America isn't the first power to fail at Mideast conquest

To the editor: The capture by warring Islamic militants of large quantities of weaponry from Iraqi government forces will strike a familiar note to historians familiar with the late 19th century. ("ISIS weapons windfall may alter balance in Iraq, Syria conflicts," June 29)

At the time, Egypt conscripted a force of about 10,000 men, under the command of the hapless English Col. William Hicks, to locate and defeat in Sudan a radical Islamist force led by the Mahdi, a self-styled heir to the prophet Muhammad.


The Mahdi's followers, equipped with swords, spears and antique firearms, killed Hicks and all but a few hundred of the unmotivated Egyptian conscripts. The bounty of arms, including modern rifles, batteries of artillery and boundless rounds of ammunition, helped make possible a brutal Islamist conquest of Sudan, including the fall of the capital city of Khartoum and the slaughter of its inhabitants.

Those doubting that history repeats itself would do well to remember this nearly forgotten episode of Mideast history.

Edward Hansen, San Diego


To the editor: The Middle East has always been partitioned according to its ethnicities, mores and religious preferences. Neither the overlords in London who originally drew today's national lines nor the violent ministrations of the George W. Bush administration have altered the natural inclination of these people. ("Amid Iraq unrest, idea of three autonomous enclaves gains traction," June 30)

Hopefully, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who apparently has a grip on this reality, is voicing a plan that President Obama will hear.

Jacqueline Kerr, Los Feliz