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On Point

George Clooney's Darfur Dilemmas


by Austin Bay
May 3, 2006

Note to actor, celebrity dissident and bon vivant George Clooney: Don't get a moral high from the puff-piece media's bravura reviews of your soliloquy at last week's "Save Darfur" rally in Washington. Your international education remains grievously inadequate and incomplete.

A glitterati actor advocating military action in a very hard and chaotic corner of our planet should consider the following details.

Yes, the dictatorship repeatedly launched genocidal attacks on tribal rebels. Indeed, the dictator exploited tribal rivalries to attack dissident bases and split opposition leadership. The dictatorship murdered men, women and children by the hundreds of thousands, despite objections by the United States, Great Britain and the United Nations. The dictatorship fueled its war with billions in petrodollars, while tens of thousands of children and elderly citizens lacked basic medical care.

True, most of the regime's victims are Muslims. Russia, China and France played ambiguous political roles, because of financial interests in the region. And deplore this sad fact: Efforts made by international military forces to protect the vulnerable ethnic groups from the regime's depredations were limited and insufficient.

The dictatorship maintained contact with terrorist organizations. In retrospect, the dictatorship may not have produced weapons of mass destruction -- but as the secretary of defense said, given the regime's track record for mass murder and terror, he'd still order the attack.

I have just described Sudan. For readers who may not know the geography and demography, a terrible genocide directed by the Sudanese government is occurring in Sudan's western Darfur region. George Clooney essentially wants the United States and United Nations to invade Darfur to stop the genocide.

However, I've also sketched Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Clooney and his clan object to the coalition war in Iraq.

Hypocritical? Inexcusably hypocritical, but all too typical of the Hollywood left and their elite media pals.

The parallels between Sudan and Iraq are striking and informative. Substitute Sudan's Darfurian tribes for Iraqi Shias and Kurds. The international forces in Darfur are hapless African Union peacekeepers, who spend their time trying to avoid ambushes. In Iraq, the United States and Great Britain tried to protect the Kurd north and Shia south with air patrols -- it didn't work. Saddam's terror contacts among secular and sectarian terrorists were numerous. Sudan harbored Osama bin Laden. As for the WMD, recall the Clinton administration's strike on the Khartoum pharmaceuticals plant suspected of producing nerve gas. Former Clinton SecDef Bill Cohen still defends the attack. He didn't want to run the risk that terrorists would acquire WMD from a rogue tyranny. The Bush administration didn't want to run that risk with Iraq.

Sudan and Iraq both illustrate the nexus of tyranny and terror that dominates the politically dysfunctional Muslim Middle East. New Iraq is an emerging democratic exception, the potential "stone in the pool," whose ripples of democratic change will alter the region's terrible calculus.

But Clooney and clan don't support the effort in Iraq.

Tsk. Tut. I don't know Clooney's heart, but I've certainly witnessed enough glitz left posturing before cameras and in newspaper columns to suspect that the "Save Darfur" rallying cry is a salve for pained consciences and weak spines.

It's not that I don't think Darfur demands international action. It does. I do not come to that conclusion lightly, for I began writing about Darfur in February 2003 at StrategyPage.com -- well before Darfur broke as a cause celebre. (The Feb. 26, 2003, report notes that the Sudanese government had armed Arabized tribal militias, and now Darfur's "rebel" Zaghawa and Fur tribes were fighting back.)

Russia and China, however, block U.N. action in Darfur. NATO could provide troops, but watch the reaction when "U.S. and European colonialists" invade sovereign Sudan -- that's assuming Clooney convinces France and Germany to participate. Al-Qaida will show up -- bin Laden promised that last week -- so expect a hard slog.

I saw Toby Keith perform in Baghdad, in a place that got mortared two weeks later. Keith has spine. Darfur lacks supply routes, so any effective relief operation will rely on Air Force transports and Army logistics expertise. Clooney should quit the rally circuit to perform for troops in Iraq -- his song and dance act in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" is a showstopper. A little schtick is the least Clooney can do for the men and women he needs to save Darfur.

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demo    RE:George Clooney's Darfur Dilemmas   5/19/2006 7:33:22 PM
I definitely agree that leftists often simplify these sorts of issues, as if peace could be achieved simply through singing kum bae yah. However, it seems equally simplistic to equate Darfur with Iraq, though there are similarities. A few points: 1) Since you admit you "don't know Clooney's heart," why dismiss his advocacy for Darfur as moral posturing? Isn't it possible that he (rightly or wrongly) believes in the course of action he's advocating? It's easy and unproductive to reduce the opinions of political opponents to charector flaws. 2) I think the Sudan = Iraq Argument, has some ground, though it cuts both ways. If we invaded Iraq for humanitarian reasons (spreading democracy, protecting kurds) then how can we justify NOT invading Sudan, who is actively commiting genocide (not to mention their al queada ties). I think many liberals would argue we haven't invaded Sudan because there is less economic incentive. Of course I assume you would say Iraq was not about humanitarian issues, but WMDs, a more tenable argument, though one I think history will prove wrong in light of the Downing Street memo (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1593607,00.html) the white house memo (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4849744.stm), and what's more and more looking like an attempt to discredit Joe Wilson for his criticism of pre-war intelligence. Combine that with the simliar allegation from a former Bush aide (http://www.sundayherald.com/39221) while noting that reigme change for Iraq was part of the republican platform for 2000, and I think that there is at least reason to suspect that the war in Iraq *might possibly* (to put it lightly) have been launched under false pretenses. Quite possibly you still think Iraq was about WMDs and that are government, while incomptent, was not disingenous. Still, I think that the plethora of troubling facts about pre-war intelligence at least make it possible for someone to both criticize the Iraq war, while advocating for Darfur intervention, and not be a hypocrit. However, I do agree that advocating for *withdrawel* from Iraq, without consideration of humanitarian issues is assinine. 3) Lastly, I want to note how their is always a tendency for ideals to be compromised by economic interests. Why is China our most favored nation, while we have an embargo on Cuba? I think it has less to do with ideologly than economics. The same is true with Iraq and Sudan. It's the reason we've consistenly intervened in the middle east, while ignoring much larger humanitarian crises in Africa. It's pathetic we need movie stars to bring such large scale suffering to public attention.
 
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