January 7, 2008, - 3:17 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
As readers of this site know, I have a lot of concerns about mainstream media reporters who wear their biases . . . and stupidity on their sleeves, or who make things up or otherwise engage in journalistic anti-ethics.
But the winner of the DebbieSchlussel.com Janet Cook/Jayson Blair/Gregg Krupa/Jack Lessenberry “Journalist” of the Year Award goes to The Boston Globe’s Sacha Pfeiffer, who described how thrilling it was for her–”I was almost giddy about the whole encounter”–to pay $5 to a group of Maoist terrorists for a souvenir and access to certain areas while in Nepal.
In fact, not only was Ms. Pfeiffer “almost giddy” about donating money she knew would go toward weapons to kill other people in the name of Communism, she says that American tourists shouldn’t really be concerned about where their money goes because, hey, it’s a forbidden pleasure to give to terrorists and get a cool new anecdote to tell your friends when you return home. Nauseating.
While I try to advise people how NOT to support terrorists, Ms. Pfeiffer thinks it’s cool to give them cold, hard American cash. These were Maoist terrorists in Nepal, but they could easily have been Hezbollah or HAMAS or Al-Qaeda terrorists elsewhere–if they have the right beach/souvenir for Sacha Pfeiffer, the price is right. They’re so nice and “amiable” and they even write you a receipt.
Pfeiffer even has the chutzpah to compare herself to World War II soldiers who brought Nazi memorabilia home. Um, how many wars did you fight, Ms. Pfeiffer? How many camps did you liberate? And how many terrorist groups did our World War II heroes pay money to in order to get Nazi memorabilia? PUH-LEEZE.
And, BTW, even though it’s a designated terrorist group, Homeland Security told her not to worry about her donation. Good to know they’re taking terrorism-funding so seriously.
Here’s more of Pfeiffer’s “wit” and “wisdom”:
On a foot-worn path in the Himalaya Mountains, there is a small checkpoint. Set up alongside a busy trekking route banked by terraced fields of grain, it consists of a stone wall used as a table and a red hammer-and-sickle flag drooping from an old shed. It demands money to pass: 300 rupees, the equivalent of about $5.
Aside from that Communist flag, the makeshift operation has all the menace of a high school car wash. The young Nepalese who staff it – three men and a woman no older than their 20s – are an amiable bunch, greeting hikers with smiles and making small talk with trekking guides. They even issue handwritten receipts, documents thanking the bearers for their “voluntary donation.”
The name at the top of the receipt, printed in bold red lettering, is the United Revolutionary People’s Council. The $5 payment funds a Maoist insurgency group formed to wage a guerilla-style “people’s war” in Nepal.
For the growing number of tourists who visit this Asian nation each year, encountering Maoists on the popular Himalayan backpacking circuits has become a rite of passage of sorts. The checkpoint fee is a minor expense, like a tip for a cabbie or a trip to Starbucks. The experience becomes a travel war story; the receipt goes in the scrapbook of cool, adventurous things.
I was one of those tourists.
Six hours into a three-day hike in the Annapurna Circuit in October, accompanied by a friend and a Nepalese guide, I hit the checkpoint. . . . My friend, a government health worker fluent in Nepali, negotiated a two-for-one rate. After handing over the cash, she was given a payment slip torn from a small booklet. Then we hiked on.
At the time, I was almost giddy about the whole encounter. I’d never felt unsafe, and I now had a sensational souvenir: a personalized memento from guerilla fighters! [DS: Like way totally cool. I'm sure plenty of others will get a different kind of "sensational souvenir" and "personalized memento" when their legs are blown off.] The leaf of paper wasn’t just from another place; it was a sliver of obscure political history. The Maoists, barely past puberty, even let me snap a few pictures of them wearing their red lanyards and holding their receipt book. [DS: The HAMASniks, barely past puberty, even let me snap a few pcitures of them wearing their kefiyehs.] . . .
That little receipt really did mean we had kicked in funds to an armed insurrection.
To me, five bucks is small money, but it’s a significant sum in Nepal, and the Maoists aren’t exactly a charity. Their decade-long civil war, fought with the help of child soldiers, ultimately claimed about 13,000 lives. Their arsenal includes self-loading rifles, hand grenades, and light machine guns. I wondered: Would our $5 purchase a firearm for a 12-year-old? [DS: Ya think?] . . .
Thinking optimistically, my checkpoint fee could end up buying a warm meal for a hungry Nepali family. Or it could be used to acquire an AK-47.
When I tried to boil it down to strictly legal terms, my $5 receipt remained murky. The US government sees the Maoist rebellion as flat wrong, and the State Department considers the Communist Party of Nepal a terrorist group. In theory, this could expose me to prosecution, since multiple laws, including the USA Patriot Act and something called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, prohibit US citizens from funding terrorism.
I made a round of calls to the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the State Department to ask about my legal status. They squirmed a bit, told me Americans are advised not to travel to Nepal, mentioned the Maoists’ terrorist status, and noted the relevant statutes. But their underlying message was this: Don’t worry about it.
Ethically, though, I didn’t feel in the clear. I was flaunting my Maoist receipt to co-workers like a show-and-tell item, but then wringing my hands – not quite because I felt guilty, but because I didn’t think I felt guilty enough.
I started to realize I had brought back another souvenir, an invisible one: the lingering uncertainty about what, exactly, I should be feeling about that money and my decision to pay it.
Maybe I should chalk it up to the mind-expanding effects of travel. That’s the value of going to new places, right? To discover the unfamiliar and, in that discovery, learn more about yourself? Or maybe I needed to put this in wider perspective. After all, whether it’s a carbon footprint or a payment to a Maoist, the effect of traveling is never purely neutral. . . . Occasionally paying to grease the skids is “part and parcel of travel”. . . .
Allied soldiers brought home Nazi memorabilia after World War II.
My hiking companion suggested that the Maoists know this. They offer a receipt not because they’re meticulous record-keepers, but because they’re savvy marketers, and they’re aware tourists will want the souvenir. Those kids on the stone wall, posing for my camera, knew that I would pay if I got something out of the deal, and, at some level, I did too.
Ultimately, my encounter with the rebels was a little creepy, a little unresolvable, and – as my receipt still reminds me – a little thrilling. . . .
Truthfully, my family, friends, and co-workers would rather hear about my illicit mountaintop payment to Maoists than my predictable reminiscences about Himalayan vistas.
After all . . .”the villain is always much more interesting than the hero.”
Nice. She funds terrorists and their murders of innocents, but since she feels a tiny sense of guilt and is “torn” but it gives her an exciting story, that makes it all okay.
Um, here’s a tip: A real human with a conscience wouldn’t feel guilt or be torn. A person with a conscience or any sense of decency would not wonder “how to feel” about this. A humane individual would never have paid the money to terrorists in the first place–thrill or otherwise.
And that’s why airhead “journalist” Sacha Pfeiffer of The Boston Globe is the DebbieSchlussel.com Janet Cook/Jayson Blair/Gregg Krupa/Jack Lessenberry Journalist of the Year for 2007.
She has the ethics of a mushroom and proudly writes about it. (With all due apologies to the fungi of the world.)
E-mail Sacha Pfeiffer and let her know what you think about her “giddy” donation to Communist terrorists.
Tags: al-Qaeda, Boston Globe, Communist Party of Nepal, Debbie Schlussel As, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, designated terrorist, government health worker, Hamas, high school car wash, Himalaya Mountains, Himalayan, Hizballah, Jack Lessenberry, journalist, Kalashnikov, mainstream media reporters, Nepal, reporter, rupee, Sacha Pfeiffer, Starbucks, the Boston Globe, travel war story, United Revolutionary People's Council, United States, US government, USD