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From Belfast to Basra

Sir - As someone who lived in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and 1970s, I find disturbing the similarity between Belfast then and Basra now. In both cases, the British troops were initially welcomed by much of the population who hoped that their arrival signalled the end of their oppression.

Sir - As someone who lived in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s and 1970s, I find disturbing the similarity between Belfast then and Basra now. In both cases, the British troops were initially welcomed by much of the population who hoped that their arrival signalled the end of their oppression. However, they quickly lost the 'battle for hearts and minds' as the population soon realised that change was not at hand.

There followed brutal house raids, street rioting, shooting of innocent civilians by the British Army and an armed response by a small but growing resistance movement.

Next came interment and the torture of prisoners. The notorious Umm Qasar prison in Basra has become the Long Kesh of Iraq; no doubt its name will soon be changed to the Iraqi equivalent of the Maze.

It is no surprise that the British Army stands accused of murder by Amnesty International. Didn't its command send the two convicted murderers of Belfast teenager Peter McBride to Iraq? Gen Mike Jackson (promoted from Major after his exploits in Derry on Bloody Sunday) states that torturers are not fit to wear the Queen's uniform. But the uniform seems to fit convicted murderers. Indeed Gen Jackson sat on a board which decided that privates Wright and Fisher should not only be retained in the British Army (as they were during their four-year term in prison), but be promoted and sent to Basra.

Millionaire TV cheat Major Charles Ingram must be feeling hard done by. Also, it's hardly surprising that those media 'experts' who attempted to excuse the brutal behaviour of British forces in Northern Ireland are the same ones who attempted to justify the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Why are they now as rare on the media as the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Dr Sean Marlow, Dublin City University, Dublin 9

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