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Feb-14-2008 09:44printcomments

Behind Obama and Clinton

While Obama’s key advisors have expressed concern over enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton’s advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the military.

Clinton and Obama
Courtesy: thesituationist.files.wordpress.com

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the two remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama.

However, there are still some real discernible differences to be taken into account. Indeed, given the power the United States has in the world, even minimal differences in policies can have a major difference in the lives of millions of people.

As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors.

So, analyzing who these two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought in to advise them on international affairs can be an important barometer for determining what kind for foreign policies they would pursue as president.

For instance, in the case of the Bush administration, officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle played a major role in the fateful decision to invade Iraq by convincing the president that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat and that American forces would be treated as liberators.

The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with people likely to encourage the next president to follow down a similarly disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war and the other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that they’ll be likely to face as president?

Contrasting Teams

Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of President Bill Clinton’s administration, most notably former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Her most influential advisor - and her likely choice for Secretary of State - is Richard Holbrooke.

Holbrooke served in a number of key roles in her husband’s administration, including U.S. ambassador to the UN and member of the cabinet, special emissary to the Balkans, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany.

He also served as President Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for East Asia in propping up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting Suharto’s repression in East Timor, and backing the generals behind the Kwangju massacre in South Korea.

Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to be younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream strategic analysts who have worked with previous Democratic administrations, such as former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, and former navy secretary Richard Danzig.

They have also included some of the more enlightened and creative members of the Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph Cirincione and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, and former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.

His team also includes the noted human rights scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power - author of a recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in post-invasion Iraq - and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors, however, have particularly poor records on human rights and international law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Contrasting Issues

While some of Obama’s key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton’s advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the military.

While Obama advisors Susan Rice and Samantha Power have stressed the importance of U.S. multilateral engagement, Albright allies herself with the jingoism of the Bush administration, taking the attitude that "If we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future."

While Susan Rice has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism and has stressed the importance of bottom-up anti-poverty programs, Berger and Albright have been outspoken supporters of globalization on the current top-down neo-liberal lines.

Obama advisors like Joseph Cirincione have emphasized a policy toward Iraq based on containment and engagement and have downplayed the supposed threat from Iran. Clinton advisor Holbrooke, meanwhile, insists that "the Iranians are an enormous threat to the United States," the country is "the most pressing problem nation," and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like Hitler.

Iraq as Key Indicator

Perhaps the most important difference between the two foreign policy teams concerns Iraq. Given the similarities in the proposed Iraq policies of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, Obama’s supporters have emphasized that their candidate had the better judgment in opposing the invasion beforehand.

Indeed, in the critical months prior to the launch of the war in 2003, Obama openly challenged the Bush administration’s exaggerated claims of an Iraqi threat and presciently warned that a war would lead to an increase in Islamic extremism, terrorism, and regional instability, as well as a decline in America’s standing in the world.

Senator Clinton, meanwhile, was repeating as fact the administration’s false claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. She voted to authorize President Bush to invade that oil-rich country at the time and circumstances of his own choosing and confidently predicted success.

Despite this record and Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her war authorization vote, however, her supporters argue that it no longer relevant and voters need to focus on the present and future.

Indeed, whatever choices the next president makes with regard to Iraq are going to be problematic, and there are no clear answers at this point. Yet one’s position regarding the invasion of Iraq at that time says a lot about how a future president would address such questions as the use of force, international law, relations with allies, and the use of intelligence information.

As a result, it may be significant that Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors, many of whom are veterans of her husband’s administration, were virtually all strong supporters of President George W. Bush’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. By contrast, almost every one of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team was opposed to a U.S. invasion.

Pre-War Positions

During the lead-up to the war, Obama’s advisors were suspicious of the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq somehow threatened U.S. national security to the extent that it required a U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor in the Carter administration, argued that public support for war "should not be generated by fear-mongering or demagogy."

By contrast, Clinton’s top advisor and her likely pick for secretary of state, Richard Holbrooke, insisted that Iraq remained "a clear and present danger at all times."


Brzezinski warned that the international community would view the invasion of a country that was no threat to the United States as an illegitimate an act of aggression. Noting that it would also threaten America’s leadership, Brzezinski said that "without a respected and legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy."

Holbrooke, rejecting the broad international legal consensus against offensive wars, insisted that it was perfectly legitimate for the United States to invade Iraq and that the European governments and anti-war demonstrators who objected "undoubtedly encouraged" Saddam Hussein.

Another key Obama advisor, Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment, argued that the goal of containing the potential threat from Iraq had been achieved, noting that "Saddam Hussein is effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond immediately and devastatingly to any aggression.

Inside Iraq, the inspection teams preclude any significant advance in WMD capabilities. The status quo is safe for the American people."

By contrast, Clinton advisor Sandy Berger, who served as her husband’s national security advisor, insisted that "even a contained Saddam" was "harmful to stability and to positive change in the region," and therefore the United States had to engage in "regime change" in order to "fight terror, avert regional conflict, promote peace, and protect the security of our friends and allies."

Meanwhile, other future Obama advisors, such as Larry Korb, raised concerns about the human and material costs of invading and occupying a heavily populated country in the Middle East and the risks of chaos and a lengthy counter-insurgency war.

And other top advisors to Senator Clinton - such as her husband’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright - confidently predicted that American military power could easily suppress any opposition to a U.S. takeover of Iraq.

Such confidence in the ability of the United States to impose its will through force is reflected to this day in the strong support for President Bush’s troop surge among such Clinton advisors (and original invasion advocates) as Jack Keane, Kenneth Pollack, and Michael O’Hanlon. Perhaps that was one reason that, during the recent State of the Union address, when Bush proclaimed that the Iraqi surge was working, Clinton stood and cheered while Obama remained seated and silent.

These differences in the key circles of foreign policy specialists surrounding these two candidates are consistent with their diametrically opposed views in the lead-up to the war.

National Security

Not every one of Clinton’s foreign policy advisors is a hawk. Her team also includes some centrist opponents of the war, including retired General Wesley Clark and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

On balance, it appears likely that a Hillary Clinton administration, like Bush’s, would be more likely to embrace exaggerated and alarmist reports regarding potential national security threats, to ignore international law and the advice of allies, and to launch offensive wars.

By contrast, a Barack Obama administration would be more prone to examine the actual evidence of potential threats before reacting, to work more closely with America’s allies to maintain peace and security, to respect the country’s international legal obligations, and to use military force only as a last resort.

Progressive Democrats do have reason to be disappointed with Obama’s foreign policy agenda. At the same time, as The Nation magazine noted, members of Obama’s foreign policy team are "more likely to stress ’soft power’ issues like human rights, global development and the dangers of failed states." As a result, "Obama may be more open to challenging old Washington assumptions and crafting new approaches."

And new approaches are definitely needed.

Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. A native of North Carolina, Professor Zunes received his PhD. from Cornell University, his M.A. from Temple University and his B.A. from Oberlin College. He has previously served on the faculty of Ithaca College, the University of Puget Sound, and Whitman College. He serves as an advisory committee member and Middle East editor for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, and chair of the board of academic advisors for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

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Special thanks to Professor Zunes and Institute for Policy Studies for permission to republish this article.




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Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 5:52 pm (Pacific time)

Sorry...2:12 pm "anon" Comment was mine, sent by error without ID. Last thing I'd do here is record Comment without full, responsible, accountable, and documented information, which is absolutely what is owed to each and every reader --IF one wishes to communicate, rather than simply propagandize. John Dewey characterized conversation as the chief essential for democracy, with social contract demanding that participants, for those full understandings as demanded for wise democratic decision, know each other to establish the basis for mutual trust on which all credibility must depend.


Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 2:25 pm (Pacific time)

To all: For your rapid review and immediate application now, here is a current quote from Dr.Chomsky, surely relevant for any consideration of the huge corporatization built into the defense establishment and its suppliers: "But that's the whole point of corporatism: to try and remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run -which include production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything-are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public."- Professor Noam Chomsky, interviewed in Corporate Watch. There's not a hint of socialism or other malign philosophy in that statement; just the realization of reality and the absolute need for public control of all its agencies. Chomsky is a recognized "radical"; but then, so was old and very wise Ben Frankli, too, in his day, seen in the England of his time as a true flaming voice...and rightfully so, to our everlasting gain.


Anonymous February 15, 2008 2:12 pm (Pacific time)

To all: For hidden-agenda deeply involved in this dialog, but not openly recognized, one needs to know the lavishment of national treasure on the well-established military and supporting industries for whose costs we now face truly astronomical expenditures well into the next two generations. That is doubtless one of the strongest driving motivations any group has ever enjoyed, to perpetrate its own desires, dreams and fancies on the rest of the nation. You can count on those thus well-situated to make any move and use any argument and continue that strong defense, just so long as the rest of us s......citizens) lie still for that action. That, too, is part of the "command and control" response behind some of the Chomsky research, and involved in the most recent findings of cognitive science. For full detail in both dollars and many other unavoidable costs thus entailed see: "Why the US has really gone broke" by Chalmers Johnson, noted investigative reporter (and NO socialist OR commie, either !)at: http://mondediplo.com/2008/02/05military Please note we send you the direct link, for "See with OWN eyes", then "use own brain" to evaluate what you find --and apply it here as YOU see fit.


Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 1:36 pm (Pacific time)

Questions so posed must be placed in context in which they are able to be asked. For a moral person, it makes a very great difference if we attacked OR initiated the violence for our own ends, whatever those may be. Thus such questions can be considered moral --and thus askable-- only if we were ourselves placed into danger by the actions of "the others" involved. Whole question of morality of war and of any so-called defense inevitably and always unavoidably turn on that very large matter of who initiated action, and for what reasons, precisely as for a single individual either attacking or defending self from harm. Each person must reach any conclusion individually; to deny that right is to forgo one of the first and foremost human obligations --"NOT to kill" --open to interpretation ONLY within the very specific "situational surround". What was the prevailing and determining component of the specific situational surround when these two ongoing wars were initiated ? WHO attacked WHAT, and for what obvious purposes ? "9/11" is not an acceptable answer here since its cause and perpetrators, among other background foundations for it, are surely still in question, in the minds of many Americans who await full disclosure not yet made by our own officials. Neither is reliance on the "deep, secret reasons we had to act", never shared with those who are forced into the final sacrifice, nor with those who stand behind them and must pay all costs and bear all tragic consequences, of what may well have been an avoidable situation without our initiation of overwhelming violence at huge costs of blood and treasure. To deny such vital "surround questions" is to defy and defeat one of the most basic principles of any attempt at democracy --personal decision based on full understandings and also on simple religious faith, whatever that may be for each person. Just the proposal of any such questions is itself very revealing of the attitudes and understandings prevailing in those who offer them so facilely, and for obvious propangandizing purposes, reflecting the same basic organization and purpose of that well-recognized query: "Do you still continue to beat your wife ?". The questions are obviously so phrased as to produce that result, no matter how they are considered --until and unless the morality and the surround are taken into full account. It remains a sore question as to what is true patriotism, in any such capturing and painful situation: Does one accept decision made for military reasons by the military, or does one cling to what one may truly believe is required by morality and personal faith ? Without full, responsible, accountable ID by the person seeking these answers, their use here reflects, for me, a kind of contempt for the moral and mental capacities of this readership. This answer is a courtesy for that readership, perhaps to help guide further honest inquiry into personal motives driving any possible answers by anyone.


Jefferson February 15, 2008 11:56 am (Pacific time)

My below 6:32 pm and 3:41 pm posts cover what "professionals" think of Chomsky. Though I'm sure non-professionals will debate their conclusions and that's what debate is all about, so go for it. Regarding water-boarding, which has been legal in this country, is probably going to be removed from "operational methods" that have been lawfully available for intelligence gathering. Please note that the military and other government intelligence gatherer's have been following accepted lawful procedures. So if it has been so bad, how come FDR, Truman, Kennedy, LBJ, Carter, Clinton and past Republican Administrations not stop it? Thousands of "your" military have been water-boarded as per training, none have died, nor have any been injured nor are any receiving disability compensation for having been water-boarded. No doubt the most effective way of interrogating those who are trained to resist is to create some fear, now I guess we can just use harsh language. Below is a brief survey, think about it. Try to imagine you're not behind some keyboard but in a real life and death situation, and time is short. If you can't truthfully respond, then maybe go play some badminton... Would you subject the terrorist to water-boarding or other more severe forms of coercion in order to save a city and hundreds of thousands of lives? YES NO /// Would you subject the terrorist to water-boarding or other more severe forms of coercion in order to save children’s lives? YES NO /// Would you subject the terrorist to water-boarding or other more severe forms of coercion in order to save your spouse or family members? YES NO /// Would you subject the terrorist to water-boarding or other more severe forms of coercion in order to save a friend's spouse or their family members? YES NO /// If you answered NO to any of the questions above, please determine the number of American lives you are willing to sacrifice before the “rights” of one terrorist can be violated: _____ American lives _____ One hundred American lives/// _____ One thousand American lives/// _____ Hundreds of thousand of American lives/// _____ Millions of American lives///


Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 8:38 am (Pacific time)

For those few or many who may wish to check out the cognitive findings mentioned for themselve, subject to their own evaluation, here are three major references: How The Mind Works; Steven Pinker: ISBN 0-393-04535-8. Decision Making;Janis, Mann; ISBN 0-02-916160-6. Emotional Intelligence; Daniel Goleman; Bantam paper; ISBN 0-553-37506-7, For continuig update on more cognitive research findings directly applicable to dialog and writing, see upcoming Op Eds already in work for publication soon...and Beware of queer old men selling peculiar political points of view, outmoded for 21st Century guidance.


Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 7:35 am (Pacific time)

Re waterboarding, as illegal and thus irretrievably surely damaging reflection on character of anyone indulging personal demand for violence: Senate Passes Ban On Waterboarding, Other Techniques By Dan Eggen Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, February 14, 2008; Page A03 The Senate voted yesterday to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA, matching a previous House vote and putting Congress on a collision course with the White House over a pivotal national security issue. In a 51 to 45 vote, the Senate approved an intelligence bill that limits the CIA to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in a U.S. Army Field Manual. The measure would effectively ban the use of simulated drowning, temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


Henry Ruark February 15, 2008 7:20 am (Pacific time)

Chomsky "...a liberal fascist" ??!! Perhaps some academic serf can be recruited, now, to assist you in understanding realities such as direct theoretical confrontation when it occurs in life. Surely to describe ANYone's view as "liberal fascist" is precisely such a confrontation indicating "deep conflict in the brain" (Chomsky phrase), since to understand and appreciate one is to defy and deny the other completely --a "brain tremor perhaps more prevalent than formerly supposed." Thus we gain ever so deep and devastating a glimpse into what Chomsky's research begins to show via actual experiment, not mere theoretical written discussion. But then you would never know since you have never read any single work of his, nor any of the other twenty or so books for which direct-link references have been supplied here in the past several months --as Comments on record clearly show. Seeking out facts disclosing realities in life as lived by common folk is not your prime interest, which becomes clear the more you fulminate and flusterate and fume and spout right out here in public, apparently unashamed, perhaps because you remain unaware -- nicely proving up my previous point re "politics". Just perhaps, you may even be the unknowing victim of what Chomsky has already proven re some few persons deprived in part of their social sense, and even of what is normally known as "common sense" --relying on realities fully recognized universally by most others-- by specially debilitating experiences often due to violence in their lives --as in application of waterboarding-- and sometimes found also in military life, especially among weaker commanders. Extreme intensity vs any opponent,actually seeking to "kill off" completely rather than to rely on dialog and compromise to learn mutually, is another of Chomsky and cognitive science points now currently generally recognized as "entirely valid, no longer theoretical", with more and more information coming each month --for those who can understand its theory shaping up its substance. (Chomsky IS difficult reading without full and demanding background.) Application is already underway even in politics; you could check with some of your vaunted high-level contacts, made possible by those several advanced degrees you already claim. (I'm informed departed Bush brain-chief Rove is one such.) As in all-else here by me, full direct link documentation OR PDF access is available, on request to Editor, WITH ID ! May be some delay since my writer's files from 50 years of general publication are now being culled.


Jefferson February 14, 2008 6:32 pm (Pacific time)

People my below 3:41 pm post lists requested sources that are critics of Chomsky, which I could easily add to in a rather big way, ditto for Chomsky's acolytes. These below critics are professionals (Phd's) in the same (and similar) field as Chomsky, so essentially here are critical viewpoints, and that is my point, look at different informed perspectives. Those of you who take the time to review those so-called professional pablum perspectives on the far left (and far right also), please note that the overwhelming majority of them predicate their ideas and assumptions from classroom academics, in other words they are theorists with no practical "actual" experience, like some writers and teachers you may know?! A lot like those economic editorial writers who have never done anything else in life, like say run a business, but they will write about how business people should run their business. Same goes for international policy, etc. . Chomsky is considered a liberal fascist and an anti-American by his own peers...I'm not claiming that, they are, but I do know why! As you will also if you just take the time to compare and contrast other more non-fantasyland ideas. The world is very unforgiving for the unprepared...Please note the people who have the biggest distaste for violence and war are those of us who know it up close and personal, not from behind a keyboard! Be vigilant...


Henry Ruark February 14, 2008 5:23 pm (Pacific time)

Re Chomsky, every leader in every profession finds those whose career it gets to be to beat him down and abuse his work. When Jeff ID's self, will send him via direct contact any number of other, more authoritative and unbiased endorsements for Chomsky. Meanwhile this is simple courtesy NOT due him since he chooses to make his own rules, including no links to take you directly to his sources for "see with own eyes" evaluation of both source and statement. That is truly responsible, professional, accountable way to handle dialog when differences appear, as they always will and should do, for open, honest, democratic share via direct link to source for use of own brain. WHY is Chomsky so irritating for friend Jeff ? Seek out some of his work via Internet and you will see and truly understand, or ID self to our Editor Tim and I will share via PDF, not available to Jeff without ID...what can be fairer or more direct and democratic than that ! There is always the Op Ed for Jeff to write, too, if he is capable, with real points really demanding checkable, provable statement. We continue to invite such from him if and when he can summon wit, wisdom and will to place on the record here.


Jefferson February 14, 2008 3:41 pm (Pacific time)

People just in case you do not have the time to review what some of Chomsky's critics have to say, below are a few brief snapshots: Note: Why would anyone defend this guy? Unless of course they were a sympathizer? Who knows? Noam Chomsky's Anti-American Obsession by David Horowitz, a former prominent supporter of Marxism and one-time editor of the '60s New Left journal Ramparts, accuses Chomsky of being an ANTI-AMERICAN IDEOLOGUE who "SEES THE UNITED STATES AS EVIL" and rewrites American history accordingly. Horowitz claims that Chomsky is the intellectual source of "LEFT WING ANTI-AMERICANISM TODAY" and his acolyts are apparent to those who easily spot them. A Corrupted Linguistics by Robert D. Levine and Paul M. Postal, "BOTH PROFESSORS OF LINGUISTICS", claims that Chomsky's linguistic work has been largely superseded or abandoned. They also accuse Chomsky of INTELLECTUAL MISCONDUCT in his linguistic writings. Chomsky, Language, World War II and Me by John Williamson criticizes Chomsky's linguistic work and recounts a long email debate between Chomsky and the author in which Williamson claims CHOMSKY REPEATEDLY LIED about his own statements and about historical facts and sources. Well of course you will have those who will defend Chomsky, and that should tell you a lot...hopefully.


Henry Ruark February 14, 2008 1:43 pm (Pacific time)

ToTo all: For very revealing insights on propagandizing by master neocon Bill Kristol, check out this link, and "see with own eyes" how these techniques are put to work by chief writer of that cabal: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/


Henry Ruark February 14, 2008 1:13 pm (Pacific time)

To all: That is a distorted, mean, demeaning reflection on Dr. Chomsky, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists. In no way does he attack or put down the U.S. or its policies, only their recorded impacts on other nations. Typical irresponsibility to pass along statements like that, based only on that old unaccountable line "I heard". If worth stating, give source and link, so we can "see with own eyes" and make our own evaluation of what is there stated. That's the honest, open, once-American way, in politics and every other participative activity in society, including competitive sports --if you do now wish to cheat. Interesting fact: Chomsky is one of those who set out specific distinguishing mental characteristics for those who are unable to accept reality, and ties those characteristics to certain forms of statement. Might be extremely informative here to put some of that science to work on such acrimonious voices. From whence cometh his doctorate, and in what area, with what publications, and with what world-level honors ?


Glen February 14, 2008 12:03 pm (Pacific time)

An interesting overview. My recollection of Brzezinski is that he was the one who mis-advised Carter about Iran and the Shah.


Jefferson February 14, 2008 11:29 am (Pacific time)

I heard that Zunes is a Noam Chomsky acolyt , and in his fantasy world (chomsky), all would be sweetness and light if it were not for the United States. The world needs peace activists like Zunes so people can see how some view the world in a less than pragmatic way...


Henry Ruark February 14, 2008 10:49 am (Pacific time)

To all: This authoritative voice, with essential background based on deep, continuing study via excellent special skills-demonstrated, makes quite clear what the choice comes down to now: If you want "more of the same", it's Hillary. If you want probable wise change based on clear study and impact of ongoing events, it's Obama. Please note real depth of detail here, not found in any other source published in Oregon, to my knowledge. If any others-such found, please share right here in S-N.

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