YVONNE RIDLEY: Darfur Victims as Villains
- Darfur Tragedy: Follywood Turns the Victims into Villains
29 April, 2008
THEY do say that Tinsel Town, home of the fabulously rich, famous and
beautiful people is the place where dreams come true.
But I think that Hollywood should now be renamed Follywood to reflect
the actions of some of its residents.
Dreamboats George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, poster girls like
Angelina Jolie and other giants of the silver screen like film
director Steven Spielberg have blundered in to Sudan like someone
with a candle hunting for a gas leak.
These foolish Follywood folk have turned the victims of the Darfur
tragedy into villains.
It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic but sadly they appear too dim
to realize they are being manipulated.
Darfur is not and never was simple story of good and evil, and I would
have thought someone like Spielberg who enjoys a complicated plot,
would have realized this.
The Follywood set became mouthpieces for an ongoing war which is being
fuelled by America's neocons who really do not want to see Africa's
largest country being run by an Islamic government.
It also serves US and Israeli interests to have Africa's largest
country in an unstable state.
So are Pitt, Clooney, Jolie and co a set of prize dimwits who can't
think for themselves unless they have a script?
Well the cold, hard facts are there for all to see. Around 200,000
people are dead from the violence, hunger and disease over the past
five years, and another 2.5 million are displaced from their homes.
Yes it's grim although the Bush-made disaster in Iraq is far worse.
Despite what the Bush Administration will have you believe, the
conflict in Darfur has no clear ethnic or religious lines. In the
simple world of the Busheys anyone who the US doesn't like is called
Janjaweed and anyone who is labeled Janjaweed must therefore be
Muslim, nomadic and Arab supported by the evil, Islamic government in
The good guys, according to Planet Bush, are the rebels who are
invariably African, possibly non Muslim and farmers.
Using Hollywood's finest, the Bush Administration and their Zionist
friends have managed to turn Darfur into a major cause across college
campuses with students raising funds, campaigning, demonstrating and
leafleting folk telling them that: "We just gotta save the Africans
before the evil Arabs wipe them off the face of the earth."
Of course this mass hysteria received not a little help from the Grand
Wizard of propaganda Colin Powell, who raced to the Podium of Truth to
tell the world that `Genocide' was happening in Darfur.
With all the sincerity of a Wanchai pimp, he announced that the
government in Khartoum and government-sponsored Arab militias known as
Janjaweed "bear responsibility" for rapes, killings and other abuses
that have left 1.2 million black Africans homeless.
Speaking to the ever-gullible Senate Foreign Relations Committee (are
these people tazered before entering the senate) Powell said: "We
concluded - I concluded - that genocide has been committed in Darfur
and that the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed bear responsibility
- and genocide may still be occurring."
A finding of genocide does not impose obligations on the United
States, but as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention, America is
committed to preventing and punishing genocide.
Although the African Union and the Arab League said there was no
evidence of genocide and the European Union said it did not have
enough information the tame US press corps and some equally gullible
journalists from Europe took it all in hook, line and sinker.
Well pardon me for being a wee bit cynical but isn't Colin Powell the
guy who said 40 years ago that he saw no evidence of a massacre in My
Lai, Vietnam? And isn't this the same man who tried to convince the
United Nations that Saddam was hiding weapons of mass destruction in
mobile laboratories using trains? (C'mon! have you seen the state of
Oh yes, and this is the very same individual who hoodwinked the
world's media when he declared from a balcony as the King David Hotel
in Jerusalem that he saw no evidence of a massacre in the Jenin
refugee camp I was in the camp at the time with a scarf wrapped
around my face to stop the stench of rotting corpses fill my nostrils.
More than 50 Palestinian men, women and children had been killed
what happened in the spring of 2002 was a massacre.
And this is the same Bush lackey who stood up in the United Nations to
tell the world that Saddam had also sent a group of al-Qaida
terrorists into Britain to manufacture ricin so they could wipe out
groups of innocent people. That big lie did not come back to bite him
until more than three years later when the trial collapsed after the
police admitted there was no ricin and there was no plot!
By that time he was claiming to be a dove and distancing himself from
the neo-cons and hawks in DC.
So, I think it is fair to say that whenever Colin Powell moves his
lips we can assume he is going to tell a great big lie.
Sadly the narcotic state of the Western media is such that they seem
to be incapable of challenging any statement he makes. What I would
like to know is how does he continually get away with telling such big
whoppers and is never challenged when the truth emerges?
Anyway, back to Darfur. Once Powell used the G word it seemed to
trigger a deluge of Save Darfur campaigns, media revelations,
petitions and outcries which did more to damage the real victims of
Let's just take a little step back in time to the 80s to examine one
of the root causes of the Darfur crisis when prolonged droughts
accelerated the desertification of northern and central Darfur and led
to pressure on water and grazing resources as the camel nomads were
forced to move southwards.
Conflicts over water wells that had once been settled by mediation
became much more difficult after people started tooling themselves up
The traditional Darfurian way of life has actually been disappearing
for some time. And lines have also become blurred as definitions and
distinctions between 'nomads' and 'sedentary farmers' frequently made
by the media become confused.
The reality is the dividing line between farmers and nomads no longer
exists and the Baggara Arabs, traditionally perceived as nomadic
herders, have become settled farmers just as some of the African
farmers have begun to move around with their cattle.
Tribal and even ethnic boundaries have become fluid and constantly
changing alliances between groups and tribes mean it is no longer
possible to treat Darfur as a crisis between Africans and Arabs.
Mercifully, not all journalists are guilty of being spoonfed by Colin
Powell's reactionary words and lies.
Take The Guardian's Jonathan Steele who has written a series of
stunning articles on the region. The award-winning journalist remarked
in a lecture in July 2006 at the Royal United Services Institute,
London: "The media, in my view, have consistently failed to cover
Darfur properly. Reporters have made repeated mistakes, and not been
honest with their readers. Commentators have ignored or slanted key
aspects of the conflict.
"Even though much of their work has been well-intentioned, aiming to
alert the world to the tragedies of Darfur in the hope of getting them
stopped, I believe their work has had the opposite effect. Bad
journalism has helped to prolong the war.
"I believe that the media's role in making heroes out of the rebels
and overlooking their misdeeds, as well as in constantly calling for
sanctions on Khartoum or even military intervention, have had a malign
effect. In my view it encouraged the rebels to be more intransigent in
Abuja than they would otherwise have been. They felt confident that if
they refused to sign but held out for more, they could have the
Concerns of media over simplification of a complex issue are not
without foundation. 'Arabs' killing 'Africans' in Darfur portrays a
picture to the outside world of light-skinned Arab Muslims marauding
among villages of peaceable black-skinned people of indeterminate
And there are some charities which are also quite happy to stir the
pot. For instance, last year a massive advertising campaign was
launched across half the globe.
And again, lazy or gullible journalists regurgitated the simplistic
claims in the advert that the bad Muslims in the Khartoum government
were pursuing a genocide against Darfuris which had left 400,000
innocent people dead.
Some newspapers said it was `the first genocide of the twenty-first
century', in which `up to 400,000 [have been] murdered in a systematic
campaign of ethnic cleansing.
The adverts were wrong and/or misleading and UK Advertising Standards
Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against the Save Darfur Coalition,
an American-based collection of campaigners and celebrities whose aim
is to raise awareness about the alleged genocide being executed by the
Khartoum government in the western region of Sudan.
The adverts published in August 2007 claimed: `SLAUGHTER IS HAPPENING
IN DARFUR 400,000 innocent men, women and children have been killed.'
The ASA found said the Save Darfur Coalition had breached the ASA's
Code, clauses 3.2 (on `division of opinion') and 8.1 (on `matters of
Sadly few media outlets chose to reveal the ruling on the
self-righteous activists of the Save Darfur Coalition probably because
they were suckered too. After all many repeated the Save Darfur
Coalition's claim that the Khartoum government was pursuing a genocide
against Darfuris which had left 400,000 innocent people dead.
The Independent published articles on the `mass slaughter of 400,000
innocent Muslims in Darfur'; the Observer reported that `as many as
300,000 people have died in three years' and even The Guardian
described Darfur as `the first genocide of the twenty-first century',
in which `up to 400,000 had been murdered in a systematic campaign of
What all of this tells me is that there is a huge gap between Western
campaigning on Darfur and the reality on the ground; between
sensational Western claims about a twenty-first century genocide and
the fact that, while things no doubt remain terribly grim in Darfur,
the situation there has improved since the intense conflict period of
Now let's go back to Follywood and George Clooney, a leading light in
the Save Darfur Coalition, who said: `It's not a political issue.
There is only right and wrong.'
Fran Healy, lead singer of the British pop group Travis, who visited
Darfur on behalf of the charity Save the Children, described the
Darfur crisis are being quite simple stating: "The conflict is
essentially the Arabs against the Africans. It's all tied up in
various battles over things like oil and gold."
This half-witted celebrity pressure on Khartoum has had the effect of
inflaming and encouraging other rebels, based in eastern Sudan, to
renew their war against the Khartoum government
I have just come back from Darfur and I have to say this drive to
simplify the crisis is actually prolonging and even cranking up the
violence in the region.
But if it is simplicity you want, then here it is from someone who
doesn't belong to a charity, NGO or government. In other words, I have
absolutely nothing to gain by telling you the truth.
There are dark forces at work in Darfur who want yet another military
intervention in yet another oil-rich Muslim country.
This crisis can only be solved by Darfurians themselves who are all
Muslim. And the only support should come from other Muslims with no
Outside intervention by people such as the Save Darfur Campaign only
serve to crank up the propaganda and the sort of propaganda peddled by
the Follywood set is fuelling the desire by extremists on both sides
to carry on the conflict.
Yvonne Ridley is a broadcaster and journalist with Press TV who joined
British peer Lord Ahmed Nazir on a recent peace mission to the region.
She regularly contributes her column for DailyMuslims.com.
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