Sometimes, even I get sick of my own cyncism. Sometimes I make a deliberate effort to be more positive. I bite my tongue when a well-meaning gap year student tells me they’ll be digging latrines in Uganda, where manual labour is not in short supply. Or I applaud the notion of sending goats to a poor village, where they will help destroy the vegetation. And sometimes I say how wonderful it is that movie stars have decided to use their star power to help worthy causes.
And then something happens that just makes all my warm, woolly thoughts evapourate. Usually it is someone being pompous. And usually it is George Clooney…
“He’s very predictable. We know all the moves. If you play basketball with somebody three times, you know that they’ve got no left hand…. We know how Bashir acts. He helps arm one of the rebel groups that are in disagreement with other groups in the south and tries to foment violence to destabilize the government. That’s what he’s always done.”
Ah yes, George Clooney, who understands Sudan and Omar al-Bashir so well that in order to persuade the world to send peacekeepers (forgoing the prospect of a peace deal for at least two years) he either exaggerated or plain made up the possible death toll if they weren’t deployed. The peacekeepers didn’t arrive for a couple of years, and nothing like his 2.5m people died.
George Clooney, who is such an expert on Sudan, that he has repeatedly confused Darfur, Chad and South Sudan, and his visits there.
And when he finally did make it there, he was struck down with such severe diarrhoea he very nearly had to be flown out by an emergency helicopter. Nothing wrong with that of course – happens to the best of us – but getting your publicist to force Reuters to withdraw the story makes him look like a dilettante, using Sudan to burnish his image. Movie stars don’t get diarrhoea, presumably.
Anyway, the biggest problem is that Clooney emphatically does not understand Bashir. If he did, he would not have worked so hard to get Bashir indicted by the International Criminal Court or campaigned for peace keepers when the world should have concentrated on getting a peace deal.
He would have understood that criminalising Bashir would only provoke a bitter backlash and make it harder to remove him from power.
Had he understood Bashir better, then Sudan may well have had a different president by now. In 2008 Bashir was telling confidantes in the governing party and at least one other head of state that he was planning to retire. Now thanks to Clooney and his chums he is a wanted man – and still in power.