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August 15, 2005


von: I am in complete, total agreement. I would add only a few more failures. On WMD, we allowed known nuclear sites to be looted, and we will be very lucky if none of the looters have connections to terrorists or states that sponsor them. On terrorism, we have provided at least two, and in the worst case three, of the things that terrorists who wish to strike us need. (1) training against our forces; (2) intelligence as to how we operate and what our capabilities are; in the worst case also (3) a failed state to use as a base of operations.

It has also always been one of our goals to counterbalance Iranian interests in the region. We have given them the best gift they could have wanted: a friendly Iraq. We have also gone a good ways towards breaking our armed forces. And then, of course, there are the 1800+ dead, and the huge financial costs, and also the fact that we took our attention away from Afghanistan, and have failed to capture bin Laden and Zawahiri.

And let's not even start on the opportunity costs.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of Rumsfeld.

Why Rumsfeld? Why not Bush?

Why Rumsfeld? Why not Bush?

Anarch asks the question I was going to ask.

I think you can put this in the past tense. Iraq is lost.

This is why. It started off wrongly when there was no planning for the post-Saddam phase, and then has been irreparably lost as the administration, for whatever reason, remained immobile when things began to go wrong, starting with the looting. Even now, after two years of a gruesome stalemate with the insurgents, the administration refuses to change course - the President said it clearly last weak that he feared that it would make him "look weak". Ironically, not doing anything in the face of bad news polls better than doing what it takes to win - things like new war taxes and drafts.

Since they have a taste of blood now, it would take overwhelming force to subdue the insurgents - not just double the light force we have at the moment, but perhaps a million or a million and a half troops on the ground. I don't think the President has the leadership to be able to do that.

But he doesn't have to cut and run either. So his choice is defeat now or defeat later.

My guess is he'll punt to the next President, the LBJ way.

The thing that pisses me off is not that we're losing, it's that we're losing through a long string of own-goals.

The answer to the (frankly stupid) question "would the world be better of with Saddam still in power?" is beginning to look like it might be "yes." Certainly if you count the opportunity cost of retasking intelligence assets from the hunt for OBL to Iraq, and sucking up CIA WMD assets to Iraq instead of dedicating them to rolling up the A. Q. Kahn network.

Yes, Iraq is lost, or rather was lost. It was lost the minute we kicked over the anthill without a plan to contain the ants. We depended on our good buddy Chalabi to inform us, and it looks like he informed on us, possibly even telling the Iranians that we were listening in on encrypted communications.

We had to skate right by explosive stockpiles that had been found, documented and sealed by the IAEA because we didn't have the troops to guard them. Now they more than likely comprise the new shaped charges that are knocking out Brads and Abrams.

Why in God's name did anyone believe that the Kurds would give up sovereignity and oil revenues to southerners who cheered their gassing, after we had set them up as an autonomous province? Why would any sane person believe that the Shiites would overlook hundreds of years of oppression and schism to share power with the Sunnis? Why would we send only enough troops to knock over a statue and guard the oil ministry when we know Iran and Iraq had fought wars over the border between them, thus guaranteeing Iranians would pour in after our invasion?

If we pull out now we'll save some lives and at least preserve the Army and Marine Corps. Sure the war nuts will blame people like me for "stabbing the country in the back", but at least we won't have to rebuild the military like we did in the 70's.

My goodness, this must be the most autonomous SecDef in history, or at least since McNamara. All this decision-making done without the knowledge or authorization of the Commander-in-Chief . . . remarkable!

Give Rumsfeld his Medal of Honor, and send him packing.

I'd hope we'd reserve Medals of Honor for people who do honorable things, but I should know by now that in the Bush administration, nothing succeeds like failure.

"Indeed, Rumsfeld no longer wants to win in Iraq; he doesn't even know what winning is."

Quite right, Von: and the lack of a logically sustainable metric for "victory" is a failing Sec. Rumsfeld has not only amply demonstrated for the past 4 years, but one that is, and has been, shared by virtually ALL of this Adminstration's significant power-players from the beginning. And what, exactly has the Chief Executive, our strutting self-described "war President" (who is, under our Constitution, the one ultimately responsible)been doing all this time?
Yes, the same question leapt into my mind as well:

"Why Rumsfeld? Why not Bush?"

Why not? indeed!

Far, far be it for me to defend Bush (who I would not piss on if he were on fire) but to some extent, the blame for lousy war planning does lie more with Rumsfeld - and Cheney - than with Bush himself.

Bush came to office totally ignorant of military science. Most Presidents do. They rely on their appointees, esp. the Secretary of Defense, for advice and planning. In this case, Bush had two Secretaries of Defense: Rumsfeld, and Cheney (who'd been Sec Def under Bush I).

It was Bush who wanted a war with Iraq from the day he took office. It should have been Rumfeld's job, and Cheney's, to explain why that was a bad idea, why it would undermine the "WoT" - and, if Bush still insisted on the damn thing, it was Rumsfeld's and Cheney's job to explain what could and could not be achieved, and how best to accomplish what was possible.

Instead, they let Bush believe in his own fantasies; they fed his fantasies; and they sheltered him from dissenting voices; they punished the truth tellers and rewarded the liars. (I wouldn't put it past Cheney, esp., to have been the Bad Cop who made it clear to the various generals that they'd better keep telling Bush everything was going well, that they didn't need more troops, etc.)

The final responsibility rests with Bush. No question. Bush has dwelt quite happily in his lovely little bubble, by surrounding himself with sycophants and refusing to get information from anyone but them.

But Rumsfeld and Cheney did their utmost to enable him to stay in that lovely little bubble. They did so for their own reasons - Cheney maybe to "finish the job" Bush I wouldn't let him finish, and Rumsfeld to try out his sparkly new theories on how to transform the military - and forgot that their duty isn't to their own wishes, nor even to fulfill the President's Oedipal dreams, but to the country's welfare and defense.

I believe that as a civilian Rumsfeld is eligible only for the Medal of Freedom. Here's the wiki.

welcome to those of us who do not create our own reality. sorry about the bitter taste; there's nothing to be done about it.

(Insert perfunctory Bush-hating rant here)

I'll just link to Stirling Newberry again, who thinks the 2006 Democratic strategy should involve the impeachment of Bush, but thinks it is utterly critical to stay and salvage what we can in Iraq. It is, frankly, up to the Democratic party to be the responsible party here.

End of Iraq

I agree. America, as we know it, will simply not survive a loss in Iraq. Imagine pulling down to 50k troops, and then getting hit with an Iraqi made WMD.

Folks, I think we really are trying to avoid a nuclear exchange, followed by a worldwide religious war. War at the economic gut of the world on a credit card and weekend warriors. I still can't believe it.

(Insert impassioned anti-Republican rant here)

Oh, and I think the problem is that Congress has to change the law next summer in order to allow reservists to serve more than two tours overseas. Hastert and Frist are telling Rumsfeld it isn't going to happen in an election year, but no one has the guts to tell Bush.

As I commented on another blog, I agree with "the war is lost" viewpoint, for these reasons: First, we don't have nearly the troops available to "win," and no prospect whatsoever of getting them. We simply can't afford what it would take to put another 200,000 troops on the ground - not only in direct cost and stress on the military, but in the gaps it would leave in our strategic posture worldwide. Second, and even more important, it has become clear that as far as U.S. interests are concerned THE WAR IS LOST EVEN IF THERE WEREN'T A SINGLE TERRORIST INCIDENT OR AMERICAN FATALITY FROM THIS DAY FORWARD. Large portions of Iraq's power structure are being infiltrated by Iran agents or their supporters, and it is increasingly apparent that even areas not under Iranian influence will still be run by religious extremists, not secularists (except for the areas controlled by the Kurds). Iraq will become yet another disfunctional Islamic state, and there's nothing we can do to change that outcome. Except for the removal of Saddam Hussein himself, none of our objectives for the war have been met or will be met. For that, we can thank the incompetent, naive, and arrogant Bush administration - and its well-intentioned but hopelessly unrealistic supporters.

Bob, isn't it altogether possible to maintain current troop levels in Iraq--and still get hit by an Iraqi-made WMD?

I'm also terrified of what will happen to Iraq if/when we pull down our forces, but our forces don't seem to be effective at doing any of the things (protecting civilians, establishing infrastructure, controlling territory...) that we'd hope they could. The insurgency is even brewing up chemical weapons. Gah.

Maybe Bush is using some of his vacation time to meet with possible Rumsfeld replacements and to think long and hard about his Iraq policy. Let's hope for some good explanations and better decisions upon La Rentree.

And a pony. With ribbons, please.

Remember, Rumsfeld offered his resignation a couple of times to Bush and was refused. Even though he should, he's not going anywhere.

"Bob, isn't it altogether possible to maintain current troop levels in Iraq--and still get hit by an Iraqi-made WMD?"

Possibly. The difference is psychological, political, strategical. If hit today we know we are in a mess and have some conventional response avaiable.

If hit after withdrawal we will have been told we have won and will be in no real mood to gear up to invade again. We will probably nuke em.

But didn't Bush look so tough when he went all Top Gun on that air craft carrier?

Better to lose a war with a tough looking President, than a French looking one.

Bob, that's a terrible reason to stay: surely someone in our government would be more responsible than that.

(Btw, you might be interested in an interchange between Nadezha at Liberals against terrorism and Dan Darling at Winds of Change. Here is Dan's sum-up, fullest post.)

I wouldn't start the WMD panic again until there's some reliable info on what exactly they found. If it turns out to be ten carboys of glycerol, one steel tank, and some lengths of hose, the capacity for mass destruction is nil compared to a ton of RDX.

It does seem rather harsh to want a guy fired the moment he manages to make limited contact with reality. It would appear that we're pulling troops out next year because we have no choice; just saying the opposite can't be fooling anybody in Iraq.

"Here is Dan's sum-up, fullest post.)"

Ya know, it's funny, Newberry is famous for opaque BS, and trust me, he is far from my only source of analysis but for some reason he can make sense to me. Maybe wrong, bi coherent. The Dan Darling piece just flew right past me. Maybe I am just tired, but what is his point and prescription? I am tired of Bad Bush/Rumsfeld, we got a mess, woe.

And honestly, both Charles and von ain't far from that. Not that I have an answer under current conditions. I'll try the Nadezhda/Darling exchange again later.

it's nice you guys have agreed on a couple of scapegoats (Rumsfeld and those ungrateful Iraqis), but it's truly amazing they way you all have, for the past 5 years, found ways to make sure that It's Not Bush's Fault. it's the inversion of Intelligent Design: it's not the fault of the idiot in charge.

Bush could have told Rumsfeld to increase troop levels to make sure there were enough soldiers there to secure the explosives, to control the border, to patrol the cities, to etc.. Bush could have told his people to plan for something less than "we will be greeted as liberators". Bush could've said "No Torture on my watch". he could have said "No, we're going to catch bin Laden first". he could have done a dozen other things, that he, as Commander In Chief, is authorized to do. He Didn't, and Rumsfeld isn't some Svengali pulling W's little puppet strings.

it's truly amazing to see otherwise intelligent people do everything they can to avoid having to point a finger at the guy whose job it is to actually run the fncking show.

Others have already pointed out the silliness of separating Rumsfeld war policy from Bush war policy, and then pretend we are losing because of Rumsfeld. Republicans need to stop fooling themselves, and substitute "Bush" for "Rumsfeld" in von's post, and act accordingly.

What is more important is to focus on what "we are losing Iraq" really means, and what are we still fighting for. Hence, an overly long comment to outline points about this issue that should be the topic of current debate.

The war is already lost if "winning" is defined as Charles Bird defines it -- a non-theocratic and friendly democratic state. The loss is a political one, because the place is irretrievably headed to an Islamic Republic mired in regional and sectarian conflicts; an Iran-lite more friendly with Islamist states than US interests. There is no faction in Iraq that views the US in a positive light (yes, even the Kurds). No amount of military action or resolve by the US will reverse this, which is why Charles is so misguided to characterize "winning" or "losing" as allegedly turning on US resolve.

US troops are fighting and dying as stand-ins for Shia in the Sunni-Shia civil war that is already underway in a low grade form -- this is the "noble cause." The fewer US troops, the more heated that civil war will become. Withdrawal of US troops is an acceptance of the fact that Iraq's future is a greater civil war and strife.

This is an awful result, but it already is current policy. After all, the stated rationale is that the troops will stay only long enough for Iraqi forces to be able to fight the insurgents on their own. This assumes that the civil war will go full bore once we leave -- not that it will be over. Translated into real terms, this means Shia fighting Sunni -- not "freedom loving Iraqis fighting terrorist loving insurgents" which is the misleading spin put on it by Bush.

Ultimately, "peace" will depend on a political accomodation between Shia and Sunni, over which we no longer have much influence. Right now, they seem more interested in fighting and killing each other than making peace. We no longer can prevent it.

Secondarily, our troops are fighting a small contingent of foreign Islamic terrorists, but our presence is primarily why they are active there. They are the ultimate strange bedfellows in the resistance -- unwanted by most Iraqis should the US leave (according to some reports, occasionally fighting against the local Iraqis insurgents). To stay in Iraq to fight these people is madness since they come because we are there, and will continue to do so without end as long as we stay. In the meantime, we continue to piss off the Iraqis and all other Arabs in the Middle East by our presence.

Frankly, we are not waiting to draw down US troops until the Iraqis are able to fight the insurgents. There is already a large force capable of doing that -- the Shia militia forces. US policy seems aimed at creating an separate Iraqi military that is somehow above the sectarian divisions, but that is a pipedream. There is no Iraqi faction that seeks a "Greater Iraq" by putting aside the sectarian differences. There is no possibility that the Iraqi military that we are endeavoring to create will not support one faction against others, no matter how much we wish otherwise.

If you want to know Iraq's future once the US pulls out, examine the policies of SICRI and Badr which control Iraq now. They are Iran-friendly Islamicists who seek Sharia law for the country. We are "staying the course" to insure that result, which will happen anyway without regard to when we leave.

It's time to get out because our continued presence does more harm than good to our own interests, and no US soldier should have to die for such nonsense.

Thanks, Hilzoy.

BTW, I'm taking the night off responding to comments, but I will respond to "why not blame Bush":

Bush has been admirably consistent with respect to the job to do in Iraq. Add to that the fact that every president must rely on the experts to do his (and, in the US, it has always been his) job.

von: I only wish I could disagree, vehemently, and say (and believe) that it wasn't so.

"Bush has been admirably consistent with respect to the job to do in Iraq."

Oh for heaven's sake. Baghdad Bob was "admirably consistent" about how the Marines were going to die at the hands of Saddam's invincible minions. He would trot out the same, repetitive, out-of-touch talking points at every press conference, no matter how badly the facts in the field contradicted him.

"I can say, and I am responsible for what I am saying, that they have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly."

This is what Bush has been doing for the last five years--repetitive, when tightly scripted, or disconnected, rambling, and incoherent, when not. But never any grip on reality. Never any ability to formulate a plan to match a desired result. Never any ability to improvise, to respond, to show a spark. Never changed his beliefs, no matter how the facts changed. And we're supposed to find something *admirable* in this?

You know, P.T. Barnum said nobody ever went broke underestimating our intelligence, and Clinton said we'd rather have them strong and wrong. Yup, and some people admire Bush's consistency.

So the Republicans are going to go into their campaigns in 06 spinning abject faillure as a partial victory.
I really don't think it will work. It might work with the wingnuts. I can imagine Limbaugh picking up the theme, "We did a great job, we could have done more if it hadn't been for all those anti-war protesters and the Iraqis can't handle freedom anyway!"
The people who won't buy it are the people in the military. This really is one of those moments in history when the continental plates of politics are shifting. Republicans have been selling themselves as the party of a strong defense and now they are going to be not only the party of failure, but the party that tells ridiculous lies about the failure. If Democratic politicians can show some decent leadership now, the Republicans will be the regional party.
Of course that's a pretty big

von: darn, now I have to disagree with your last comment. Everry President does have to rely on his advisors. That's why it's incumbent on him not just to pick good advisors in the first place, but to remove them when they turn out not to have been as good as they seemed. I don't think that Rumsfeld seemed to be a bad choice when he was picked, as people Bush might have picked go, but I think it has been clear since at latest the summer of 2003 that he's been disastrous as Secretary of Defense. When you put someone in charge of planning for the aftermath of deposing Saddam and it turns out that they have no plan, that should be that. (Leave aside the unbelievable idiocy of Bush's giving that task to Defense in the first place, when State had been doing planning for a year.)

It's Bush's job to get rid of bad advisors, precisely because he does depend on them. But he doesn't ditch people because they're doing a bad job; he ditches them because he doesn't like them, and he certainly seems to like Rumsfeld. That's no way to run a country.

And I don't think consistency is admirable when it's consistently wrong. That's just being detached from reality.

The buck stops with the President.

There is no weaselling out.

Von: Bush has been admirably consistent with respect to the job to do in Iraq.

Yes, he has. He has been consistently wrong. So, again, why blame Rumsfeld: why not Bush?

I rather thought the conservative commentariat was deeply enamoured of Rumsfeld, at least as of a year or so ago. Is there a theory on the Right explaining what went wrong with him?

New VP (Lugar?), soon, prior to Rumsfeld's replacement. Lots more vacation for Bush.

I see, finally, that Max Power beat me to it. But the obvious retort to von's punch pulling would be an Oval Office desk plaque which reads:

The Buck Stops Over There At My Underling's Desk. Blame Him, I'm Busy Riding My Bike.

It would make for a long desk plaque, I suppose, but there you have it. Bush is no Harry Truman, after all.

I rather thought the conservative commentariat was deeply enamoured of Rumsfeld, at least as of a year or so ago. Is there a theory on the Right explaining what went wrong with him?

Yes, apparently he started reading Juan Cole when the staff had gone home. He thought a little tipple of defeatism wouldn't do him any harm, might even help to relieve the stress after a long day. He thought he could take or leave it alone. Gradually the habit got the better of him. One fateful morning a few months ago, his secretary came in and found him slumped in his chair where he had dozed off. When he woke up he was babbling incoherently about the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr and his martyred father, disputes among the Kurds, Ahmed Chalabi selling out to the Iranians and so on and so forth.

After a sharp telling-off from Cheney he pulled himself together and kicked the habit for a while. But the damage was done. When his aides started telling about all the schools that were being painted, a sort of sneer would creep over his features; the sort of look you see on Paul Krugman's face when a student asks about Bush's Social Security proposals. Sometimes he would snigger or even let a guffaw escape him. Whenever an upbeat assessment was presented to him he would murmer "last throes" in a voice that seemed to come from very far away. He had lost the faith.

Never let the light in on magic. Never let the reality-based community mess with your mind.

Better make him stop now; if he keeps on reading Cole he'll start believing that Clinton foiled the Millenium Plot.

Which, if you're required to believe six impossible things before breakfast, might be helpful.

if he keeps on reading Cole he'll start believing that Clinton foiled the Millenium Plot.

at least it was foiled.

Better make him stop now; if he keeps on reading Cole he'll start believing that Clinton foiled the Millenium Plot.

It's too late. He's copped the fact that there is a world outside America. It is populated with people who think of Clinton as just another American. They have their own problems and they care as little about American politics as Americans do about theirs. They won't be swayed from their goals by talk of stained dresses and the like. It took him quite a while to grasp this, but now that he has there is no going back.

Fortunately, there are lots of people available to replace him, some even more clueless than he was when he started. The farce isn't over.

Sadly, there is no way for this to end in a good way. I'm reminded of something someone who visited Panama a few years ago told me. Outside of Panama City, everyone is appreciative of the U.S. getting rid of Noriega. However, in Panama City, where the vast majority of the U.S. operations took place, she was told not to mention that she was American because just about everybody there knows someone killed by U.S. troops in the invasion, and therefore there is alot of abject hatred for the U.S. and Americans.

Let's turn that perspective to Iraq. How many people have we killed there (however unintentionally)? Even the people who suffered the most under Saddam may likely say it was not worth losing a sibling, parent, child, cousin, aunt, uncle, friend to get rid of him, and they will blame and hate the U.S. until the day they die. Some (if not most) will blame the U.S. for the deaths of friends and relatives killed by the insurgents.

It is an awful mess.

freedom is on the march

let freedom ring

democracy will bloom a thousand points of light

Those words are all you need in the war on terrorism and islamofascism...planning and numbers and statistics and cultural history are for wimps!

He's the most beautiful war president this nation has ever seen...and he loves the troops.

I don't know how seriously to take this article from Capitol Hill Blue (via TalkLeft), but it would really worry me if it were true.

I wouldn't take it seriously at all, since it's a sleazy bunch of crap.

. . . although GOP loyalists dismissed the reports an anti-Bush propaganda, the reports were later confirmed by prominent George Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Justin Frank in his book Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. Dr. Frank diagnosed the President . . .

Dr. Frank did no such thing, as "diagnosis" requires actually seeing and treating a patient.

"I was really very unsettled by him and I started watching everything he did and reading what he wrote and watching him on videotape. I felt he was disturbed,” Dr. Frank said. β€œHe fits the profile of a former drinker whose alcoholism has been arrested but not treated.”

If we're going to condemn this crap when Bill Frist does it to Terri Schiavo, we should condemn it now, too. There are ten million and one reasons to criticize George W. Bush. This isn't even number ten million and two.


I wasn't talking about the "diagnosis", but rather the reports of the staff's comments of Bush's mood swings which make up much of the article, including the first 5 paragraphs.

re: the Capitol Hill Blue story--

I'm with Phil on this one. Not a lot in the way of facts, evidence, good sourcing, etc.

We know that Nixon spent parts of his final years in office in an impaired state. But we know that now, because of reliable and well-sourced testimony to that effect (e.g. Kissinger's accounts).

Maybe Bush is not as cheerful as he used to be. But the word of a shrink who diagnoses via video-tape, and un-named WH staffers who are willing to talk in exchange for a drink, does not really amount to solid reasons to formulate new beliefs or alter old credence-quotients.

Doug Thompson seems to be a bit of a nutter himself. In 2003 he published, and then retracted, a story that one Terrance J. Wilkinson allegedly gave him about the Niger uranium saga. Wilkinson was either a con artist or a figment of Thompson's imagination.

I don't buy the idea that Bush is nuts or stupid but he does seem to be a sloppy worker.

The story of the Niger">http://www.capitolhillblue.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=19&num=2529">Niger fantasy.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

Karl Marx

What is it, exactly, that we're repeating? Surely not Vietnam.

If Iraq is a repeat, I would say we're still in the first repeat (tragedy). This is not my idea of farce.

Though I have couched this in pedantry, I mean my comment sincerely.


I can't speak for von with any authority, but I assumed he was referring to the spectre of chem weapons in Iraq. Before the war, we were treated to hyped fears of chem weapons. Now, it turns out there may be some chem weapons after all, tho in such small quantities as to constitute a farce.

that about right, von?

Now, it turns out there may be some chem weapons after all, tho in such small quantities as to constitute a farce.

and, they were reportedly brought into Iraq from somewhere else.

it's like flypaper for chemical weapons.

I assumed that the farce was the repeat of Robert McNamara's turn to pessimism over Vietnam.

kevin donoghue--

you may well be right. beats me. It's up to von now to tell us (or figure it ain't that big a deal).

UPDATE: The able readership points out that Rumsfeld, a civilian, is only eligible for the Medal of Freedom -- so that will have to suffice as his parting gift.

A second update would be appreciated. Precisely what, in your view, has Rumsfeld done to deserve the Medal of Freedom? It's supposed (as I discover) to be given to recognize exceptional meritorious service. Please describe the "exceptional meritorious service" that Rumsfeld has performed that merits this honor.

Jes -

Not sure von believes that Rumsfeld's done anything to deserve it, just that since Tenet got one, it's inevitable that Rumsfeld gets one too. Not that I want to put words in von's mouth.

Jes - Re: M of F for Rummy: it was a tongue-in-check reference to Bush awarding former CIA director George Tenet the Medal of Freedom just before replacing him.


All Rummy's fault?

Sacrificial lamb.

"Please describe the "exceptional meritorious service" that Rumsfeld has performed that merits this honor."

Maybe Bush thought it was for exceptional meretricious service?


Umm...that chemical weapons factory looks as if it's not quite what it was initially made out to be:

"Did you know about the Chemical Weapons Plant?" (Yes, and probably more than most readers care to know. Turned out to be nothing of consequence. The "Plant" was minutes down the road from here.)

No surprise there. The best thing to do in these cases is to wait, because more times than not it's going to turn out to be a wrong assessment.

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