Published March 18, 2012
George Clooney may be a pretty face, but if it helps draw attention to the Sudan, he says he's more than happy to become the poster boy for humanitarian activism.
The global superstar was arrested last week with his father, retired newsman Nick Clooney, outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington. That was after testifying on Capitol Hill and meeting with President Obama to discuss the carnage being committed by Sudan's brutal leaders against their own citizens.
Clooney, who grew up watching the battle between news and entertainment, said he has learned what it takes to sell a story.
"I saw my father in the '70s doing really good stories and then getting bumped because there was a Liz Taylor story that was going to be out. And the story that he did that had real some social value was going to get bumped," Clooney said in an interview taped for "Fox News Sunday."
He said in 2006, he called his dad to join a new cause.
"I said, 'Remember how you used to get all your stories bumped by Liz Taylor or something happened in Hollywood?' And he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Well, let's go to Darfur. And you be the newsman and I'll be Liz Taylor and let's get it on the air.' And he said, 'OK,'" Clooney said.
Since then, Sudan has split up into two countries -- Sudan and Southern Sudan, but Sudan, including Darfur and the Nuba Mountain region, is still beset by "war crimes" committed by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his ministers.
According to John Prendergast, co-founder of The Enough Project, who joined the Clooneys in Sudan to record the devastation, South Sudan may have separated from the rest of the country, but the Sudanese government is still targeting border villages where rebel supporters live.
"Basically, they are fighting a civil war and they are using tactics that are designed to clear people out. It's ethnic cleansing in these areas," said Prendergast, who appeared with Clooney in a taped interview for "Fox News Sunday."
"The oldest trick in the book: drain the water to catch the fish. You drain the people out of an area, and it's harder for the rebel to stay afloat in there," he said.
Clooney said he had some pretty close calls in going in to film the atrocities. Aside from just walking through areas where dead bodies laid scattered on the ground, the film crew got a close-up look at an unexploded bomb shown to them by a local villager.
"Well, the bomb one was funny because the guy said, you want to see," Clooney recounted. "And we're standing on top of this bush, he pulls back the bush, and there was a bomb. Oh, there's a bomb.
"And so he kept messing with the bush and I thought, maybe don't hit it with the stick too many times, you know? So, we were glad to get out of there," Clooney said.
In all seriousness, Clooney said the tragedy is not political -- at least not in U.S. terms -- but it is devastating.
"They are killing people. But more than that, they are keeping them hiding in the rocks, in the caves so that they can't farm, and they missed their planting season this year. ... Now, they're not going to be able to feed themselves."
Clooney acknowledged that just shedding light on the problem won't solve it. He added that neither will confrontation with China, which gets 6 percent of its oil supply from the south through pipelines that pass through the north.
Trying to "throw guilt their way" doesn't really work, he said of the Chinese. "It never really has. You can't appeal to someone's better angels in this situation."
Instead, Clooney suggested Obama hold high-level talks with the Chinese and appeal to their economic interest.
Likewise, he said, while his "gut reaction" to seeing a kid with his hands blown off is to send in U.S. forces or NATO to take out the "jerk" indiscriminately dropping bombs from 10,000 feet in the air, "in the real world," that's not going to happen.
Instead, he suggested, following the money that's paying for the weapons is another approach to stopping the onslaught.
Meanwhile, said Prendergast, private organizations like Digital Globe are donating millions of dollars worth of satellite imagery to track the Sudanese military and see where they are amassing to attack next.
"We can basically say they're going to attack this place, and shine a light, blow a whistle and say it's going to happen; we know it's going to happen. What are we going to do about it?" he said.
Clooney said his star power and the ability to help the 100,000 people forced into hiding can only go so far.
"I don't make policy. I can just make it louder," he said.
"These aren't people who are sitting there with their hands out going, 'Help us.' They've always taken care of themselves, bad weather, whatever; they farm. They take care of themselves. And right now, they are hiding for their lives and they're terrorized. And we need to do whatever we can to help them," he said.