In the fall of 2001, discussing the collapse of the Taliban, Thomas Friedman, the in-house thinker at The New York Times, offered this bit of cartoon analysis:
“For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones â€“ and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it.”
But they didn’t, did they? The Flintstones retreated to their caves, bided their time, and a decade later the Jetsons are desperate to negotiate their way out.
When it comes to instructive analogies, I prefer Khartoum to cartoons. If it took America a decade to avenge the dead of 9/11, it took Britain 13 years to avenge their defeat in Sudan in 1884. But, after Kitchener slaughtered the jihadists of the day at the Battle of Omdurman in 1897, he made a point of digging up their leader the Mahdi, chopping off his head and keeping it as a souvenir. The Sudanese got the message. The British had nary a peep out of the joint until they gave it independence six decades later â€“ and, indeed, the locals fought for King and (distant imperial) country as brave British troops during World War Two. Even more amazingly, generations of English schoolchildren were taught about the Mahdi’s skull winding up as Lord Kitchener’s novelty paperweight as an inspiring tale of national greatness.
Not a lot of that today. It’s hard to imagine Osama’s noggin as an attractive centerpiece at next year’s White House Community Organizer of the Year banquet, and entirely impossible to imagine America’s “educators” teaching the tale approvingly. So instead, even as we explain that our difficulties with this bin Laden fellow are nothing to do with Islam, no sir, perish the thought, we simultaneously rush to assure the Muslim world that, not to worry, we accorded him a 45-minute Islamic funeral as befits an observant Muslim.
That’s why Pakistani big shots harbored America’s mortal enemy and knew they could do so with impunity.
John Henrik Clarke, in Mohammed Ahmed, (The Mahdi) Messiah of the Sudan, says otherwise:
In avenging what he thought was England’s honor, Lord Kitchener showed no mercy and considered nothing to be sacred while he was accomplishing his mission. He more than earned the name, “The Butcher of Omdurman”. He bombarded the tomb of the Mahdi and took his bones and threw them into the Nile. It was said that the Mahdi’s head was packed in a kerosene tin and later used by Kitchener as a tobacco container.