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George Clooney has announced that his Darfur involvement has been "the greatest failure of my life." Liberal celebrities often ignore the true causes of global humanitarian disasters, and refuse to recognize what it would actually take to reverse them. Even worse, their deeds can deepen and prolong the crisis. Four years ago, Clooney and his father Nick, a journalist, traveled to the war-torn, famished, AIDSravaged country and documented the civil war that had killed approximately 300,000 people. Clooney finds it frustrating that in four years, little has changed there. While using their high-profile status to bring attention to regions needing aid is admirable (although it's often coupled with insultingly self-righteous lecturing to the west that we're too selfish and therefore hindering improvements in needy regions), Clooney and other celebrities don't seem to (or want to) realize that awareness and money aren't all it takes to change these places for the better. A perfect example is the 1985 Live Aid effort, which is credited with spearheading celebrity advocacy of global aid over the past two decades. The two simultaneous concerts in Philadelphia and London raised millions of dollars for Ethiopian famine relief through ticket sales and phone donations. However, relief efforts can't always end there. The BBC has reported this year that rebels posing as merchants actually received a good portion of that money meant for food and bought weapons instead. Live Aid organizer and promoter Bob Geldof dismissed the claims, but then, of course he would. Situations are often much more complicated than simply throwing money at these corrupt countries. In a great column from The Guardian of London in 2005, aid and intervention author David Rieff asks the politically incorrect question, Did Live Aid do more harm than good? While he maintains that Live Aid may have cut the death toll by 25 percent to 50 percent, he submits that it may have contributed to the same number of deaths. "[E]very seasoned aid worker knew then, and knows now," he writes, "that there is no necessary connection between raising money for a good cause and that money being well spent, just as there is no necessary connection between caring about the suffering of others and understanding the nature or cause of that suffering." Most recently, Bono from U2 and other celebrities have teamed up to give support to (RED), a global initiative in which prominent companies like Apple, Emporio Armani, Gap, Nike, and Starbucks manufacture and market unique (RED) products. They then give 50 percent of profits to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, including ARV medication. The (RED) About page leaves visitors with this prompt: "Buy (RED), save lives. It's as simple as that." But is it?
History says otherwise. While lending support to these countries is commendable, more has to be done. I support the (RED) effort, as long as safeguards are in place that assure it's going where it's most needed. But these problems have complicated sources and histories. Although any kind of forceful intervention would certainly be deemed imperialist by these same celebrities, these countries won't improve until then. Man-made famines, AIDS, mass rape, FGM, murder, and seemingly endless civil unrest won't go away with a bit of donation money. That's been proven. A significant cause of the AIDS epidemic is mass rape. For instance, the Congo has been deemed the worst country in the world in which to be female: Members of opposing militant factions rape and mutilate women, and sometimes other males, as a way to wage war. Victims are disgraced, because the prevailing belief is that they asked for it in some way. Receiving care for resulting pregnancies or AIDS infections is hard to come by--Victims are disgraced, sometimes even publically shunned, and men are dismissive of the situation, even those in authoritative capacities. No amount of ARV medication is going to solve this particular problem.
Rob Stanley is a guitarist, songwriter, recording artist, and creator of Rockanomics.com http://www.rockanomics.com, a leading online community for conservative news, new music, political opinion, pop culture analysis, and career building resources. For more information on this article, to read others like it, and to get lots of free downloads, visit http://www.rockanomics.com/public/391.cfm
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