An Open Letter to Senators Fulbright, McCarthy, Kennedy and Javits

Dear Senators:

The people of Biafra are being exterminated. The number of children already dead of starvation, the as yet uncounted infants whose brains have been damaged for life, a daily death rate in excess of 10,000—all these grim statistics have been growing steadily since last summer and the worst famine months have now arrived.

Governments and individuals have watched and talked, made token relief contributions to ease consciences, and then reverted to watching, taking, and waiting, waiting for the Biafrans to surrender or for the last Biafran to die. Once again our State Department has miscalculated the willpower of a people and ignored the principle of self-determination.

What might have been interpreted as a civil war a year and a half ago has clearly become, with the intervention of Britain, Russia, and other nations, a genuine international problem with awful implications for the future, a future in which nation-states may routinely aid each other in eliminating troublesome minorities. Any further protestations of non-involvement on the part of the United States must also be viewed as complicity in the act of genocide.

We urge you to devote your energies to furthering the following policies:

1) an immediate air-lift and air-drop of food and medicines to the famine areas of Biafra and Nigeria irrespective of national sovereignties and on a scale commensurate with our efforts in Berlin some years ago;

2) recognize Biafra diplomatically and defend publicly in every possible forum the right to survival of the Biafran people;

3) exert all possible pressure on Britain and the participants in the forthcoming Commonwealth talks for an arms embargo and an internationally policed ceasefire;

4) if the United Nations is truly incapable of dealing with a crisis like the Nigeria/Biafra war, insist upon the creation of entirely new channels for the mediation and resolution of similar conflicts in the future before they reach genocidal dimensions.

The realities of the Biafran situation are clear enough for anyone who has the courage to face them. Act now to avert the worst crime against humanity since World War II.

John Barth
Luigi M. Bianchi
Lawrence W. Chisolm
Ira S. Cohen
Leslie A. Fiedler
Charles Keil
Konrad von Moltke
Lewis Perry
Constantine A. Yeracaris
and many other faculty members
State University of New York

This Issue

January 16, 1969