Gordon Philpot’s letter to the editor, “Does the United States have a Churchill to lead it?” (July 13), was timely. He described how the Allies achieved success in World War II thanks, in part, to having a Winston Churchill “waiting in the (1930s) wings” and how the threat of Nazi Germany then compares to the danger from the militant Islamic State (and others in the War on Terror) today.
Churchill was not merely a strategist but a warrior who engaged in ferocious hand-to-hand combat with Islamists as a young lieutenant with the 21st Lancers in Sudan.
During my years living on the confluence of the Blue and White Niles in Khartoum, I studied local history including the 1883-1898 rise and fall of Muhammed Ahmed bin Abd Allah, a self-proclaimed Mahdi and charismatic Islamist leader not unlike an Usama bin Laden, an Ayatollah Khomeini or (currently) an Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (“Caliph Ibrahim”, who is now creating an “Islamic State” caliphate across the Middle East supported by fanatical jihadists).
Sudan’s Mahdi died in 1885 following the death and beheading of Charles Gordon in Khartoum and was replaced by the Khalifa Abdallahi.
Fifteen years later, a large force of British and Egyptian troops on horseback, camel and foot, under Major-general Kitchener, returned up the Nile to confront the Khalifa.
They killed some 11,000 dervish Mahdists and Hadendoa tribesmen (wounding about 16,000) in a final battle at Omdurman, across the Nile from Khartoum. This time they brought Maxim machine guns, better rifles and light artillery support mounted on small gunboats.
Young Lt. Winston Churchill participated in the last regimental cavalry charge in British history as one of about 400 cavalrymen that engaged over 2,400 dervish in close combat using lances, sabers and pistols against swords, spears and rifles, losing five officers and 65 men. Read “Khartoum, the Ultimate Imperial Adventure by Michael Asher or Churchill’s own account, “The River War,” for details.
Militant, fanatical Islamism has often raised its ugly head since its initial attempts to conquer Europe (636-1095 AD). American involvement began in 1801 with Tripoli’s declaration of war and Thomas Jefferson’s response to the capture and enslavement of Americans in 1803 (read The Pirate Coast by Richard Zacks).
Freedom-lovers now face attempted world domination by al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State butchers seeking to spread religious totalitarianism throughout the Middle East and eventually the world.
This jihadist movement cannot be confronted using diplomacy. We need leadership with resolve to fight it.