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Nat Hentoff Says “No” to No

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Like Christopher Hitchens, Nat Hentoff is a quirky leftist – for example Hentoff is anti-abortion – and like Hitchens Hentoff is pro-war, or at least anti anti-war:

    I participated in many demonstrations against the Vietnam War, including some civil disobedience – though I was careful not to catch the eyes of the cops, sometimes a way of not getting arrested. But I could not participate in the demonstrations against the war on Iraq. As I told The New York Sun in its March 14-16 roundup of New Yorkers for and against the war:

    “There was the disclosure . . . when the prisons were briefly opened of the gouging of eyes of prisoners and the raping of women in front of their husbands, from whom the torturers wanted to extract information. . . . So if people want to talk about containing [Saddam Hussein] and don’t want to go in forcefully and remove him, how do they propose doing something about the horrors he is inflicting on his people who live in such fear of him?”

    I did not cite “weapons of mass destruction.” Nor do I believe Saddam Hussein is a direct threat to this country, any more than the creators of the mass graves in the Balkans were, or the Taliban. And as has been evident for a long time, I am no admirer of George W. Bush.

    The United Nations? Did the inspectors go into the prisons and the torture chambers? Would they have, if given more time? Did they interview the Mukhabarat, Saddam’s dreaded secret police?

    ….The United Nations? Where Libya, Syria, and Sudan are on the Human Rights Commission? The UN is crucial for feeding people and trying to deal with such plagues as AIDS; but if you had been in a Hussein torture chamber, would you, even in a state of delirium, hope for rescue from the UN Security Council?

    From Amnesty International, for whom human rights are not just a slogan, on Iraq: “Common methods of physical torture included electric shocks or cigarette burns to various parts of the body, pulling out fingernails, rape. . . . Two men, Zaher al-Zuhairi and Fares Kadhem Akia, reportedly had their tongues cut out for slandering the president by members of Feda’iyye Saddam, a militia created in 1994. The amputations took place in a public square in Diwaniya City, south of Baghdad.”

    ….The letters section of The New York Times is sometimes more penetrating than the editorials. A March 23 letter from Lawrence Borok: “As someone who was very active in the [anti-Vietnam War] protests, I think that the antiwar activists are totally wrong on this one. Granted, President Bush’s insensitive policies in many areas dear to liberals (I am one) naturally make me suspicious of his motives. But even if he’s doing it for all the wrong reasons, have they all forgotten about the Iraqi people?” [Village Voice]

As I have stated before, I don’t care about the administration’s “real motives,” nor do I care about who did what to whom in the past. It makes not the tiniest difference if the US did or did not supoort Saddam at any point: what matters is now, and in the now the right thing to do is to overthrow the inhumanly brutal in Iraq and give the people there a new lease on life.

Inspections would not accomplish this, waiting around for the Iraqis to do it themselves would not accomplish this, nothing but a military invasion would accomplish this, and that invasion will very shortly reach that goal.

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About Eric Olsen

  • andy

    Eric,
    I know this is off the subject, but you may know the answer to which I question. I’m borrowing a blackface adat this weekend, and I have a question about submixes. If I submix say, 3 horn mics and run them into 1 track, will that track have all my pans? Will my tenor sax still be right, trumpet be left, know what I’m asking? I would email you, but I’m at work and odn’t have my email here. sory to stray from your post
    peace
    andy

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t directly know the answer because it is equipment specific and I don’t have that particular equipment, but I would guess you would lose pans when you squish them together. Can you pan them on the track level rather than the subtrack level?

    Let me know if you need a real expert, which I am not on the tech end.

  • andy

    I can, but I’m trying save tracks because I only have 8 of them to work with. I mean, if worse comes to worse, I just have the horns all panned to the same side or something. As far as I know, there isn’t a “rule” as to how to pan horns, but I like to do them in stereo for a huge sound. Oh well. I’ll just mess around w/ everything tonight before I start tracking tomorrow, and see what I can do.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Nat says,

    “As I have stated before, I don’t care about the administration’s “real motives,” nor do I care about who did what to whom in the past. It makes not the tiniest difference if the US did or did not supoort Saddam at any point: what matters is now, and in the now the right thing to do is to overthrow the inhumanly brutal in Iraq and give the people there a new lease on life.

    “Inspections would not accomplish this, waiting around for the Iraqis to do it themselves would not accomplish this, nothing but a military invasion would accomplish this, and that invasion will very shortly reach that goal.”

    I figure this is how a lot of pro-war people feel…

    Saddam Hussein is imminent threat? Lie.

    Huge propaganda effort by the government to trick the American people into believing this? True.

    This is part of a plan to remake the Middle East in a way that suits business interests aligned with the Bush Administration? Probably.

    When Administration hawks suddenly find out they are interested in “human rights violations,” after years of ignoring them and playing them down, we should be suspicious? Yes.

    But should we undertake this invasion anyway, because it may improve the lives of Iraqis? Yes.

    Two problems:

    1.

    Military occupation of a country with a

    hostile population
    has not always resulted in the

    eradication of

    human-rights violations.

    2. Under Nat Hentoff’s reasoning, every invasion built on a lie but undertaken against an evil regime is justfied–no matter where it leads, no matter what horror it brings in the long term.

    So, we haven’t thought it out, we’re highly suspicious of those who are executing it (who have thought out their plan), and every single time in the history of the world that an attempt has been made to remake this region with military occupation, horror and failure has resulted.

    But, okay. We’re stopping Saddam. You’ve got me on that one. I guess if I’m worried about this strategy, I must be a proponent of rape and torture. There really are only two ways to look at it: You are for rape and torture, or you are not. Which one are you?

  • Eric Olsen

    Um, against

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Eric,

    Good choice. You’re one of the good people.

    Now, are you for or against the terrifying human-rights violations in the following countries…

    Iran
    Syria
    Kuwait
    Saudi Arabia
    Yemen
    Turkey
    Rwanda
    Israel
    Mexico
    Cuba
    Myanmar
    Nigeria
    Sudan
    China
    Lebanon
    Pakistan
    Thailand
    Zambia
    Cambodia
    Taiwan

    If you do not support an invasion of any country on this list, please explain to me why you favor the torture of innocent people in that particular country.

    Understand–no practical arguments against an invasion of those countries is valid. No consideration of the consequences of a U.S. military occupation in those countries is allowed.

    The question is, Are you for or against the atrocities being committed right now in those countries?

    if you’re against them, that means you support an invasion. That’s how it works.

    (The list, of course, is not exhaustive. I just wrote down country names as I encountered documented human-rights violations by governments at Amnesty International, and I just stopped arbitrarily.)

  • InMarin

    Don’t forget Uzbekistan. Oh wait, they’re the ‘good guys’ – part of the Coalition of the Willing.

  • Eric Olsen

    I think I am beginning to understand the absolutist personality and where it came from now. Life isn’t all or nothing, black or white. We have to temper theory with reality. We have to do the best we can. Given all the factors, Saddam was the greatest threat and had to be addressed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t all kinds of others who don’t deserve to be overthrown, but surely you don’t compare Mexico to Iraq??

    You’re a smart guy, temper that all or nothing absolutism and work with we humans who are imperfect and live in an imperfect world.

    No honest person will deny that part of the reason that we have gone after Saddam is that we could – so what? You do what you can, then move on. The world will be a better place, the people of Iraq will be happy (except for the bad guys and the dead – regrettable, but again, an imperfect world), the Middle East will be chastened, autocrats will be forced to share some power with their people, Iran will be jolted a step toward democracy, allies will come back groveling like Russia and Germany are already, and fuck France. It’s all good. We can worry about some of the others on the list next, if practical.

    You can’t tell me practicality can’t play a role in my decision making – this is the real world – why the hell not?

    Theory untempered by reality, by concession to human nature, has led to hundreds of millions of deaths over the last 100 years in the form of communism, Fascism, Nazism, fanatical nationalism, Islamism, etc.

    It is time to reject absolutist theory and deal with reality and real people. When you can accept real gray instead of theoretical black and white you will be a much happier person.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Eric,

    “You’re a smart guy, temper that all or nothing absolutism and work with we humans who are imperfect and live in an imperfect world.”

    Thanks as always for the instruction.

    Can you give me an example of my “all or nothing absolutism,” preferably a quote?

    My goal was to illustrate that if this truly were a campaign to rescue desperate people from human rights abuses, it wouldn’t look like this. If that were truly the goal, one would make a list of the countries in which people were suffering the most under a cruel dictator, and order them by the severity of the suffering (one could quibble about the standards here, but it wouldn’t be prohibitively difficult to come up with this list).

    On that list, one would look at the top country and consider what could best be done to help the people suffering, with invasion and military occupation as one option. And one would go down the list, forming a strategy, with one primary goal in mind when it came to force–how can we best use our military to relieve the most suffering?

    If the goal truly were to relieve suffering, this is roughly what the process would look like.

    I don’t think any reasonable person acquainted with the facts would say that’s what led to the decision to invade Iraq.

    And that’s why when reasonable people claim that rescuing people from human-rights violations is what this is about are lying. They’re lying and they know they’re lying.

    And that’s really really BAD for the process of determining What Is The Best Strategy In The Middle East.

    Lies are not HELPFUL to this process.

    In fact, as long as the first thing out of any pro-warrior’s mouth is a lie that is intended to cut off all further discussion, we’re not even having a conversation.

    In other words–this nation went to war without even figuring out WHY it is going to war. When we say why we’re going to war, we’re lying. And it’s obvious.

    This is a problem.

    “When you can accept real gray instead of theoretical black and white you will be a much happier person.

    Thanks as always for the advice. But clarity is not necessarily absolutism. If we were truly going to war for reasons that pro-warriors were comfortable with, there would be an actual explanation that didn’t require running away.

    When it comes down to it, the compromise being made here is not this…

    We’d like to save everyone on the planet, but we can’t. So we’re choosing the one country where we can save the most people with the least trouble, and we’re moving on from there.

    That would be a practical decision. It would be accepting the gray area–you can’t save everyone, so you save some people. You do what you can.

    And the above proposition has another thing going for it–there are no lies in it. None. We’ve admitted we can’t save everyone, but we’re taking a utilitarian view, quantifying suffering as best we can, and reducing it in the most efficient manner possible. It’s a proposition that faces hard realities, but does what it can.

    And you’re trying to go here.

    But it is self-serving in the extreme for pro-warriors to put on this cloak. The Iraq invasion does not in any way conform to the above gray-area-recognizing proposition.

    Do you really think if you asked an expert in the subject, an expert in global humanitarian issues, “Would an invasion and military occupation of Iraq reduce the most suffering with the least trouble?” they wouldn’t laugh their asses off?

    You don’t get to wear that cloak. It doesn’t fit.

    It’s not absolutism to point out lies.

    And looking the other way at lies in order to justify an invasion whose true motivation you can’t bring yourself to state clearly is not a principled, realistic acceptance of a “gray area.” There’s a difference.

  • Eric Olsen

    Always happy to instruct, hope it was helpful, but I fear not. You seem to be ignoring me. To the people of Iraq it doesn’t matter what the “REAL” reason is for the invasion, they get the same benefits. I don’t know what the “real” reason is, I doubt Bush knows what the real reason is, other than a combination of factors I have enumerated many times: Saddam’s defiance of the UN, his refusing to comply with his own promises, the fact that the job was left undone in ’91, 9/11 (the actual catalyst), the practical considerations that made it possible to invade, the horrifying brutality of the regime, WMD, set an example, liberate the people. ALL of these reasons are good – pick any one combination, or all (I vote all).

    Every one of these adds to the advisability to take this action AND THE ACTION IS WHAT COUNTS. This is where your absolutism shines: you think it’s more important WHY we have taken this action than the action itself. What counts is that the action was/is right, not WHY it is right. Everyone who supports the war is invited on the big happy bus regardless of WHY they support. This is not a weakness of the argument – IT IS A STRENGTH.

    We are winning, it is almost over, the people of Iraq are happy, I am happy, I mourn the dead, but overall this is an unqualified success. Cheer with me like a patriotic American: we said we were going to do something and we damn well did it.

    I sincerely couldn’t possibly care less what the REAL reason – that dare not speak it’s name – to which you refer. Maybe it’s empire or oil or capitalism or imperialism or hegemony or greed or hubris or aggression or what-fucking-ever: it was the right thing to do and we have almost done it.

  • InMarin

    Got a question:

    If Saddam is, and I assume always has been, the ‘greatest threat’ to America;

    If, as the right claims, Clinton decimated the US Military and weakened our security;

    If Clinton was so morally weak and Bush so god-like strong;

    Why didn’t Saddam strike the US before Bush came to office? Or ever for that matter?

    Where, exactly, is this greatest threat and why didn’t it manifest itself…ever?

    (Those who are somewhat informed, at least as much as we can be, do not assign blame for 9/11 on Saddam; in fact, no terrorist attack on US interests has been directly attributed to Saddam. It’s always been al qaida or other muslim extremists.)

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Eric,

    I haven’t ignored any of your arguments. I’ve always acknowledged that war proponents have a huge menu of stated justifications, and I have often tried to discuss each one of those justifications, only to have every war proponent I have talked to run away to another as soon as it became clear that particular reason couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    “I sincerely couldn’t possibly care less what the REAL reason – that dare not speak it’s name – to which you refer. Maybe it’s empire or oil or capitalism or imperialism or hegemony or greed or hubris or aggression or what-fucking-ever: it was the right thing to do and we have almost done it.”

    What a wonderful vision of democracy you have. Our leaders launch a war, they hand you a menu of excuses, complete with emotion-stirring stories and pictures of depravity by the enemy, and you say, “Okay.” Then, when challenged on the huge question mark at the center of this historic action, you proudly say you have no idea why your government has really sent your army into another country, you’re just happy to be taking an “action.”

    We have reached an agreement of sorts. I think you have fallen for a huge quantity of reasons the likes of which could be manufactured in almost any circumstances to apply to almost any enemy. So do you. I think the real reason for the war has never been clearly stated. So do you.

    I think the natural pride and can-do spirit of Americans–fine qualities,both–along with our shock and grief from 9-11 has been exploited by a group of men who have a clear plan for the Middle East that most Americans are unaware of.

    You think this doesn’t matter. I do.

    You think “why” doesn’t matter. Here’s why it matters:

    You, Eric, have no idea what’s going to happen next, beyond Iraq. You don’t even seem to care, because this one action feels “right.”

    “I sincerely couldn’t possibly care less what the REAL reason – that dare not speak it’s name – to which you refer. Maybe it’s empire or oil or capitalism or imperialism or hegemony or greed or hubris or aggression or what-fucking-ever: it was the right thing to do and we have almost done it.”

    “Done”?

    “Done”?

    You really think it’s almost “done”?

    The why matters because it tells us what the plan is. The why matters because the term “foreign policy” has the word “policy” in it. The world doesn’t share your tunnel vision, your happy belief that the Iraq liberation action is the only thing that is happening, and that it has no consequences but the good ones you are focussing on. There really is a thing called “foreign policy.”

    And the policy now is “we attack whoever we would like whenever we would like.”

    And we’re going to do it.

    I know that gets into the murky zone called the “future” and it deals with that absolutist question of “why,” but I actually think about these things.

    “I sincerely couldn’t possibly care less what the REAL reason – that dare not speak it’s name – to which you refer. Maybe it’s empire or oil or capitalism or imperialism or hegemony or greed or hubris or aggression or what-fucking-ever: it was the right thing to do and we have almost done it.”

    True, we’re perhaps nearing the moment where the anti-war camp is told to eat its hat. Pictures of liberated Iraqis on TV, chastened former allies, intimidated regimes in other Middle East countries. (It won’t matter that the anti-war camp generally agreed about the likelihood these immediate results.)

    And then we’ve reached the end of the pro-war Americans’ vision. Everything stops then. Oh–except the military actions. According to the latest L.A. Times Poll,

    Exactly half said the United States should take military action against Iran if it continues to move toward nuclear-weapon development; 36% disagreed.

    Of course, to you it won’t matter if Iran actually stops its nuclear program and the U.S. manufactures evidence to the contrary. It didn’t matter with Iraq. You never denied that the U.S. govt. intentionally misrepresented Iraq’s nuclear capability, and you never expressed any concern about it, either, to my knowledge.

    So…the U.S. manufactures evidence against Iran, and invades Iran with popular support at home.

    Everything that is so “right” about this Iraq action can just keep on applying–the lies, the emotionally manipulative cover stories, the hidden motivations, the secret overall plans that nobody thinks about.

    And before we know it, we’re in a permanent war against the Muslim world, who we just can’t believe does not understand how “right” our actions are in taking over their countries and imposing “democracy” (i.e., military occupation followed by U.S.-chosen govt. leaders). As we seize control of one country after another, we marvel at the insane resistance we encounter, and shake our heads sadly at all the killing we have to do to achieve what is so obviously “right.”

    This scenario was considered crazy, “the sky is falling,” just a couple months ago. Now pro-warriors are realizing it is likely. And they’re supporting it. And as long at the “why” doesn’t matter with each escalation of the campaign against the Middle East, as long as the menu of comforting cover stories is available, I’m sure you’ll complain about the “absolutist” vision that says, “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t be attempting a military occupation of this entire region. Maybe we should think about it first. Maybe we should think through the long-term implications, do a cost/benefit analysis of the whole thing, not just this one short-term battle.”

    But each time, this will be true:

    “I sincerely couldn’t possibly care less what the REAL reason – that dare not speak it’s name – to which you refer. Maybe it’s empire or oil or capitalism or imperialism or hegemony or greed or hubris or aggression or what-fucking-ever: it was the right thing to do and we have almost done it.”

    This will be applicable every time.

    You have no idea where this goes, and you don’t care. But at least you get to feel “right” all along the way. And call everyone who tries to look forward a few months or years an “absolutist.”

  • Eric Olsen

    Okay Brian, we finally get down to your (I assume) primary concern, that the pattern will be repreated endlessly. Again with the ignoring reality. We will win this war quickly, it will be a very fine thing, but it certainly is not without cost in lives and treasure. We can’t afford the $$$ and the American people will not accept the continued loss of its sons and daughters in this manner. Duh.

    One of the rationales I mentioned was setting an example – the example will be set. That is the value of setting an example: you don’t have to keep doing it over and over. Your concern once again ignores PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS: it simply isn’t practical to march through the Middle East in the manner you describe. The American people – unlike your assumptions – aren’t stupid, you can only “fool” them, to your way of thinking, with the same line once. If the justification isn’t genuine, it can’t be repeated. The American people will not settle for perpetual war.

    Equally importantly: why in God’s name do you think our leaders would want this? We don’t want to be an imperial power, we just want to eliminate those who threaten us because do to 9/11 we can no longer ignore those threats – it’s really very simple.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Eric,

    Wow. Actual progress. I am waving a sign right now (for certain ad-hominem-loving denizens of Blogcritics, not you) that says, “This is what useful conversation looks like!”

    “Okay Brian, we finally get down to your (I assume) primary concern, that the pattern will be repeated endlessly.”

    Indeed.

    “The American people will not settle for perpetual war.”

    I assume this means you’ll be on the streets with me if it turns out that’s where this is headed.

    We do seem to have reached a useful understanding here. You think this is a one-time thing. I think this action means we’re headed for perpetual war–specifically, a tense and brutal military occupation of the Middle East.

    If you say the American people won’t stand for that, I think you are being naive. Look at how it happened this time. The govt. told lies you don’t even try to defend, because they’re so obvious. In great contrast to the rest of the world, more than 50% of Americans see a direct link between Iraq and 9/11, a mind-boggling fact that can only be explained by a government propaganda effort begun in September 2002.

    In other words–this war is happening for stated reasons that are pure bullshit. Why can’t this happen again? It doesn’t take much imagination to adapt the efforts that were made to get us into this war to a number of other countries.

    What’s going to stop this?

    “Why in God’s name do you think our leaders would want this?

    Because they said so. Because of who won the internal battle at the White House. Because “to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power” means perpetual war. Because anyone who wants to can do a little reading and discover how they think. Because they tried so hard–with duct tape, orange alerts, fake nuclear evidence and a massive effort to shift public opinion to “Iraq = 9/11″–to make sure Americans don’t even think about the actual plan.

    We don’t want to be an imperial power, we just want to eliminate those who threaten us because due to 9/11 we can no longer ignore those threats – it’s really very simple.

    Yes. It is. I can’t quite tell–what do you mean by “those who threaten us”? It’s so vague, it could apply to almost anything. I’m not saying it does in your case, but if our leaders keep telling us there is more and more and more to fear, and such-and-such military action is necessary and then another and then another…is there any point at which you become suspicious? Any at all?

    Because I’d like to believe that we do have an understanding here–You think it’s only Iraq, I think it’s perpetual war.

    Let’s define what is what. I would say a sign of “perpetual war” would be additional military actions in the Middle East, rationalized with the usual improvised reasons we have come to expect from this Administration. Having provoked the Muslim world into becoming more overtly threatening, we will continue to, as you so ominously say, “eliminate those who threaten us.” The list will expand. The goals will get hazier. The body count (mainly Muslim and civilian) will rise. Rather than a quick wrap-up, there will be a looking-ahead to more jobs we can do to “eliminate those who threaten us.” The necessary evidence, always emotionally stirring and generally falling apart upon later scrutiny, will show up just in time to take each series of escalating actions. And every time, the mantra will be–just this one, and then we’re done.

    If the U.S. installs democracy in Iraq and then gets the hell out of the region, my jaw will drop. I am not expecting that to happen. If it does happen, I have been wrong. That’s the definition of my being completely wrong: The U.S./U.N. sets up a democracy and then we exit the region (militarily–not humanitarian, advisors, etc.). If that happens, I eat my hat.

    Can you define what your expectation is? What would be a sign that you are wrong?

    What I’m hoping is that the perpetual war scenario I outlined above is not roughly what you would tolerate and just call by a different name. I’m hoping that scenario frightens you as much as it frightens me, and you have a good idea of what it will take to convince you that we’re headed for it, some idea of what a warning sign would look like–not that you say it’s going to happen, but if it did, that’s what you would call a warning sign.

  • Matt Libby

    I am not going to follow-up with a long comment, just a short blurb of a response.

    I believe that the “perpetual war” scenario is impossible. I believe it is impossible because of the country we live in. Term limits and the American public determine how long particular policies last. Even a constitutional amendment can be struck down, albeit a very difficult task.

    Our foreign policies that were previously established were based on security through geography. Two allies, north and south, and oceans between the rest. This no longer applies, hence the change to pre-emptive conflict. A very smart change in my opinion.

    As for threats from Saddam’s regime:
    Gassing of Iranians
    Gassing of own people
    Torture (too many to list)
    Attempted assassination attempt on 1st Bush
    Would love nothing more than a mass killing on American soil of whoever.

    Yes, there has never been a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq. Do you think for a moment that if Saddam had known about this attack that he would not have provided anthrax, sarin, etc. to the terrorists to increase the kill zone?

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    Yes, there has never been a direct link between 9/11 and Iraq. Do you think for a moment that if Saddam had known about this attack that he would not have provided anthrax, sarin, etc. to the terrorists to increase the kill zone?

    I don’t think it is 100% sure that he would have. First, he and al Qaeda are not exactly compatible. Second, Saddam would have to know that if ever the connection were discovered, it would mean the immediate annihilation of his regime. He would know that the entire world, including most of his neighbors, would have supported that punishment.

    Saddam’s desire to dominate the Middle East–a desire requiring strategy, which he’s not exactly piss-poor at–is easily distinguishable from the fundamentalist, militant Islam’s hatred of the secular/Christian U.S. and all it stands for. These are two different kinds of hostilities.

    That doesn’t mean they CAN’T link up. It just means that, rationally, we can’t assume an AUTOMATIC connection. As, indeed, the CIA does not. Indications are that the U.S. intelligence community is furious that the Administration has tried to justify a claim for which there simply isn’t evidence. It’s a claim made from political need, rather than from any compelling evidence.

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