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Viewers of ABC's new hit show "Scandal," a sexy political drama that purports to unveil the indecent underbelly of our nation's capital, have, undoubtedly, found some of the show's plot lines a bit familiar. We've already seen Olivia Pope, a renowned Washington, D.C., fixer and public relations extraordinaire, played by Kerry Washington, represent the infamous D.C. Madam, uncover the body of a Georgetown co-ed left for dead in Rock Creek Park, and assist the wife of a Latin American dictator in seeking asylum in the United States. Olivia does all of this while carrying on an affair with the president. If another show, on another network, had not already laid claim to the phrase, one could easily say that the fictional plot lines in "Scandal" are "ripped from the headlines."
One plot line that has recently run through multiple episodes concerns a possible genocide in the fictional country of East Sudan. Under pressure from some in his administration, as well as his wife, President Fitzgerald Grant, played by Tony Goldwyn, must decide whether to launch a U.S. military intervention to stop the genocide and protect the innocent citizens of East Sudan. Some within the White House believe that a strong U.S. response to the suspected genocide will play well at home for President Grant, who is soon to launch a re-election bid. While grappling with this decision, President Grant discovers that the CIA tampered with photographs of East Sudan in a failed bid to convince the White House that a genocide is underway.
The East Sudan story line touches upon the real life political calculations that presidents must make vis-à-vis foreign policy decisions, particularly before an election cycle. The fictional East Sudan should also remind us of the all too real genocide that occurred in the North African country of Sudan (no "East") nearly 10 years ago. In real life, the Sudanese government perpetrated genocide against non-Arab tribes in the region of Darfur, leaving thousands of civilians dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced. In 2004, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the unprecedented declaration that the government of Sudan had committed genocide and that genocide may be ongoing in Darfur. In doing so, Powell became the first member of the U.S. government to ever use the term "genocide" to describe an ongoing conflict.
In real life, the Bush administration did not intervene militarily to stop the Sudanese government's atrocities in Darfur. Today in Sudan, the government continues to perpetrate similar crimes against civilians in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. If the world continues to stand by and permit the Sudanese government to murder and displace its own people, Darfur can, and likely will, happen again…and again, in Sudan and elsewhere.
Given the show's tendency to overtly reference true life events in its fictional plot lines, it is, perhaps, odd that the show's writers choose to stage a genocide in the fictional East Sudan, rather than simply refer to the real life genocide and atrocities that the government of Sudan has and continues to commit against its own people. Given its rising popularity, the show offers a unique mechanism through which to raise awareness of ongoing atrocities in Sudan and to explore the very real and difficult political calculations that factor into the U.S. government's response to gross human rights violations around the world.
If you're a fan of "Scandal," let the show's writers know that you want more information about the real life story on which their fictional tale is based. Tweet:
Hey @KerryWashington please RT: If you watch #Scandal learn what is really happening in Sudan. http://bit.ly/ENOSCAN @enoughproject
For more information on the situation in Sudan and genocide awareness and prevention, visit the Enough Project's website.
Photo: ABC's "Scandal" logo