Abu-Ghraib in perspective

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by Merlin1047, Jun 8, 2004.

  1. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    These days it's a little difficult to pick the truth out of the fount of hatred and propoganda spewed forth by the far left. The following is a letter from a military chaplain that lends some perspective as well as truth to the situation in Iraq in general and Abu-Ghraib in particular.

    So those rabid ultra-libs who cruise this board from time to time - go ahead - tell me how this in just another unreliable source and more right-wing lies.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


    Chaplain Unger is from MCCDC Doctrine Division. He's been in Iraq for the past four months.

    30 May 2004

    Dear Friends,

    This is my third letter from Iraq. I have been working myself into the right mood to do this. Today is the day. In my last two letters I have leaned toward being as upbeat as possible. This time will be different; today I want to talk about Memorial Day, but I will start off by giving my perspective on the Abu Ghraib prison problem.

    First off, the investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib began back in January. That is why the first court martial was ready for
    trial in May. The senior people here knew about the investigation; the rest of us didn't. By the time the media "broke" the story, the investigation was almost done and the soldiers who had committed the abuses had already been rotated home.

    Second, I (we) don't see all the news coverage that you in the states see. I do see some Fox News and CNN. Fox editorializes toward the right wing; CNN is the voice of the anti-war movement. I wonder that if CNN had been around in 1942 we might all be speaking German and Japanese. I can tell you this, everything I have heard on CNN is so biased, negative, and out-of-touch that I will never watch CNN for the rest of my life. That
    being said, when the rest of us found out about the abuses we were shocked and sickened. I think maybe more so than people back home because we are here; these are the people I see every day. The people I see every day who are going out to fix: schools, hospitals, reservoirs, power plants, and sewer systems. They do these things risking sniper fire and hidden explosives. These soldiers are not a handful of bad apples like those at

    Abu Ghraib, these soldiers number into the thousands. Now think for a second, how much have you seen about that on the news? I believe Abu Ghraib should have been reported, but when I see the fixation of the media on the actions of a few, when the courage shown in reconstruction and the restraint shown in combat by thousands of our people is never shown, I
    believe this is inexcusable. For the real story of what our people are doing here, go to www.cjtf7.com/index.htm. Click on Coalition News and then Humanitarian Efforts.

    Third, what happened on that cellblock of Abu Ghraib is what happens when leadership is not out walking around. That is true in the military or in college dorms. I haven't seen it reported in the news, but other soldiers turned in the soldiers who did this. If the dirt bags that committed those abuses had been turned loose among the troops here it would've been ugly.

    I haven't heard any comments about them coming from soldiers that didn't express a hope that they would get the maximum punishment. A few leaders need to get demoted too.

    As per the "outrage", if you were "outraged" by this, good. I was.
    However, I would like to ask Arab governments and our own media elites, "Were you just as outraged by what happened under Saddam? If so, you didn't show it."

    Here is what people need to understand: the interrogation of prisoners of war is a little tougher than what the typical thug gets by the local police. I went to Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape (SERE) School back in 1995. I am more proud of completing that course than anything I have ever done. Also, I would never do it again. After playing hide and seek with "bad guys" in California in March, we all got caught, knocked around,
    froze, went hungry, sleep deprived, threatened with worse, and then interrogated. Here's the deal: when interrogation is done correctly, people don't break so much as they leak. (The purpose of SERE is to teach you how not to leak. That is the classified part of the school.) The interrogator wants them to leak in a way so that the prisoner doesn't even know he is leaking. When someone breaks, as opposed to leaking, they usually give out a data dump of gibberish and then physiologically shuts down. A good interrogator avoids that. If you hurt them or scare them too
    badly, they quit leaking. Interrogators ask the same question about ten times, ten different ways. Disoriented people leak and they don't even know it. What most Americans think of when they think of POWs being interrogated is what they remember of our pilots in North Vietnam. The abuse our people went through in Vietnam wasn't to get intelligence; it was to exploit them for propaganda purposes. I mention this to put the term "abuse" in context. When a terrorist here in Iraq or jaywalkers back in the states report jailhouse "abuse," what does it mean? When we catch a guy red-handed restocking his weapons stock and question him, withholding his TV privileges isn't enough. He won't be happy, but neither will he be destroyed or scared for life. He will tell his buddies, "I didn't tell them anything." In fact he will have told us a lot.

    As I said, I had to work myself into a mindset to talk about this. To work around horror without out letting the horror seep into your soul is a spiritual battle. This week I worked with a National Guard soldier who had to clean up after a convoy of civilian aid workers were killed when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off on the road into Baghdad. He is a carpenter in civilian life, but this week he was out on a highway picking up arms and legs while watching out for snipers. He was cleaning up after
    monsters. Some other young Americans were put in charge of guarding monsters and then became monsters. Care of the soul is serious business.

    That is part of the reason why I became a Navy Chaplain. The other reason is the people. The folks I have known in the military are more interesting to be around than anybody else I know. This leads me to Memorial Day. Earlier this month I went to Camp Cooke at Taji. (To lend perspective, Taji is really north Baghdad; I am in west Baghdad.) The 39th Brigade (Arkansas National Guard) is stationed there. I didn't know any of them, but I wanted to see my home-state Guard here in Iraq. So I badgered
    my way into flying up there for two days. They are stationed in the old Iraqi army air defense school. Unlike downtown Baghdad, the old air defense school was turned into rubble. It is getting better, but it was like living in a junkyard.

    Their first month in Iraq was tough. These soldiers patrol the roughest part of Baghdad. While I was there, the Chaplain of the 39th told me this story: One of the old troopers who came was a 52 year-old Sgt. who had already done his 20+ years and had retired. But his son was in the 39th, and when the father found out they were coming over here, he reenlisted.

    On their first week in country, Camp Cooke was attacked by rockets and the first rocket that landed killed the father. I was born in 1958 and came of age when the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement were both in full swing. It has taken me years to put this into words, but I believe that as bad as that war was, the legacy of the anti-war movement was worse. The anti-war movement gave rise to the moral superiority of non-involvement and non-commitment. While that may have
    worked to help draft-dodgers sleep at night, it's not much of a strategy of how to go through life. Taken to its logical conclusion the message is: don't commit to your county, don't commit to your spouse, and don't commit to your kids, church, or community. Don't commit to cleaning up your own mess or any cause that demands any more from you than rhetoric.

    This was the mindset in which our country was firmly stuck. Until 9/11, some woke up. Kids came down and joined the service. To the dismay of some of their teachers, parents, and the media elites, they came down here and raised their hand in front of the flag. And they are still coming to the shock of the non-committers. The Marines have more enlisting than their two boot camps can handle.

    And we are all here together for Memorial Day 2004. Old National Guardsmen, grandfathers, and single moms, Texans and Mexicans, Surfers and Rednecks. A few weeks ago an Illinois National Guardsman, mother of three, was hit six times, saved by her body armor, but lost part of her nose. She stayed on her 50 caliber, firing on the bad guys, protecting the convoy. She said she was thinking of her kids and the guys she was with.

    Commitment is love acted out. It is sad that the non-committers missed that. They and their moral high-ground haven't been near a mass grave. The kids I see and eat with every day still want to help this country, in spite of getting shot at while doing it. That is love acted out. You either get it, or you don't.

    During my time in Iraq I won't be able to see any of the Biblical sites that are here. But a few weeks ago in Taji I got to stand on some holy ground, where a father died when he went to war just to be with his son.




    Sincerely yours,

    Steven P. Unger

    LCDR, CHC, USN

    Multi National Corps-Iraq
     
  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Even the media admits it was an aberration. It's been weeks since we can read a regular sourced story that doesn't wind this one through it. Not fair to the public, much less the good military.
     
  3. sitarro
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    sitarro Gold Member Supporting Member

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    Thanks Merlin , that was outstanding !
    Any newspaper in America would be lucky to have Chaplain Unger writing a column for them , but they don't , why? They say that "good news" doesn't sell , I say that "they" are full of shit .This is why the print and television news is dying . Cable news and the internet are kicking their asses .
    Where did you get this letter from , I would like to pass it on and I am sure I will be asked about it's origin.
     
  4. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    Just a couple minor issues with this.

    How was a court martial conducted in Iraq then?

    Anyone who has served in the military, or in corrections, knows this shit doesn't happen like this. If ONE, and I mean just ONE, corrections officer or soldier commits a crime against a prisoner the whole damn block knows about it. This goes beyond the 7 scapegoats they've got lined up right now and anyone who can't see that needs to open their eyes to the real world.

    What I find disturbing about the american populace right now is, if the media hadn't 'broken' this story then would anybody give a damn about the abuses at that prison? My guess is no. Just another 'out of sight, out of mind' subject.
     
  5. st8_o_mind
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    st8_o_mind Guest

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    Your concerns are reflected in a report by HRW scheduled for release tomorrow. I'll attach the HRW press release and link below.

    The article by the Chaplin posted by Merlin includes:


    [
    I can believe that if the so-called "dirt bags" had been let loose it would have been ugly, what they did is a stain on those serving honorably in Iraq.

    But I disagree that "A few leaders need to get demoted too." I think a few leaders need to face a court martial or be removed from office. Perhaps the Chaplin is not at liberty to accuse the chain of command of criminal actions while he is serving in uniform, but accountability needs to go well beyond scapegoating a few "bad apples" to include the chain of command.


    Below is the HRW report and link.

    Bush Policies Led to Abuse in Iraq

    (New York, June 10, 2004) — The torture and mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison was the predictable result of the Bush administration's decision to circumvent international law, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.
    The 38-page report, “The Road to Abu Ghraib,” examines how the Bush administration adopted a deliberate policy of permitting illegal interrogation techniques – and then spent two years covering up or ignoring reports of torture and other abuse by U.S.
    troops.

    “The horrors of Abu Ghraib were not simply the acts of individual soldiers,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Abu Ghraib resulted from decisions made by the Bush administration to cast the rules aside.”

    According to Human Rights Watch, administration policies created the climate for Abu Ghraib in three ways.
    First, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration decided that the war on terror permitted the United States to circumvent the restraints of international
    law. The Geneva Conventions were sidestepped as “obsolete.” Lawyers from the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and the White House Counsel’s office asserted that the
    president was not bound by U.S. and international laws prohibiting torture.

    Consequently, the United States began to create offshore, off-limits prisons such as Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and maintained other detainees in “undisclosed locations.” The Bush administration also sent terrorism suspects without legal process to countries where information was beaten out of them.
    Second, the United States employed coercive methods to inflict pain and humiliation on detainees to “soften them up” for interrogation. These methods included holding
    detainees in painful stress positions; depriving them of sleep and light for prolonged periods; exposing them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light; hooding them; and holding them naked.

    These techniques are forbidden by prohibitions against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment contained in international human rights law, the laws of armed
    conflict, and the U.S. military's own long-standing regulations.
    Third, until the publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs, Bush administration officials took at best a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to reports of detainee mistreatment.
    From the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, the U.S. government has covered up or failed to act on repeated, serious allegations of torture and abuse.

    The Bush administration has denied having a policy to torture or abuse detainees. Human Rights Watch called on President Bush to provide evidence for those denials by publicly releasing all relevant government documents.

    Human Rights Watch also urged the administration to detail the steps being taken to ensure that these abusive practices do not continue, and to prosecute vigorously all those responsible for ordering or condoning this abuse.“Everyone has seen the Abu Ghraib pictures,” said Roth. “It’s time President Bush
    provides the full picture of U.S. policy on torture.”

    To read the report, please see: http://hrw.org/reports/2004/usa0604/
     
  6. JIHADTHIS
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    JIHADTHIS Active Member

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    If you want to go by the "book" HRW wants GWB to prove he is "innocent". Kinda backwards.......:p:
     
  7. st8_o_mind
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    Attached is another perspective from Iraq. I neither disagree with everything the Chaplin wrote nor do I agree with everything written by Captain Estrada.

    Both views are worth reading. For those that wonder why the Iraqi's don't show more appreciation to the coalition forces for their liberation, the following offers one soldiers view.


    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A17426-2004Jun5?language=printer
    The Military: Losing Hearts and Minds?

    By Oscar R. Estrada

    Sunday, June 6, 2004; Page B01
    BAQUBAH, Iraq
    The General and the Colonel have told us that we are the main effort, at the forefront of helping to rebuild Iraq. But how do you rebuild when all around you destruction and violence continue? Do the facts and figures showing levels of electricity restored, the amount of drinking water available, the number of schools reconstructed or the numbers of police officers hired and trained really convince the Iraqi people that we are here to help? Are we winning their hearts and minds?
    Winning hearts and minds is my job, in a nutshell. I'm an Army Reserve civil affairs (CA) officer stationed in Baqubah, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. In Vietnam, winning hearts and minds was mostly a Special Forces task, but after that they were smart enough to get out of it, and the responsibility has since fallen into the laps of reservists like me who are trained to deal with every conceivable problem that arises when Big Army meets Little Civilian. And that's why CA soldiers are among those most often deployed overseas in the Reserve.
    That's how they get you, actually, with promises of foreign travel, foreign language training, Airborne School, Air Assault School . . . and the chance to help others. We're trained in the Army's regimented style to deal with civilians in foreign countries, required to learn a satisfactory number of acronyms, probed, pricked and tested, and then sent overseas to do good.
    And here we are, in Iraq, trying to help the Iraqi people as death threats frighten our Iraqi interpreters into quitting to protect their families, and as attacks from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) become daily and nightly occurrences.
    We're told by senior officers that most Iraqis are being influenced by "bad guys" and their anti-coalition messages. The latest acronym for these bad guys is AIF, which stands for Anti-Iraqi Forces. The fact that most AIF members are Iraqi is neatly ignored as we try to win the goodwill of the "good" Iraqis.
    One day last week we rolled into the town of Zaghniyah to win some of the local hearts and minds. In a country where most people are unemployed, we offer the townspeople $1 for every bag of trash they can collect. Our "docs" -- medics, assistants and physicians -- set up shop in the local health clinic and we try to "engage local leadership." But most of the local leaders, we are told, are not there. Those people who do speak with us do so only to catalogue their concerns -- chiefly unemployment and lack of electricity and water. It's the day after the swearing-in of Iraq's new interim government, and so I explain that their concerns have to be presented to their Governing Council, and that we can fund projects only through that council. An old man waves me off and tells me that they know the Americans control everything and will do so as long as they are here. The rest of the men nod in agreement.
    As the day wears on, every ray of sun seems to add weight to my Kevlar helmet and body armor. I am at a loss as to why our efforts aren't recognized or appreciated. But then, as I look at the children collecting trash and the main road clogged with military vehicles, as I watch one of our docs try to help a woman carrying a gaunt and sickly baby in her arms, and as I listen to an old sheik struggle with our demands that he hold American-style town meetings, I realize that Iraqis may see our help as something else. I see how paying them to collect trash may be demeaning and remote from their hopes for prosperity in a new Iraq. I see our good faith efforts to provide medical care lead to disappointment and resentment when we have neither the medicine nor the equipment to cure or heal many ailments. And I see how our efforts to introduce representative democracy can lead to frustration.
    Some experiences here have reminded me that our sacrifice for the rebuilding of Iraq is minor compared with that of the average Iraqi. A few weeks ago I was on a patrol in the town of Buhriz, near Baqubah. Our mission: to assess the city's potable water needs. Buhriz is a place where our soldiers are often shot at, so we rolled in with two Bradleys and several Humvees packed with heavily armed troops.
    On the way to the water treatment plant, we stop for a psychological operations (psyop) mission. A psyop team walks up and down the market handing out "product," in this case pro-coalition messages in a glossy Arabic-language magazine. Young people take the magazines and seem to enjoy the novelty of the event; some people bombard the team and its interpreter with questions about things the town needs and the whereabouts of detained relatives.
    But others return the fancy magazine and pull their kids away from "the occupiers." One man pulls a young boy by the arm and slaps him on the back of the head as he chastises him. I stare at the man and he at me; his hatred is palpable. We're less than five feet apart, but the true separation is far greater. I'm unable to communicate with him without the help of the one interpreter assigned to this patrol of 30 or so soldiers, and the "terp" is with the psyop team. I wish I could ask the man why he hates us, but I doubt anything useful would come of such a conversation. As we drive out of town, a little boy who looks about 3 years old spits at our vehicles as we pass his house.
    I flash back to an incident a month earlier when we were returning to our compound by way of "RPG Alley," a route of frequent attacks. A unit ahead of us had reported taking fire and we rushed to the scene. Other patrols and M1 tanks soon arrived and we sat and waited, pointing our weapons into a date palm grove to the north. A small column of Humvees moved down a dirt road toward the grove, and all hell broke loose. I never heard a shot fired from the grove, but someone did, and then everyone was firing.
    "Hey, what the hell are we shooting at?" I screamed at my buddy as I continued to squeeze off rounds from my M-16.
    "I'm not sure! By that shack. You?"
    "I'm just shooting where everybody else is shooting."
    But everybody else was shooting all over the place. Small puffs of white erupted in front of us as our own soldiers lobbed grenades at the grove but came up short; tracers from .50-caliber machine guns flew past us, and the smell of cordite filled the air. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the tumult ended. We sat in silence and listened to the crackling radios as a patrol dismounted from a couple of armored Humvees and began to search among the trees.
    "Dagger, this is Bravo 6. Do you have anything, over?"
    "Roger. We're going to need a terp. We have a guy here who's pretty upset. I think we killed his cow, over."
    "Upset how, over?"
    "He can't talk; I think he's in shock. He looks scared, over."
    "He should be scared. He's the enemy."
    "Uhm, ahh, Roger , 6 . . . he's not armed and looks like a farmer or something."
    "He was in the grove that we took fire from; he's a [expletive] bad guy!"
    "Roger."
    From my perch in the Humvee, I listened as the patrol found a suspicious bag hanging from a tree and called in an explosive ordnance disposal unit to examine it. On the other side of the road, in the distance, a horse-drawn cart crept on its way from some unknown village to the piece of road we now controlled. I watched it grow larger until the old man on the cart came face to face with the armed soldier waving him off. He slowly turned the cart around and headed back to where he had come from. I wondered where he was going, whether it was important and how much effort he'd put into the trip. I wondered if we had any chance of winning either his heart or his mind.
    As we headed back to our compound, I couldn't stop thinking about the man in the grove, frozen in shock at the sight of his dead livestock. Did his family depend on that cow for its survival? Had he seen his world fall apart? Had we lost both his heart and his mind?
    Stop thinking about this, I tell myself as our imposing convoy comes to a stop in front of the water treatment plant that serves Buhriz -- it's time, once again, to go about my job of winning those hearts and minds. I spend the next half-hour asking people questions and taking notes that I'll later summarize in a neat and orderly report sprinkled with just the right number of Army acronyms, grid coordinates and date-time groups. I'll detail the gallons-per-day requirements and the inoperable pump and the need for high-capacity filters and all the other bits of information that will help someone somewhere request the thousands of dollars it will take to repair the plant. My work is done, and I feel confident I've done it well. I feel as if I've actually accomplished something worthwhile today.
    And then I remember: Security, you forgot to ask about security! So I do, and the treatment plant manager tells me that his biggest threat is coalition soldiers, who shoot up the compound whenever the nearby MP station and government building are attacked. He shows me the bullet holes and asks, "Why?" I give the standard response: We have to defend ourselves, and these problems are caused by the insurgents. And I think the people listening are buying it when the plant's caretaker tugs at my elbow, urging me to come see his house on the corner of the plant grounds. We're running late, but I follow the man before the patrol leader can say no.
    An old man, the caretaker's father , comes out of the house and gestures for me to come inside. It's a one-level, three-room concrete building, clean but humble. The old man's grandchildren, his daughter-in-law and his wife stare up at me as he leads me by the arm and points out the bullet holes on the side of the house, the shattered windows and the bullet-riddled living room. He's speaking to me in Arabic. I can't understand a word he's saying, and yet I understand it all. I see the anguish in his face as his eyes start to tear up, I see the sadness as he points to old photographs of safer days under Saddam Hussein. I see the shame as he mimics how our soldiers hit him when he was detained, and I see the disappointment as he asks me "Why?" and I stare at him at a loss for words.
    "Why?" I don't even remember what I told him, but I think I apologized. The patrol leader was telling me it was time to go. Everyone, even the old man's family, seemed in a hurry to end the encounter. So we quickly walked out, hoping to somehow outpace the wave of shame that threatened to knock us over.
    Only I can't outrun it. I stay up that night thinking of the old man and the young soldiers who fired into the darkness in response to bullets and mortars and RPGs hurled at them from somewhere "out there." I think of the man with the dead cow and of the rush of adrenaline I felt firing from the back of that Humvee at the perceived threat. I think of the old man on the cart, the children who burst into tears when we point our weapons into their cars (just in case), and the countless numbers of people whose vehicles we sideswipe as we try to use speed to survive the IEDs that await us each morning. I think of my fellow soldiers and the reality of being attacked and feeling threatened, and it all makes sense -- the need to smash their cars and shoot their cows and point our weapons at them and detain them without concern for notifying their families. But how would I feel in their shoes? Would I be able to offer my own heart and mind?

    Oscar Estrada who is an Army Reserve captain from Arlington, serving as a civil affairs team leader in Iraq.
     
  8. st8_o_mind
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    "As per the "outrage", if you were "outraged" by this, good. I was. However, I would like to ask Arab governments and our own media elites, "Were you just as outraged by what happened under Saddam? If so, you didn't show it."

    Neither did Rumsfeld and his neo-con buddies.

    The Reagan and first Bush administrations eagerly supplied Saddam with arms while he was using chemical weapons on the Kurds. They twice sent Donald Rumsfeld to court Saddam, in 1983 and 1984, when the dictator was in the glorious prime of his monsterhood.
     
  9. Merlin1047
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    Merlin1047 Senior Member

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    Was sent to me e-mail. I checked, but I've already flushed it. Sorry, can't help.
     
  10. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    Look forward to rewarding this in the AM.
    I, too, believe it has been blown out of proportion a bit.
    I say a bit, because I still take issue with the leadership here.
    Example: Soldier(forget his rank) RESPONSIBLE for interogations in Abu had NO training in interogation of prisoners.

    Huh?
     

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