Credit where credit is due: With setbacks in the Afghan war, armed rebellion in Syria, a planned missile test by North Korea and a looming confrontation with Iran all dominating the headlines of the past week, actor George Clooney managed to seize a sliver of the media spotlight and shine it on an obscure and nearly forgotten humanitarian crisis in southern Sudan. And he did it with a newsman’s instincts and the celebrity star-power of a modern-day Elizabeth Taylor.
“I’m the son of a newsman, as are you, and I grew up around the news,” Clooney told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, son of Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes.
Clooney recalled a time in the 1970s when his father Nick Clooney, also a veteran television newsman, would have his stories bumped from the air by celebrity coverage of Elizabeth Taylor. After reading about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur in 2006, Clooney called his dad.
“I said remember when all your stories used to get bumped?” he said. “So let’s go to Darfur, you’ll be the newsman and I’ll be Liz Taylor.”
The success of those earlier forays into the Darfur crisis has turned Clooney into a perennial thorn in the side of Sudanese President Omar Hasan al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. According to Clooney, who recently returned from a trip to southern Sudan, al-Bashir is once again engaged in ethnic-cleansing, indiscriminately bombing and rocketing villages and civilian populations in order to drain support from rebels challenging his regime.
The key to stopping the atrocities, Clooney said, is for the U.S. government to pressure China to intervene, using the leverage that comes from Beijing importing six percent of its oil from Sudan.
"We can meet with China ... and say, let's work on this together, because we both, economically, would benefit by a resolution," Clooney said on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS.
To elevate the issue onto an already crowded foreign policy agenda, Clooney spent an eventful past week in Washington, making the rounds on Capitol Hill, attending a state dinner at the White House, and even getting himself arrested outside the Sudanese embassy.
That kind of political activism, he said, “cleanses your palate” of the other, more distasteful and self-serving aspects of celebrity, he said on Fox News Sunday.
“Honestly, right now there is a ticking time-bomb threatening roughly 100,000 helpless people who are hiding for their lives and terrorized,” Clooney said on Fox News Sunday. “And if I can go to some place like that, and because someone shot rockets at us it gets media attention to a story we are trying to tell, I’m fine with that. I don’t make policy. I just make it louder.”