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.