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Saturday, November 25, 2006

BBC NEWS | Africa | Americans take up Darfur's cause

BBC NEWS | Africa | Americans take up Darfur's cause

Americans take up Darfur's cause
By Richard Allen Greene
BBC News, Washington

At first glance, the party probably looked much like hundreds of other school social events organised by American teenagers.

There was table tennis, arm wrestling, billiards, bands ... and a slideshow about the suffering of people in Darfur.

In fact, the party was a fundraiser put together by Nick Anderson, 17, and Ana Slavin, 16, co-founders of a new effort to get their peers to raise money for the cause.

The programme, Dollars for Darfur, aims to recruit 1,000 high schools via the social-networking websites Facebook and MySpace.

The two teens became interested this summer in Darfur, a region in Sudan where more than 200,000 people have died and three million have fled violence over the past three years.

The United States declared it a genocide in 2004, a term which Sudan has resisted.

The government there says the problem is being exaggerated for political reasons.

Massive mobilisation

Nick Anderson and Ana Slavin side with those who consider the conflict to be genocidal - and they want to do something to stop it.

"There are 27,000 high schools in the US, and if each school raised just $10, we could easily have over $200,000," Mr Anderson says.

I haven't seen this kind of student mobilisation since the anti-apartheid days 25 years ago
John Heffernan,
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Ms Slavin says Dollars for Darfur is as much about spreading information as raising money.

"It's an issue of making kids more aware. They don't know where Darfur is but if they knew more about it they would try to do something about it."

John Heffernan says an impressive number of young Americans are already involved in Darfur.

He is the director of the genocide prevention initiative at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

"I haven't seen this kind of student mobilisation since the anti-apartheid days 25 years ago," he says.

The Holocaust Museum was one of the first major American organisations to take notice of Darfur, declaring it a "genocide emergency" in the summer of 2004 - the first time the museum had taken such a stance.

It has an exhibition on the conflict called "Who Will Survive Today?" - and will be projecting images from Darfur on an outside wall of its building every evening this week.

"We are screaming so much that the exhibit is bursting out of the walls of the museum onto the exterior," Mr Heffernan says.

Jews and Christians

The Holocaust Museum's involvement with a contemporary African conflict has raised some eyebrows, but Mr Heffernan cites Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel's comments on the founding of the museum to justify it: "A memorial unresponsive to the future would also violate the past."

Mr Heffernan says the killing in Darfur strikes a chord with many Jews because it apparently has an ethnic component - Arab Janjaweed militias attacking black African groups.

"Eyewitnesses talk about hearing racial epithets. People have been targeted for who they are, and that resonates with the Jewish community."

That apparent ethnic component to the violence is why the museum considers Darfur in particular to be a genocide, although many more people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example.

"I don't want to diminish other situations, and we are focusing on the Congo," as well, Mr Heffernan said.

American Christian groups have also taken an interest, many of them because they were already involved in an earlier north-south Sudanese conflict between Muslims and Christians.

In all, nearly 180 organisations support an umbrella organisation called Save Darfur.

A spokeswoman for the group, Colleen Connors, says the organisations represent some 130 million people - more than one in three Americans.

More than 600,000 people have registered for daily updates from the group, which is running hard-hitting advertisements in newspapers and on television.

"The general public is getting more engaged every day," she says.

Celebrity and responsibility

Part of that is likely due to the involvement of celebrities such as George Clooney and Mia Farrow - who has just returned from the region and will be speaking about it in Washington on Tuesday.

But Ms Connors says another reason Americans are taking an interest is that information is available immediately.

"This is the first genocide that people are witnessing as it is happening. For the first time in history, we are in a position to stop a genocide that is going on rather than talking about it after the fact."

For Ana Slavin of Dollars for Darfur, the question is one of responsibility.

"In a few years, our generation is going to have to inherit this whole world full of problems. It's time to stand up and make a difference."

Story from BBC NEWS:

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight Home | CIA role claim in Kennedy killing

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Newsnight Home | CIA role claim in Kennedy killing
CIA role claim in Kennedy killing
New video and photographic evidence that puts three senior CIA operatives at the scene of Robert Kennedy's assassination has been brought to light.

The evidence was shown in a report by Shane O'Sullivan, broadcast on BBC Newsnight.

It reveals that the operatives and four unidentified associates were at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles in the moments before and after the shooting on 5 June, 1968.

The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and some of the officers were based in South-East Asia at the time, with no reason to be in Los Angeles.


Kennedy had just won the California Democratic primary on an anti-War ticket and was set to challenge Nixon for the White House when he was shot in a kitchen pantry.


A 24-year-old Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan, was arrested as the lone assassin and notebooks at his house seemed to incriminate him.

However, even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember the shooting and defence psychiatrists concluded he was in a trance at the time.

Witnesses placed Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy but the autopsy showed the fatal shot came from one inch behind.

Dr Herbert Spiegel, a world authority on hypnosis at Columbia University, believes Sirhan may have been hypnotically programmed to act as a decoy for the real assassin.


The report is the result of a three-year investigation by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan. He reveals new video and photographs showing three senior CIA operatives at the hotel.

What were they doing there? It's our obligation as friends of Bob Kennedy to investigate this
Paul Schrade
Three of these men have been positively identified as senior officers who worked together in 1963 at JMWAVE, the CIA's Miami base for its Secret War on Castro.

David Morales was Chief of Operations and once told friends:

"I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard."

Gordon Campbell was Chief of Maritime Operations and George Joannides was Chief of Psychological Warfare Operations.

Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the Congressional investigation into the JFK assassination. Now, we see him at the Ambassador Hotel the night a second Kennedy is assassinated.


Monday, 20 November would have been Bobby Kennedy's 81st birthday. In Los Angeles, his son Max has just broken ground on a new high-school project in memory of his father on the old Ambassador Hotel site.

Paul Schrade, a key figure behind the school project, was walking behind Robert Kennedy that night and was shot in the head. He believes this new evidence merits fresh investigation:

"It seems very strange to me that these guys would be at a Kennedy celebration. What were they doing there? And why were they there? It's our obligation as friends of Bob Kennedy to investigate this."

Ed Lopez, a former Congressional investigator who worked with Joannides in 1978, says:

"I think the key people at the CIA need to go back to anybody who might have been around back then, bring them in and interview them, and ask - is this Gordon Campbell? Is this George Joannides?"

This report was shown on Newsnight on Monday, 20 November, 2006.

Story from BBC NEWS: