security. I don't mean how much you read the newspapers, but do you have an MSc. or PhD in the subject? For starters, my answer is two developing countries (Chile and Brazil) and I have an MSc in Europen and Intl Politics from the University of Edinburgh. I focused my dissertation on Intl Security and the role of NATO outside of Europe. I'm now an artist, so I could be completely out of the loop. I've been known to be stupid, too, so apologies in advance. I ask because from my perspective it seems your education on the subject is lacking. I could be wrong, and if I am, my apologies, but seriously, it's not that easy. Culture varies greatly not just from country to country, but from region to region within countries, and this can make the country almost seem to more than one (Brasil is a wonderful example of this - the north and south really could / should be two different countries...and I have a great joke on this but I'll defer until someone is actually curious to hear it). I don't want to justify the 9/11 attacks, but this mindset with the drones is not that dissimilar to what you're advocating with the drones. Yeah, the US was attacked, but who really fired the first shot...and when? A lot of this would not be as much of a problem today if our leaders of the 80s hadn't bailed from Afghanistan. And don't buy into the idea that the US couldn't support in the region because then the Soviets would know who helped...that's a crock of shit. The Soviets knew before they even started losing. Also, many colonial countries were often created or developed based on a western idea of government, and this doesn't always work with the existing culture as a framework. So, throw a foreign structure at a region and force all to comply and what do you get? A helluva lot of pressure that isn't resolved via discussion because they never wanted discussion. They just wanted to continue leading their lives. But since you tossed it together, they might as well fight for it, especially if it means the winner gets the bomb. It's about education, and it's about walking a really fine line. Corruption is a great excuse for instability, but it's not like people can protest and end corruption over night. There needs to be YEARS of education, years of ensuring that the bomb doesn't end up in the wrong hands, years of building a model society based on THAT society's culture, and not pissing people off. It may mean breaking up countries and helping each of those countries succeed. I'll give you anecdote. My dad used to visit on occasion. He, my wife, and I would be sitting on the couch watching TV and he'd blast his forearm across my chest for no apparent reason other than to be a pain in the ass. I'd look at him and his "what are you looking at expression" and I'd turn around and slap my wife's knee. I'll give you a hint...my dad never got in trouble.


let me shrink that down:
1. compare education and experience to show GMBurns is a superior authority.
2. denounce American meddling in the affairs of other countries
3. advocate "years of education" (whatever that means) and breaking up countries and helping each of them succeed (i.e. meddling in the affairs of other countries)
4. handjobs for everyone! Good thing we're here to know what's best for Pakistan, especially in light of the fact that we have intimate knowledge of Brazil and Chile.
5. offer extremely unhelpful anecdote. if I was your father, I'd probably sponstaneously hit you across the chest too.

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By Ali Jaffri
From Westminster, CO
Jun 27, 2013
At the village in Hunza Valley, Karakoram, Pakistan
Folks,
This thread started by someone who was psyched to go climb in Pakistan and who cancelled because of the recent events. Like most posts it went sour real quick.

Here's my attempt at turning it positive again. Ive attached a few pictures of my house in Hunza Valley. James Hilton spent some time there, and was inspired to write a book called 'the lost horizon' in which he mentioned a magical place called Shangrila.

Hunza is Shangrila, in the Spring the valley is full of colorful blossoms from 12 species of cherry, apricots, plums, apples and hybrids between them. When the wind picks up it feels like you're in a blizzard of colorful petals. Then you have giant 23,000 + feet peaks all around.

I invite anyone who has contributed to this or the previous thread about the incident on Nanga Parbat to come stay with me for a week at my house. Meet the locals, we'll walk to a school that a lady from the U.S. is building for school kids in Hunza. I'll take you to on hikes around the village where you can see Spantik (the peak the La Sportiva boot is named after):

unclimbed.com/spantik-aka-gold...


All you have to do is pay for your airfare to from the US to the closest city, and I'll take care of the rest. Experience Pakistan firsthand.

I'll be headed down there in late summer to fall next year.



The road to my house - this was the official path of the ancient silk route
The road to my house - this was the official path of the ancient silk route


My house in the central Karakoram
My house in the central Karakoram


Flying by Nanga Parbat on the flight from Islamabad to Gilgit - by doing so you avoid all the trouble spots
Flying by Nanga Parbat on the flight from Islamabad to Gilgit - by doing so you avoid all the trouble spots

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 27, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
Jonathan Dull wrote:
People have been pissed at other people and murdering in masses long before United States existed. And not everyone "hates" Americans. There are a ton of private American organizations doing great things in tough parts of the world; giving time, compassion, and resources to those less fortunate without trying to assimilate or proselytize everyone.


Admittedly Jonathan, there was some exaggeration. Not "everyone" hates Americans. However, I think your "tons" is a bit vague. I won't split hairs and demand a list, but I will say that I have been to roughly 20 different countries on 3 continents over the past 20 years or so, and I can assure you, most of them do not hold this opinion- generally speaking. There may be some winning of hearts and minds in small pockets where these organizations operate, and in the touristy regions, but it is the exception, and certainly not the rule.

Jonathan Dull wrote:
I'm sure you guys have a fantastic liberal arts education and carefully construct you opinions from the very best liberal media sources available.


LOL! Meaning what, exactly? That if you disagree with the US foreign policy and the shit we do overseas to other nations and the shitshow that ensues as a result, you must be some pinko liberal? I'm former USMC grunt. I'm pretty far from liberal. As luck would have it, I'm also pretty far from blind as well. My perspective comes from experience, not indoctrination.

Jonathan Dull wrote:
However the facts stand; those being that historically (over the past 20,000 years) America is far less violent than countless other cultures and civilizations.


You mean within our own borders? Yes, that's true. However, that has little bearing on the shit that our governmental agencies orchestrate overseas, and how we, as a country, are viewed as a result.

Jonathan Dull wrote:
Also you can't tell me that If any other civilization had the chance to assert global colonization they wouldn't jump at the chance (many tried and failed). We (mostly the British) just did a better job than anyone else.


You're right. I can't tell you that with any degree of certainty. I can tell you two things though. First, any other nation, save only a few, have not asserted global colonization. Second, if my sister had balls, you can't tell me that she would not then be referred to as my brother. Conjecture doesn't necessarily lend itself to validity.

Jonathan Dull wrote:
This was completely off topic considering the original post, however, so was the last few responses. Also, by the way, I think Pakistan is a beautiful county with a rich and interesting history. I would love to visit someday. I have heard great things.


I thought the topic was 'Thoughts on Pakistan'. Those were my immediate thoughts regarding the incident and other posts in this thread. I couldn't agree more with your last three sentences, although I think I'll exhaust other locations where I don't think getting murdered is even a remote possibility before I consider going there.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 27, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after a day of cragging.
JLP wrote:
Just say no to traveling in and near war zones, especially as a white bread American. Repeat this thread over the history of man, just replace whatever fucked up political situation applies. It's a big planet, imagine where else you could have gone with less effort. If you want to see death and shooting, join the Marines. If you want to see mountains, the planet is full of other options.


This. 100%.

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By Eric G.
Jun 27, 2013
those pics of your home in Pakistan are breathtaking

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By blakeherrington
Jun 27, 2013
Great points Scott and Ali.

The only optimistic spin I can put onto this terrible tragedy is:

For terrorist acts like this to be a strategically effective tactic for Al Qaeda and affiliated groups, it has to meet at least 2 conditions - #1 it must fuel a response from some "religiously impure entity" such as the USA gov, NATO, Indian Gov, secular arab government, etc. (We'll assume for a given that the "response", when a terrorist act is directed toward a government, will never be to simply cede government control to muslim fundamentalists.)

#2 The local public's perception of the terrorist act plus any ensuing response (again, from the powerful targeted groups) then has to, on balance, tip in favor of the terrorists and increase the money, power, human recruitment, or positive public perception of Al Qaeda and their viewpoint.

I don't see how attacking a bunch of Eastern European and Chinese climbers will ultimately fulfill either of these conditions.

Rather than be able to attack people or assets in the employ of the western entities they claim to be retaliating against (the US Gov) they murdered a bunch of international climbers who were spending time and money on non-political travel to Pakistan. My heart goes out to Ghulam Muhammad and all of the other people who work in the tourism/hiking/climbing sectors of the Pakistani Economy, and to the small towns who rely on travelers. The long-term victims will be the rural Pakistanis in these regions and job sectors, and I can't see how this act makes Al Qaeda more powerful.

I think (and hope) that these attacks on balance, reduce or demonstrate Al Qaeda's reduced ability to operate effectively.

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