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“If you had had the opportunity three months ahead of time to prevent Darfur’s genocide, what would you have done?” So asks George Clooney in a Washington Post op-ed last month.

This is part of Clooney’s ongoing efforts to prevent a repeat of the last war and genocide that took place in Darfur earlier this decade, which he sees as inevitable without international intervention. The circumstances are the same – northern Sudan does not want to give up oil-rich southern Sudan, and will resort to obscene measures of intimidation to prevent such an event: unspeakable atrocities which include genocide.

What’s different this time is that we can see it coming – there will be a referendum in January for southern Sudanese to vote for independence, which Clooney says they surely will if it’s held freely and fairly, but will surely beget another war if no one intervenes. The Dinka residents of Abyei, a southern town that was burned to the ground two years ago while hundreds of their people were murdered, are not prepared to give up their land and are determined to fight for it if necessary.

“Usually, the world responds only after wars begin, spending billions of dollars to mop up humanitarian catastrophes,” writes Clooney. “In southern Sudan, however, the United States has a unique chance to avert war and atrocities.”

Clooney is finding plenty of support for the cause, including from US President Obama, but says not enough is being done in the dwindling time frame. “The United States needs to take a principled stand in support of the Abyei referendum. … The regime in Khartoum is not like the one in Tehran or, for that matter, the one in Pyongyang. It wants acceptance and legitimacy,” a key point to address, Clooney feels, when US diplomats discuss with them the benefits for peace and consequences to war.

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