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Byline: Richard Stott

THE debacle in Iraq is following a familiar bloody path. Our troops in Basra started off wearing berets and rubbing along well with the locals. Now those same locals set them on fire.

In Northern Ireland Catholics cheered when soldiers first appeared on the streets. It didn't take long for those same Catholics to abduct, torture and murder them.

The Vietnam anti-war movement became irresistible because of the power of TV pictures. The same will happen in Iraq. Defence Secretary John Reid insists we will not cut and run but he can't say anything else.

We will leave when the Iraqis are able to look after themselves, he says. They are nowhere near that. We can't trust their police force - heavily infiltrated by insurgents -or protect civilians looking for work. We can't even make the sewage system or electricity supply work.

It won't be long before we start hearing the orderly tones of disguised panic. Pictures of soldiers on fire concentrate political minds like nothing else.

As in Vietnam our leaders will attempt to portray withdrawal as a victory for democracy. Now as then, it won't fool anyone.

To pull out in the foreseeable future is impossible. We would leave Iraq as a hotbed of international terrorism. The very thing we went to war to prevent.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 25, 2005
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