George Clooney is using his star power to call on the super power of the U.S. to take action against genocide in Darfur.
At a press conference today with Sen. Sam Brownback, (R) Kansas, and Sen. Barack Obama, (D) Illinois, Clooney told a standing room only group of journalists and National Press Club members, "What we cannot do is turn our heads and look away and hope that this will somehow disappear because if we do, they will. They will disappear and an entire generation of people will be gone and then only history will be left to judge us."
(On a note about the media's interest in Clooney's visit to Washington: Mr. Clooney faced rows of video and still cameras - I counted at least 19 video and 13 stills - as well as a packed room of journalists. News crews stood next to MTV crews and the still cameras didn't stop snapping throughout the entire event.)
Clooney and his father, veteran Cincinnati newsman Nick Clooney, traveled to the Darfur border towns of Southern Sudan and a Chad last week. Working with a cameraman, the two shot a video documenting their trip which was shown at today's press conference. In it, Clooney and his dad were seen crouching down reporter-style, talking with groups of people exiled from Darfur.
"What do you want to happen to fix this?" Nick Clooney asked in the film. The man answered, "I'd like them to get up to try as soon as possible to solve this problem." George Clooney, holding a microphone and dressed in a cameraman's vest, said the people he visited had nothing. Conducting his own interviews, he asked: "Was there bombing?... Were they singling out any gender... or... just a general attack?"
Today, Clooney called for immediate action in Darfur, saying "The President wants to put a stop to it, Congress wants to put a stop to it. The UN wants to put a stop to it. What they need now is the American people and the world's population to help them. To tell them that it matters that much to us, that's it's that important to us."
Clooney highlighted an 800 number (800-282-0035) people can call to bring the issue to the attention of President Bush and members of Congress, rallies to be held this Sunday in Washington and San Francisco, an emergency supplemental bill coming up in Congress, the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in Congress and senators (seated around him) working on this.
"It's is not a political issue, there's is no right or left... there is only right or wrong," Clooney said, leaving the floor open for his bipartisan political partners, Sen. Brownback and Sen. Obama.
Obama, calling this a "slow rolling genocide," said the notion that "we will stand by is unacceptable." Obama said in order to move forward, what's needed most importantly is an UN protection force to aid African Union forces already on the ground. He went on to say the U.S. "has to take... diplomatic initiative."
Sen. Brownback, continuing where Obama left off, said, "We are not going to be silent." Brownback called for a NATO force in Darfur, the Bush Administration to appoint a special envoy to the area and passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.
Clooney, Obama and Brownback took a few questions at the end of the event, stressing on what more can be done.
Clooney: "My job is to try and keep this on the front burner as often and as possible... that's all I can do. I'm not a legislator and I'm not a politician, I just try to use the credit card that you get for being famous in right instances wherever you can."
Obama: I don't think the problem is budgetary. "Given the distraction of extraordinary amounts of time that have to be devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan and now Iran, I think this has slipped down the list of priorities for the State Department. I think their instincts are good but they haven't prioritized it."
To close the event, Clooney took the mic and, appropriate for today's Washington "A list" guest, found that all eyes were on him on a different type of center stage.
"Yes, its a difficult issue, we need to build our allies and go from there, but it's something that has to happen today, because if it we don't get to work on it today, there's a few thousand people that will be dead by the end of the week."