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Cindy, the War in Iraq, and Dissent in a Time of War By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 19, 2005

Joining Frontpagemag.com today to debate Cindy Sheehan’s anti-war campaign and what constitutes legitimate debate in a time of war, are:

David Swanson: the creator of MeetWithCindy.org, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of Democrats.com. He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. He obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997. His website is www.davidswanson.org;



David Horowitz: publisher of Frontpagemag.com, a nationally known author and lifelong civil rights activist. He was one of the founders of the New Left in the 1960s and editor of its largest magazine, Ramparts. He helped to organize the first campus demonstration against the Vietnam war at the University of California, Berkeley in 1962. He is the author of Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left.


FP: David Swanson and David Horowitz, welcome to Frontpage's debate: Cindy, the War in Iraq, and Dissent in a Time of War. 


Mr. Swanson, let's begin with you.


Do you think Ms. Sheehan’s campaign is a legitimate one in a time of war?


Swanson: I think anyone should have the right at any time to speak out against any war and any government.  I think the First Amendment to the US Constitution will back me up on that as far as this country goes, and I read in it no mention of restricted rights in “time of war.” 


And, of course, that right should exist in tangible form for every person, not just those who own huge media conglomerates.  Cindy can't just talk to a few friends and have the impact that is needed.  So she is demonstrating in public, using the internet, and trying to get her message through the corporate media. 


Now, whether I think someone has the right to speak out against a war is a separate issue from whether I agree with that opposition.  In this case, I do.  This war was based on lies, specifically the lies that President Bush told Congress in his formal letter explaining why the war was necessary.  He wrote:


"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and


"(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."


The evidence that these were lies is extensive and certainly sufficient to merit a full investigation.  I refer you to the Downing Street Memos and all of the evidence listed on the left side of afterdowningstreet.org.  The belief that these were lies is so widespread (a majority in polls), that the corporate media dismisses new evidence as "old news."  But what could possibly be more important than this old news?  We should not be asking whether it is "legitimate" for the mother of a young man who dies for Bush's lies to speak out, but whether it is legitimate to take a nation to war based on lies.


Horowitz: Well of course we live in a democracy and opposition to government policies, including war policies, is both a right and an honored American tradition. Mr. Swanson is wrong about the Constitution – at least insofar as it has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Speech that endangers American lives can be restricted in wartime, censorship in wartime is standard for all countries, including all democracies, and speech has led to trials – and convictions – for treason, Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally being two obvious examples. Perhaps Mr. Swanson has never heard the phrase “Loose lips sink ships.” But many Americans old enough to remember World War II have.


Just to be clear: although Cindy Sheehan’s campaign is a campaign of hate directed against her own country in time of war, although it is filled with unconscionable lies and slanders against her own countrymen – not to mention, by implication, her own son – it does not in my view constitute legally actionable treason. Is its intent – defeat of America on the field of battle, designation of her own country as the enemy of humanity – treasonous? It is. Allow me to say also that as a Jew I do not appreciate her attempt to make the Jews of Israel who have been the targets of 25,000 terrorist attacks in the last five years responsible for the terrorist war against us. This a hateful woman with a hateful message.


All that said, the fact that Mr. Swanson, who speaks as a supporter of this hate does not recognize any responsibility towards his country for the defense of his fellow citizens when war is being waged against them by a merciless and conscienceless enemy, speaks volumes about his allegiances.


President Bush did not “lie” in making the two statements quoted above. Nor was he in error in making them. They were true then and they are true now.


(1) Even chief UN Inspector, the socialist Hans Blix, in his book Disarming Iraq says in so many words, that Saddam Hussein could not by diplomatic means alone and without the threat of military reprisal be made to adhere to the UN resolutions. Perhaps Mr. Swanson knows something the rest of the world doesn’t. I suspect not.


(2) The Downing Street memo invoked by Mr. Swanson is a joke to everyone but the anti-American and conspiracy-minded left, people whose pathological hatred of Bush is so fierce it has disabled their ability to reason. The real question posed by Bush’s statement about 9/11 is this: Are we safer since 9/11 because we have taken the war to the enemy camp? Obviously we are. There is no one, not even Mr. Swanson, who would have bet on 9/12/2001 that we would not be attacked on our soil for four years. The only reason we haven’t been attacked obviously (since we have no borders and cannot protect ourselves) is because the White House has taken the battle to the enemy camp. In the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the American military has decimated the al-Qaeda leadership, disrupted its infrastructure, destroyed most of its leadership and rendered Osama bin Laden as good as dead. Since 9/11 Osama bin Laden’s most fearsome act of terror has been to send a video tape to Al-Jazeera, cribbed from the writings of Michael Moore.


This war is not based on lies as the left claims. It is, however, a war that has been betrayed by the leadership of the Democratic Party which authorized it, but then turned against it when Howard Dean soared to the top of the polls. The result of this unprecedented betrayal of America in time of war has been the confusion of millions of Americans who trust the leadership of the Democratic Party. This confusion is more than dangerous. It is undermining the morale of our troops and encouraging our terrorist enemies to think that they can win this war if they kill enough Americans and Iraqis in the Middle East.


The malicious campaign of the left to attack the war to liberate Iraq as a war “based on lies” (as Mr. Swanson puts it) is in effect a psychological warfare campaign conducted against this country and its men and women in arms. Its aim is to sap the will of America to fight its enemies in Iraq – and not only in Iraq. If Mr. Swanson and Mrs. Sheehan and the left are successful in their seditious effort to force an American surrender to the terrorists Iraq, we will be forced to fight them in our own country, in which case tens of thousands of Americans may die, and Mr. Swanson and Mrs. Sheehan will be among those responsible.


I have no problem with critics of the war. I have a problem with leftists who have declared war on their own country in the midst of a war; who recognize no responsibility to accept the results of the democratic process or to protect their fellow citizens from the monstrous enemy that is seeking to destroy them.


Swanson: I'm not entirely clear from that response whether you believe "Ms. Sheehan's campaign is a legitimate one in a time of war" or not.  You say that censorship is "standard" but don't say she should be censored.  You fancifully invent an intention for Cindy of "defeat of America on the field of battle," but you say this is not "legally actionable treason."  What kind of treason would it be, then?  Is the distinction simply that it would be legally actionable if there were a shred of evidence suggesting it was true, whereas in this case it falls into the category of "delusional treason"?

Can we talk seriously here about evidence?  Bush's
March 18, 2003, letter to Congress claimed that the war was necessary for two reasons, which I quoted. The first was:

"(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq;"

Needless to say, the U.S. doesn't make a habit of going to war over all unenforced UNSC resolutions (though it does occasionally pick one out as an excuse).  And, as the Downing Street Memos make clear, the U.N. was used to create a justification for a war that had already been decided upon.  The UN itself refused to support this war allegedly fought to protect its honor. Many knew then, and we all know now, that in reality
Iraq had long since rid itself of all WMDs.  So this talk of what would be needed in order to force Iraq to destroy those fictional weapons is like the little man behind the curtain continuing, years later, to use the Wizard's voice after we've all seen what he's up to.

The only significant claim in item 1 above is part A, which you, notably, failed to address in your response.  The fact is that
Iraq posed no threat to the United States.  The array of lies used to bolster that claim have all been publicly shredded, and whistleblowers like Joe Wilson publicly punished.  I don't know whether you still believe in the Iraqi nukes and unmanned vehicles and biological weapons (or the tooth fairy, or trickle down economics, or the ability of minor fame to assuage all pangs of conscience) or whether you believe our "intelligence" operations were honestly mistaken (and MI6 misunderstood that stuff about "fixing the facts", and the rest of the world got it right by beginners' luck, and Bob Woodward and Richard Clark and Paul O'Neill and Karen Kwiatkowski are members of a vast leftwing conspiracy, and Wolfowitz's public comments are actually being made by a stunt double, and so forth).  But, either way, the facts are piled against you, and the evidence is compelling that Bush knew Iraq posed no threat when he said it did.

I also quoted the second reason Bush gave for the necessity of war, and you accidentally failed to respond to that one as well.  Here it is again:

"(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the
United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

The Saddam Hussein regime did not plan, authorize, commit, or aide those attacks.  Bush has admitted as much himself, although he has also continued to imply that this connection exists as recently as his
June 28, 2005, televised speech.  Through your silence, again, I cannot discern whether you believe Saddam attacked the World Trade Center, or whether you think that believing so was a reasonable mistake for Bush to make (and if tens of thousands of the wrong nationality of innocent civilians got bombed, so be it).  Either way, again, facts won't help you.

Some of the facts are those found in the Downing Street Memos, which you refer to (albeit in the singular, whereas I'm referring to a series of eight documents) as "a joke" (or, a joke except to those of us who are "pathological" - my, what fine manners you have!).  But can you offer a couple of, you know, reasons why this evidence is not compelling?  The original Downing Street Memo, the minutes of the
July 23, 2002, meeting is a shorter document than our exchange here, very clear, very pointed, and very much unchallenged as the authentic record of a meeting of Prime Minister Blair and his top officials.  I find it disgusting, and yet you find it funny -- why?

While you did not address the truth or falsity of point 2 above, you did say this: "The real question posed by Bush's statement about 9/11 is this: Are we safer since 9/11 because we have taken the war to the enemy camp? Obviously we are."

This isn't obvious to me.

This isn't obvious to Londoners.

This isn't obvious to 57 percent of Americans:

This isn't obvious to the U.S. State Department, which says terrorist attacks are up dramatically: 

This isn't obvious to CIA Director Porter J. Goss, who has some thoughts on what's gone wrong:

This isn't obvious to the pro-war International Institute for Strategic Studies (UK):

or the conservative Chatham House:

I'm not trying to give you a reading assignment, and I'm sorry to have gone on at such length, but let me just reply to a few of your falsehoods and ad hominems, because you sure packed a lot of them in. You said that "speech that endangers American lives can be restricted in wartime, censorship in wartime is standard for all countries."  But opposing a war is not endangering American lives.  As a general rule, it's protecting them.  Bush has sent over 1,800 Americans to their deaths in
Iraq.  Cindy Sheehan is demanding that no more follow, that the killing stop.

You said that Cindy's is a "campaign of hate directed against her own country," filled with "lies and slanders."  But you do not name a single one of these lies or slanders.  And you don't seem to understand that a country is not a person that we can love or hate.  Cindy loved her son Casey.  She certainly seems to feel hatred for Bush.  But what does a country have to do with these emotions?  A country is something we build together through constant reform and improvement.  You can talk about loving it, if you want. Cindy says she loves it too.  But do you love it as a permissive parent, as a cult worshipper, and praise any horrible thing it does?  Or do you love it by working to make it a better place for PEOPLE?


Horowitz: I’m not sure I left my position that unclear. I consider that what you and Cindy Sheehan (and your movement) are doing is conducting an unprincipled and open-ended war – at this point mainly a propaganda war – against your own country. You are doing this at a time when your country is under attack from an enemy that respects no civilized principles and has issued a death sentence on every American man, woman and child. It is an enemy that is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons and that has already struck our largest city, unprovoked, and killed 3,000 civilians without warning.


Your propaganda war is what is technically known among military strategists as psychological warfare designed to demoralize an opponent and sap his will to resist. It is self-consciously based on the anti-Vietnam war campaign, which was led by many of the same people and organizations, which resulted in the deaths of between two and three million Indo-Chinese. These deaths occurred when America was forced to quit the field of battle with another totalitarian enemy. Do I regard this movement and its agendas as a form of treason? Yes I do. Is this actionable treason? No. The Constitution defines treason as actually joining forces with an enemy to wage war against the United States. This implies a formal arrangement of some sort – e.g., joining the Taliban as John Walker Lindh did, or broadcasting anti-American propaganda over Radio Hanoi as Jane Fonda did. Do I think some members of the anti-war movement are in actual formal contact with the radical Islamists and advancing their agedas. Yes I do. Do I think you and Cindy Sheehan are? Only peripherally in that the radical Islamists are integrated into the anti-war coalition generally. (See Unholy Alliance: The Peace Movement.


I did say that censorship is standard in wartime, but our wartime commanders have not seen fit to institute it. For example, if this were World War II, I am certain that Sixty Minutes would have been prosecuted for leaking the Abu Ghraib story and the New York Times would have been prevented from publishing it at all, let alone for sixty days on its front pages where it inflamed our enemies against us and demoralized our supporters. (For those deluded enough to think the American military sanctions such behavior, let me remind you that the investigation and prosecution of the Abu Ghraib miscreants by the military itself was already underway when Sixty Minutes chose to embarrass its own country in the midst of a war.) There is no censorship effort now because as you know political times have changed. During the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg violated the explicit terms of the Espionage Act in leaking the “Pentagon Papers.” These were classified documents that Ellsberg and the New York Times made available to our enemies in an act designed to sabotage our war to defend South Vietnam from a Communist conquest and ultimately help the Communists to slaughter more than two million innocent Vietnamese and Cambodians. Liberal courts and a successful liberal campaign to destroy the Nixon Administration and pave the way for a Communist victory (Watergate) let both culprits off the hook.


Unfortunately, the left which supported the Communists – or at the very least opposed our anti-Communist policies in Indo-China – was by the late 1960s strong enough to defeat the government’s efforts to safeguard our security by enforcing the Espionage Act and other laws that had been designed to protect us. The subversive left and its liberal allies are far stronger and more dangerous to our security now than they were then. I do not think the Bush Administration could politically enforce censorship (e.g., in regard to Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo) now. This means we are that much more vulnerable to our enemies both at home and abroad.


However, legal censorship in wartime was not the main point of my remarks. Citizens have a responsibility to defend the homeland and dissenters from a war policy do as well. They show their colors – drawing the distinction between legitimate and seditious dissent – by the way they relate to American security in this war. The slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships” was designed to encourage American civilians to be discreet, that is to censor themselves lest they endanger the brave men and women defending them on the field of battle. In other words, even if the government does not have the political strength to impose wartime censorship, citizens should exercise reasonable restraint in the way they conduct their criticisms of war policy. Those like yourself who denounce their own democracy as a “fascist” and “terrorist” and maliciously “lying” and an “outlaw state,” are inviting others to hate us and attack us, and must accept responsibility for their acts.


Now to the rationale for the war. You are right that the United States does not go to war to enforce all UN Security Council Resolutions. It did not for example go to war to enforce the first 16 UN Security Council Resolutions on Iraq, though it would have been fully justified in doing so. We did, however, fly daily military missions over the Iraq no-fly zones in an attempt to enforce the clauses in those resolutions that forbade Saddam Hussein from using poison gas on the Kurds again because we knew that without a military invasion of Iraq’s air space, diplomatic means alone could not prevent a monster like Saddam Hussein from doing just that. President Clinton did fire 450 cruise missiles into Iraq in a futile military invasion (futile because we needed a force on the ground to make it work) designed to compel Saddam to honor the inspection clauses of the 16 Resolutions. He did this in 1998 after Saddam threw the inspectors out. So in a sense we had been going to war over the Iraq UN resolutions for more than a decade prior to 2003 – something critics like you never mention.


We finally sent a ground force into Iraq over UN Security Council Resolution 1441 – the 17th  UN resolution – because this was explicitly a war ultimatum. It said to Saddam: Comply with the terms of this resolution by December 7, 2002 or else. The Saddam regime did not comply. (As I said previously this is the view of chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and not just the United States, Britain and their allies.) All of these facts supports the President’s position (and refute yours) that the Saddam regime could not be made to observe the truce agreements of the Gulf War and the 16 UN resolutions without the use of military force.


Your puzzlement over my dismissal of the Downing Street Memos as a “joke” is puzzling (actually my remark is milder than Christopher Hitchens’assessment. You should read the Downing Street Memos again because they do not support your position at all. What they say is that the United States is determined to make Saddam comply with the truce agreements of 1991 (UN Resolutions 687 and 689), and that the United States is convinced that this cannot be done without military force and that intelligence reports should be “fixed” by this problem – i.e., should be focused on whether he has changed his course and is actually complying. (I will have more to say on this below.) American officials already suspected that Saddam was not complying and believed that he would not comply. They wanted intelligence to focus on evidence confirming (or disproving) their suspicion. The belief that Saddam could not be trusted to comply was not based on prejudice. It was based on ten years of experience with Saddam – more than enough to draw the conclusion that he had to be removed by force. Bill Clinton and the Democrats in Congress – who later betrayed their own policy – had already concluded that Saddam had to be removed by force. That was what the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 was about. This is a rather significant point that leftists like yourself invariably ignore so that you can argue irrelevant details like the Downing Street Memos and twist them to your ends.


Actually, no one really needed intelligence reports to know that Saddam Hussein was not for a moment about to comply with the truce agreements of 1991 – ever. Every move that Saddam did make to comply with the UN Resolutions was clearly out fear of American military reprisal and was part of a strategy designed to confuse the well-meaning political elements in the West and inspire the malign ones to his advantage. Thus when he thought he could get away with it during the Clinton Administration, Saddam expelled the UN inspectors. The Bush Administration began sending clear signals in January 2002 that it meant business and that if Saddam did not comply he would be taken down. In June the President made a speech at West Point that was widely reported as a signal the United States was preparing for war. In the next months he began a military buildup in the Middle East. Then and only then did Saddam invite the inspectors back into Iraq. But he put restrictions on them so they could not adequately do their job. This was a violation itself of the truce agreements and the UN Resolutions. But Saddam knew his half concession would be enough to mobilize the credulous, the appeasers and the enemies of the West in the western countries themselves to escalate their efforts to tie America’s hands (by rejecting the military option). One of the main causes of the war in Iraq was the misnamed “peace movement” itself which made Saddam believe that American threats were idle and that the United States would never live up to its word. It was the so-called peace movement whose appeasements led to World War II, and it was the Vietnam peace movement that was responsible first for the prolongation of the war (because the Communists were convinced they would win the war of wills) and then for Communist victory that led to the slaughter. None of these movements can properly be called “peace movements.” Where were the demonstrations at Iraq’s embassies calling on Saddam to comply with the UN resolutions? There were none. Because the peace movement is not about peace; it is about the left’s war against the United States.


You are correct that the UN Security Council refused to enforce its own resolution. Why? Because the Soviet Union, France and China were all allies of the Saddam dictatorship and had veto power over Security Council resolutions. They approved the war ultimatum because they knew they could veto the actual use of force. They were the Saddam regime’s military suppliers and thus complicit in his crimes (France had even built his nuclear reactor) and they were on the receiving ends of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes and promised oil contracts.


This war was not, as you claim, about the “honor” of the UN (which has none). It was about enforcing international law – and more particularly – showing that when America speaks it means what it says. Why is this important? Because the next rogue regime – Iran, Syria, perhaps one day Pakistan – needs to know this so it doesn’t make the mistake that Afghanistan did of attacking us. In other words, it’s the most basic requirement for avoiding war in the future.


The war was not about forcing Iraq to destroy its weapons. It was about forcing Iraq to comply with the UN Resolutions – the truce in the Gulf War. What’s the difference? It was estimated at the time that Saddam could reconstitute his WMD programs within four months if he so desired. We had 200,000 troops on his borders – which is the only reason there were any UN inspectors in Iraq. Once we had pulled those forces (and we would have had to do that sooner rather than later) Saddam would be free to do what he wanted. He had already launched two aggressive wars and spent $40 billion on a nuclear weapons program. We were put in the position of trusting his word (that he would comply) or going to war. We took the prudent course. To say that we went to war merely to destroy the stockpiles every intelligence agency in the world said he had is to misunderstand entirely what this war was about.


When you say I didn’t respond to part (A) in Bush statement (1) which says that we went to war to protect the national security of the United States, I guess that means you didn’t understand my remarks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars are the only reason we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. Prior to the war, Saddam Hussein was hosting al-Qaeda conferences, al-Qaeda terrorist training camps, al-Qaeda leaders, and supporting the radical Islamic war against the Jews. He provided an asylum for the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. He was a big enthusiast of 9/11 and as the Mohammed Atta trail is beginning to show probably had a role in that attack, as well as others. Most importantly he was in full support of the Islamic jihad against us (and had even inscribed Allahu Akhbar in Iraq’s national flag in 1991); he was, an ally of bin Laden and a dictator in control of a country with the resources and the will to supply terrorists with chemical and biological and eventually nuclear weapons or to obtain them himself from Libya and North Korea. Can you really believe that Americans are not safer with Saddam out of the way and Qaddafi pacified? Apparently you can.


Why are you invoking Joe Wilson as a credible witness when the bi-partisan Senate Intelligence commission report has concluded that he was mistaken or lying or both. The Commission found that the President’s statement that Saddam was seeking fissionable uranium in Niger is “well-founded?” The rest of your comments in this paragraph are merely lame attempts to be personally malicious and/or reflect your ignorance of what the war was about.


Contrary to what you say, I did affirm and explain the President’s second rationale for the war. You apparently accidentally didn’t understand my comments on this either. The Bush statement does not say that this war is necessary to deal only with terrorists involved in 9/11, as your argument assumes. It says that it is necessary to deal with “international terrorists and terrorist organizations including those nations, organizations or persons who planned…..” Get the difference? Of course leftists like you and Cindy Sheehan don’t believe that there is a terrorist threat to begin with – or rather you believe that it is the United States that is the terrorist threat. Why not begin with a dose of honesty?


The Downing Street Memos are a joke because the left’s entire reading of them is based on a misunderstanding of the word “fixed.” As in the memo’s observation that the intelligence was “fixed.” In the first place this is the opinion (and only that) of one British official present. In the second place, the word fixed does not in this usage mean “rigged” as the left has preposterously concluded. It means fixed in the navigational sense (and the sense I used above). It means that by 2002 – a year before the war – the Administration had concluded that Saddam would not comply with the UN Resolutions and that an ultimatum of war would be required if he were to do so. An ultimatum of war! Not necessarily a war. Saddam could have avoided the war at any time by simply complying with the UN resolutions. What you and your friends have done is to have made the actual cause of the war – Saddam Hussein – its victim, and the United States its cause.


There are critics of the war who argue that not every alternative was tried. This is a reasonable, respectful (though in my view mistaken) position. There are critics who are concerned that the war is a distraction from the war on terror. In my view they are mistaken, but I respect them. There are critics who think the war is increasing the threat of terror or is unwinnable. I disagree with these views, but I respect them. You and Cindy Sheehan, on the other hand, are not arguing that while the United States may have had good motives, it did not have enough patience, or was strategically unwise. You are arguing that George W. Bush is a monster and that the United States is a terrorist regime and that American “rulers” (puppets of American corporations) are out to steal Iraqi oil and that the Jews are responsible for the war on terror. You are not critics of the war. You are in a different class of adversary all together: disloyal, repugnant, and a threat to our peace.


To continue reading this debate, click here.

David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.

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