July 31, 2004

The Summer Soldier and the Sunshine Patriot... Shrink from the Service of Their Country

It is certainly true that nothing Bob Woodward writes can be fully trusted without very, very careful, careful checking.* With that caveat, a correspondent writes that he was appalled by and calls our attention to one particular passage in Woodward's Plan of Attack, about Cheney's trip to the Middle East in the spring of 2002:

The trip was something of a wake-up call for the vice president. The leaders pounded on him not about Iraq, or the threat of Saddam Hussein, or terrorism, but about the Middle East peace process. He kept hearing that the president had better get involved and throw his weight around to set the region on some process to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....

A "wake-up call"? Cheney had to go all the way to the Persian/Arabian Gulf to learn the salience of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Arab governments (and Arab public opinion)? Where had he been all his life? Where had his staff been all of their lives? If Woodward does not have it wrong--if it is indeed the case that it was not until his trip to the Gulf in the spring of 2002 that Cheney understood that for Arab governments the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a very big deal indeed--then what we have here is a massive and unbelievable failure of Cheney's brain and of the briefing process.

As it happens, I don't believe that Woodward has this particular story wrong. It fits with too many other things that I have heard: things that make it clear that on national security issues the George W. Bush administration really is as dangerously incompetent as it looks.

I remember, back in the fall of 2002, wondering to what extent the buildup against Iraq was a move designed to put pressure on that would lead to a tightening of the sanctions regime. It seemed to me unlikely that the security policy of George W. Bush was as incompetent as the economic policy. It seemed to me that it would be madness to proceed with an attack on Iraq without solid, hard, if necessarily secret intelligence of serious and advanced nuclear weapons programs. And it seemed to me that under such conditions there might well be a place for an attack on Iraq as part of an appropriate U.S. grand strategy: a deal with Sharon that we'll take out Saddam Hussein and neutralized the biggest threat to Israel if you'll drastically reduce settler populations on the West Bank; a deal with the Saudis that we'll take out Saddam Hussein if you get serious about having the Wahabis preach peace rather than jihad; a deal with Iran that we'll take out Saddam Hussein if you'll relax tensions; a deal with Egypt and others to provide the Arabic-speaking military police needed to stabilize a postwar Iraq; and a Marshall Plan-scale commitment to rebuilding postwar Iraq to create a more liberal and possibly a democratic regime there.

And, of course, none of this happened. There was no grand strategy at all, no plan to swing the Arab world over to our side in our struggle with Osama bin Laden and company. Moreover, the fact that there wasn't a grand strategy didn't seem to bother anyone in the NSC: for reasons that remain unclear to this day, George W. Bush wanted to attack Iraq, and that was the only thing that mattered to them.

And, of course, the result is that we have suffered a mammoth, massive strategic defeat in our war against terrorism. As Fareed Zakaria writes:

MSNBC - It's More Than a War: [The 9/11 Commission Report is] the most important report by an independent commission in decades. And what does it say?.... What we need first and foremost is a grand strategy....

"Long-term success," it concludes, "demands the use of all elements of national power: diplomacy, intelligence, covert action, law enforcement, economic policy, foreign aid, public diplomacy, and homeland defense." Even when it speaks of preventive action it suggests "a preventive strategy that is as much, or more, political as it is military."...

The reality of this threat... cannot be addressed by conventional military means.... The... Bush administration's... hegemony, preemption and unilateralism.... All are counterproductive in a struggle that seeks to modernize alien societies, win over Muslim moderates and sustain cooperation on intelligence and law enforcement across the world....

The administration showed its colors with a brilliant war plan and no postwar planning. Even in Afghanistan, where the war succeeded and the postwar settlement is working (though fragile), the administration's superhawks (such as Donald Rumsfeld) were continually opposed to greater efforts at nation-building. It doesn't help the war on terror, they argued. But it does help the struggle against Islamic extremism. And there is no war on terror that is not fundamentally an ideological struggle....

The bulk of the commission's substantive recommendations are for a broad political and economic strategy toward the Muslim and Arab world. The report argues that the United States should "offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors." It recommends substantial resources being devoted to scholarship, exchange and library programs in the Muslim world, and has a specific, excellent recommendation to fund public education in these countries. Madrassas and other such religious schools have grown in the Muslim world because the secular educational system has collapsed under the weight of poverty and population growth. The report's conclusion repeatedly stresses multilateralism and recognizes that the civilized world will need a common and coordinated approach to fighting this long struggle.... American security requires global cooperation. A commission staffer told me that many on the panel thought their recommendations could have been titled "Bringing Foreign Policy Back In."...

In the past three years the United States has added almost $200 billion to its [annual] spending on international affairs and homeland security, a 50 percent increase.... What is important now is to step back, reflect, reason and construct a longer-term, sustainable strategy. It is a pivotal moment for... [a President] to act not as a crisis manager but a strategist....

The Bush administration has had nearly three years to construct a grand strategy for the war on terror, and has singularly failed to do so. Let's be clear on this: it's not that they have a grand strategy for the war against terror that I disagree with: it's that they have no grand strategy at all.

This failure has put us in more danger than I would have thought possible two and a half years ago, and must have political consequences. All those in the security policy community who want to be taken seriously in the future--listened to as anything other than Republican hacks--not dismissed as the isolationists were dismissed after World War II--be anything other than summer soldiers and sunshine patriots--need now to stand up and be counted. Opposition to Bush's election in 2004 is no longer an issue of partisanship, but of patriotism.


*For the full Woodward treatment, read his The Agenda, then read his Maestro, contemplate how one and the same person could use the Third Person Omniscient to write both accounts of the making of Clinton economic policy, and collapse to the floor in helpless laughter.

Posted by DeLong at July 31, 2004 09:50 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

The one great basis offered for electing an inexperienced George W. Bush in 2000 was that
he would surround himself with experienced,
savvy advisors. Even that was a lie.

Posted by: SEC Overreach on July 31, 2004 11:04 AM

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They did arrive into Washington with one unshakable policy commitment: ABC. Anything But Clinton.

Clinton was very focused on the Mid-east peace process. Therefore it would not go forward.

That is really how simple minded they are.

Posted by: Alan on July 31, 2004 11:09 AM

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The human cost and dollar cost of the invasion of Iraq clearly has made the US 2002 mid-term and 2004 presidential elections the most expensive political campaigns ever.

Hell, it would even have been better if the GOP had simply spent the taxpayers' $200 billion on domestic US television, print and radio ads.

They would have won their precious election either way, but a lot of people would still be alive who are dead today.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 31, 2004 11:13 AM

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Prof. DeLong> Moreover, the fact that there wasn't a grand strategy didn't seem to bother anyone in the NSC: for reasons that remain unclear to this day, George W. Bush wanted to attack Iraq, and that was the only thing that mattered to them.

Perhaps the NSC was satisfied with the same explanation that Mahmoud Abbas claims he got for why the President would invade Iraq.

Amon Regular> "According to Abbas, Bush said: 'God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.'"

If it isn't a "faith-based national security strategy," then I'd like to know what it is.

Posted by: s9 on July 31, 2004 11:49 AM

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Thank you for pointing out Woodward's feet of clay. I've long wondered why Washington seems to thing he writes gospel.

Posted by: Agatha on July 31, 2004 12:06 PM

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Brad,

Bush's grand strategy in this war is to permit democracy to come to the Middle East. This is obvious. Afghanistan is on the cusp of embarking on a democratic future. Iraq will join them eventually. Bush's grand strategy will succeed if democracy then spreads from there.

Your ideas on what to do simply terrify me. You repeatedly advocate invading Pakistan, a partner in our fight. Brilliant.

"a deal with Sharon that we'll take out Saddam Hussein and neutralized the biggest threat to Israel if you'll drastically reduce settler populations on the West Bank;"

It must be just a coincidence that Sharon is withdrawing from Gaza and is building a wall to enable the same from the West Bank. Apparently, this is not at all popular among Sharon supporters. Don't tell me that Sharon is not making hard choices here.

"a deal with the Saudis that we'll take out Saddam Hussein if you get serious about having the Wahabis preach peace rather than jihad;"

Who are we to impose what we want religious leaders in Saudi Arabia to say? It's not a free country, but I think the last thing Saudi Arabia needs is crack downs on speech that we Americans deem unnacceptable. I'm sure that would go over well.

"a deal with Egypt and others to provide the Arabic-speaking military police needed to stabilize a postwar Iraq;"

This would be monumentally stupid to impose Egyptian troops and security forces upon Iraq immediately after the war.

"and a Marshall Plan-scale commitment to rebuilding postwar Iraq to create a more liberal and possibly a democratic regime there."

What do you think is happening there? You should read the paper once in a while.

Posted by: Kevin on July 31, 2004 01:11 PM

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Bush's grand strategy in this war is to permit democracy to come to the Middle East. This is obvious. Afghanistan is on the cusp of embarking on a democratic future. Iraq will join them eventually.

Based on the current status in both areas, you may want to revise those target points. Let's just get past failed state or an Islamic fundamentalist coup first.

From what I can tell, Bush Administration policy has been uniquely designed to benefit the long-term viability of Al Qaeda, while at the same time strengthening Iran.

Posted by: waffle on July 31, 2004 02:07 PM

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Sorry, that first bit was supposed to be a quote.

Posted by: waffle on July 31, 2004 02:08 PM

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Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about the Bush administration is that they can make just about anybody else, even the most commonplace and conventionalistic thinkers, look really smart. But really, it's not quite that easy...

Posted by: john c. halasz on July 31, 2004 03:17 PM

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Too much of Kevin's stuff is imaginary.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on July 31, 2004 04:12 PM

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The failure of the president to capture Bin Laden will have devastating consequences on the future of the world. The evil of al Qaeda has metastasized into hundreds of cells, which will be almost impossible to root out. This article, explaining why Spain was a target is chilling:
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/

Posted by: masaccio on July 31, 2004 05:13 PM

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Zizka, care to elaborate?

Posted by: Kevin on July 31, 2004 05:28 PM

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Re Kevin and Ziska:
I agree with ziska: the idea that the Bush admin has, or ever had, or ever had an plan to undertake, a Marshall plan operating in either Afghanistan or Iraq is imaginary.

.....
"and a Marshall Plan-scale commitment to rebuilding postwar Iraq to create a more liberal and possibly a democratic regime there."

What do you think is happening there? You should read the paper once in a while.

Posted by: jml on July 31, 2004 08:10 PM

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The problem with a deal like "we'll take out Iran's enemy if Iran relaxes tensions" is that it doesn't work if our side of the bargain isn't actually conditional. Iran can just say, "well, you're going to invade Iraq anyway, so how bout we just tell you to fuck off."

Posted by: EH on July 31, 2004 08:26 PM

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I think people are hearing the call, but job protection, party affiliation, active-duty service, are all going to make some people keep their own counsel until they get into the voting booth.

But it might help to try and formulate a concise statement, to efficiently pose the case:

Bush and the Neocons have made TWO DIFFERENT fundamental mistakes: (1) their psychological strategy for the war on terror, and (2) their tactical planning for the occupation of Iraq. A very large subset of failure of #2 is the torture at Abu Ghraib and the other prisons--this is going to take on a dimension of its own.

It is hard to tell whether #2 came from #1 (so that it all comes from a certain psychological blindness or ineptness, an inability to empathize)...

But it's clear that #2 rebounds upon #1 in different ways, to attack us on a number of different issues about who we really are, and these issues are part of the only winning strategy for this war--such as our honesty, our judgment (sense of reality), and now over the torture, our humanity.

About the only way a democracy could BEGIN to deal with the world on this, is to dismiss the leader. We need a sacrificial goat.

Posted by: Lee A. on July 31, 2004 11:05 PM

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I doubt that Woodward's reporting is correct in this instance, insofar has he implies that Cheney was unaware of the importance of the Israel/Palestine issue to the leaders of the Middle East.

Cheney knew already, he just didn't care. His "wake up call" was that the administration was going to have to "pay attention" to the issue. Subsequently the administration provided nothing more than lip service to resolving the problem---proof that Cheney still doesn't care.

Posted by: p. lukasiak on August 1, 2004 05:08 AM

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The Bush administration was suckered into Iraq by the Iranians and Al-Qaeda, in order to totally discredit the US in the eyes of Muslims everywhere.

As the Chinese say: "The moment I know what you want, I can get you to give me the world."

Posted by: SteinL on August 1, 2004 07:06 AM

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The Bush administration was suckered into Iraq by the Iranians and Al-Qaeda, in order to totally discredit the US in the eyes of Muslims everywhere.

As the Chinese say: "The moment I know what you want, I can get you to give me the world."

Posted by: SteinL on August 1, 2004 07:07 AM

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Not capturing Bin Laden is the biggest and most unforgivable failure of this administration. Bin Laden murdered Americans on American soil. He established a network of jihadis who now infest the world with their cancerous theories.

Capturing him now will not make us safer from the new terrorists. Bush had his chance, and instead of single-minded focus on the actual human enemy, Bush left him loose in the world. Now the enemy realizes that he can act without fear.

His failure will haunt the world for decades.

Posted by: masaccio on August 1, 2004 07:31 AM

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Apologies for the double-post.

@Lukasiak: the saddest moment, for me, in the entire misadventure of invading Iraq, may seem faintly idiosyncratic to some. It wasn't the bombing, the maiming of civilians, the lies of CENTCOM, Rumsfeld's inanities, or Powell's lies at the UN (everyone knew he was lying, AS he was lying).

No - the saddest moment came just before the commencement of declared hostilities. Blair was in trouble back home, and needed a bone to throw to his opponents, to get the support of his own party.
Bush trots before a microphone, and claims that he has ordered work to commence on effectively implementing the Road-Map. His body language screamed disgust at having to do this, and yet he did it, without as much as an iota of sincerity.

That was the low point for me.

Posted by: SteinL on August 1, 2004 07:38 AM

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The whole democratic domino theory for the Middle East always sounded like dorm-room talk to me...people have been drinking beer or wine, or smoking dope, for a little while, and start making plans which sound like:
     We'll <something_0>, and then we'll be able to <something_1>, and then ...<something_N> and it will be PERFECT.

We shouldn't worship men just for having been on the battlefield---many got there via the path of least resistance, and (I hope only in our enemies' case) for no good cause, and the experience is in some ways bad for them and their personalities...but a lot of them learn useful things there, very especially the fact that plans have a tendency not to work really well.

I don't think Cheney really believed in the 'implanting democracy in the Mid-east', except as a vague good that would be nice if it happened. I think they were influenced by the confluence of the prospect of greater oil security and the street-corner/prison-yard wisdom that if someone manages to beat you at something, you'd better beat someone else _quick_. It doesn't really matter _who_, and Iraq had an obviously terrible state led by a man who was already pre-villified, so there was no need to go through all that. (I mean, "South Park"'s writers usually delight in contradicting generally-held opinions, and even they thought they'd best portray Saddam as the Worst Man on Earth (or Hell, or Heaven, where he built up a cached of WMDs).


---------------------------
'Take _that_, Lou Salome!'

Posted by: Mrs Alyssa Nietzsche on August 1, 2004 07:51 AM

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Kevin: I do not think that Prof. DeLong was espousing his own "grand strategy," but trying to imagine what the neo-cons could have been thinking (without having engaged in open debate or having Bush discuss any of this with Congress or horror of horrors an open dialogue with the American electorate). So I think your criticism of him is misplaced. However, and I think Prof. DeLong implies this, I fear that your simplistic description of Bush policy is in fact the sum total of their entire consideration of post-war strategy.

Posted by: Cal on August 1, 2004 09:59 AM

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Kevin: I do not think that Prof. DeLong was espousing his own "grand strategy," but trying to imagine what the neo-cons could have been thinking (without having engaged in open debate or having Bush discuss any of this with Congress or horror of horrors an open dialogue with the American electorate). So I think your criticism of him is misplaced. However, and I think Prof. DeLong implies this, I fear that your simplistic description of Bush policy is in fact the sum total of their entire consideration of post-war strategy.

Posted by: Cal on August 1, 2004 09:59 AM

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I belive the Republicans *did* have a grand strategy, albeit one that reality has torn to shreds.

Remember? After we liberated Iraq, we would remake it into a liberal democracy and it would become a beacon of hope in the region. The demonstration of American military prowess would reinforce and amplify this effect by cowing elements in the Middle East who understood only the language of force. From there, there were divergent expectations of how to implement the grand plan, but a simple basic approach. Some believed that the other middle eastern autocrats would liberalize their policies or they would fall to internal rebellions. Others believed we would soon be on our way to conquer Syria, Iran, and perhaps other states, as necessary.

We must never remember those days in the spring and summer of 2003, when neocons speculated about which middle eastern state we would conquer next, and how many we would need to capture. What lunacy that was.

Posted by: TedL on August 1, 2004 11:37 AM

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Freudian slip? We must never *forget* those days (though I sometimes wish I could).

Posted by: TedL on August 1, 2004 11:37 AM

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Hello Brad,
Access to the Petition to Empanel a Federal Grand Jury to Probe CIA's "Project Cherry" follows:

http://www.PetitionPetition.com/cgi/petition.cgi?id=7349

Thanks,
John McCarthy

Posted by: john mccarthy on August 1, 2004 11:44 AM

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[Under the White House rubric, "When Pigs Fly"]

S.B. 911

108th CONGRESS

2nd Session

S. 911
To establish the Utilities and Commodities Futures Trading Anti-Gaming Act

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

November 22, 2004
Mr. SANTORUM (for himself and Mr. SPECTER) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

A BILL
To establish the Utilities and Commodities Futures Trading Anti-Gaming Act regulating speculative investment in utilities and commodities futures by non-institutional players.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Utilities and Commodities Futures Trading Anti-Gaming Act'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.

(a) FINDINGS- Congress finds that--

(1) the United States remains under continuous security alert by the Department of Homeland Defense, and will remain so indefinitely, and--

(A) this represents numerous and unknown threats to the nation's utilities and commodities supply systems; and

(B) the potential thereby exists to completely disrupt American industry and the viability of the American economy;

(2) the United States and other world equity markets contain a significant function of equity trading in utility and commodity futures--

(A) speculation in these futures by non-institutional players threatens to disrupt the orderly flow of commodities and utility supplies; and

(B) speculative investors with no capacity for
taking physical delivery of these utilities or commodities are artificially gaming prices; and

(C) this price gaming of utilities and commodity futures by speculative investors has a severe and debilitating national security significance;

(3) SEC and ICC regulation and oversight of utilities and commodities futures trading is insufficient and inadequate to mitigate or
offset the substantial gaming activities of national and international non-institutional speculative investors seeking to adversely manipulate prices of utilities and commodities futures purely for their own financial benefit;

(b) PURPOSE - The purpose of this Act is to institute new policies, rules, regulations and oversights in utilities and commodities futures
trading, interstate commodity and utility transfers and other transactions relating to utilities and commodites by non-institutional
players, to severely curtail, limit and otherwise reduce and remove gaming incentives for speculative investment, without, at the
same time, adversely affecting the market for and lawful trade in these same utilities and commodities by and between institutional suppliers, processors, refiners, traders, brokers, distributors and end-use by consumers in the general public and within industry.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

. . .

SEC. 4. UTILITIES AND COMMODITIES FUTURES ANTI-GAMING ACT.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT- There is established the Utilities and Commodities Futures Trading Anti-Gaming Act.

SEC. 5. COMPACT.

(a) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall enter into a compact with the management entity to carry out this Act.

(b) COMPONENTS- The compact shall include--

(1) information relating to the objectives and management of the Anti-Gaming Act; and

(2) a description of the goals and objectives of the Anti-Gaming Act that includes--

(A) an explanation of the proposed approach to identification and regulation of futures gaming activities; and

(B) a general outline of the anti-gaming protection measures on which the Secretary and management entity agree.

SEC. 6. DUTIES OF MANAGEMENT ENTITY.

. . .

SEC. 7. MANAGEMENT PLAN.

. . .

SEC. 8. DUTIES OF SECRETARY.

. . .

SEC. 9. DUTIES OF OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES.

Any Federal agency that conducts or supports an activity that directly affects the Heritage Area shall--

(1) consult with the Secretary and the management entity with respect to the activity;

(2)(A) cooperate with the Secretary and the management entity in carrying out this Act; and

(B) to the maximum extent practicable, coordinate the activity of the Federal agency with the efforts of the Secretary and the management entity; and

(3) to the maximum extent practicable, conduct or support the activity of the Federal agency in such manner as the Secretary and the management entity determine shall not have an adverse effect on the Heritage Area.

SEC. 10. USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS FROM OTHER SOURCES.

Nothing in this Act affects the authority of the management entity to use Federal funds made available under any other Act for the purposes for which those funds are authorized.

SEC. 11. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.

(a) IN GENERAL- There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act--

(1) $10,000,000 for any fiscal year; and

(2) a total of $100,000,000.

(b) COST SHARING- The Federal share of the cost of any activity carried out under this Act shall not exceed 50 percent.

SEC. 12. TERMINATION OF EFFECTIVENESS.

The authority provided by this Act terminates effective on the date that is 15 years after the date of enactment of this Act.

==================================

Just one more "truth in advertising" you're not likely to see from your elected representatives.

Socialism is merely fascist rule by the global corporate-state. Welcome to American Peristroyka.
Now go drink your Kool-Aid and lie down with the others. Our leaders know what is best for you.

Posted by: Tante Aime on August 1, 2004 12:36 PM

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