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CNN Larry King Live
Interview With George Clooney
Aired October 16, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, George Clooney on the ticking time bomb that he says we can't ignore.
GEORGE CLOONEY, ACTOR: This is the place that's at most risk in the world right now.
KING: He has President Obama's attention. Now, he wants the world to wake up to a threat that could result in a million deaths.
CLOONEY: They have been captured, and they have been sold. And they have been tortured, and they have been raped and murdered.
KING: Is time running out in Sudan?
George Clooney for the hour is next -- on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: Good evening. By the way, I've got a little catch in my throat tonight, so, if you hear it itching, that explains it.
George Clooney is the Academy Award-winning actor and activist, just back from a trip to southern Sudan, a region that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes as a ticking time bomb.
With George is John Prendergast. He's traveled to the southern Sudan with Mr. Clooney. He's the co-founder of the Enough Project. That's an anti-genocide advocacy organization, co-author of the book "The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes."
They join us from the National Press Club in Washington.
You know, when people hear your name, George, in connection with the Sudan, they probably think of Darfur, which is in the northwest. This time you were in the south. Why?
CLOONEY: Well, we're in the south because there was a peace agreement. There was a war here that ended in 2005, with a peace agreement brokered by the United States. And they have the right now to vote for their independence from the north. The north being the same people who acted against Darfur, the government of Khartoum and killed two-and-a-half people in the south Sudan and 300,000 or 400,000 people in Darfur.
The south now has right to vote for their own independence. And the international community, the president, the Congress, the U.N., everyone, believed that this is the place that's at most risk in the world right now.
KING: Utmost risk in the world, a ticking time bomb. Why, George? Why there?
CLOONEY: Well, I mean, it's sort of economics, in a way. There's oil on the border. So, the north wants to move the border further down, because there's oil right on that edge. The south wants to keep it, because it's underneath their feet.
And so, there's economic reasons for it, in general. There's a lot of reasons, believe me, it's very complicated. But that's a big one.
It's what's going to be required is, some form of profit-sharing, coming up and designating where the actually border would be. There's a lot of complications to it. But right now, this is, you know, the government of Khartoum has had two opportunities to act without war, and they have chosen war and atrocities. So, to think that they wouldn't the third time, when there's this much at stake would be naive at best.
KING: John, how long were you there? Where did you go?
JOHN PRENDERGAST, ENOUGH PROJECT: Well, we went for a week on this last trip, and we traveled all over the border region, including to this little place about the size of Connecticut called Abia, which everyone thinks if the war does begin again, it will begin there in Abia. And we've got to figure out -- as part of the diplomatic surge that the Obama administration has announced -- figure out a way to address the concerns of the people that live there in the broader puzzle of the different interests of the two parties.
It's all negotiable, and that's the good news. You know, the bad news is, we only have 88 days until the referendum for southern independence. The good news is we have 88 days in order to stop a war before it starts. And that's what our message was yesterday to President Obama, is to say, this is something that can actually be prevented before it starts.
KING: And how receptive was he, John?
PRENDERGAST: Not only receptive, but I think ahead of the curve. And certainly we've been concerned that for the first year-and-a-half of his administration there wasn't enough attention placed on Sudan. But we've seen in the last couple months the president himself become very seized with the issue of Sudan, secretary of state and others in his administration. And we're starting to see some real action. So, he wants to do more. The Republicans in the Senate and the House want to do more. We met with Richard Lugar yesterday from Indiana, senator from Indiana, and we've met with a number of other representatives and senators. Everybody wants to do more. Now is the time to do it, with such a short fuse left.
KING: George, when you go to these places, in this recent trip, what struck you the most?
CLOONEY: Well, what struck us the most, struck me the most, was their resolve. I mean, they are -- they -- to a person no only have going to vote for independence -- look, these are people that have been truly, you know -- they have been captured and they have been sold. And they have been tortured, and they have been raped and murdered. And they believe they have a right for independence now, and that the international community agreed to it. They believe they're going to have that independence starting on the 9th of January.
And to a man, to a person, every single one of them said they're willing to fight and die for that freedom. And that's -- they were -- that was the strongest thing we saw.
KING: John, you know, the rest of the world hears about this. Such prominent people as yourself, George Clooney, go. We hear numbers. Do we turn away? Does the world care?
PRENDERGAST: Well, good news about Sudan, and the remarkable thing, frankly, about Sudan, is that you have -- over the last 10 years -- developing constituency of conscience. People in the United States and around the world rooted in churches and synagogues and universities and high schools, where students and people of faith respond to the suffering of the people of Sudan, and say, we are our brothers and sisters' keepers and we're going to do -- we ought to do all we can.
We don't have to send American troops, we don't have to spend tens of billions of dollars, we need to invest in a diplomacy to prevent and resolve conflict in southern Sudan, resolve the conflict in Darfur and bring peace to these people.
CLOONEY: And also, Larry, I want to add to that. When it's "do we care," the truth is, America has been and continues to be the most generous country on the planet. And, you know, the United States -- not the government, necessarily, a lot of it's NGOs, but we spend almost $1 billion there now. So, we're already there, and we're in it, and we care.
The question will be: whether or not we're going to spend that money mopping up a massacre, or whether we're going to be there trying to help prop up a new government.
KING: By the way, if you'd like more information about the situation we're discussing tonight, go to SudanActionNow.org.
More with George and John right after the break. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLOONEY: We felt like this was a chance to be able to stop finally, stop a war before it starts. And that's the most important thing. That there's an opportunity here not to start one, but to stop a war before it starts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with -- you look up activism, you get pictures of George Clooney and John Prendergast. They were at the National Press Club in Washington.
Do you -- George, did you travel with private citizens or government auspices?
CLOONEY: Private citizens. We are just -- you know, what we heard over the last -- this is something we had been planning for a bit of time now. It takes a little bit of planning to be able to sort of move inside the country. It's not very easy to do.
But, you know, we -- we looked around and thought, OK, a lot of people here agree. Everyone agrees that there's a cloud, a dangerous cloud coming. The problem is that it needs to be amplified, and, you know, yes, everyone wants to do something. The president wants to do something. The Republicans have owned this issue as much, if not more than the Democrats.
Everybody wants to do it in a highly politicized time, maybe the most ever. Both sides agree, which we don't get much. This is an opportunity for us as citizens to empower these, you know, our senators, our congressmen, our president, to do as much as he possibly can.
Again, it's very important we keep saying this. This is not about spending money. And this is not about using troops. This is about what we do best, which is robust diplomacy.
KING: John, does the U.N. have a strong presence in this?
PRENDERGAST: The U.N. has $1 billion a year peace-keeping mission in southern Sudan to go along with the billion-dollar a year peacekeeping mission in Darfur. So, they're on the ground, not particularly effective -- as effective as we'd like to see them be, much more -- we'd like to see them much more be focused on protecting civilians and the United Nations Security Council while we were there led by Susan Rice. American, prominent representative to the U.N., came, and they are going to look at how to strengthen the mandate. But they're there.
So, we have a huge infrastructure that's there. We have a vote looming on January 9. The United Nations can be the vehicle for getting those registration materials out, for ensuring that that vote can occur in as credible a fashion as possible. KING: What, George, is the worst-case scenario here? What can happen before January 9th that should trouble us the most?
CLOONEY: Well, what can happen before January 9th is that the government of Khartoum starts funding smaller groups to start fights, inner fighting, like he did with the Janjaweed going into Darfur to create chaos so they can say, hey, look, the south, it can't govern itself.
The reality is, the worst-case scenario? Well, 2.5 million people died in the last war between the north and south that ended in 2005. And the south has a lot more guns and tanks now. So, the south is better armed, which means this could really and truly be a bloody war.
KING: Why, John, has Khartoum always been a trouble spot?
PRENDERGAST: I think you've got a government there that took power in 1989 by a military coup. Their aspirations were to create the first Islamic state. When oil began to be exploited, primarily -- thanks to the Chinese -- the ideological fervor diminished, and the fervor for making as much money and stealing as much money from the state treasury as possible took its place. You've got a government there that has committed the worst atrocities imaginable, including genocide in Darfur, and maintain power by any means necessary. So, that cocktail is a pretty lethal one.
So, our view is, through peace processes, (a), we can prevent conflict between the north and the south and end the war in Darfur. But, secondly, we can also begin to address that absolute power that exists in Khartoum and begin to democratize the country, allowing some competition, political parties, allowing some freedom of the press and the kind of things that generally erode authoritarianism.
So, two, it's a bank shot. We're both looking for a peace around the country, but we're also looking long-term for the democratization of that country that will allow all people in Sudan to be free.
KING: "PARKER SPITZER" are right here before the show. Here's what Kathleen and Eliot have been talking about recently. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD VIGUERIE, CONSERVATIVE FIGURE: Reagan when he ran for president in '76 said we need new leadership, leadership unfettered by old ties and old relationships. The Tea Party people are unfettered by old ties. They're changing America.
PARKER: Let's talk about --
SPITZER: Wait, wait, wait, Richard. That was fascinating, but it didn't answer the question.
VIGUERIE: You noticed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLOONEY: I can't get out of the spotlight, no matter what I do. And these people can't get in it, no matter what they do. And they need the spotlight, and I don't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just one (INAUDIBLE). That's only once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with George Clooney and John Prendergast, at the National Press Club. We're talking about the situation in southern Sudan where they're just back.
He has so much on his plate, George, the president, the economy, the coming elections. Really, how much attention did he focus on this?
CLOONEY: I think for a period of time, probably not as much as he should have. I think that that happens when you have so many other things on your plate. But what is apparent now is that there's a tremendous amount of focus, because in some ways, you have to look at it as if this is one that, you know, the president -- there was a peace agreement with the Bush administration. We don't want -- he doesn't want to see that be lost under his administration.
So, I think, now, there's a very intensive look at what best ways we can find to do this without -- you know, we're in two wars or getting out of one and still escalating another. What we really don't need is any sort of conversations about troops. What we need conversations about is diplomacy. Right now, you can do diplomacy.
KING: I want to get this right, John. This is for both of you. Richard Williamson, who served a special envoy for Sudan under President Bush, has been critical of the Obama administration's handling of Sudan. He told "TIME" magazine last month, "Khartoum is stronger. Juba is weaker. The Darfuris feel forgotten. It's an utter shock to anyone who follows this."
What is your response, John?
PRENDERGAST: Well, that was a month and a half ago, no question Richard is right. I think what we're seeing now is a turn-around in American diplomacy. I think you're seeing the president himself take the reins and say, even in the midst of this political season, in the midst of all the crisis, he's tasked people underneath him and he's gotten involved directly.
And there's nothing like when a president starts pressing buttons to get some action. And so, they have deployed diplomats out to the region to work this issue. It's not enough. We still want to see even more resolve on the part of the U.S. and we want to see bigger sticks and bigger carrots that will incentivize the path to peace for the Sudanese parties.
But we are encouraged and there is a trend line that's going upward in terms of level of concern and effectiveness of U.S. diplomacy right now.
KING: George, with all they've been through, what are the people like?
CLOONEY: They're like everybody else. They want to -- they want to raise their children in peace. They want to have a job. They want to go to work. They want to -- you know, have families.
Exactly like everyone else. They're -- many of them have only known war. And that's -- and that's a very tough life.
I remember being in -- in 2005 or 2006 being in south Sudan, and they were young men wearing a Garang button, and he was the president of the south Sudan, you would call it at the time. And he was killed in a plane crash. And we asked him about his button, and said, you know, "Are you excited about this peace agreement?" And he said, "You mean, the cease-fire." And that was in 2006.
So, these are people -- and he was, you know, 15. They have known a lot of war here. They have been through it, through the ringer. And they're really looking to this as a great moment.
We were there -- the Security Council came while we were in Juba in an emergency mission, all of them, all 15 members, a big deal. They -- all of the children from all of the schools and in their dress shirts were standing out with signs saying, you know, "Thank you to the U.N.," and, "Please help us with peace."
KING: But doesn't it harden them, George?
CLOONEY: I would imagine it just makes you more resolute. I would imagine. I don't know about hardened. You know, there are certainly people that are hardened.
But, boy, there's some amazingly -- I mean, just beautifully kind people.
KING: John, our special envoy to Sudan, the Retired General Scott Gration, he's taken heat from some advocacy groups. Some have called for his resignation. They're saying he doesn't do enough.
What do you think?
PRENDERGAST: I think we're focused on now is the fact that there's such a short time left. General Gration is out there in the region. He is out there, along with other American diplomats, led by a former ambassador, Princeton Lyman, who is ambassador in South Africa and Nigeria, a lot of experience.
So, they have reinforced the special envoys' office with lots of help. And we're basically hoping that the Obama administration will keep increasing the support for the diplomatic mission in this very short fuse before the January 9 referendum. And give the support to the mediators, all the support they need, generate support in other capitals -- because that's part of the answer, is getting Beijing, getting Cairo, getting London and Paris as engaged as the United States is, in supporting a peaceful settlement to this conflict.
KING: The role of celebrity and calling attention to the world's crises, how well does that work? I'll ask George about it -- next.
KING: Back with John Prendergast and George Clooney.
George, you frequently used the word "robust" to describe the kind of diplomacy you believe is needed. Would you break that down for me? What constitutes "robust"?
CLOONEY: Oh, it's a good question. It's -- you know, the one thing we're very good at is diplomacy. We've done that for years and we've been very successful at it. We were successful in 2005 in this exact same region. We know the map.
It requires -- they're going to have to find -- they're going to decide on a border, they're going to decide on profit-sharing, and it's going to require going to the governor of Khartoum and saying, if you go by all of these rules, and if you -- including Darfur -- and if you seek peace, then there can be carrots. There can be rewards for that, including what they'd like, which is normalizing some relations with the U.S.
On the other hand, we have to use the international community as much as possible to say, on the other hand, if you choose violence, then this is going to -- then Khartoum is going to become a very small place, very isolated. He doesn't spend his money in Sudanese pounds. It's dollars or euros or English pounds.
You know, we were going to go after the assets. And we need the international community to do that. It's robust means robust. And it means quick.
KING: How do you rate the job that Secretary Clinton is doing, George?
CLOONEY: I'm a huge fan of hers, and I think she's doing a wonderful job. I -- you know, it's my opinion. But in my opinion, she's doing a wonderful job.
KING: John, you on her. What do you think?
PRENDERGAST: You know, this is the time where we needed Secretary Clinton to step up for Sudan, and she's doing that. She's making calls on an almost daily basis to various world leaders, and to the parties in Sudan, so they have stepped up the diplomacy. She promised that's what would happen about a month ago and she's delivered. So we're very, very appreciative of that and want to see more of the same going forward before January 9.
KING: George --
CLOONEY: I just talked to -- I did just get a message from Senator John Kerry, who is the ranking member on foreign relations, and he's going to go in the next two weeks. He's going to head to Sudan. So, it's high on everybody's list right now.
KING: You met with him and with Richard Lugar, right? Were you encouraged --
CLOONEY: I talked to him on the phone.
KING: Were you encouraged by that?
CLOONEY: Yes, we were, and with the speaker, Nancy Pelosi. And we were encouraged by everyone's involvement. Of course, it's campaign mode.
And what's nice about it, and what makes this really heartening, is that everyone feels like this is one issue they can all be on the same side on. And there aren't many of those.
So that -- we were very -- we felt very good about that. And we felt like -- listen, what we need is -- they need now -- they all want to do it, OK? They want to do it. *
CLOONEY: -- we were very -- we felt very good about that. And we feel like, listen, what we need is -- they need now -- they all want to do it, OK? They want to do it. Now what makes them do it? Everybody at home, you know, e-mail or write or call the White House, the officials, the legislators that you elect, the people you vote for. Empower them by saying get out there and get into diplomacy before we have to go there and start mopping up blood.
KING: Because after a while, John, it just sounds like numbers, doesn't it? That's tragic.
PRENDERGAST: It can be numbing. But the good news is, look at places Liberia and Sierra Leone -- we have all seen "Blood Diamond" the movie. Well it turns out Sierra Leone today is a functioning democracy, completely at peace because there was an investment in ending that war there, investment in ending the war in Liberia. Those countries are growing rapidly.
So this is -- Sudan can be next. We can invest in a diplomatic solution, cut off all that -- the billions and billions of dollars of humanitarian aid over the next 20 years if war resumes, if we can get ahead of it this time, broker a peaceful settlement and invest in the kind of governing institutions that can end up making the country self-reliant and self-sufficient.
KING: George, what's not being done?
CLOONEY: Well, what's not being done is what we hope is now being done, which is there weren't enough talks. There was a lot of posturing. And you'll find now -- you'll see both sides starting to really push the extreme limits before the big negotiations. That's sort of normal. And we see that in every negotiation you do with anybody.
Any time I negotiate with a studio, you have that sort of issue. The bottom line is you're going to see this first. You're going to see that kind of posturing.
But what needs to be done now is now we need -- it has to be a constant thumping of diplomacy by everyone involved. You know, China has no interest. You know, we can't shame China, you know, a billion three people, into doing the right thing because of humanitarian issues. And I've been there and I've met with the government officials.
The truth is this is economically sound for them. They don't want a war. They have oil wells there and Chinese workers there. And the south Sudanese are going to attack those. That's the first place they're going to go. And they're going to blow them up. And they're going to lose their oil flow, and it's going to interrupt it.
The Egyptians will have the same problem with water, which they need, water rights. So at the end of the day, there are other players that we have to get involved simply out of economic reasons.
KING: George just told you what you can do. For more information about that, about the situation in Sudan, go to the website, CNN.com/LarryKing. That's our website. Or go to SudanActionNow.org. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLOONEY: We don't hear. We don't know all of these things that are going on. Many people in America don't know that there is a referendum and a vote. They just don't know. So we want to make sure they know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with George Clooney and John Prendergast. George, we mentioned earlier about celebrity. Do you think who you are helps?
CLOONEY: Look, I've been very lucky in my life over the years. I was a broke actor. I used to cut tobacco for a living. I got lucky. And part of that, for good or ill, is that a lot of cameras now follow you around. I get much more attention than I need or deserve. And there are an awful lot of people in the world that need some attention.
So my job is to try and spread that attention around to the people who need it. That's my job. I'm not a policy maker. My only job is to come out and say, shine a light on -- in an area, help shine a light on an area that needs it, because we know Omar Bashir, for instance, operates in the dark, and we know what he does when he operates in the dark.
So my job is just to try and help be a megaphone for all the activists, all the church groups and all of the young college students who carried this. You know, that's all I can do.
KING: John, how much does he mean?
PRENDERGAST: Well, for example, the issue of Abyei, which I mentioned earlier, this is the potential Kashmir of Sudan, the ground zero of a potential next war. Left to its own devices, no one covers it, no one cares. If human rights activists like myself go there, and we write a little report, maybe a few hundred people read it.
If George goes, we're on "LARRY KING." We're getting on all -- we're getting all kinds of media. The issue is covered. We get a chance to talk to President Obama about it. They refocus on the issue. It has an impact.
So as an activist, 25 years working on war and peace in Africa, we're really grateful that people like George take an interest and actually invest their time and energy and go to these places and spend time learning about the issues, spending time with the people, in a modest and humble way.
And it's quite an extraordinary thing to see how much attention is garnered for the issue that otherwise would -- the lights would be off.
CLOONEY: Also let's be clear. I'm just a mega phone here. All I'm trying to do is turn the volume up. And there are a lot of people doing a lot more work than I am on this issue.
KING: George, Northern Sudan's president, Omar al Bashir, he has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for Genocide. Why is he still in power?
CLOONEY: Well, because we're not going to -- you know, there are funny things that happened, you know. We forget, you know, the U.N. doesn't really have an army. So they're not going to go in and get him. We're not going to go in and get him. So it puts us in the precarious spot. You know, he's a sitting president who has been indicted. And some other members of Harun who have also been indicted. He's right on the border of South Sudan.
It makes it a very difficult position for us. But you can continually tighten their ability to maneuver and to do things by taking away -- by going after their assets.
KING: Have you met with him?
CLOONEY: No, I haven't. I went to Khartoum, which was an interesting trip. And went to a lot of the IDP camps there. But -- and I asked to meet with him, but he didn't -- I think I had said a few things that probably got me in a little bit of trouble with him. KING: How about the president of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, have you meet with him?
CLOONEY: Several times. John knows him very well. We had two days in a row where we spent a good couple hours with him just talking about the possibilities of war, and how resolute they are in -- not just in the referendum and voting for their independence, but that this area with all the oil, Abyei, is part of the south. And if they tried to peel it off, that would create war.
KING: Americans facing so many serious issues here at home. We'll ask George and John how that impacts their cause. That's next.
KING: We're back with George Clooney and John Prendergast. How much of this fight that you engage in, if we can call it a fight, are you hampered by the fact of Americans have greater interests, George?
CLOONEY: Well, you know, sure, there's donor fatigue in certain ways. We're not asking for any money. You know, hampered, no, because the American people have a tremendous capacity to care. And here's the truth. The truth of the matter is this: if I put it to you like this, if you took two minutes out of your day, out of one day, just today or tomorrow, to write an e-mail -- it's a modern day now. We're e-mailing and Twittering and Facebooking. Write an e-mail to the White House saying, please do everything you can diplomatically.
Again, not causing any money, not costing any soldiers. Do everything you can. You have my support, even if I didn't vote for you. You know, the same thing to Senator Lugar and the same thing to Senator Kerry, and the same thing to -- just e-mail. Two minutes out of your day. You could be -- you would be part of a voice of people that could say they stopped this genocide. They stopped this war. Genocide is a word that is thrown around too easily. They stopped what is predicted to be a massacre.
KING: So it's that simple. You're watching this show, take two minutes.
CLOONEY: Take two minutes. It's amazing the effect of one person's voice.
PRENDERGAST: We have made it easy for people. SudanActionNow.org, just sign on there. you find a form. you can customize an e-mail and send it straight to the White House, literally in and out in two minutes.
KING: "Time Magazine" recently quoted a Sudan analyst for the International Crisis Group saying he thinks both North and South Sudan recognize that a return to war is not in their interests. That's optimistic. You agree with that, George?
CLOONEY: Well, you might want to talk to John about that. But yes, I agree that they don't think it's necessarily in their best interest. But I would also say that, you know, if you're Omar al- Bashir, and you're the president of this country, and you're losing the south, and you're losing the oil, and the revenues from the oil, and also with the -- with the ability then to -- for regime change, I think you go very -- you know, it's a very -- it's a very long, faithful stretch to think that they're going to go away peacefully.
KING: A slippery slope. It's time for tonight's CNN hero. One of our top ten honorees selected by a blue ribbon panel. Here's a look at a chef who walked away from an award-winning career to help others. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBI MAZAR, ACTRESS: Hello, I'm Debi Mazar. Last year, I had the honor of helping to recognize the great works of everyday people changing the world at CNN Heroes, an All-Star Tribute. As a supporter of the Midnight Mission, I'm committed to helping the homeless and the hungry through feeding and support services. And this year, I will thrilled to help CNN introduce one of its top ten honorees of 2010.
Now more than ever, the world needs heroes.
N. KRISHNAN, CNN HERO: Because of the poverty in their faces, too many people are being abandoned. I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food. It really hurt me so much.
I was working for a five-star hotel as a chef. But the old man changed everything. My name is N. Krishnan. I feed and care for the abandoned and mentally ill.
I get up at 4:00 in the morning. Every meal which has been prepared fresh. People are waiting for us. They totally rely on the food which we give. We are feeding almost about 400 people three meals a day, around the clock.
The happiness I see in their face keeps me going. I take energy from them.
I want to save my people, and I feel that is the purpose of my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right. In our remaining moments, gentlemen, what about the role of other nations in the region? Nine countries border Sudan. What's their part, George? John? Either one.
CLOONEY: Let John. John's been in all of those.
PRENDERGAST: Well, the biggest -- the biggest neighbor is, of course -- the one that has the biggest interest is Egypt. And Egypt of course, a long-time ally of the United States, particularly with respect to Middle East peace. The Nile flows from many of those nine countries northward into Egypt. And Egypt is dependant upon the Nile River for its economic lifeline. And they need an increased flow of the Nile water for the future survival of industry and agriculture in Egypt going forward. So they need Southern Sudan to be peaceful, so that they can create the kind of canal systems that will push additional water flow northward into Egypt.
So war is -- would undermine -- dramatically undermine the economic prospects for Egypt's future. So that alone should be one of the country's that the United States invests in a diplomatic effort to try to bring the Sudanese to peace.
KING: George, what about the threat of military action?
CLOONEY: You know, it's always a trick, because the idea of a threat doesn't work if you're really not going to do anything about it. Threats are tricky. You know, every once in a while you want some -- listen, when you're there and you see a family that's just been devastated, the first thing you think is, you know, come in here and get these guys. There's no way to not feel that way.
But the truth of the matter is I don't think we're in the position right now to do it. And I don't think -- and I don't think we would move the ball any further right now to do it. I think what we really need is to get in and say, here are all of the options that we will give you, which is big, big, big sticks if you screw up, and some options to get out of this if you do the right thing.
KING: You think a vote's going to happen, John?
PRENDERGAST: I think that it's one of those things where the big ingredient is American leadership and American diplomacy. And if that's stewarded in the correct manner and enough support is given by the president and by the Congress and the American people, we have the chance to prevent this war from happening and the vote to occur on January 9th.
I'm optimistic that we'll do the right thing. After meeting yesterday, George and I meeting with President Obama, we have a lot of confidence in him. He needs to hear from the American public that it's OK to do as much as he has to do to make it happen.
KING: Muammar Gaddafi says that Sudan's independence could provoke instability. I'll ask George about it after the break.
KING: George, a recent guest on this show, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi has said that Southern Sudan's going independent would spread like a disease in Africa, provoking instability and frightening off investors. What do you make of that?
CLOONEY: Well, here's the one thing, you know, is, like we were talking about before, when you begin these negotiations, everyone goes as far as they can to one side or the other, and the rhetoric becomes pretty extreme. It has to. That's how a negotiation works, because you're going to eventually give.
Gaddafi was making an effort to negotiate at one point in this. He's -- it's rhetoric. It's always rhetoric. With him, it's almost always rhetoric. But at the end of the day, would there be fears of all that stuff? Sure.
Listen, here's the point. After the -- let's say -- let's give it the best-case scenario. The South Sudan gets their peace. They get their independence. And they start their government. We -- there's still going to be efforts to make sure it's not a failed state. I mean, this is a long process.
But what's important now is we know what happens when we don't act. We didn't act fast enough in the Congo. We didn't act fast enough in Darfur. We didn't act fast enough in Rwanda. We know what happen when we don't. And it costs us billions because we're going to be there. So it's better to do it now.
KING: George, we think of Darfur, we think of you. How did you have to come so personally involved in that area?
CLOONEY: I was reading Nick Kristoff's articles in "the New York Times" and it wasn't getting -- everybody was doing things. They were great -- there were church groups and student movements and there was a lot of rumblings and a lot of things going on, and great activists doing a lot of stuff, and NGOs. But it wasn't getting enough play. And I'm a son of a newsman. My dad used to talk about how he had a news story that would get bumped because they ended up putting some celebrity on TV instead, after he'd gone and covered a news story.
So I said, let's go to Darfur, and you be the newsman and I'll be the celebrity and we'll combine them. And whether it works or not, I don't know. All I know is my job is to just try and make it loud. Because, you know, when it's loud like this, people tend to do some -- tend to move. I don't know if moving is always helpful, but move -- you can't do it without moving.
KING: A couple of other quick things. At the Emmys, you were honored with the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. I know it meant a great deal to you. But you used that moment to speak and ask others to get involved. You think that's working?
CLOONEY: My asking others to get involved I don't think would make much of a difference. I think that people are involved. I think, you know, I'm -- listen -- let me tell you, you go to -- go to South Sudan, into a tiny village like Lul, L-U-L -- you have to ride for two and a half hours on a boat. It's impossible to get to. And you get to a little tiny camp that's just been -- a village that's been overrun and a camp that's been set up with some internally- displaced people.
And there sits a 22-year-old girl who got there, you know, from Kansas, who came there because she worked in a mission. And the minute you see that -- and remember, we get to leave, John and I. She's going to be there for a year. And it's dangerous, and it's hard, and it gives you nothing but hope in the youth of America. KING: Well said. Thank you both very much, John Prendergast, George Clooney. We really appreciate it. We hope every little bit helps. Thank you, guys.
CLOONEY: Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: If you'd like more information, go to SudanActionNow.org. Right now, let's go to Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."