The “army” of Moqtada Sadr that is causing my country’s military such trouble in Iraq is called the “Mahdi Army” or “Mehdi Army”. This name is significant. The Mahdi, as I understand it, is a kind of Messianic figure to Shiite Muslims. One particular Mahdi figure shows up in the history of the British Empire. An Islamic revolutionary, he carried out a successful uprising against the English in Sudan which resulted in the loss of Khartoum and the famous death of “Chinese” Gordon, their obsessively fundamentalist general and governor. It took several years for Kitchener, his successor, to build a railway and mass up troops to retake Khartoum.
So here we are, uncomfortably perched in a Muslim country as Christian invaders. It’s no coincidence that Moqtada Sadr chose this name for his army. I hope for the sake of our troops that Paul Bremer is no “Chinese” Gordon.
Also, here’s how to identify the real Mahdi in case you’re on the lookout.