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Two days after the hearing Clooney and Prendergast participated in a demonstration at the Sudan Embassy. Hundreds of activists marched and chanted, while members of the media staked out a spot for the best view of Clooney’s arrival. The climax of the demonstration was an act of civil disobedience that has been repeated at the Sudan Embassy for almost eleven years. The first such arrest took place on Good Friday in April 2001 when former Washington, D.C. Democratic congressman the Rev. Dr. Walter Fauntroy, civil rights activist and radio talk show host Joe Madison, and Reagan administration official Michael Horowitz chained themselves to the front doors of that same embassy.
No chains were involved in this month’s arrest, but the message is the same as that conveyed in 2001 by attorney Ken Starr. Starr, who, in an interesting twist, represented Fauntroy and Madison while the late Johnnie Cochran represented Horowitz, said that their goal was to “attest to the atrocious conditions that exist in the Sudan, the conditions of slavery and murder, genocidal conditions that should be getting the attention of all individuals around the world.” Eleven years later, those atrocious conditions still exist for 85 percent of the population of Sudan. For trespassing on the property of the Sudan Embassy, Clooney and Prendergast were led away in handcuffs, along with Clooney’s father, journalist Nick Clooney, U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Al Green (D-TX), Jim Moran (D-VA), John Olver, (D-MA) and several other activists.
Some conservatives, while having done nothing themselves to help the Sudanese, criticize Clooney because he has not made the final leap and stated explicitly Khartoum’s genocide to be the persecution of Christians and others by an Islamist regime or that it is the agenda of jihadists who seek to build a global Caliphate. Clooney has surely heard these explanations of the otherwise inexplicable behavior of the Sudanese government during his time building relationships with the South Sudanese and the Nuba, Muslims and Christians alike. But he is doing what he does best – attracting media attention to a neglected, underreported crisis. Others should make use of the space he has seized from competing, clamoring voices and fill in the background rest of the story. A rule of thumb for assessing Clooney’s value to the situation should be the appreciation given to him by the Sudanese themselves.
The Enough Project asked the Rt. Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, the Episcopal Church of Sudan’s bishop for the Nuba Mountains, his opinion of George Clooney’s advocacy for Sudan. Andudu, who was in the United States for medical treatment when Khartoum’s extermination campaign in the Nuba Mountains began, has now been granted asylum in the U.S. His name, along with those of many Christian leaders, had been placed on a death list by the regime. The bishop said that the visit of George Clooney and John Prendergast was “very important” to the Nuba people “to bring to the world the real suffering and devastating situation that the media does not cover.”
At this point, it seems as if defying the Sudanese government and bringing aid across the border from South Sudan into Sudan’s Nuba Mountains is the only means of preventing the starvation of hundreds of thousands. But there isn’t much time. Once the rainy season begins, roads will disappear, and with them, the hope of saving the lives of the Nuba.
While Congress is considering the new bill introduced in the Senate to demand humanitarian access, along with a tough House bill to support Sudan’s marginalized people introduced by U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), the Obama Administration is not leaning towards such a bold move. Administration officials refer to the SPLA-North soldiers who are bravely defending their people and, extraordinarily, winning every ground battle against the Khartoum regime, as “rebels.” And this is not meant in a good way, as it was for those dashing Libyan “freedom fighters” that needed to have their battles fought for them by the United States and NATO, and that lynched the president of their country in the street.
On March 22, 2012 the U.S. State Department expressed “alarm” at the “threat of greater violence between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Northern Sector (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan State.” The statement also demands that the Government of South Sudan “end any military support for the SPLM-N and work with the Government of Sudan on ways jointly to bring peace to the border region.” But the State Department fails to demand that the Government of Sudan stop attacking the SPLA-N controlled areas of the Nuba Mountains and start political negotiations. Whether or not this is intended, it appears that the Obama Administration therefore condones the crushing of the SPLA-North by the Sudan Armed Forces. And, as usual, that the U.S. expects the Islamist regime in Khartoum to suddenly change decades of behavior and negotiate in good faith with the people that it is attempting to eradicate.
George Clooney may not be exposing the Islamist root of Khartoum’s genocide, but as his ongoing media attention shines a light on the crisis in Sudan, never fails to lay the blame squarely at the feet of Omar al Bashir and the Khartoum regime. As Ulysses Everett McGill, one of the escaped convicts turned singing sensation leader of the Soggy Bottom Boys in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Clooney sang “I am a man of constant sorrow.” The plight of Sudan’s marginalized people truly appears to be Clooney’s constant sorrow. He does not pretend there is moral equivalency between the Sudanese regime and those who are fighting and dying for freedom from that regime, and he tries to make to it harder for the regime to kill people.
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