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A dove meets a victim of Saddam...

Media Op-Ed Nicholas Kristof Iraq

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#21 Ogami

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 04:52 AM

Let's go to Bush's carrier landing speech, no rosy pie-in-the-sky promises here. We were always warned it would not be easy, Zack:

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We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)

The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done. Then we will leave, and we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)


#22 Delvo

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:14 AM

The establishment of a stable, peaceful, prosperous country in Iraq should not be expected to happen immediately. But it also should at least show signs of beginning. It's a multipartite issue. The 10-year benchmark for Germany and Japan refers to their economies recovering. How long after their surrenders were new governments underway? That had to come first, before the economies could even begin to recover.

Three months after the war's end, I have not yet seen the reports on a US/Brit-hosted meeting between representatives of Iraq's major political or religious groups to start writing their own constitution. I have not yet seen the reports about the polling infrastructure being set up to allow votes to happen soon on a new Iraqi senate. I have heard of an influencial religious leader there who would guide most of Iraq's citizens to be peaceful and respectful with us while still honoring their own religion, and heard people express hope that he plays a large part in Iraq's near future, but I have not yet seen a report that says he's been invited by the Americans and Brits to take over certain responsibilities the armies can't or shouldn't involve themselves with during the interrim until a real Iraqi government can be made. I have not yet seen a report discussing how small-scale government functionaries and offices, from the utility commissions to the courts and judges, who aren't still loyal Baathists are being identified and re-installed (or at least the attempt to identify them being made).

These are small steps that don't take 10 years to do. The 10 years thing is a matter of how events unfold AFTER these things are taken care of.

Maybe it's too soon to expect such things. But in that case, I should be told so instead of being left to sit and wonder about it. I want Bush to explain that they still can't do it because the circumstances aren't ready yet, and detail how and why they're not and when they would be. After one month, I wasn't concerned, but I was expecting to hear SOMETHING by now, so now I am. At five or six, I'll probably be pretty mad if there isn't either progress or at least some serious explanation.

#23 Ogami

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:27 AM

Delvo, to be blunt, you and Zack expect too much. As you may have noticed, we're getting one soldier shot every other day, if not every day. How could that happen? Is Bush to blame?

I refer you back to the Virginia Sniper. All it took was two guys in a car to shoot one person a day. Get five cars like that in Iraq, and look what you could get. It's very easy to leave road bombs and snipe at troops, perhaps someone could offer practical solutions rather than just wringing their hands.

You know what makes me mad? Our own news media tells the Iraqi resistance what to do. I saw a BBC news anchor ask an American 'expert' on just what fatalities it would take for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. Right there, she's telling the Iraqis that all they have to do is to kill X number of soldiers to get us to leave. Thanks, BBC. Real freakin' helpful!

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#24 Rhea

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:44 AM

Ogami, on Jun 27 2003, 12:28 PM, said:

Delvo, to be blunt, you and Zack expect too much. As you may have noticed, we're getting one soldier shot every other day, if not every day. How could that happen? Is Bush to blame?
I think what most of us object to is the abysmally poor planning. A lot of this stuff could have and SHOULD HAVE been anticipated and planned for.  

If Gen. Franks had initially gotten the number of troops he wanted right off the bat and Rumsfeld hadn't overruled him, we might have been in a better position to prevent a lot of the looting and establish order sooner.

IMO the "after we get to Baghded then what?" portion of the action is being run by amateurs - and it shows.

The State Dept. is lousy with experts who could have helped map this stuff out ahead of time, but it would seem to me that due to infighting between State and Defense Depts., not a lot of thought went into what needed to be done in post-War Iraq.
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#25 Bad Wolf

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 06:56 AM

I generally agree about the planning.

But I also wonder if expectations are not being inflated to an unrealistic point by media coverage.

Rov made a post a while back wondering how media coverage of WW2 would have affected public opinion had media been advanced to the point it is today back then.

I do wonder if we are expecting too much too soon.

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#26 Rov Judicata

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:05 AM

^

Lil also has a good point.

Let's run with the example Ogami brought up. Can you *imagine* the "Special Reports" that would flood the airwaves, showing the starving German people? Emaciated corpses would be shown, with the understood message "This is America's fault".

Mmmm.... double-edged swords...
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#27 Ogami

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:16 AM

Thank you Javert, that's my answer.

#28 Kevin Street

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:18 AM

This is a sidebar (Zack's initial post was very interesting, and well worth a more considered reply. But I have no time right now.), but I don't think the media coverage would have been the same at all.

One major difference is that WW2 was fought by many nations,so the starving and dead Germans would have been "the fault" of all the Allied Countries. America did not instigate WW2, but was instead forced into it by a sneak attack.

But the crucial difference is that Hitler was a direct threat to America. Even before the Allies knew about the death camps, they already had to oppose the German war machine, because it threatened their own borders. (Most directly in the case of France and England, and more indirectly in the case of Canada and the US.) Given time, Germany would have conquered all Europe, and then turned its attention to North America.

So I doubt the media coverage would have been the same. the proto-CNNs and MSNBC's would have been full of relief and celebration, just as the slower media outlets of the time were.

But a modern style media in the 1940s might have made a much bigger deal of the communist threat, and may have increased the chance of a third world war. At least, imo. ;)
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#29 Drew

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:19 AM

Una Salus Lillius, on Jun 27 2003, 02:57 PM, said:

Rov made a post a while back wondering how media coverage of WW2 would have affected public opinion had media been advanced to the point it is today back then.
I suspect WWII would have come off like Vietnam. I think more because Vietnam was our first "television war," and less because of the nature of the conflict, it completely changed the way we view warfare.


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#30 Rov Judicata

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:23 AM

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One major difference is that WW2 was fought by many nations,so the starving and dead Germans would have been "the fault" of all the Allied Countries.

That's actually not a difference. :look:.

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America did not instigate WW2, but was instead forced into it by a sneak attack.

Doesn't mean the media would perceive it that way. I'd bet that a considerable portion would have blamed the attack on America's own policies.... just like they did after 9-11.

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But the crucial difference is that Hitler was a direct threat to America. Even before the Allies knew about the death camps, they already had to oppose the German war machine, because it threatened their own borders. (Most directly in the case of France and England, and more indirectly in the case of Canada and the US.) Given time, Germany would have conquered all Europe, and then turned its attention to North America.

That's true; Saddam was done away with before he could become that huge threat.

If Bush hadn't stepped to the plate in 1991, the situation would have been much different. I can only imagine what Saddam could have done with that much wealth, unchecked.

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So I doubt the media coverage would have been the same. the proto-CNNs and MSNBC's would have been full of relief and celebration, just as the slower media outlets of the time were.

I'm not so sure. In today's media climate, it's profitiable to blame America first, no matter what. If we were to transpose that climate to back then, the arguments would be the same.

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But a modern style media in the 1940s might have made a much bigger deal of the communist threat, and may have increased the chance of a third world war. At least, imo. ;)

Now *that's* an interesting point...
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#31 QuiGon John

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:29 AM

Javert Rovinski, on Jun 27 2003, 05:02 PM, said:

Not at all. He wanted to open an editorial with, "Even those who suffered the most from Iraq's war are deeply opposed to American presence in Iraq...". And it *is* an editorial.
Sure, it's an editorial.  All the same... it seems to me just a bit unfair to go out looking for such an unlikely example, in order to prove your own preconceptions.  It's a little bit like a hawk journalist setting out to find people who'd been maimed by our bombs who still were glad we went into Iraq.  

For all I know that's happened already, but I can't imagine there are more than a few like that on either side.  What it comes down to is, people tend to side with those who haven't personally hurt them over those who have.  We knew that, right?

Again, not to put down the gist of the article, which is interesting.  I just think that was kind of a weird and morbid premise he started from...

#32 G1223

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:29 AM

Even if we had this planned out the rebuilding would take years to do. The major things we had to do first were retore power and water. we have done those we are assessing what to fix first. To py for the repairs the oil needs to be moved via pipelines. That means checking the pipelines daily if need be for sabotage.  That is a man power intensive proposition.

Folks may not remember the Marshall plan was accepted becasue the West felt it HAD to whatever was nessicary to stop the spread of Communism. It still took 10 to 15 yrs (depending on who you talk to) for the reconstruction to finish.

Anybody looking at a fix being done in six months is not being realistic.
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#33 Bad Wolf

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:37 AM

John Burke, on Jun 27 2003, 01:30 PM, said:

Sure, it's an editorial.  All the same... it seems to me just a bit unfair to go out looking for such an unlikely example, in order to prove your own preconceptions.
I'd be more inclined to agree had he not so forthrightly admitted it AND admitted how his perspective had been affected by it.

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#34 Rov Judicata

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 07:59 AM

John Burke, on Jun 27 2003, 01:30 PM, said:

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Sure, it's an editorial.  All the same... it seems to me just a bit unfair to go out looking for such an unlikely example, in order to prove your own preconceptions.  It's a little bit like a hawk journalist setting out to find people who'd been maimed by our bombs who still were glad we went into Iraq. 

That's a valid point. I guess I just don't expect the editorial page to be fair.... :look:

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For all I know that's happened already, but I can't imagine there are more than a few like that on either side.  What it comes down to is, people tend to side with those who haven't personally hurt them over those who have.  We knew that, right?

It only takes one to build an anecdotal case. It would be equally 'powerful' for a Hawk to say

"So and so lost a limb and a son to US bombs. But he still realises that Saddam had to go.". The rest of the editorial writes themselves.

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Again, not to put down the gist of the article, which is interesting.  I just think that was kind of a weird and morbid premise he started from...

*nods*.
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#35 AnneZo

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 08:01 AM

Kevin Street, on Jun 27 2003, 08:19 PM, said:

But a modern style media in the 1940s might have made a much bigger deal of the communist threat, and may have increased the chance of a third world war. At least, imo. ;)
Actually, I think that's quite possible.

There's no doubt in my mind that today's media is so desperate for ratings (whether it's online, on television, or on newspaper) that they frequently distort the facts or tell outright lies about events instead of reporting. They jump on any and every suggestion of tension between two people or countries or ideas or political parties and magnify it out of reality.

It started in the 80s, really ballooned out of control in the 90s, and has not become almost impossible to deny for anyone who reads/listens to the news with any kind of objectivity at all.*

And war is awfully good for ratings, no doubt about that at all.


*If I didn't make a serious attempt to read "news" coverage from all over the
political spectrum (and from overseas), I'd be convinced today that GWB is, in
fact, some form of antichrist put on this planet specifically to turn the USofA into
a totalitarian, fascist state.  Since I do work at getting "balanced" coverage, I
just think he's a sort of idiot :) whose environmental position is 180 degrees
away from mine most of the time.

#36 Kevin Street

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 09:22 AM

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Zack wrote:
Here's an interesting op-ed from Nicholas Kristof in Iraq, which is a lot more nuanced than most of the reflexive pro- or antiwar editorializing. I thought folks should have a look:

Thank you for posting this. You and Rov have really brought a lot of great stuff to light recently, and it's fascinating to read about the different perspectives.

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NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF wrote:
I really tried to help the White House find those missing weapons of mass destruction. I searched last week around Iraqi factories and found looters; I patrolled highways and found bandits; I visited the ziggurat at Ur, which was already built many years before Abraham was born there, but found only sweaty U.S. troops.
No luck. And Iraq is an oven now, so I've given up my hunt for W.M.D. The White House is on its own.
But let me tell you about another missing thing ?an ear.

That's a great hook. Just from a technical perspective, I love how he sets the scene - in six sentences, we get a quick picture of what Iraq is like now - a hot, sweaty, anarchic contrast between the ancient and the new, Saddam and post-Saddam.

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Since I've been accusing the Bush administration of cooking the intelligence on Iraq, I should confess my intentions. Countless Iraqis warned me that they would turn to guerrilla warfare if U.S. troops overstay their welcome, so I thought I'd find an Iraqi who had had his tongue or ear amputated by Saddam's thugs and still raged about the U.S. That would powerfully convey what a snake pit we're in.

Notice how he gets his point of view across and still manages to sound neutral. It's excellent writing.

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Then I heard about Mathem Abid Ali and tracked him down in the southern city of Nasiriya. I've posted a photo of him on nytimes.com.kristofresponds (parental guidance is suggested). Mr. Abid Ali deserted the Iraqi Army, was caught, taken to a hospital and given general anesthesia ?and woke up with no right ear.
"Children looked at me, and turned away in horror," Mr. Abid Ali said bitterly.
So I asked Mr. Abid Ali what he thought of the Americans.
He thought for a moment and said: "I'd like to make a statue in gold of President Bush."

Saddam's regime was certainly terrible. When cruelty is insitutionalized like this, it rots away the soul of the whole nation, eventually. I wonder why they bothered giving him anesthesia.

Mr. Ali's punishment is awful, but what makes it even worse is the lack of a trial or any chance to defend himself. What if they caught the wrong guy? Not a problem the authorities worried about much, obviously.

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So, facts got in the way of my plans for this column. But sometimes that's a good thing. I do think it's important for doves like myself to encounter Saddam's victims like Mr. Abid Ali and their joy at being freed. Iraq today is a mess, but it's a complex, deeply nuanced mess, etched in shades of gray.
Hawks need to wrestle with the reckless exaggerations of intelligence that were used to mislead the American public. Instead, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Tuesday, "I don't know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons."
Let me help. Mr. Rumsfeld, meet George Tenet, director of central intelligence, who immediately before the Congressional vote on Iraq last October issued a report asserting: "Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." Meet Vice President Dick Cheney, who said about Saddam on March 16: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
Yet at the same time that we doves hold Mr. Rumsfeld's talons to the fire, we need to grapple with the giddy new freedom that ?in spite of us ?pullulates from Baghdad to Basra. I got a warm and fuzzy feeling each time I saw an Iraqi newsstand, overflowing with vibrant newspapers and magazines that did not exist six months ago.

Yes, that's a good point. The war is done with now and the better side won. We (as in the public at large, not we at ExIsle) should be more concerned with the attempt to rebuild Iraq. Now that Bush and co. have embarked on this huge experiment, they better see it through.

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One of the central moral questions for our time is when to intervene militarily on humanitarian grounds.

Yes, very much so. That's the best point in the whole article. And how should we intervene - as a united front, or as individual nations? Squabbling among ourselves and begrudging the effort, or with clear objectives and a moral (as opposed to politicial) purpose? Pre-emptively, or reactively?

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My judgment about the invasion of Iraq remains unchanged ?I don't think that it was worth it ?but I'm still hoping that democracy will flower in Iraq and prove me wrong.

Me too.

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And in any case, I accept what apparently is Mr. Bush's broader principle, that some countries are so drenched in blood that we should invade to save their peoples.
If we were willing to rescue Iraqis, should we intervene (multilaterally) to stop the far worse bloodshed in Congo ?where 3.3 million people have died since 1998? Or in Liberia, to try to shore up West Africa before it crumbles as well?

That's a pretty tall order, even for the US. If this is the new reality of International Affairs, then it should be done as a multinational effort, under the UN.

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I'm suspicious of any answer that is too quick and too glib. But my fear is that the mistakes and poor planning that are now miring us in Iraq will unfairly discredit humanitarian intervention more broadly, even when saving people pleading to be liberated. That would be another terrible cost of Iraq.

I hope not.

Edited by Javert Rovinski, 29 June 2003 - 07:16 AM.

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#37 Ogami

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 09:02 PM

G1223 wrote:

Anybody looking at a fix being done in six months is not being realistic.

Thanks G, I'm tired of seeing Thomas Friedman touted as some godlike member of the Q continuum. His standards for "success" in Iraq are laughable and unsupported by history. Six months...

-Ogami

#38 Rov Judicata

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Posted 29 June 2003 - 07:19 AM

Quote

Thank you for posting this. You and Rov have really brought a lot of great stuff to light recently, and it's fascinating to read about the different perspectives.

Thank you!

As for your commentary, I mostly agree. It seems to be, more or less, an editorial that crosses poiltical affiliation. :).
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#39 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 11:09 AM

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Kevin Street: One major difference is that WW2 was fought by many nations,so the starving and dead Germans would have been "the fault" of all the Allied Countries.

The Soviets, British, and other Allies played a major role in the fighting with the USSR taking the brunt of the ground war.  Ultimately though the United States acted as the major economic and industrial powerhouse that kept the Allies on top of Germany.  In case you hadn’t noted Iraq was taken by a Coalition of countries that had more members than the Allies during World War II.    

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Kevin Street: America did not instigate WW2, but was instead forced into it by a sneak attack. 

I could make a case that the US under FDR furthered the policy of appeasement. FDR did press for the major European powers to attend Munich and to make amends with Hitler rather than face him down militarily.
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#40 MuseZack

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 11:22 AM

CJ AEGIS, on Jun 30 2003, 12:10 AM, said:

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Kevin Street: One major difference is that WW2 was fought by many nations,so the starving and dead Germans would have been "the fault" of all the Allied Countries.

The Soviets, British, and other Allies played a major role in the fighting with the USSR taking the brunt of the ground war.  Ultimately though the United States acted as the major economic and industrial powerhouse that kept the Allies on top of Germany.  In case you hadn’t noted Iraq was taken by a Coalition of countries that had more members than the Allies during World War II.    

Quote

Kevin Street: America did not instigate WW2, but was instead forced into it by a sneak attack. 

I could make a case that the US under FDR furthered the policy of appeasement. FDR did press for the major European powers to attend Munich and to make amends with Hitler rather than face him down militarily.
I think blaming Roosevelt for Munich is misplaced, since the historical record shows him as chomping at the bit to go after Hitler at the earliest opportunity (it's interesting to ponder what he would have done if Germany hadn't declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor).  

But then, I think the common reading of Munich as being appeasement of Hitler by a trembling, terrified France and Britain is inaccurate as well, since both countries had much more powerful militaries than Germany in 1938 (even Czechoslovakia had a credible motorized army).  IMHO, Munich was much more about the Western allies of the time viewing Hitler as a useful bulwark against what to them was the much more frightening specter of the Soviet Union.  Even the New York Times of the day praised Hitler's anticommunism and said shameful things like "Hitler's anti-Semitism is understood to be mostly rhetorical" (!)
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