Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bono Bashers, Clooney Patrols, and the International Humanitarian Snark Brigade

Three cheers for Bono bashers, Clooney patrols, and the "international humanitarian blogosphere's snark brigade" cited by Joshua Keating, in his Foreign Policy essay, "Is George Clooney helping?"   Without the brigade, the West would hear of nothing but the White Man's Burden as the Southern Sudanese people vote in their referendum on independence this week.

And what's George Clooney really concerned about in Sudan?  Let's start with China, whom the U.S. is competing with, ever more fiercely, for Africa's resources, including Sudan's oil.  Note the Telegraph, April 2008, "What George Clooney told Gordon Brown about China and Darfur":

"The shared cause that brought Clooney to No 10 after a tough night's partying is Darfur.

Although Olympic protests focus on Tibet, demonstrators also decry China's policies in Sudan. Anger against the 'Genocide Olympics' first crystallised when Steven Spielberg withdrew as artistic adviser to the Games after Beijing had refused to put pressure on President Omar al-Bashir to end the killing." 
Of course Clooney, like Stephen Spielberg, and their pal John Prendergast, is also bothered by big bad Arabs, most of all by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who's been indicted by the ICC, the International Criminal Court, for war crimes in Darfur. Never mind that the U.S.A. and Israel, like China, Russia, and India, all refuse to sign and ratify the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, the Rome Statute, because signing might make both their leaders, maybe even heads of state, subject to the court's jurisdiction as well.  As long as they don't sign and ratify, they're not, unless of course the UN Security Council refers their cases to the court, as they did that of Omar al-Bashir, since Sudan hasn't signed or ratified the Rome Statute either.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Clooney.  Thy name is Bono; thy name is Prendergast; thy name is Kerry---John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts, one of the global oligarchy's top elected managers, also in Sudan for the referendum.  

Hypocrisy thy name is UN Security Council.  Three of your members, the U.S., China, and Russia, have not signed and ratified the Rome Statute and thus have not agreed to the jurisdiction of the ICC that you referred Omar al-Bashir's crimes to----although that doesn't stop George Clooney from invoking the moral authority of the Security Council in NBC Dateline's "Winds of War," at Stanford University, and wherever else he appears on behalf of the stop-genocide industrial complex.

ENOUGH ENOUGH ENOUGH ENOUGH!!!   ENOUGH of the ENOUGH Project, a mightily endowed "advocacy organization" lodged deep in the bowels of the Democratic Party, the Clintonista Center for American Progress, in D.C.

ENOUGH exists to make the national security state look like it's responding to constituents and activists, when it's really just responding to itself.   ENOUGH's founder, John Prendergast, was the Director of African Affairs on Bill Clinton's National Security Council and Special Advisor to his Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, who is now Barack Obama's Ambassador to the UN.

That's the Susan Rice who is still best known to many for asking, during an interagency conference call on Rwanda, in 1994, “'If we use the word ‘genocide, and are seen as doing nothing, what will the effect on the November [congressional] election be?” 

More recently, when asked by NBC Dateline if she would rule out a multilateral military force in response to renewed fighting in Sudan, UN Ambassador Susan Rice responded, "I'm not going to rule out anything." 

I could hardly disagree more with Joshua Keating's description, of George Clooney's presence in Sudan as benign: "But for now at least, it's hard to see how Clooney's presence as a cheerleader is really hurting."  

I quoted Clooney's remarks to NBC and explained further, in my January 8th WBAI AfrobeatRadio Special on the Southern Sudanese Referendum.  

But, I do thank Keating for naming the "international humanitarian blogosphere's snark brigade," which I'm proud to march in, and for sharing the rest of the brigade's efforts, those of Laurenist, TexasinAfrica, and Wronging Rights, in this widely published  Foreign Policy essay:

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Foreign Policy: Is George Clooney helping Sudan?

George Clooney
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
American actor George Clooney attends voting ceremonies during the first day of voting for the independence referendum in the southern Sudanese city of Juba. Clooney is in Sudan to advocate against genocide and to promote the satellite project that shows what's happening along the north-south border.
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January 11, 2011
Joshua Keating is an associate editor atForeign Policy.
George Clooney's "anti-genocide paparazzi"seems to be dominating nearly every transmission coming out of south Sudan this week. Clooney, along with the Enough Project, Harvard researchers, and some of his wealthier Hollywood friends, have hired satellites to monitor troop movements along the north-south border, particularly the oil-rich region of Abyei. Clooney, active for years in the Save Darfur movement, has also become something of a celebrity spokesperson for the independence referendum. Naturally, the international humanitarian blogosphere's snark brigade is out in force.
Laurenist: "If you're anything like George Clooney, you lounge around on your yacht off the coast of Italy thinking up ways to save Africa."
Texas in Africa: "While John Prendergast, George Clooney, and other advocates who don't speak a word of Arabic have been raising fears about violence for months … the likelihood that a genocide or war will break out immediately seems to me to be slim to none."
Wronging Rights: "Clooney has described it as 'the best use of his celebrity.' Kinda just seems like he's trying to recruit a mercenary for Ocean's Fourteen."
Troubling as this morning's border violence is, there seems to be good reason for skepticism about the satellite project. The imagery the satellites provide isn't all that clear, showing about 8 square miles per computer-screen pixel, making it difficult to figure out just what's going on on the ground. That level of imprecision can be dangerous when trying to assign guilt or innocence in crimes against humanity. There's also the question of how much of a deterrent this type of monitoring really is.

Laurenist again:
In 2007, Amnesty International and the American Association for the Advancement of Science launched "Eyes on Darfur," a satellite project that monitored developments on the ground in Darfur. As you'll recall, mere months later, Darfur was saved after millions of people updated their Facebook statuses with a link to blurry photos of sand.
But what about Clooney's presence itself? The actor's use of the paparazzi and basketball as analogies for horrific human rights violations might be grating to those who study these issues seriously, but isn't it worthwhile to bring attention to an often overlooked conflict? Here's UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg:
I know some people (cough, cough, Bill Easterly, cough, cough) have hangups about celebrity activism.  But does anyone really think that Sudan's upcoming referendum would be covered on a National Sunday morning broadcast without George Clooney's handsome face to greet viewers?
(Interestingly, Bono-basher-in-chief William Easterly doesn't appear to have weighed in yet.)
Clooney has his own words for the haters:
"I'm sick of it," he said. "If your cynicism means you stand on the sidelines and throw stones, I'm fine, I can take it. I could give a damn what you think. We're trying to save some lives. If you're cynical enough not to understand that, then get off your ass and do something. If you're angry at me, go do it yourself. Find another cause — I don't care. We're working, and we're going forward."
This kind of "at least I'm doing something" rhetoric drives development scholars absolutely bonkers and for good reason. But for now at least, it's hard to see how Clooney's presence as a cheerleader is really hurting. Once the referendum is over however, I hope he heads back to Lake Como. In international negotiations, a certain degree of obscurity can often be just as helpful as the media spotlight. Making a new country is a messy business anywhere, and in Southern Sudan, it's going to involve some very ugly compromises. (I wonder, for instance, what Clooney thinks about the Southern Sudanese government expelling Darfuri rebels in what seemed to be a conciliatory gesture to Khartoum.)
In the difficult weeks and months ahead, Southern Sudan will certainly need international help, but it should come from people with a slightly more extensive background in the situation. Most of all, it's probably not helpful for celebrities and the media to promote a narrative of the Juba government as the "good Sudan." Even in the best-case scenario, it's bound to be shattered pretty quickly.
In any event, the Southern Sudanese themselves seem pretty nonplussed about Danny Ocean's presence in their midst:
"Who is that man talking?" a Sudanese journalist asked, gesturing to a white man with a group of reporters around him. When told it was George Clooney, a movie star, the Sudanese journalist looked confused and walked away.

1 comment:

  1. People from Southern Sudan will very soon get their independence from the remaining part of Sudan. But is it what really everyone wanted when in other parts of the world different countries are coming together aiming to become like one? It is undeniable that southerners suffered from discriminations from northerners.

    Partition of Sudan will become another among many that Africa has experienced in recent decades. Can we Africans help their countries not to break up into different parts by ensuring better equality of opportunities among their people?