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The Bombing of Tripoli Alienates the Sudanese

May 24, 1986

I am a reporter who volunteered to work on an information project about the famine in the Horn of Africa for a year and am living in Khartoum, Sudan.

I am angry about the bombing of Tripoli and more angry about the effect it has had in Sudan. By yanking Americans out of Sudan the administration has abandoned half a million refugees and several million Sudanese whose only means of survival is aid. The people we saved from famine last year could die this year because the American passion has shifted from famine to terrorism.

Ironically, the American withdrawal may also destabilize a new democracy. Last year dictator Jaffar Nimeiri was overthrown in a bloodless coup, and this month Sudan held its first democratic election in 18 years. But democracy is precarious in this country where the treasury is empty, the people are poor and hungry, and a civil war in the south drains money and spirits.

The West provides the bulk of Sudan's food and development aid, with the United States providing more than all other donors combined. But the United States refuses to provide arms; Libya provides them and that is why there are Libyans living in Khartoum.

Until the bombing of Tripoli, Libyans and Americans coexisted peacefully here. It was logical to assume that the bombing of Tripoli would change that. The Sudanese sympathized with Libya, and 5,000 demonstrated in front of the American embassy. An embassy employee was shot in the head and is paralyzed. But the shooting has not been linked with Libyans as of this date, and there have been no similar incidents.

The bombing itself was short-sighted. It created more support for Kaddafi around the world than he could have ever drummed up on his own. The small and powerless countries of the world saw it as a threat to themselves: it was a sign that the greatest power in the world would flex its military muscle whenever and wherever the whim struck.

It was a vengeful act. A more just and sane way to reduce terrorism would be to admit that the Palestinians have been treated brutally and deserve a homeland. The fact that the Palestinians have been terribly abused and their plight ignored gave birth to this epidemic of terrorism and continues to provide popular sympathy for it in the Arab world.

If terrorism increases in Europe, which is the most likely outcome, we will not experience the pain but we will bear some of the responsibility for the killing. We will bear responsibility because we continue to ignore the Palestinians plight and because we raised the ante by bombing Tripoli.


Khartoum, Sudan

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