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Denying Genocide in Darfur -- and Americans Their Coca-Cola

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Iraq war gave us Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi information minister who, while American troops patrolled nearby streets, held a defiant news conference to proclaim that there were no U.S. forces in the city.

Baghdad Bob, whose real name is Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, earned a place among the ranks of colorful propagandists such as Hanoi Hannah and Tokyo Rose. Now, the genocidal Sudanese government has an entry in this category. Let's call him Khartoum Karl.

Karl -- a.k.a. John Ukec Lueth Ukec, the Sudanese ambassador to Washington -- held a news conference at the National Press Club yesterday to respond to President Bush's new sanctions against his regime. In his hour-long presentation, he described a situation in his land that bore no relation to reality.

Genocide in the Darfur region? "The United States is the only country saying that what is happening in Darfur is a genocide," Ukec shouted, gesticulating wildly and perspiring from his bald crown. "I think this is a pretext."

Ah. So what about the more than 400,000 dead? "See how many people are dying in Darfur: None," he said.

And the 2 million displaced? "I am not a statistician."

Khartoum Karl went on to say that, all evidence to the contrary, his government does not support the murderous Janjaweed militia. "It cannot happen," he said, "so rule it out." As for the Sudanese regime itself: "We are the agents of peace, people like me, my colleagues who are in the central government of Sudan."

What's more, the good and peaceful leaders of Sudan were prepared to retaliate massively: They would cut off shipments of the emulsifier gum arabic, thereby depriving the world of cola.

"I want you to know that the gum arabic which runs all the soft drinks all over the world, including the United States, mainly 80 percent is imported from my country," the ambassador said after raising a bottle of Coca-Cola.

A reporter asked if Sudan was threatening to "stop the export of gum arabic and bring down the Western world."

"I can stop that gum arabic and all of us will have lost this," Khartoum Karl warned anew, beckoning to the Coke bottle. "But I don't want to go that way."

As diplomatic threats go, that one gets high points for creativity: Try to stop the killings in Darfur, and we'll take away your Coca-Cola.


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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