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May-05-2010 16:23printcomments

Where is George Clooney?

A Republican Congressman asks the President to please pay closer attention to Sudan.

Congressman Frank Wolf and actor George Clooney
Congressman Frank Wolf and actor George Clooney

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - This morning I had the great pleasure of speaking with Congressman Frank Wolf. He was honest, forthright and had great tenacity to stand and call for change to the status quo. The point of our conversation:

  • Replace Special Envoy to Sudan General Gration with Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice
  • Carry out the policy
  • “Never Again” has become Again and Again and Again
  • White house needs to engage on the issue of Sudan, WITH TRANSPARENCY
  • On ground situation in Darfur

I was struck by one comment; the humble tone that it took and the sincerity in which it was given…

I am but one congressman, where is George Clooney?

We both laughed at his question “Where is George Clooney?” We understand our American culture; if Clooney were to stand up and ask for change... his celebrity magnetism is far reaching. He carries with him the power of both the media attention and citizen action.

My belief is that this one congressman can inspire; he is persistent in his quest, he recognizes the urgency of the situation in Sudan and most importantly he hears the Sudanese asking for help.

The following is a copy of the letter he is sending to President Obama, I urge all of you to do the same.

May 5, 2010

The Honorable Barack H. Obama

The President

The White House

Washington DC 20500

Congressman Frank Wolf's message to President Obama about Sudan

Dear Mr. President:

“If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon.” These were the closing words of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof two weeks ago. I could not agree more with his assessment of Sudan today. Time is running short. Lives hang in the balance. Real leadership is needed.

Having first travelled to Sudan in 1989, my interest and involvement in this country has spanned the better part of 20 years. I’ve been there five times, most recently in July 2004 when Senator Sam Brownback and I were the first congressional delegation to go to Darfur.

Tragically, Darfur is hardly an anomaly. We saw the same scorched earth tactics from Khartoum in the brutal 20-year civil war with the South where more than 2 million perished, most of whom were civilians. In September 2001, President Bush appointed former Senator John Danforth as special envoy and his leadership was in fact instrumental in securing, after two and a half years of negotiations, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), thereby bringing about an end to the war. I was at the 2005 signing of this historic accord in Kenya, as was then Secretary of State Colin Powell and Congressman Donald Payne, among others. Hopes were high for a new Sudan. Sadly, what remains of that peace is in jeopardy today. What remains of that hope is quickly fading.

Salem-News.com image of Darfur
protests on 2 May 2010

I was part of a bipartisan group in Congress who urged you to appoint a special envoy shortly after you came into office, in the hope of elevating the issue of Sudan. But what was once a successful model for Sudan policy is not having the desired effect today. I am not alone in this belief.

Just last week, six respected NGOs ran compelling ads in The Washington Post and Politico calling for Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to exercise “personal and sustained leadership on Sudan” in the face of a “stalemated policy” and waning U.S. credibility as a mediator.

In that same vein, today I join that growing chorus of voices in urging you to empower Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice to take control of the languishing Sudan policy. They should oversee quarterly deputies’ meetings to ensure options for consequences are on the table.

There is a pressing and immediate need for renewed, principled leadership at the highest levels – leadership which, while recognizing the reality of the challenges facing Sudan, is clear-eyed about the history and the record of the internationally indicted war criminal at the helm in Khartoum. We must not forget who we are dealing with in Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP). In addition to the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the Sudanese government against its own people, Sudan remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. It is well known that the same people currently in control in Khartoum gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden in the early 1990’s.

I believe that this administration’s engagement with Sudan to date, under the leadership of General Gration, and with your apparent blessing, has failed to recognize the true nature of Bashir and the NCP. Any long-time Sudan follower will tell you that Bashir never keeps his promises.

The Washington Post editorial page echoed this sentiment this past weekend saying of Bashir: “He has frequently told Western governments what they wanted to hear, only to reverse himself when their attention drifted or it was time to deliver….the United States should refrain from prematurely recognizing Mr. Bashir's new claim to legitimacy. And it should be ready to respond when he breaks his word.” Note that the word was “when” not “if” he breaks his word. While the hour is late, the administration can still chart a new course.

In addition to recommending that Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice take the helm in implementing your administration’s Sudan policy, I propose the following policy recommendations:

  • Move forward with the administration’s stated aim of strengthening the capacity of the security sector in the South. A good starting point would be to provide the air defense system that the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) requested and President Bush approved in 2008. This defensive capability would help neutralize Khartoum’s major tactical advantage and make peace and stability more likely following the referendum vote.
  • Do not recognize the outcome of the recent presidential elections. While the elections were a necessary part of the implementation of the CPA and an important step before the referendum, they were inherently flawed and Bashir is attempting to use them to lend an air of legitimacy to his genocidal rule.
  • Clearly and unequivocally state at the highest levels that the United States will honor the outcome of the referendum and will ensure its implementation.
  • Begin assisting the South in building support for the outcome of the referendum.
  • Appoint an ambassador or senior political appointee with the necessary experience in conflict and post-conflict settings to the U.S. consulate in Juba.
  • Prioritize the need for a cessation of attacks in Darfur, complete restoration of humanitarian aid including “non-essential services,” unfettered access for aid organizations to all vulnerable populations and increased diplomatic attention to a comprehensive peace process including a viable plan for the safe return of millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

When the administration released its Sudan policy last fall, Secretary Clinton indicated that benchmarks would be applied to Sudan and that progress would be assessed “based on verifiable changes in conditions on the ground. Backsliding by any party will be met with credible pressure in the form of disincentives leveraged by our government and our international partners.” But in the face of national elections that were neither free nor fair, in the face of continued violations of the U.N. arms embargo, in the face of Bashir’s failure to cooperate in any way with the International Criminal Court, we’ve seen no “disincentives” or “sticks” applied. This is a worst case scenario and guaranteed, if history is to be our guide, to fail.

Many in the NGO community and in Congress cautiously expressed support for the new policy when it was released, at the same time stressing that a policy on paper is only as effective as its implementation on the ground. More than six months have passed since the release of the strategy and implementation has been insufficient at best and altogether absent at worst.

During the campaign for the presidency, you said, regarding Sudan, “Washington must respond to the ongoing genocide and the ongoing failure to implement the CPA with consistency and strong consequences.” These words ring true still today. Accountability is imperative. But the burden for action, the weight of leadership, now rests with you and with this administration alone. With the referendum in the South quickly approaching, the stakes could not be higher.

The marginalized people of Sudan yearn for your administration to find its voice on Sudan – and to find it now.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Wolf Member of Congress

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: alyshann78@comcast.net




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Daniel May 8, 2010 10:35 am (Pacific time)

Alysha George Clooney produced the documentary A journey to Darfur in 2006-7 with his father . He co produced sand and Sorrow with Paul Freeman about Darfur in 2008 . He formed not on our watch to increase awareness about Darfur and they have raised and donated over a million dollars for relief . George has appeared on Larry King live, with nbc Ann Curry and on ABC news to promote awareness to the genocide in the area . He has met with Sen Sam Brownback and Pres. Obama to take action on the problem . He has also worked tireless during this time on the problems facing Haiti . Wolf has a record of voting for WAR and oppression by voting with Bush 92% of the time . Jessie Helms also voiced strong support for Tibet but did little action . Alysha yes you are very much discounting the actions of Clooney with your article . George HAS stood up and asked for change and help produce two documentary and started the NOT on OUR WATCH foundation to prove his actions . Frank Wolf is a great grandstander when he's looking for votes , his voting record shows him NOT to be a man of piece .


MW May 6, 2010 12:32 am (Pacific time)

Thank you , and god bless you Mr Frank R . Wolf . We are sufferering , we need urgent step toward change , justice & a accountability , and peace & stability in Sudan


Alysha Atma May 6, 2010 10:45 am (Pacific time)

@Daniel, I am not discounting the actions Clooney has taken for Darfur nor all that he will do in the future. I am not really sure you understood the point of this piece...it is about those who have the power to ignite citizen activism and to do so consistently. Congressman Wolf has been a HUGE CHAMPION for Sudan before anyone else noticed he was there calling for human rights in 1989. I really don't care if he is Republican or Democrat - this is about using your position and voice for those that are in need. Congressman Wolf has done so over many years consistently. I may not agree with him on all political issues but I admire him tremendously for what he is doing for the people of Sudan. Daniel, what is happening in Sudan should not be about right or left it should be about Humanity and in this instance it happens to be a Republican who is speaking the loudest, calling for a change to the status quo and expecting his Chief and Commander to follow through with policy and might when it comes to the 1000 of people inside Sudan that are suffering daily. If you would like to see more of the "extreme left wing" grab headlines I encourage you to talk to your legislative leaders and tell them to stand up but more importantly speak out for the the people that need them - not only for Sudan but all over the International world. @Change, thank you! You are absolutely correct this is about consistency and unfortunately there hasn't been consistent pressure from the Hollywood community on this issue. As shaming as it is our culture follows their lead and George Clooney has immense power.


Natalie May 6, 2010 12:33 am (Pacific time)

Who cares about ACLU ratings? Their lawsuits are quite ummm... let's just say, make little sense if any. When someone's right, he's right even if we were enemies. But hey, Clooney's cute. :)


Change May 6, 2010 12:25 am (Pacific time)

Daniel, A person can have the loudest voice, deepest pockets and most influential family, but if consistency does not prevail, nothing will change. This matter is not about politics, not about celebrities, it is about reaching out to those that can make a difference. I challenge your ability to see outside the box, and trump your political aspiration; what have you done for the people of Darfur? Read the stories not the headlines, view the need not the politics, get your own facts straight and this matter would be resolved… Prove me wrong on your interest in Darfur, I welcome it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Daniel May 5, 2010 11:22 pm (Pacific time)

George Clooney has been at the forefront of this issue for years , what are you talking about ! He has given his time visiting the country with his father , his money and his voice . Please get your facts straight before becoming the mouth piece for the extreme right wing frank Wolf , who gets a ZERO rating from the ACLU .


Dexter May 5, 2010 9:02 pm (Pacific time)

Making another movie!

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