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Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

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Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by party animal - not! on Thu Oct 02 2014, 17:46

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Clooney's War


Many thanks to Frenchiesfans

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Last edited by LornaDoone on Sun Oct 19 2014, 17:23; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : added pic added actual date of cover)

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Nicky80 on Thu Oct 02 2014, 21:56

here is the article

George Clooney, South Sudan and How the World's Newest Nation Imploded

March 2012, A Bar on the Nile

It was mid-morning and the staff were still wiping down the bar and clearing away the empties when George Clooney ambled over to my table. Clooney had a couple of hours before he headed north to the fighting and we’d agreed to meet by the Nile, at the aid worker hotel where he stayed. The river was something to behold, a wide green trench filled with all the rain from the plains of Africa that cut due north, across the Sahara, all the way to the Mediterranean. But Clooney ignored the view. Instead he surveyed the grass-roof over the bar, the tiny collection of bottles clamped to the wall and the empty stools still grouped in small, convivial circles.
“You been here at night?” asked Clooney. I said I had. “So you know it gets pretty wild in here,” Clooney chuckled. “I’ve had some wild nights in here.”


Clooney and John Prendergast, his fellow Sudan activist, had just flown into Juba, capital of South Sudan. In a few hours, the pair would be inside a war. To reach it, they would fly to a dirt strip beside a refugee camp in the far north of South Sudan, just below the newly-made ­border with Sudan. There they would transfer to a battered, metal-floored SUV driven by Ryan Boyette.
Boyette was an American former aid worker who married locally and never left. He was an activist, too, documenting atrocities against the Nuba people by the Sudanese regime. He had volunteered to drive Clooney and Prendergast illegally across the border and into the Nuba Mountains’ rebel territory where Boyette and his wife lived in a stone house he’d built himself. A few months before, the Sudanese air force had tried to bomb the house. The route the three would take would lead them up a dusty track that the planes were now hitting almost daily. It was the bombings – barrels of oil attached to explosives rolled out of planes – that Clooney had come to see.
“It should be interesting,” said Clooney. “They’re dropping those bombs from 6,000 feet so their effectiveness has been mostly to terrorise and less to actually . . . The bigger issue is violence on the road. Some guys just shot and killed and slit the throats of some people going up that road. So you have to be careful.”

I asked if he was worried. Clooney shook his head. “It’s OK,” he said. “We’ve been in some sticky situations before and we’re going with some guys who know what they’re doing. “And you know,” he said, “you gotta do it.”

Movie-Star-in-Chief

If we had to have celebrities, it seemed to me that Clooney was absolutely the best kind. It was March 2012 and Clooney was on his seventh trip to Sudan in as many years. In that time his activism had cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars. I could only imagine the angry conversations he must have endured with worried studio heads and agents in Hollywood when he announced he was off to war in Africa. Now one of the biggest stars of his generation was about to fly to a spot about as far from a hospital as it was possible to be on Earth, and then drive away up a lethal dirt road.
Clooney’s activism tracked Sudan’s various rebellions. Before it split formally into north and south in July 2011, Sudan had been Africa’s biggest country, straddling the line in the Saharan sand where Africa meets Arabia. In centuries past, like the efforts of European Christian imperialists further south, Arab attempts to enlighten heathen Africans took the form of slave-raiding, then conquest, then economic marginalisation.
After independence from British/Egyptian rule in 1956, the regime in the Sudanese capital Khartoum took its cue from this history, creating an autocratic state that exploited its regions for oil, then spent the money on itself. It was precisely that kind of behaviour that had provoked the tide of African liberation in imperial times.
So it was that Khartoum was soon confronting rebellion in almost every region of the country, especially its more Christian, more African and more southern ones. Khartoum responded with repression and, after a military takeover in 1989, the kind of strident Islamism that even persuaded Osama bin Laden to make Khartoum his home for five years in the 1990s. In a half-century of more or less continual fighting, more than two million people died.
Partly because the death toll in Sudan’s wars was so high, partly because Islamists became America’s enemy number one after 9/11, partly because Sudan’s continued use of slaves horrified a nation whose own creation myth was so bound up in the trade, Sudan became the cause for young American activists in the first years of the new millennium. And Clooney became their champion.

Initially he spoke out against the Sudanese regime’s atrocities, in 2003 and 2004 in the west Sudan region of Darfur. After the US government designated that conflict a genocide in 2004, Clooney was among those who successfully campaigned to have the International Criminal Court indict Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In 2005, the US brokered a peace agreement between Sudan and its largest and most southern rebel army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The deal included a referendum on secession and in the years that followed, Clooney’s campaigning – which included interviews, television appearances, addresses to the US Congress, the Senate and the UN Security Council and talks with US president Barack Obama – helped convince the world the ceasefire should be a first step towards full southern independence.
Clooney was duly on hand in Juba in January 2011 when southern Sudanese voted by 98.8% to split Sudan in two and form the world’s newest nation. “It was wild,” he said. “I literally watched this 90-year-old woman, who’d never voted in her life and who’d walked a couple of miles to a polling station to vote for the first time in her life for freedom. There’s something mind-blowing to see 98% of the people voting, [to see how] they consider it a duty and an honour and a privilege.”




Despite the deal, Khartoum never wavered in its enmity towards the southerners, but also other rebels such as the Nuba, who remained within its new truncated borders.
In October 2010, Clooney was in Sudan with Prendergast trying to work out ways to hinder the bloodshed when, lying out in the desert and looking up at the stars, the pair came up with an idea even more outlandish than helping to create a new country in Africa: their own spy satellite. “I was like: ‘How come you could Google Earth my house and you can’t Google Earth where war crimes are being committed? It doesn’t make sense to me. And John was like: ‘I don’t know. You know, maybe we can’.”
On their return to the US, the pair contacted Google Maps and a satellite photography specialist, DigitalGlobe. They rented time on three of DigitalGlobe’s satellites stationed in the stratosphere over Sudan and processed the images and overlayed them with Google Maps in minutes. “The trick was not just to get the images but to get them in close to real time and get the analysis done quickly,” said Clooney. “Then you can say ‘Well, five days ago this is what this place looked like. And this is what it looked like two days ago’.”
I told him I thought the idea was brilliant, if a little insane. “It’s a very effective tool,” he replied. “If you’re going to put 150,000 troops on a border, you’re going to have a really tough time claiming this is just rebel infighting if that’s going to be photographed by satellites, up close and personal. It makes it harder to get away with. It makes it impossible for the UN Security Council to veto action against Khartoum. We know it’s effective because the government in Khartoum keeps saying what a rotten bunch of people we are and how it’s not fair.”

Clooney laughed. “I love the ‘It’s not fair’ thing,” he said. “Literally stomping their feet. ‘It’s not fair!’ The Defence Minister came out and said: ‘How would Mr Clooney like it if every time he left his house there were people watching him with cameras?’”

You had to admire the inversion. Clooney, whose privacy was routinely invaded in pursuit of trivialities, was violating the privacy of a dictatorial regime in the pursuit of saving lives. He was using his fame and fortune to try to change a place which, without him, would have remained far more obscure. He presented a less self-indulgent model of celebrity than usual and, with his stature and influence in his industry, could even lay claim to reinventing the whole notion of fame.
Clooney also knew his limits. He had a clear goal – prevention of human suffering – and a well-defined idea of his role. “The reason I come is not because I’m a policy guy and not because I’m a soldier and not because I can do anything except get this on TV and in the newspapers,” he said. “The thing that’s frustrating and disappointing – and you in the news organisations know this better than anybody – is that the assumption is always: ‘Well, if we know, then we do something about it.’ And that just isn’t true. I mean we knew about Rwanda. We knew about Bosnia. We knew. But there was plausible deniability. So we’re going to try and keep it loud enough that at least they can’t say they didn’t know.”

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Clooney’s efforts revealed imagination and refreshing depth. His campaigning was also effective. But when I thought about it later, in some ways that only made it stranger. Because he was charming and handsome and famous and rich, Clooney had been able to help engineer the creation of a vast new country in a faraway land. The fabulousness of one of Hollywood’s leading men, normally used to sell movie tickets and watches and coffee, had changed millions of lives and the course of history. Good for Clooney. But if this was how Western power worked, it was absurd.
At one point I asked Clooney whether he’d met his adversaries in northern Sudan, whose consistent complaint was that Sudan’s future wasn’t the business of an American actor, no matter how cool he was. Clooney replied that his one trip to Khartoum had been frustrating because the government had obstinately refused to listen to him. As Clooney saw it, they forced him to play tough. Clooney was not asking himself, as I was trying to, what any of this – Sudan – had to do with him. Rather, he was acknowledging that in practice it had had a lot to do with him – from the moment he decided it would. He had the clarity of moral obligation. Because he could, he should.
I couldn’t help think it was more complicated than that. Why should a Hollywood actor wield such influence over a distant foreign land? Why should any outsider? How, really, could you ­foster someone else’s independence? Surely the whole point with independence was that people had to do it for themselves?

December 2013: Implosion

Twenty-one months later, South Sudan imploded. On December 15th, 2013, there was an attempted coup in the new capital, Juba, by ­ethnic Nuer soldiers in the presidential guard. Or, as the Nuer had it, Dinka soldiers acting on orders from the paranoid South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir, himself a Dinka, tried to disarm them by force. Whatever the truth, a firefight erupted in the barracks and spilled out on to the streets. Around 500 soldiers died.
The violence reflected an unresolved split among South Sudan’s leaders dating back to their time as rebels. All through their fight with Khartoum, ethnic rivalry among southerners had overlapped with political ambition and flat-out greed. In all the years of war with the north, more southerners had died fighting each other than against Khartoum. At times, the Nuer leader, Riek Machar, even sided with the north. In one notorious attack in 1991, he sacked the Dinka capital, Bor, massacring thousands of civilians.
At independence in July 2011, the Dinka, South Sudan’s largest tribe, took most government and army posts. President Kiir made an effort to broaden the new state’s base by making Machar his deputy. But relations between the two never healed; in July 2013 Kiir fired Machar, along with his entire cabinet, and replaced them with loyalists. From that moment, another showdown was only a matter of time.
The soldiers’ firefight provided the spark. Dinka soldiers began carrying out pogroms across Juba, singling out Nuer soldiers and civilians and shooting them in their homes and in the street. Nuer mutinies erupted in army units across the country. Machar fled the capital and set up a command post in the northern bush. Nuer militias soon began their own series of reprisal massacres against Dinka. Almost immediately, the conflict threatened to widen into a regional war. Machar seemed to be receiving tacit support from Ethiopia. He also appeared to be angling to restart the north-south war, making overtures to Khartoum about renegotiating the split the South paid it from its oil revenue in return for pumping the crude to the Red Sea. Kiir, meanwhile, welcomed reinforcements from Uganda.

Nuer and Dinka mobs began attacking their neighbours. Militias went house to house, demanding to know who was Nuer, who Dinka. Thousands were executed, their bodies left in the street. Children were shot as they ran. Fathers had their throats cut in front of their families. Women and girls were abducted and raped.
Coming on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the blood-letting sharpened memories of how, a few hundred miles to the south, up to a million people had died in 100 days. With each new massacre, the parallels grew. As in Rwanda, families turned on each other. Women and children who sought safety in churches and hospitals and schools and outside UN bases were slaughtered en masse. When a Nuer militia fell on the northern town of Bentiu, massacring hundreds on April 15th and 16th, the UN reported that the killers were spurred on by exhortations on local radio stations, just as they had been in Rwanda. The next day, Dinka militiamen stormed a UN base at Bor and started shooting and slashing at Nuer refugees, killing at least 58. Twenty years before, the world had promised: never again. Newspaper editorials in America and Europe now asked: were those empty words? Could it be happening again? How could it?

April 2014: Mostly Bones

By the time I arrived back in Juba in mid-April 2014, the violence had been raging for four months. Three state capitals had been razed. Up to 40,000 people were dead. More than a million of South Sudan’s population of 6 to 11 million – a measure of the lack of development is that nobody knows for sure – had fled their homes and 250,000 of those had walked abroad. With no one left to tend the farms, the UN was warning 7 million South Sudanese needed food aid and 50,000 children could die of hunger in months. By those figures, the speed and depth of South Sudan’s collapse outdid even Syria’s.
Clooney was now pointing his satellite at his former friends in the south, particularly the city of Malakal, a state capital an hour’s flight north of Juba near the new border with Sudan. Nuer rebels had taken Malakal three times. Three times the SPLA had re-captured it. The last period of rebel occupation in February had been especially devastating. Clooney’s before-and-after pictures showed that where once there had been hundreds of tin shacks and thatched huts, now there were just blackened smudges.
More fighting in and around Malakal seemed imminent. South Sudan’s government depends on oil fields close to the city for 98% of its revenue and Machar was vowing to take those, then Juba, then overthrow Kiir – and the SPLA was preparing to stop him. I was due to fly up to Malakal with the UN but they mixed up the times so Mading Ngor, a South Sudanese journalist with whom I was working, called a friend in the SPLA and within an hour we were in the cargo hold of a white Ilyushin 76 transporter being flown up-country by seven portly Ukrainians.
In Juba the night before, Ngor and I sought out a government official who had just returned from Malakal. “You will find mostly bones,” said the man when we asked him what to expect. “They killed them in the streets and in the churches and in the hospital, then they burned the town to the ground. The dogs and the birds have been at the bones. Malakal isn’t there any more.” Sure enough, when the Ukrainians threw open the plane’s door at Malakal, Ngor and I immediately smelled the bilious stench of bloating corpses.
We walked to the side of the runway. Around 200 people were gathered on its edge, apparently surrounded by everything they’d managed to save. Bedsteads. Bicycle wheels. Tightly packed suitcases. Whole sheets tied up in great bundles. They told us they’d been there for weeks, hoping for a ride to Juba. The Ukrainians unloaded the trucks, pulled up the crew ladder and made ready to depart. Suddenly there was a cry and, as one, the crowd picked up their cases and mattresses and babies and ran to the open plane door. A stand-off ensued. The crowd remonstrated. The Ukrainians refused to lower the ladder. A dog began circling the nose wheel, barking at the pilots above. Ngor and I left them to it.
With Malakal destroyed, we planned to stay at a UN base a mile outside town. The road there was lined by hundreds of rope beds, set up like an endless, open-air dormitory. Underneath were small piles of plastic bags, tin plates, car wheels and bamboo poles. People were busily adding to their piles, arriving from Malakal carrying wooden planks, plastic sheets, plastic chairs, more poles and more beds. Maribou storks as tall as teenagers strutted between the beds, stooping and picking.
Suddenly we were in a small market. Tiny mountains of tomatoes, onions, nuts and ­tamarind were stacked on the bare earth under sheets of plastic tied between poles. A hundred metres further on and we were through the base gates. There were more market stalls and thousands more people – and at first I thought the UN had flung open its gates to the refugees. But after another 50m we passed through a second set of gates, ringed with razor wire and policed by a sentry checking IDs, and the stalls, people and noise ended.
We turned into a long avenue of prefabricated bungalows, perhaps 100 long and five rows deep on each side, more than 500 cabins in all. Parked in front were hundreds of white SUVs marked “UN” or stamped with the logos of international aid agencies. An air-conditioning unit stuck out from each bungalow. Most also had a satellite dish on a metal spike out front. Some were surrounded by small gardens of bright pink bougainvillea, aloe and neem.
Ngor and I wandered the main street. Aside from a jogger who passed us with an iPod strapped to his forearm, the base looked deserted. We came across a cafeteria, then a bigger building on whose arch was written “Hard Rock Complex” in the style of the US chain. After a while we found a door marked “administration”. Inside, a man sat at his desk, typing on his computer. A badge around his neck announced that he was Imad Qatouni, general services assistant. I asked how things were. “So far, so good,” replied Qatouni.
I tried again. “How many refugees are outside?” I asked. “Maybe 22,000,” he said. “They come and go. It changes every day.” Qatouni told us he would find someone to show us where to put our tents. Then he said: “We are providing catering for everybody.” At first I thought he meant the refugees. He didn’t. “It’s 20 South Sudanese pounds for breakfast, and 30 for lunch and dinner. Very reasonable. Out there even a tomato will cost you 15 Sudanese pounds. We even reduced the prices. Tonight you will get turkey, spaghetti, rice and soup.”

I asked about going into Malakal. “There is no town,” said Qatouni. I said we’d heard as much. It was the destruction we had come to see, I explained. Qatouni said he couldn’t help us there. “I have never been outside,” he said. “I have nothing to do there. The military have to do it, so they do patrols. Some of the NGOs go with them. Maybe you could go on patrol too.”
The next morning Ngor phoned another SPLA friend and a jeep came to meet us. As the driver turned on to a main road leading into the city, the destruction began. It announced itself quietly at first. A smashed doorway here. A burned-out hut there. A small stall spilling its plastic and paper guts on to the street. But then, suddenly, Malakal ceased to exist. In every direction was black earth, blackened stubs of walls and bent tin sheets. It was as though a hurricane had passed through. Ngor and I got out and began walking through the debris, sinking up to our ankles in the ash. I came to a metal front gate, now standing alone, the walls on either side vapourised. Behind it a brick house still stood, though its windows were blown out and the wall around them was now smudged with a sooty eye-shadow. We were walking through incinerated lives.
The wreckage under our feet began to assume a medical theme – pill bottles, medicine sachets – when I looked up and saw we were outside Malakal Teaching Hospital. We walked through the front gates over a carpet of silver condom strips. Computers had been dragged out and smashed. Patient records littered the corridors. Gold and purple Christmas tinsel hung on the walls.
We drove to Malakal’s Nile river port. I’d read how in early January more than 200 people trying to escape the violence drowned here when an overcrowded ferry sank. Most of the dead were children. Some, I saw, had not even made it that far. Just by the port gates was a small skull next to a tiny shinbone. Inside there were more bones: an arm, a leg, another small skull next to a black silk hairband. As I walked over, I kicked something. A tiny coccyx skittered across the concrete.
A hundred metres on we were outside St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral. We walked through the gates, across more piles of papers and garbage and up the steps, stepping over a dark patch of blood. There were no bones here. Instead the floor of the cathedral was a sea of brightly coloured clothes in small, neat piles. Perhaps 250 of them. Tucked underneath I found several collections of family photographs. These were the kind of pictures mothers kept, I realised. They would have grabbed them as they fled their homes. Where were the women now? What had happened here to make all these mothers abandon their dearest keepsakes?
Ngor and I drove back to the UN base and began asking around among the refugees. Ernest Uruar was 52, spoke some English and wore a turquoise Unicef cap. “I was in the hospital after Christmas,” he said. “We ran there to save ourselves. My two boys, 16 and 14, died trying to get away when a canoe sank on Christmas Day. So it was just me, my wife and my mother-in-law. We were there when the rebels came the third time. They were just killing people, even the wounded, even my mother-in-law. They were asking ‘Who is Dinka? Who is Nuer? Who is Shilluk?’ If you were Dinka, you were shot. It didn’t matter even if they were children.”
Uruar, who was from a minor tribe, said he’d run with his wife to the cathedral. Hundreds of others did the same. “The rebels were looting the town,” he said. “Then they were coming to the cathedral to look for girls. They raped them.” How long did this go on for, I asked? “Two months,” he replied. “Whenever the rebels were around.”
“Two months?” I asked. “The rebels used the cathedral as a rape camp for two months? When there was a UN base full of peacekeepers 10 minutes away?”
“Two months,” repeated Uruar. At this point, a younger man who’d been listening in interrupted: “They would say: ‘You come, and you, and you. And they would take these girls and use them. One night they took seven and they did not return two. We don’t know what happened to them. My sister was killed. And other relatives.” The man paused. “Only I came out,” he said quietly. Abruptly, he walked away.
Uruar watched him go. “Even you cannot describe this,” he said. “How it became. How we became. When they take the girls, if you are a man and you want to say something, they will beat you and kill you. It was two months of this. Killings and abuses and rapes. And then the UN came. After the rebels had left. They did not risk until it became peaceful. They saw people dying and they did not move.”
I asked Uruar what he thought of the protection offered by the UN. He considered his reply. “In a way, they had a hand in all this destruction,” he said. “They saved our lives late.”
Lunch back at the base was rice, lamb, broccoli and black-eyed peas. With most base residents cocooned all day in their air-con cabins in front of their screens, lunch was one time we got to see them. They would emerge in Bermuda shorts, T-shirts and sandals, shuffling to and from the cafeteria, perhaps stopping in at the Hard Rock Complex to use the gym or shoot some pool in the rec room. How many planes, how many trucks, how much sweat and how many tens of thousands of dollars it had taken to drag that pool table halfway across the world over some of the worst roads in Africa to Malakal?
Later, Ngor and I went to meet the SPLA general who had re-taken Malakal, Johnson Bilieu. We passed hundreds of SPLA soldiers carrying furniture out of deserted houses and loading up trucks in the street. When we mentioned it, the general was defensive. We let it pass. I told the general I wasn’t clear how many people had died. Thousands, he said, apologising for not being more precise. The dogs had dragged so many away, he said. They split up the skeletons. Hundreds more bodies had been washed away by the river. I asked the general what he made of the UN’s efforts to protect civilians. “Slow,” he said.

It was late afternoon by the time we left. Driving back to the base, we took a different route. We passed an open field with a number of earthen mounds in it. It took me a few seconds to register what I had seen and I had to ask the driver to turn around and go back. The field turned out to be the town cemetery. Just inside the gate was a large expanse of freshly dug earth, perhaps 25m wide and broad. Behind it was another one, and behind that, and further on, and on either side several more.
I counted 13 large mounds, 24 medium-sized ones and more than 100 small ones. Sitting on one mound was a skull, half of its cranium missing. I asked our SPLA driver if he knew how many were buried in each large grave. “About 20 to 30,” he replied. Ngor phoned the general. The graves hadn’t been dug by the SPLA, he said. But by then we already knew. In the earth were the tracks of fat tyres of heavy lifting machines of the kind sitting at the entrance of the UN base. The world had guided the South Sudanese to freedom. Two and a half years later, it was shovelling their bodies into mass graves with bulldozers.

August 2013, White Saviours

In August 2013, I made a request under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act, asking the Foreign Office to release some confidential files on the Biafran civil war in Nigeria in 1967–70. They contained reports on a pioneering Geneva-based PR agency, Markpress, led by an American called William Bernhardt. MI6’s file provided a methodical account of how, by co-opting celebrities and journalists, Markpress and Bernhardt created the first modern humanitarian ­campaign.
In 1967, southern ethnic Igbos had rebelled against Nigeria’s northern elite, favoured by the British Empire, declaring the secession of a state they called Biafra. Markpress had been hired by the rebels to generate support in the West.
“[Markpress] has for over a year, we hear, been flying out groups of German and Swiss journalists,” wrote P Arengo-Jones in a letter marked “Confidential,” dated October 16th 1968, and addressed to London from the Swiss town of Berne. In another, he continued, “We are finding it very difficult to isolate the mercenary involvement of people with Markpress from their humanitarian concern for the Ibos (sic). One of them, a well-known broadcaster, makes frequent trips to rebel-held parts of Nigeria but is always able on his return to broadcast about the child resettlement scheme in which he helps.”
What so mystified Arengo-Jones was how, despite being commercially contracted itself, Markpress was succeeding by advocating a belief in selfless, elevated ethics – the need to “do something”. The idea behind this type of Western intervention would be not to kill others or seize territory or protect interests but to save lives and restore some morality to the exercise of Western power.
Nevertheless, the humanitarians’ ­campaign also drew on several colonial precedents. Imperialists believed the exercise of European power necessarily improved a place; the Biafran humanitarians believed it would too. The bad guys in Markpress’ Biafran presentations would have been familiar to any Christian colonialist: they were Muslim, in particular soldiers of the Muslim-dominated Nigerian army and the mobs who beat and killed the Christian Igbos. The campaigners described the crimes of these Islamist barbarians with a word invented for the Holocaust: genocide.
Biafra remains a template today for the ideas, organisations and individuals it brought to prominence. In particular, Biafra set the stage for a certain type of swashbuckling humanitarian. Unicef, Save the Children and Caritas were all on their first foreign ground operation in Biafra, and Oxfam only its second. Médecins Sans Frontières, the most glamorous of all aid agencies and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, was founded specifically for Biafra by Bernard Kouchner, the future French foreign minister. Kouchner was then a Red Cross worker who quit his organisation in disgust at the way its neutrality prevented it from distinguishing righteous from wrong. Another figure in this movement was a young French populist philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy. A third was the ­former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Brazilian Sergio Vieira de Mello.
With no shortage of foreign crises on to which to project their vision, this small, charismatic group quickly grew into a worldwide movement. The aid groups deployed to an earthquake in ­Nicaragua in 1972, a hurricane in Honduras in 1974 and set up refugee camps for Cambodians in Thailand in 1975. In 1979, Kouchner filled a boat called L’Île de Lumière (The Island of Light) with doctors and journalists to sail the South China Sea administering to fleeing South Vietnamese boat people.
In the 1980s in Afghanistan, where Médecins Sans Frontières, and a crop of other relief groups were patching up those wounded in the mujahideen fight against a Soviet invasion, the humanitarians made a second, crucial evolution. The new thinking was that Western military power could be good if exercised righteously and in the cause of liberty. Might could be right. Wars could be just.
Around the same time, the aid workers’ ranks were swelled by a tide of celebrities. Famously, in 1984, the Irish singer Bob Geldof watched television news images of a famine in Ethiopia and underwent a conversion from selfish, priapic rockstar to curmudgeonly humanitarian. Geldof put together an all-star charity record, Do They Know Its Christmas? which raised £6m for ­famine relief. Six months later Geldof staged Live Aid, simultaneous all-star concerts in London and Philadelphia that were broadcast around the world. The concerts raised more than $100m. Famous friends simultaneously increased the humanitarians’ impetus, and self-regard.

The humanitarian cause suffered a setback in 1992-93 when a US mission to support a UN effort to address another famine, this time in Somalia, ended with Black Hawk Down. Televised images of the bodies of two of the 18 dead US soldiers being dragged through the streets led to anguished questions. What were we thinking of? What were our boys doing there? But when accounts of the Rwandan genocide began emerging in April 1994, the US and the rest of the world were castigated for not being there.
Among those torn by guilt over Rwanda was a young official at the National Security Council under US President Bill Clinton, Susan Rice. “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,” Rice would later say.
Rwanda’s effect was to make the case for humanitarian intervention seem incontestable. In 1999 in Kosovo, where Kouchner and de Mello both served as UN special representatives, Nato bombed the Serbs out of humanitarian concern. Also present was a young reporter, Samantha Power. Based on her experiences, Power wrote a biography of de Mello and a Pulitzer ­Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, in which she sketched out an emerging philosophy justifying Western humanitarian intervention as a moral obligation.
In 1999, de Mello took a job as UN administrator in East Timor, where he vigorously repelled attacks by Indonesian security forces and Muslim militias on the Catholic East Timorese. In 2003, Henri Lévy became one of the few Europeans outside the British government to support the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan – on the grounds that fighting Islamism was a humanitarian cause.
After Kouchner became French foreign ­minister under the centre-right administration of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, he formally reversed France’s opposition to the war and the broader war on terror. Iraq and the bloody sectarian chaos that ensued proved a second setback. It also claimed de Mello’s life. Working as the head of another UN mission, this time in Baghdad, he was killed along with 20 other members of his staff in the bombing of the UN headquarters in 2003 by an al-Qaida group that declared it was avenging de Mello’s actions against Islamist militants in East Timor.
The loss of one of the world’s foremost humanitarians only redoubled the resolve of his peers. A UN World Summit in 2005 adopted humanitarian intervention – the “Responsibility to Protect”, or R2P – as official UN doctrine. R2P enshrined in international law both the reason and duty for humanitarian intervention. A nation would henceforth forfeit its sovereignty if it committed or was unable to prevent massive human rights abuses on its soil. In such circumstances, the outside world could, and must, take action to stem the disaster through diplomacy, sanctions or, if needed, military force.
The same year, Power, by now in academia, began advising a young US Senator called Barack Obama on another humanitarian touchstone, the war between Darfuri rebels in western Sudan and Khartoum. Sudan had long been a focus for humanitarians but, after 9/11, their numbers were swelled by right-wing Christian Americans who characterised the conflict between north and south as one between Christians and Muslims. American evangelicals like Franklin Graham founded aid groups to assist the south. Republican Congressmen began flying in with suitcases of dollars to buy Christian slaves their freedom from Muslim masters. George W Bush’s administration was soon the lead mediator in peace talks between north and south.

On Darfur and Sudan, Power worked closely with another rising US advocate of intervention in Africa, John Prendergast. Prendergast had started his career as a humanitarian in Sudan, writing reports on the excruciating violence between rival southern militias for Human Rights Watch. Under Bill Clinton, he had worked at the National Security Council as Director for African Affairs and as an advisor to Rice in the State Department. He would later work for the International Crisis Group, then co-found the Enough Project – “the project to end genocide and crimes against humanity”. There, Prendergast became the humanitarians’ bridge to the Hollywood elite, helping recruit Clooney (Sudan), Angelina Jolie (sexual violence in war zones), Matt Damon (water), Ben Affleck (Congo) and Don Cheadle (genocide and environment).
When Obama was elected, humanitarians extended their reach further into government. The new president appointed Power as Special Assistant to the President in the State Department and a Senior Director at the National Security Council. He made Susan Rice ambassador to the UN. In 2011 Rice and Power led the argument inside the White House in favour of attacking Libya to protect civilians. In 2013, Obama promoted Rice to National Security Advisor, after briefly considering her to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, while Power took Rice’s old job at the UN.
The humanitarians’ ascent was complete. What had begun as an ideal inside the protest movement of the 1960s was, 50 years later, a cornerstone of establishment Western foreign policy.

April 2014, Individuation

The accusation most commonly levelled at humanitarians is that their efforts can often be more about the saviour than the saved. There is no doubt about the nobility of their goals: an end to suffering and war. But though humanitarians like to say they champion universal human values, it’s probably more accurate to say they advocate the spread of enlightenment, as it is understood in the West. Naturally, that presupposes that other parts of the world, and their ­peoples, are less progressive.­
The Responsibility to Protect wrote in stone that some governments are better than others. In that sense, R2P embodies the same instincts as the kinder aspects of colonialism. Like imperialism, the foundation of humanitarianism is that the West knows best. Like imperialism, humanitarianism overrules others’ sovereignty in the name of civilising them. Like imperialists, humanitarians often find themselves in opposition to doctrinaire Islam, whose prescriptions for women and criminals they find hideously backward. And what they present as selflessness can often feel like self-regard on the receiving end.
Africa has received more than its share of ­foreigners on a quest of what psychiatrist Carl Jung called individuation: discovering ­oneself out in the world, in this case by journeying through a faraway land. A laudable rite of passage in the West, it is one that inescapably makes Africans bit players in their own story. South Sudan, I began to think, had suffered especially badly from individuation. The South Sudanese won their war for freedom at huge cost. But it was foreigners who shaped much of what followed. On paper, independence might have ushered in a prosperous future. The South owns most of Sudan’s oil. It is also blessed with millions of hectares of fertile land around the vast Sudd swamp. Cows, worth $250-400 a head, outnumber people. For the humanitarians, this was a place to start from scratch and finally prove their case with their purest, most ambitious project to date: the creation of an entirely new country.
I first began visiting South Sudan in early 2009. Even then many were saying the plan was too idealistic, too ambitious. Five years ago Juba was little more than a village of mud huts and ­plastic-bag roofs in the empty flatlands and bare rock hills that marked the Sahara’s southern edge. There were a few businesses, a few police, a handful of schools, one run-down hospital and several hundred bureaucrats. With the arrival of thousands of aid workers, there was also the occasional traffic jam of white SUVs on Juba’s five tarred roads and a small clutch of bars filled with hustlers and hookers to soak up those expat salaries. But that hardly added up to a country.
Many diplomats doubted the new country would make it. They coined a term to describe its unique status: “pre-failed state.” David Gressly, then the UN’s coordinator, admitted the run-up to the secession referendum was dominated by “discussion about whether southern Sudan will be ready”. The US was the bigger single player in South Sudan, its influence was memorialised by a first president, Kiir, who was rarely seen without the Stetson given him by George Bush, and a national seal that featured a bald eagle – a species not found in Africa – over the motto “Justice, Liberty, Prosperity”. “South Sudan would not exist without the US,” one Western diplomat in Juba told me.
Former US president Jimmy Carter had worked on health and democracy in Sudan for years. When I phoned him to ask whether southern Sudan was ready for independence, he replied simply: “No.” General Scott Gration was the US Special Envoy for Sudan in those years. He called the timetable “hard; frankly very, very hard” and described his task as ensuring “civil divorce, not civil war”. “This place could go down in flames tomorrow,” he said. “The probability of failure is great.” Particularly depressing was how the leaders of the south showed every sign of behaving as badly as their enemies in the north. Two thirds of the southern government were illiterate. Perhaps that helped explain why they left dealing with some of the worst levels of health, education and poverty in the world – anything, really, that concerned building a new nation – to aid workers.
The ministers’ prime focus seemed to be dividing up oil revenues among themselves. In 2011, several diplomats told me the government had stolen $14bn in oil money since 2005. That didn’t stop the south from attacking the north in 2012 and trying to steal what oil remained on the other side of the border.
There were other signs of thuggery. Journalists were being beaten, imprisoned and killed. A constitution drawn up for the new nation by Kiir granted him authoritarian powers. Worst of all, many southern leaders had turned on each other. Even before the Dinka-Nuer war erupted, thousands were dying every year in tribal clashes over land and cattle.
Given the size of the task and the need to lead by example, the humanitarians might still have proved their worth if they were able to show impressive results. They didn’t. In 2005, South Sudan’s donors had set up a $526m fund to get the country on its feet by paying for roads, running water, agriculture, health and education. Four years later, it had only spent $217m of that. A World Bank investigation discovered its staff, who were managing the fund, were out of their depth. They had held up any spending for a whole year, for instance, before deigning to explain to the southern government that it would need to open a bank account before any pay-outs could be made. Then there was the UN, with its budget of just less than $924m a year and its 70 fortified bases across the country. It escaped no South Sudanese that the single biggest infrastructure project – what South Sudan lacked above all else – was housing and offices for foreigners.

Every time I returned to South Sudan, I heard more anger at these giant air-conditioned, razor-wired moon-bases on the edge of every town, which managed the neat trick of simultaneously focusing the UN’s efforts on itself while also cutting it off from the people it was meant to assist. The bases, I felt, symbolised the dilemma confronting humanitarianism. By designating one people as able to help and another as in need of that help, aid can disable. Empowerment programmes can disempower. The very effort of trying to lift a people up can diminish them.
South Sudan threw up other contradictions. It turned out freedom, by its very nature, couldn’t be shepherded or done on another’s behalf. When South Sudan’s leaders interpreted their freedom as the freedom to kill each other, and the world reacted with horror, Kiir and others accused the world of misunderstanding what it had helped create. Freedom meant freedom from everyone – from Khartoum, yes, but also from erstwhile friends. Even in a partially-­formed state like South Sudan, the world had far less influence than it imagined.
President Kiir was especially intolerant of suggestions that he owed anyone. “I am not under your command,” he told Ban Ki-moon in 2012 when the UN Secretary-General urged him to end his brief invasion of the north. “I am a head of state accountable to my people. I will not withdraw the troops.” In January, when the world demanded an end to the fighting, Kiir’s government staged mass rallies outside UN bases across the country demanding that the foreigners leave.
After Hilde Johnson, the Norwegian head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), protested at the way UN relief convoys were being harassed and delayed, Kiir accused her of trying to supplant him. “Hilde Johnson and the UN are running a parallel government,” he said. “They want to be the government of this country.” In September 2014, after months of ever louder ­foreign aid agency warnings of a looming famine, Kiir’s government responded by announcing the foreigners had to go. Within a month, it decreed, 80% of all management or secretarial positions in all agencies or businesses in the country had to be filled with South Sudanese.

The End?

When I phoned him from Juba in April this year, Prendergast said any expectations that South Sudan would experience a smooth birth ran counter to the violent norms of human history. But it was also true, he said, that South Sudan showed that the way the world pursues its interventions “is crushingly flawed and will never make a difference unless it’s altered. You have this plan where humanitarians are dispatched to help build a state – and they run smack up against political forces that have no interest in long-term peace and stability, that benefit from instability and no transparency. [The humanitarians] work on development before the war is over. They work with governments that are completely unreformed. The rebels are integrated into a national army without reform, so their predation continues. At this point in South Sudan, everybody has failed at their function.”
So far, the UN has been unable even to protect its own bases, let alone venture out to stop the killing. “These forces were sent for state building, not war,” said Prendergast. “You need to get troops that are willing to fight.” Even emergency relief has been insufficient. By September 2014 around 1.7 million people had been displaced. Cholera swept Juba when the rains arrived in mid-May killing more than 130 and infecting close to 6,000, many of them refugees camped outside the UN’s main base in Juba. While the spread of the disease appears to be stalling, malaria has now also rocketed. Aid agencies are reporting rising malnutrition and sporadic starvation whilst warning of a fully-fledged famine within months. Those warnings followed one by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council that, in a worst case scenario, “half South Sudan’s 12 million people will either be displaced internally, refugees abroad, starving or dead by the year’s end”.
At talks in Nairobi in June Kiir and Machar did agree, at least in principle, to share power again in a national unity government. But with the underlying tension unhealed, any hope that offered seemed slim.
So maybe, sighed a few elder diplomats in Juba, maybe you just withdrew. Asked what the world had accomplished in South Sudan, one senior Western diplomat with decades of experience in Sudan replied: “I would say we have saved a lot of lives.” But it was a fair question, he said, whether two generations of foreign efforts had had the opposite effect. “Did we create this?” asked the diplomat. “If we had bailed out 20 years ago, would the country be more politically mature now? Probably, yes.” A few minutes later, I noticed the diplomat was struggling not to cry. Seeing Ngor and me off at the steel gates of his high-walled compound, he said: “I honestly don’t think ­anybody here has any answers any more.”
But the humanitarian character meant that, whatever the doubts, whatever the misgivings, there was no question of quitting. By positioning themselves as the protectors of all, humanitarians all but knowingly set themselves up for failure. Confronted by it, I heard scores of US diplomats, UN officials, aid workers and activists accept responsibility, confess they should have done more – and refuse to be deterred. Failure was no reason to doubt the cause. When I spoke to her in April, UN chief Hilde Johnson stressed the enormity of the task still ahead. “A peace agreement is just a few signatures on a piece of paper,” she said. “Actual peace starts the day the signatures are dry.”
When I met Clooney by the Nile in 2012, I’d asked him why he kept going to South Sudan, what he got out of it. He said: “The truth is I think any human being, once they participate in something that’s bigger than themselves and something that you can’t fix yourself . . . the idea that you wouldn’t continue . . . you would feel as if you had done something terrible, you’d abandoned them. So you have to continue.”
Fifty years ago, Africa’s dislike of outsiders telling them what to do produced an angry wave of independence. Today a decade of rapid economic growth has once again given the continent a spirit of impatient African assertion. Still, there will always be Africans who, for their own reasons, ask the humanitarians to intervene.
Clooney had mentioned that one South Sudanese official to whom he was particularly close was Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, former ambassador to the US. He has since been released, but when I was in Juba he was on trial for treason, one of four government figures Kiir accused of instigating the violence in December. The four were being kept under lock and key except for the occasional court appearance.
One of those happened to fall on a day that Ngor and I were in Juba. We arrived early, positioned ourselves at the court entrance and, as the four accused were driven in and swept past in a cloud of soldiers and assistants, Ngor slipped a note with a handful of questions I had prepared into the hand of Gatkuoth’s lawyer.
“Some say the world should pull out,” I wrote. “Some argue for more intervention. What do you think?” The lawyer returned the note the next day, with Gatkuoth’s replies scribbled under my queries. The disaster in South Sudan had a clear solution, wrote Gatkuoth: “George Clooney must get more engaged now to help shape the future of this country.”

Alex Perry's in-depth ebook Clooney's War: South Sudan, Humanitarian Failure and Celebrity is available now from Newsweek Insights.


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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Missa on Fri Oct 03 2014, 00:56

George's resignation from the UN in April, which seemed to coincide with his engagement, now seems much more likely to have been in response to their standing by while people were killed and girls kidnapped and raped right down the road from their base.  Good on him.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by party animal - not! on Fri Oct 03 2014, 01:37

Totally agree, Missa. I have a feeling he's pretty angry with some of the grinding beuracracy of the UN too......more to this than meets the eye I think. I did wonder when Moon made his statement about it. In some areas I detect a sense of complacency. But I could be wrong. I'm only an onlooker

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Missa on Fri Oct 03 2014, 01:42

I've heard stories before about U.N. presence in other conflicts, where they stood by and watched people be harassed or beaten or killed (I think this was in Bosnia).Something about how they aren't allowed to engage in combat, they're meant to be "observers". I can't imagine how much more painful it is to go through something like this and know there are people ten minutes away who could stop it and won't.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Sevens on Sat Oct 04 2014, 02:12

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Donnamarie on Tue Oct 07 2014, 18:13

The Daily Beast has just put out an article dated today "Confronting George Clooney's Critics on South Sudan" by John Avlon. Interesting article contrasting the Newsweek article of last week in the perception of George's involvement in the Sudan/South Sudan referendum and eventual independence.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by LizzyNY on Tue Oct 07 2014, 21:45

Donnamarie - I read that article this morning. What really struck me was that the author of the Newsweek article had no solution to the problems in Africa. His only point seemed to me to be that everyone should mind their own business and let the Africans fend for themselves.

 He might have been in charge of policy during WWII, when millions died because no one came to their aid. I wonder what he'd say if he had been one of those victims. I wonder, too, how many millions he's willing to watch die because he doesn't approve of Western intervention on a humanitarian basis because it seems to him to be imperialistic.

If attempts to help are failing, the reasons why should be investigated and changes made. George is right. You don't just give up and walk away.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Donnamarie on Wed Oct 08 2014, 04:47

It seems the current rhetoric on Western intervention into countries for humanitarian reasons is that we need to step back. Our involvement only creates more conflict, bloodshed and deaths.. We don't understand their cultures. It is a fine line that we need to walk to do the right thing but standing by while millions die as a result of cruel dictatorships or because of famine is not the answer.

George has always said his role is to shine a light on the atrocities. He prods and polks the right people to help bring help and change. You're right. Mr. Perry offers no solutions or ideas to solving some of the problems in African countries. Let them figure it out themselves. I think all involved, including George, knew that establishing South Sudan as a separate country, would be a messy endeavor and it would take years before peace and prosperity would be achieved. But I think he feels that he and others involved in this mission must continue the fight.


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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by party animal - not! on Wed Oct 08 2014, 09:46

Here is the Daily Beast article from somebody who travelled with them and reported there at the time of Independence

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So much better balanced in its views




Confronting George Clooney’s Critics on South Sudan

Violence in South Sudan makes it easy to blame the actor for interfering in African politics, but he has been brave enough to make a real difference.

The remaining newsstands across the nation are still dotted with magazines featuring photos of George Clooney’s Venetian wedding to British barrister Amal Alamuddin.

This controlled embrace of the paparazzi on Clooney’s wedding day was motivated by charity rather than the typical celebrity cash grab.  All proceeds are going to Clooney’s newest attempt to combat mass atrocities in Africa—a spin-off of his ambitious and effective Satellite Sentinel initiative, which will be directed at following the money that funds massacres.  

Tucked away in some remote corner of the newsstand you might find a decidedly different Clooney cover story—a print issue of Newsweek with an article titled “George Clooney, South Sudan and How the World’s Newest Nation Imploded.”

The story is an extract from an e-book by Alex Perry which details the humanitarian roots of South Sudan’s independence and subsequent bloody struggles, weaving it into a tale of well-intentioned but ultimately doomed western interventions across the decades.  Clooney is the celluloid straw man—an out-sized outsider whose determination to “do something” ended up propelling the birth of a nation that was not ready for freedom.

The contrast between the magazine covers presents its own noxious irony right up front: while Clooney is consciously leveraging his celebrity to get people to care about something bigger than celebrity, the Newsweek critique is leveraging Clooney’s celebrity to simply sell magazines. After all, a cover story about South Sudan wouldn’t exactly fly off the shelves—but frame it as some sort of celebrity scandal and maybe people will buy the thing.  We all get the joke. But I’m not laughing at this one.

Cynicism often gets dressed up as world-weary wisdom.  But it’s an essentially lazy pose, pretending to be clever while absolving the bearer of actually trying to solve problems. And trying to pin South Sudan’s problems on George Clooney absurdly misses the point while also rewriting recent history. Most of all, it disrespects the 98% of South Sudanese who voted for independence in 2011 after decades of a bloody civil war which killed 2.5 million people—more than any conflict since the Second World War.

On the night of January 9th, 2011, [url=http://]Juba was the most joyful place on earth[/url].  By the banks of the Nile, I was covering the independence referendum for an earlier incarnation of Newsweek, travelling with Clooney and Enough Project Founder John Prendergast.  And while Clooney was the hook for Western readers, the story was really about celebration—the delivery of democracy by the ballot box rather than the bullet.  

Despite the massive margin of victory, there was nothing inevitable about the outcome.  While international outrage at the ethnic cleansing in Darfur in 2004 raised awareness about the suffering of the Sudanese people under the thuggish theocratic regime of Omar al-Bashir, a peace deal brokered by the Bush administration offered the chance for a peaceful referendum on separation between the largely Arab and Muslim north of the nation (where Osama bin Laden hid out for much of the 1990s) and the African and largely Animist and Christian south.  But as the referendum day fast approached, no actionable plans were being made for it to proceed and so a renewed civil war loomed. 

The international community seemed paralyzed. Bashir was betting on a combination of amnesia and apathy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Sudan was a “ticking time bomb,” while the CIA assessed that “mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in Southern Sudan.” Getting people to pay attention to a possible new round of slaughter in the region proved difficult. Here’s where Clooney decision to leverage his celebrity had a definite impact.  As I wrote in Newsweek at the time:

“After Clooney launched a media blitz to mark 100 days to the referendum, English-language newspaper, magazine, and website mentions of the Sudan referendum spiked from six to 165 in one month. Between October and January, the referendum was mentioned in 96 stories across the networks and cable news—with Clooney used as a hook one third of the time. In that same period, 95,000 people sent emails to the White House demanding action on South Sudan. Valentino Achak Deng, the former ‘lost boy’ known to Americans as the subject of a bestselling ‘fictionalized memoir’ by Dave Eggers, What Is the What, says simply: “The referendum would not have taken place without his involvement. Never. He saved millions of lives.”

The point is not that Clooney deserves all the praise (or blame) for South Sudan’s independence. But there’s no question that he elevated the issue to such an extent that ignoring the previously agreed upon referendum became impossible.  Clooney used his media influence to serve as an early warning system, helping people remember their promise to “never forget” slaughters like Rwanda. Warnings from the Secretary of State and the UN Secretary General couldn’t make people give a damn.  Clooney could and did.  

But Perry’s Newsweek critique of Clooney is fixated on questions about whether Clooney suffers from some kind of epidemic western Messiah complex: “Clooney was not asking himself, as I was trying to, what any of this—Sudan—had to do with him,” Perry writes. “Rather, he was acknowledging that in practice it had a lot to do with him—from the moment he decided it would.  He had the clarity of moral obligation.  Because he could, he should.” 

Got that? Just because Clooney could help stop a slaughter and give rise to a referendum doesn’t mean that he should have done it. Perry implies that the better path might have been some kind of benign neglect by the international community, quite possibly while Sudan and its southern citizens waged a new civil war. It would all work itself out in time. 

“How, really, could you foster someone else’s independence?” Perry muses. “Surely, the whole point of independence was that people had to do it for themselves.” In this, Perry might want to consult a quick history of French aid in the American Revolution or reflect on the international role in undermining apartheid in his own native land. The world didn’t begin with the Iraq War.

But Clooney is really just a framing device for the story’s larger target—Western humanitarian interventionists, who Perry traces to a PR guru during the Biafran civil war in the late-60s that birthed that well-known league of bad actors, Doctors Without Borders. Perry then hop-scotches to Charlie Wilson’s War-era Afghanistan, Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof’s Live Aid relief concerts in the face of Ethiopian famine and 1999 Kosovo where, Perry blithely explains, “NATO bombed the Serbs out of humanitarian concern.” Here he’s able to tie in Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s previous incarnation as a journalist and author of “A Problem from Hell” to condemn the resurgence of liberal interventionism and the adoption of the UN’s “Responsibility to Protect,” known as R2P. 

“The Responsibility to Protect wrote in stone that some governments are better than others,” Perry writes.  “In that sense, R2P embodies the same instincts as the kinder aspects of colonialism. Like imperialism, the foundation of humanitarianism is that the West knows best. Like imperialism, humanitarianism overrules others’ sovereignty in the name of civilising them. Like imperialists, humanitarians often find themselves in opposition to doctrinaire Islam, whose prescriptions for women and criminals they find hideously backward.”

In a few neat sentences, Perry turns the idea of moral obligation into moral relativism.  And that’s what really ought to make your stomach turn.  Humanitarianism becomes Imperialism.  Ethnic cleansing becomes a geo-political lifestyle choice.  And condemnation of such slaughters outside sovereign borders becomes thinly-veiled racism, a reflection of deep-seeded Islamophobia.

Perry is on more stable ground when he details the impotence of UN bureaucrats in South Sudan as they go about life in their bunkered bubbles, disconnected from the people they are supposed to protect.   He catalogues the sloppy flow of outside money and its failures to transform the country. And he tallies the tribal power plays and party purges by South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir, which have led to bloody battles and unjust imprisonment that threaten to tear the world’s youngest nation apart.  His descriptive reporting can be compelling.  Perry enjoys raising questions but he’s reluctant to offer anything resembling answers. It is the luxury of the professional observer.

Yes, there are unintended consequences to every action. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action, especially when genocide threatens to rear its ugly head. And the piece’s ultimate criticisms of Clooney—that he empowered a would-be dictator and abandoned the country after midwifing its birth don’t pan out when confronted with research or facts.  

Clooney’s commitment to South Sudan has continued.  His SatSentinel, a privately funded, publically accessible satellite executed through the Enough Project, DigitalGlobe, and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has documented real-time troop build-ups along contested borders between the north and south and provided indelible evidence of slaughters and razed villages. He’s leveraged his commercial status as a spokesman for Nescafe in Europe to convince the company to invest significantly in the production of coffee in South Sudan, which was a major cash crop there before the civil war. Coffee is now the second largest export from South Sudan, after oil.  And his newest project, which the sale of his wedding photos will help fund, promises to track the assets that have been stolen from the South Sudan treasury to fuel the fighting. By any measure, this sustained support is evidence that one person can make a difference, not out of short-term self-interest but a long-term belief that winning the peace is every bit as essential as winning a war.  If someone wants to dismiss this as do-goodism, fine, but it has real world effects.

Moreover, Clooney and other pro-referendum activists were always careful to caution that South Sudan’s early years might well be chaotic, but the chance of a peaceful separation was far preferable to a new civil war. And while Clooney observed the referendum, he declined invitations to attend the independence ceremony seven months later and the inauguration of President Salva Kiir.  His top Africa policy pal, John Prendergast of the Enough Project, recounts Clooney explaining his concerns along the lines I heard as well: “We don't know how this new government in Juba is going to be.  Remember how the U.S. liked Robert Mugabe and Charles Taylor in the early going?  Supporting the South Sudanese people is one thing, but supporting the government is another.  Our work is to promote human rights and peace, not support one group or another."

“The South Sudanese won their independence from one of the most brutal and intolerant regimes on the planet,” Prendergast continues. “98 percent of Southerners voted for independence, not because Hollywood came to visit or called on them to do so, but because it was what they had fought long and hard for. Perry and others seem to completely diminish the agency of South Sudanese in their own history.  The South Sudanese earned their freedom.  It wasn't given to them.” 

It’s no surprise that South Sudan’s transition to independence has been rocky—utopians need not apply. And to some extent, Newsweek’s Slate-pitch Clooney critique is a sign of the times: amid our exhaustion with foreign intervention, it’s tempting to believe that engaging with the wider world is a sucker’s bet fraught with deathly ironic unintended consequences.  But in a celebrity-obsessed culture filled with Kardashians, George Clooney decided to use some of his time, money and influence on a sustained basis to set an example of soft power that could actually help some people half a world away. He dared us to care. In the process, he helped amplify the voices of people like a young man named Gaddaffi in Juba that January day, who bounded up after voting and declared, “He told the international community to wake up, that we didn't have to be Rwanda.”

Amid grim alternatives, Clooney helped remind us all that one man still can make a difference.  And that’s why he remains the rare celebrity worth celebrating. 

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Nicky80 on Wed Oct 08 2014, 20:42

Donnamarie wrote:It seems the current  rhetoric on Western intervention into countries for humanitarian reasons is that we need to step back.  Our involvement only creates more conflict, bloodshed and deaths..   We don't understand their cultures.  It is a fine line that we need to walk to do the right thing but standing by while millions die as a result of cruel dictatorships or because of famine is not the answer.  

George has always said his role is to shine a light on the atrocities.  He prods and polks the right people to help bring help and change.  You're right.  Mr. Perry offers no solutions or ideas to solving some of the problems in African countries.  Let them figure it out themselves.  I think all involved, including George, knew that establishing  South Sudan as a separate country, would be a messy endeavor and it would take years before peace and prosperity would be achieved.  But I think he feels that he and others involved in this mission must continue the fight.  


I so agree with your comment.

And it is not surprising. It was already reported in many different news outlets over years that Western countries have to step back . And they didn't mean it in a bad way when they reported it. They meant exactly what you wrote above.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Alisonfan on Wed Oct 08 2014, 21:53

I think the whole thing was shining a light on that old chestnut "credibility".
The article was painfully well timed.  Brace yourselves more to come  affraid

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Silje on Sun Oct 19 2014, 07:41

Here is a very critical article from Counterpunch, which I think is a leftist newsletter in America. 


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October 07, 2014
The Disposition to Admire
Celebrity Culture, George Clooney and Human Rights


by DANIEL RAVENTOS and JULIE WARK


A few days ago, Venice was swamped, not by the unruly waters of its acqua alta but a wedding that cost, according to one estimate £8 million (or maybe it was the lower but still incredible sum of $1.6 million claimed by People – which might be tailored to the socially-conscious image of the happy pair). Public space, like the footpath along the Grand Canal and the surrounds of the Cavalli Palace, was cordoned off to keep the gawking multitudes at bay and vaporetti had to give way to the wedding flotilla when their canals weren’t totally closed off so the VIPs could zip around unimpeded by Venice’s citizens. The wedding was supposed to be low-key and private according to the groom’s publicists, but they were certainly fibbing. This was the big chance to take real-life Hollywood to the set of what some call the world’s most romantic city. It’s also one of the most expensive. And what’s a little lie here and there when pockets need a plusher lining?


Then there was a bride who unbachelored George Clooney, the world’s most eligible bachelor, as they kept saying. Her name is Amal Alamuddin and she’s touted as a “human rights lawyer”. So George Cloney (not sic) has married a brilliant, virtuous woman. Of course she’s beautiful too. “Stunning” is the media’s favourite word. Some of the marginally more politically correct publications have observed that it’s not about the human rights lawyer being lucky enough to grab George, but he’s the lucky one because he’s snared this amazing woman. The human rights lawyer had all the fashionistas drooling as one extremely costly designer outfit after another draped the lean, leggy frame. The show was so elegant that they even had a monogram (slender A leans into chunky G) designed to be flown on pennants decorating water taxis, or to adorn hat boxes and other useful things. The guests were all “A-list”. If you want to be A-list you need to have enough cash and arrogance to swoop into places like Venice on your private jet (leaving your massive carbon footprint) and cordon off locals who might get in your way.

As if it’s not bad enough that we are supposed to admire (envy?) a man and a woman who are so vain that they can spend $13 (or $1.6) million on themselves at an event that makes them legally recognised bed-mates and fortune sharers, there are even more dismaying aspects to all this. With such awful ostentation of the wealth and sense of entitlement of the carefree rich, it’s hard to pinpoint where the rot of moral sleaze sets in. Maybe a few people saw that something was out of whack when the immaculate couple, beaming bliss with scarily white, straight rows of flashing fangs went to seal their contract at the Town Hall. A few dozen disgruntled council workers were there protesting against budget cuts in the social services, police and cultural heritage. It was a jarring note, but the city’s resources were poured into protection for the lovebirds.
Then there are gender issues. Lucky Amal. George is so dashing, charming, and gallant, and she has the most fab wardrobe to go with her Armani clad man(nequin). She’s going to have to teeter round on vertiginous heels and wear ridiculous heavily embroidered mushroom-skirted dresses for the rest of her wifely life just to stay with the image (photo-shopped in ageing George’s case). George could never have a homely wife. So what’s he got? He’s got the “Hottest Barrister in London”, the world’s sexiest human rights lawyer. Looks like the perfect match. They are both “humanitarians”, so much so that they donated the proceeds of the wedding exclusive (sold Kardashian-style to Hello! and People) to charity.

George is big on charity. Everyone knows that. His publicists make sure of it. He founded the NGO “Not on Our Watch” with his Hollywood pals Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and producer Jerry Weintraub, ostensibly to call attention to human rights violations in Darfur and provide resources to put an end to other mass atrocities. It also calls attention to George. Much of his funding to the region goes through the United Nations World Food Programme and he was also named United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2008, in support of the UN’s peace-keeping efforts around the world. These efforts are, in fact, less than glorious with debacles like the Srebrenica massacre, child sex abuse scandals, failure to prevent the massacres in Darfur, Rwanda, and the Nepalese strain of cholera the peacekeepers imported into Haiti with tragic consequences for the already battered people of the country, and for which the UN still pleads “immunity” (read impunity). But anyway it’s all A-list and well publicised.
What’s wrong with charity? Plenty. Charity is antithetical to human rights. Human dignity is trampled on by charity and its postmodern form of humanitarianism whereby alms are selectively offered or imposed from outside on a temporary basis and usually to benefit the giver, almost always in some kind of self-serving public act. It insults the humanity of those on the receiving end. Their human dignity is offended by enforced dependence on people who can splurge millions on a wedding. Charity is all about image. It’s easy enough to believe that shadow-lurking greedy bankers or overtly destructive multinationals are bad guys. But the humanitarian super-rich have to be good guys because they’re beautiful (depends on your definition of beauty) and they smile a lot. Sometimes they even adopt little babies from poor countries. They are the made-up, benevolent face of the same system in which obscene wealth coexists with the facts that more than 50% of the world’s population lives in dire poverty and, according to Forbes, the world’s richest 67 inhabitants own assets of the same value as those of that 50%, some 3.5 billion people.
In this vile system, which the charitable rich are shoring up, humanitarianism is a weapon. The uses of human rights, now travestied as humanitarianism in the globalised world, show how they are twisted into their perverse opposite. Few people have put it clearer than the former US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld: one of the Pentagon’s “8 objectives of war” in Iraq was “to immediately deliver humanitarian relief, food and medicine to the displaced and to the many needy Iraqi citizens” (i.e. first bomb and displace them, then roll in your humanitarian effort). The humanitarian intervention is an instant bonanza for United States construction and weapons companies, while humanitarian missions from Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, to Aceh, Thailand, and Sri Lanka after the tsunami, to Cambodia and the more recent post-humanitarian disaster, East Timor, all show the dismantling of local systems, dispossession of the people, and the dire consequences of that as these economies are pulled into the neoliberal system and reshaped to pave the way for the plunder to follow, although the word employed is the euphemistic “reconstruction”.
Partly thanks to their charitable activities and all the money they spend on promoting themselves, we know the names of a lot of the rich and can see their mansions, fleets of cars, private jets and other appurtenances of an empty existence in glossy magazines, but the poor, the excluded, the masses are nameless. Their status as a largely undifferentiated multitude is hard to associate with human features, values and rights. Indeed, many of these masses of people are deemed to be “surplus” populations, and the racist skew here speaks volumes. The list includes West Papuans, all the immigrants and refugees who die trying to enter the US, or reach Europe’s or Australia’s shores, Palestinians, Chagos Islanders, the Rohingya, the San people of Botswana, and all the others who are being dispossessed of their ancestral lands by western multinationals…. They are not even granted the most basic right of all: that of existence.
So, whose human rights is Amal Alamuddin defending? Her clients have included Enron and Arthur Andersen, Julian Assange, Yulia Tymonshenko and the King of Bahrain who, if he is known for any relationship with human rights, it is for riding roughshod over them. Her clients are definitely A-list. Perhaps Amal has confused privilege with rights. Perhaps she hasn’t understood the word “universal” which is implied with the adjective “human”. Or maybe she understands it all too well because fully understanding its connection with human rights would demand a major change in lifestyle. A right, Amal, is not an arbitrary or unfounded pretension but a reasoned expectation that is considered to be ‘well-founded’, ‘legitimate’ and, in particular, ‘just’. And the generalised nature of a human right clearly distinguishes it from any privilege confined to a group, class or caste.
The word “universal” may be a commonplace in human rights talk but when it is mindlessly or cynically mouthed, its ordinariness doesn’t stop it from being an obscene affront to the billions of people who, without the basic means of existence, can’t exercise their human rights. A person living in extreme poverty can’t enjoy conditions of freedom and dignity. Justice can only be perceived – suffered – in the cruelty of its absence. The ever-growing gap between rich and poor is an abominable injustice. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Isn’t this the principle that any human rights lawyer should be defending?
In 1759, Adam Smith observed that, the “disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.” And long before Smith, half a millennium before the Common Era, Confucius was warning of China’s silver-tongued orators, glib men of empty words, image artists. Their successors, today’s spin doctors, also use words, cynically detached from their context, as instruments of persuasion, weapons pressed into service for the most nefarious purposes. There can be no social contracts if the words used to formulate them – and especially crucial words like “human rights” – are suspect because we can be sure then that society is not what it is claimed to be. If the words representing the values and ethics of a society are stripped of their real meaning, we should be alarmed for the health of the reality they are supposed to convey. The reality is that Adam Smith’s “masters of mankind” (“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been [their] vile maxim…”) need the designer clothes and made-up faces of charitable celebrities. They spend, smile, pose, duck in and out of trouble spots and provide a lustrous cover-up for atrocities. In the four days Amal and George and their A-list friends were strutting around Venice over 120,000 children under the age of five died of preventable diseases. The truly dreadful preventable disease, the gaping wound caused by the corruption of our moral sentiments, is called poverty. The bottom line is that the A-listers bear a lot of responsibility for that.


Last edited by Katiedot on Sun Oct 19 2014, 18:29; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added text to post (please don't post just links))

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by LizzyNY on Sun Oct 19 2014, 14:04

Silje - Thanks for the find. It's interesting that the author, like the author of the Newsweek piece, is more interested in abstract ideas than in the physical survival of the people he claims to champion. When everyone gets an equal share of the world's wealth, everyone will be well and happy. In the meantime, fend for yourselves. - Garbage!

This piece is about as left-wing as you can get. I don't know if the author is communist/socialist, but his position is old-school. It didn't work in Russia or Cuba, and to think it will ever be the way the world works is naïve pie-in-the-sky thinking. These people should get off their political high-horse and do something useful in the world.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Katiedot on Sun Oct 19 2014, 18:30

" The truly dreadful preventable disease, the gaping wound caused by the corruption of our moral sentiments, is called poverty. The bottom line is that the A-listers bear a lot of responsibility for that."

I'm not sure I understand this.  How are A-listers largely responsible for poverty?

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Joanna on Sun Oct 19 2014, 18:56

It's always so easy to be critical of the world of
charity givers.
But what's the alternative.....seriously ?
What can we do other than contribute from
our own pockets ?
I admire tremendously the people who do go
and "do the deeds" that help people in poverty.
But most of us haven't got the correct skills
to be of use if we did go there.

Just my random thoughts. flower

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Donnamarie on Sun Oct 19 2014, 19:02

If it wasnt for a number of wealthy individuals involving themselves in efforts to eradicate poverty and humanitarian abuses, what would many of these countries look like. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, political activists, Hollywood types they all help in this effort. We certainly can't depend just on individual donations and governments alone to provide the financial and humanitarian support that is needed.

This was a terribly arrogant and judgmental article disguising itself as intellectual and all knowing when in fact it's a bunch of poppycock.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Nicky80 on Sun Oct 19 2014, 19:55

Weird article but one sentence I agree with:

Charity is all about Image

this is so true. And I don't mean all A listers but some of them for sure. I remember Brittney Spears had a charity thing going when she was really big but had to stop as the Money didn't go where it should go. Same with Michael Jackson "Heal the world" thing. There was some investigations about the Money. That was all in the 90's. Guess some A listers just give the name for a charity project and don't care what really happens with the charity.

I'm glad there are other A Listers and rich people who are different and really care.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by LizzyNY on Sun Oct 19 2014, 20:21

It seems to me a lot of this criticism comes from nothing more than jealousy and envy of the rich.  Sort of "Why are they helping these people when I didn't get my fair share yet?" kind of thing. Makes me wonder if these critics have ever done anything to make the world better, besides sit around and whine.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by melbert on Sun Oct 19 2014, 20:51

A lot of people in the States have a problem with the A-listers (or the big buck people) who use their celebrity and $$$$$s to support causes in other countries and don't seem to support any causes in the US.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by LizzyNY on Sun Oct 19 2014, 21:06

Yeah, Mel. But they don't seem to have a problem with the greedy little shits who make boatloads of money and spend it all on themselves. Maybe it's because the people who DO spend their money on humanitarian projects make the rest of us feel guilty that we don't do more. I'm betting most of them support more charities here in the US than we'll ever know about. I think we hear about the overseas projects because they're usually some kind of disaster relief that need more help than one person or group could ever give on their own.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Nicky80 on Sun Oct 19 2014, 21:19

Well if it's true that they do support charities in the US than they should make it public the same way like overseas projects then the US increased they poverty since the Economy crises and really need help too.

Maybe A Listers don't want to support causes in the US as it maybe shows the weak parts in the US and for policitcal reasons they better stay out of it?

I know Jay Z spent lot of money for NY youth Projects and he made that public. In general I heard more about black rappers who help with charity they community then white famous people. there should be more. That would increase more publicity to help.

Of course this is only how I receive it here in Germany....Maybe I'm wrong ...just saying....

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by melbert on Sun Oct 19 2014, 21:31

You are 100% right Nicky.  A lot of it is that it's not "sexy" to support low-income and local stuff.  I agree that there are political ramifications if you support a cause that the political people get called on for not standing beside.  I am not opposed to helping ALL who need it and it's wonderful that some who can put their money where their mouths are doing just that.  But, I still think that A-listers want the BIG causes as it gives them more PR.  Helping in a soup kitchen or building a Boy's and Girl's Club just doesn't have the STAR POWER that some other far away charities seem to attract.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Donnamarie on Sun Oct 19 2014, 21:38

It does seem the thing to have a third world cause if you are a celebrity. But I'm sure for many they are genuinely involved with that cause. There are some who just get involved to get the PR but I think they are in the minority. I can't name many stars who have US based causes at the moment but I know there are some. Denzel Washington is one who has been a advocate and supporter for many years for the Boys and Girls Club. Brad has worked for quite a while on Habitat for Humanity projects.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by LizzyNY on Sun Oct 19 2014, 22:55

Mel - Pick up the paper any day and you'll see photos of stars at one charity event or another. Granted, many of them are there for a photo op, but many others are founders or longtime supporters of the charity. Bette Middler, Zach Galifanakis, Jane Fonda and George (of course) come to mind. And there are many others. Just think of the difference Danny and Marlo Thomas have made in the lives of thousands of children.

The fact that some stars don't publicize their efforts doesn't mean they aren't doing anything. They just aren't blowing their own horns.

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

Post by Donnamarie on Mon Oct 20 2014, 01:03

I think the bottom line is that it takes everybody to get involved on some level to make the world go round so to speak. Though this isn't about humanitarian causes I just watched 60 Minutes where there was a segment on what famous Italian designers are doing (funding) to restore ancient monuments in Italy. Why? Because the Italian Govenment is broke. Are the designers doing it to get recognition? Probably. But it's a good cause. So does it really matter?

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Re: Cover and Feature in Newsweek October 10, 2014 Issue

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