Yesterday we brought you the news Angelina Jolie (!) would be penning a column in the Economist's "World In 2008" supplement. This morning we actually read the column, thanks to a highly-placed source at a celebrity tabloid. It is about Darfurian genocide; specifically, how she would like to see the perpetrators of that genocide put on trial. "Make no mistake, the existence of these trials alone changes behavior," she wrote. "Like the Nuremberg Trials ended anti-Semitism?" the Anonymous Lobbyist wanted to know. To be sure, Pol Pot stayed alive under house arrest all those years after spearheading the butchery of a third of the Cambodian population, but when he heard the Khmer Rouge would be handing him over to be tried for war crimes, he totally killed himself! Argh. Okay, but we don't need Harvey Levin to tell us: there's something about a trial that makes it all seem real. The endless cross-examinations, the recesses and the crappy courtroom food; you usually don't leave one without thinking, "Wow, something really fucked up happened there and despite some conflicting testimony I'm pretty sure I can see how it all went down!" And think of all the celebrities who'd flock to the Hague! Do they have any better ideas?
Oh, uh, well actually maybe yeah. (Thanks Dave Eggers!):
Oh right. Mia Farrow and her "Genocide Olympics." Can she be in a movie again already?
Then, what might very well be the most effective tactic yet was unveiled by none other than Mia Farrow. I was aware of Farrow's work as an ambassador with the UN over the years, but I was unprepared for the editorial she wrote in the Wall Street Journal, on March 28, in which she made a connection that I had not heard before, and one that, at first, seemed a bit extreme. Because China is the major buyer of Sudan's oil, and supplies the Sudanese government with cash and weapons, it has been a focus of Darfur activists for a long time. Farrow knew that the Chinese are very much looking forward to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. They even asked Steven Spielberg to film the opening ceremonies. So Farrow wrote an open letter to Spielberg in the Wall Street Journal, noting that if he continued to work with the Chinese without holding them partially to account, he might "go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games".
It seemed like an almost cruel gambit, but it worked. Spielberg was unaware of the connection between China and Darfur, and he was outraged. He wrote a letter to President Hu, urging action. President Hu dispatched his foreign minister, Zhai Jun, to meet with Sudan's president, Omar al- Bashir. No one knows what was said behind closed doors, but the meeting revealed China's Achilles heel. Khartoum has now agreed in theory to accept UN peacekeepers in Darfur, and there are other encouraging developments. If the temperature was at 101 a few months ago, it's certainly at 102 now. And I was happy to be reminded, by the cumulative effect of all these efforts, public and private, obvious and cunning, that every one of them matters.