Milbank has a great column today about John Ukec Lueth Ukec, the Sudanese
ambassador to Washington, who held a news conference at the National Press Club
yesterday to respond to President Bush’s new sanctions against his regime. Never
mind his unhinged performance (see for yourself, in the accompanying video)
— the ambassador made some serious threats to America’s cultural patrimony:
"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.
In the wake of the press conference, Coca Cola’s shares, er, went
up. Quite a lot. Was the ambassador lying? I think not: although gum arabic
doesn’t appear on the ingredients list of the coke can in my fridge, James Flint
of the Guardian reported
last year that the substance is "the emulsifier used in most soft drinks".
So why didn’t Coke shares react? Maybe the market reckons that Coke has a backup
emulsifier in its back pocket. Or maybe it simply sees no reason to pay any
attention to the lunatic ravings of a genocidal regime.