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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Khartoum then and now

Khartoum, Sudan - 2007

Britain sends two Muslim members of the House of Lords to Khartoum to grovel in front of the president of the Sudan and beg for the release of British primary schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons. Sentenced to 15 days in prison for naming a teddy bear "Mohammed", she is eventually released and deported.

Khartoum, Sudan - 1896

Britain sends Lord Kitchener to Khartoum at the head of an army of 25 000 to avenge the 1885 death of General Charles Gordon and to put down a rebellion by followers of a Muslim fanatic called "the Mahdi". This description of the subsequent events is from James Morris' Farewell the Trumpets:

For years the Sudan had been in a state of rebellion under a fiery Sufi mystic who called himself the Mahdi, 'the Leader', and who formally announced the End of Time, a conception particularly unwelcome to the British just then. In 1884 it had been decided to abandon the country and to organise the withdrawal the British Government sent to Khartoum, the capital, General Charles Gordon, Royal Engineers, everyone's archetype of the Christian soldier, 'not a man but a God'. Trapped in Khartoum by his own death-wish, in January 1885 Gordon was killed by the Mahdists, and so capped his already legendary career with an imperial apotheosis.... The Mahdi died in 1885, but his successor the Khalifa, held similarly apocalyptic views, and by the 1890s the Reconquest was at hand...

[Kitchener] with infinite care and thoroughness ... prepared the campaign, designing his own gunboats for the passage up the Nile, and commissioning his own railway to take his armies out of Egypt towards Khartoum. It was slow, but it was inexorable. By the end of 1896 Kitchener had an army of 25 000 men, 8 000 of them British, the rest Egyptian and Sudanese, deep in the Sudan. His method of campaign was barbarically deliberate and symbolic. The soldiers went in to action crying 'Remember Gordon!' Gordon's nephew directed the shelling of the Mahdi's tomb at Omdurman, and Kitchener seriously thought of keeping the Leader's skull as a souvenir. It all went like very slow clockwork. By Jubilee Day Kitchener was preparing his advance upon Khartoum, and by the autumn of 1898 he had annihilated the Mahdist army in the battle of Omdurman, killing at least 10 000 Sudanese for the loss of 28 Britons. On the morning of Sunday, 4 September 1898, he crossed the Nile into the ruined capital, where the shattered remains of Gordon's Residency lay as a wreck of rubble and undergrowth beside the river...


What the hell's happened to Britain?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Apparently Winston Churchill is no longer with us.

Jim O'Brien said...

Thanks for the reminder. I had totally forgotten about Sudan. Wouldn't be great if we could do the same today. Sudan has become the worst slaughter machine in the world... the the liberal left doesn't care... as they drink their Chilean Cabernet and blame everything on Bushhhh.... and gobal warming. Keep it up good man!