Steven Spielberg needs to “figure out what to do about Darfur,” Slate‘s Kim Masters wrote earlier today. “That may not seem to make sense at a glance but it does in light of his role as an artistic adviser to the Chinese for the ’08 Olympics. The Chinese have clout in Khartoum, and Spielberg, as fate would have it, has influence in China. Bizarrely, Spielberg may be one of the most powerful people in the world when it comes to pressuring the Chinese to lean on the Sudanese government.
Steven Spielberg, Kim Masters, Hu Jintao
“Yes, George Clooney and Don Cheadle and their associates have done their part to push China to act. But Spielberg is in a unique position to embarrass the Chinese if he were to withdraw from his role. In early April, Spielberg wrote to Chinese President Hu Jintao asking for action. Whether the Chinese have responded at all is still unknown, but sources say Spielberg will shortly have more to say on the subject.”
We all know that Spielberg wouldn’t have said anything to China about its oblique funding of the Darfur genocide if Mia Farrow hadn’t written in a March Wall Street Journal op-ed that he could go down as “the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing games.” We also know that President Ju Jintao isn’t going to radically reverse his country’s Darfur policy because of whatever pressure Spielberg might bring to bear in a diplomatic vein.
There is only one thing to do, and that’s for Spielberg to (a) withdraw from participating in the games and (b) explain in the most forceful terms imaginable that no other self-respecting artist or filmmaker should participate unless China uses its influence in the Sudan (it has sizable interests in Sudan’s oil industry) to force the Sudanese to adhere to the May 2007 peace deal signed by Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Chad president Idriss Deby.
Wikipedia Background: Colin Thomas-Jensen, an expert on Chad and Darfur who works for an International Crisis Group think-tank, has grave doubts as to whether “this new deal will lead to any genuine thaw in relations or improvement in the security situation”. And the Chadian rebel Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD), which has fought a hit-and-run war against Chad President Deby’s forces in east Chad since 2006, stated that the Saudi-backed peace deal would not stop its military campaign.”