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January 18, 2006
60 Minutes With Murtha and MeBy Greyhawk
Hey come on in! Grab a beer, pull up a chair - you're right on time to watch the 60 Minutes Murtha interview with me.
What? You'd rather go to the Dentist? Fine, click here.
Okay, extra chair now. Sit down, show's on:
tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick tick...
MIKE WALLACE, co-host: A vast majority of American troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. Who says so? Congressman John Murtha. And tonight he'll explain his plan to make that happen. The 73-year-old Democrat from Pennsylvania is a much decorated war hero from Vietnam and Korea, the heavyweight in military matters in the Congress who stunned the Bush White House last November by calling for the withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.
Representative JOHN MURTHA: Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against US forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence. My plan calls for immediate redeployment of US troops consistent with the safety of US forces. (Footage of Murtha and Wallace)
Me: The primary target? According to the Government of Iraq, over 7,000 Iraqis were killed in 2005 by "insurgents". Are you sure we are the "primary target"?
Representative JOHN MURTHA: ?????
WALLACE: And now he told us the withdrawal is going to happen sooner than we think.
Rep. MURTHA: I think the vast majority will be out by the end of the year. And I'm hopeful they will be out sooner than that.
WALLACE: Vast majority by the end of?
Rep. MURTHA: I--I think so. (Footage of war protesters)
Me: Well, this is interesting. Before you called for a drawdown the administration said that if the commanders in Iraq determine drawdown is feasible then it will happen. Sounds like everybody is talking drawdown. However, in a recent Town Hall meeting you stated that what concerned you was a draw down "which makes it look like there's a victory". That seems to be the main difference in your approaches. Any comment?
WALLACE: And here's how he says it will happen. Murtha told us that mounting pressure from constituents in this election year will force the Congress to pass his withdrawal plans, or something like it, to bring the troops home.
Are you going to press for a new debate on Iraq in this session of Congress?
Rep. MURTHA: I think you'll see not only debate, I think you'll see some changes.
Me: What about the vote on your demands in November - it was something like 403 to 3...
WALLACE: And is the Congress going to insist upon a major withdrawal from Iraq before Election Day in November?
Rep. MURTHA: Sure. You're going to see a plan for withdrawal.
WALLACE: How do you get that plan through the Congress and impose a withdrawal plan on President Bush?
Rep. MURTHA: I think the political people who give him advice will say to him, `You don't want a Democratic Congress, you want to keep the Republican majority. And the only way you're going to keep it is by reducing substantially the--the troops in Iraq.' (Footage of President George W. Bush)
Me: What about the rarely mentioned House vote last summer, it passed 291-137, that declared it was the sense of Congress that early withdrawal from Iraq should be opposed? You lost votes between then and November... including yours. You voted against this one - back before you "stunned the Bush administration".
WALLACE: Apparently, the president hasn't gotten that message yet. This past week, here's what he told a veterans group about decisions to withdraw troops from Iraq:
President GEORGE W. BUSH: All my decisions will be based on conditions on the ground, not artificial timetables set by Washington politicians. (Footage of a burning car in Iraq; US troops in Iraq)
WALLACE: But it's those conditions on the ground, most Iraqis wanting the US occupation to end, and insurgents killing or maiming Americans that convinced the congressman that it's now time to get our troops out.
Rep. MURTHA: Troops I talk to, and they say to me, `In the daytime they wave at us, at nighttime they throw hand grenades.'
Me: Does that translate into wanting out? Troops I talk to don't want to leave before the job is done.
WALLACE: Who are these insurgents?
Rep. MURTHA: The insurgents are Iraqis. Ninety-three percent of the--the insurgents are Iraqis. A very small percentage of foreign fighters. The Iraqis know exactly who's--who's doing the fighting, they just won't tell us. And--and they'll tell other Iraqis. Once we're out of there, they'll eliminate them. (Footage of President Bush; US troops in Iraq; burning car; Iraqis throwing debris)
Me: What methods will they use to "eliminate" them?
Rep. MURTHA: They take Iraq, and then they talk about terrorism. We're diverting ourself away from the war--the war on terrorism when we're fighting an insurgency in Iraq. (Footage of President and Laura Bush; President Bush giving speech)
Me: Hold on; which is it - the insurgents are mainly targeting us, or we're just caught in the cross fire of an Iraqi Civil War? Make the call.
WALLACE: Murtha's criticism prompted the president to launch a series of speeches to regain public support.
He says you're wrong. Let me show you what he said just two days after your speech back on November 17th.
Pres. BUSH: The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. If they're not stopped, the terrorists will be able to advance their agenda to develop weapons of mass destruction, to de--destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, and to break our will and blackmail our government into isolation. I'm going to make you this commitment: this is not going to happen on my watch.
Rep. MURTHA: He's trying to fight this war with rhetoric. And Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is. So when he says we're fighting terrorism over there, that--that is--we're--we're inciting terrorism over there. We're encouraging terrorism, we 're destabilizing the area over there by being over there, because we're the targets. He said before, there's weapons of mass destruction, he said there is an al-Qaeda connection. There's--many, many things he said turn out not to be true. So why would I believe him when he says the things that he just made that statement? (Footage of President Bush)
Me: "And Iraq is not where the center of terrorism is" - okay, where is that center? You ask him, Mike - he's ignoring me. He served that one right up for a hard-nosed journalist like you - pounce!
WALLACE: Murtha feels that, all along, the White House has been long on spin, short on truth.
Me: Oh well...
Rep. MURTHA: They need to be honest with the public. They need to admit they made mistakes.
WALLACE: Who's "they"?
Me: Yeah! Pin him down! Make him squirm! (/sarcasm)
Rep. MURTHA: The--the administration needs to be honest with the public.
WALLACE: Who's "they"?
Me: Nothing gets by you Mike! Make him give the "money quote". Go, go, go!
Rep. MURTHA: The adm--the president himself needs to be honest with the public. He's getting bad information from somebody. And I've been arguing with him now for several months, and I would hope he's become less isolated.
Me: Speaking of bad information, are we the main target or are we just caught in a civil war?
WALLACE: Face-to-face, have you argued with him?
Rep. MURTHA: I have not talked to him face-to-face.
WALLACE: How come?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, he hasn't invited me to talk to him.
Me: Well, obviously he hasn't got the confrontational skills of ol' Mike Wallace here!
WALLACE: What do you think of President Bush?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, he's isolated, most isolated president that--that I have served with. (Photo of Murtha taking an oath; Murtha by helicopter; Murtha with constituents)
Me: How about a photo of Murtha with Code Pink?
WALLACE: Murtha has served with seven presidents, starting with Richard Nixon. He's been in Congress for 32 years representing Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Most of his constituents backed the war, but the congressman is king here, so his stand has led a shift in some local opinion about Iraq. Murtha, who has two Purple Hearts, told us that if George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had been in combat themselves, they would have been more reluctant to send young Americans into battle.
Murtha's ties to his brother's lobbying firm are once again coming under scrutiny. Some 10 companies with ties to KSA Consulting, a lobbying firm where Murtha's brother Robert is a senior partner, got $20.8 million in defense contracts. The Los Angeles Times in June reported that the funding was passed as part of the Pentagon's overall $417 billion spending bill.and...
Roll Call recently reported Murtha leaning on Navy officials to transfer the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard to San Francisco on land whose rights were at one time held by a company whose top execs included Laurence Pelosi, a relative of Nancy Pelosi's.And Pelosi supported your cut and run call. But it's all good...
Rep. MURTHA: War is a nasty business. It sears the soul. The--there--the shadow of friends killed, the shadow of--of killing people lives with you the rest of your life. So there's--there's no--there's no experience like being in combat. (Footage of American troops; Iraqis protesting)
Me: How about footage of Code Pink protesting outside Walter Reed?
WALLACE: Murtha wants all the troops home within six months, except for a quick reaction force of about 20,000 who would be based nearby in Kuwait. But he admits that when the Americans leave, the civil war in Iraq will intensify.
Me: And what will that "Quick Reaction Force" do during that intensification?
Rep. MURTHA: When we leave, it's going to continue, and somebody will prevail, just like in our civil war in the United States. Somebody is going to prevail. It's up to them. If they want democracy, they've got to fight for that democracy. (Footage of American troops)
Me: Like the French, in World War II!
WALLACE: But President Bush believes US troops can stop the civil war, and he paints John Murtha as a defeatist.
Me: That might be because Murtha declared us defeated.
Pres. BUSH: Now, there are only two options before our country, victory or defeat. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor. And I will not allow it.
Rep. MURTHA: Victory vs. defeat is not a policy at all. What is the definition of victory? There's two policies. The one is you stay with an open-ended policy and Iraqis determine when we leave. And the other policy is my recommendation, where we redeploy as quickly as possible. (Footage of Joe Biden, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton)
Me: “Redeploy as quickly as possible” – heh. Good one. Of course, there's also the President's policy, where US commanders on the ground determine our timetable. But actually, you declared us defeated and said you feared a "withdrawal that made it look like victory"...
WALLACE: I asked Murtha why his policy has not been endorsed by prominent Democrats including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Joe Biden.
Rep. MURTHA: Because they're afraid, they're afraid to--they don't understand it. They think there's a safe way to work their way through this. And they're afraid to get out there and--and make a statement that--that later on might come back to haunt them. (Footage of Murtha)
Me: Last November Newsweek revealed you are actually playing a scripted role for the Party so others wouldn't have to. Here, I'll read it:
Which was precisely what the Democratic leadership wanted Murtha to do. A close ally, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, was anxious to open a second axis of attack on Iraq—and was aware of his growing antagonism toward the war. The two met and agreed that he would make his case in private to the party conference. After that, on his own, he would introduce a resolution calling for withdrawal of troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." Pelosi and the other liberals would keep their distance, while their own Marine charged up the Hill. Framed by long rows of American flags at a press conference, he denounced the Iraq war as a "flawed policy wrapped in an illusion."Now a few years ago you urged President Clinton to withdraw US troops from Somalia, declaring US troops demoralized and defeated. Some might argue this was a political ploy to give a Democratic President military credibility - "cover" so he could cut and run. They could further argue that the same thing applies now - you embarrass a Republican President who doesn't want to cut and run - once again, your Party "scores". Others might insist you're sincere, actually in favor of running from both conflicts. But if so, by what measure are you a "hawk"?
WALLACE: But Murtha's stand could come back to haunt him if President Bush turns out to be right about Iraq.
Me: Yeah, no doubt the media big guns like you won't let him forget it. (/sarcasm - no, really, this time I mean it.)
WALLACE: You left college to fight in the Korean War.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah.
WALLACE: You stayed in the Marines for 37 years.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah.
Me: Thank you for helping make the world in which I speak freely. I'm an Iraq war vet, by the way. Those who attack your military service are despicable. In light of your current actions it's like arguing whether a child molestor bought or stole the candy he used as bait.
WALLACE: Last week, you said you would not have enlisted to fight in Iraq and you wouldn't encourage others to enlist.
Rep. MURTHA: Yeah. That's because I disagree with the policy. I mean, I--I--when I was in college, I remember vividly, I stood in my--my--my dormitory room and I looked down, it was in the wintertime, and I said, `I can't stay here. I got--this is not right for me to be here. We're fighting communism and--and I ought to be in the military.' And I remember my mother cried, she was upset, my goodness, I left college. And after that, three of my brothers joined the Marine Corps. My dad and three of his brothers served in World War II, so, you know, we know what it's all about.
Me: But would you join back then if you had it all to over again? I would. Some things like Nazism, Communism, Slavery... you just have to take a stand. Of course, no doubt some veterans of that war against Fascism probably didn't support your war against Communism.
So anyway, if Iraq isn't the current center of terrorism, where is...?
WALLACE: General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he said your comments are damaging recruiting and hurting the troops. Take a look.
General PETER PACE: It's damaging to morale of the troops who are deployed and it's damaging to the morale of the families who believe in what they are doing to--to serve this country.
Rep. MURTHA: Well, you know, he's frustrated, he's frustrated because he can't meet the goals. Here's what hurts recruitment: they're rotating four and five times, they have no clear mission. It's not what I say that hurts morale, this is long before I said anything that their recruiting had problems. One of the problems they have with enlistment is because they continually say how well things are going, and the troops on the ground know better. (Footage of Murtha)
Me: Okay, hold up. The troops on the ground are reenlisting in huge numbers - if they know better, why are they doing that? And what's that got to do with enlistments? Are you implying the troops are discouraging others from enlisting - while re-enlisting in record numbers? And actually, recruiting goals have been met for the last six months too.
And on that topic - here are some stats on Guard re-enlistment and rotation. Most volunteer for additional tours:
Nationally, of the nearly 500,000 Guard and reservists deployed since September 2001, only about 76,600 have been called up twice - and all but 2,200 of them volunteered for a second tour, according to the Pentagon.Back to you, Mike.
WALLACE: To prove his point, he read us a letter he had received from a soldier in Iraq.
Rep. MURTHA: (Reading) "I am a US soldier currently stationed in Tel Afar. It's frustrating to me that many other soldiers to be fighting a war on an idea with no goal, no end in sight. Iraq as a country is never going to stand on its own until we leave and give them a chance to do so. Our presence is no longer beneficial to anyone." Now, this is an ordinary soldier that's saying this. (Footage of US troops carrying a wounded individual)
Me: Wow - I'll bet a lot more of the ordinary soldiers would say the same thing too. One thing we know for sure is Soldiers aren't afraid to speak up. Here's one that told you to your face about his fellow Guard members volunteering for Iraq after an Afghanistan tour. You ignored him, of course.
Now, about those re-enlistment rates...
You know, in talking to these various people who've lost legs and arms and traumatic brain injury and so forth, I was astonished. They are not taking any punches at the people who sent them there.
Rep. MURTHA: Now, obviously the troops themselves have to believe in what they're doing.
Me: Woah - rewind. Because we just went from a letter from a soldier in Iraq agreeing with you about "Our presence is no longer beneficial to anyone." to dismissing the wounded troops by saying "obviously the troops themselves have to believe in what they're doing." Which is it? I mean, I haven't seen an about face that swift since... well, since you claimed we were the main target of insurgents then stated we were just caught in the crossfire of a civil war.
Me: Don't let him off that hook Mike!
WALLACE: Why do the generals who speak publicly all say that the US is on the right track in Iraq, and that you, in effect, are off your rocker?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, they don't say that to me privately, I will tell you that. You know, they're going to be fired if they speak out. (Footage of letter)
Me: Which General said he was in effect off his rocker?
Me: Do you know how much a General's pension is - plus the book deal? Come on, congressman - name one General that whispers truth in your ear. No way the administration could fire him after that - he'd be bullet proof. Or are you implying they're all simpering cowards, afraid to say what they think?
WALLACE: Murtha told us that 80 percent of his mail has been positive. But he also got this: "Congratulations, you are now an honorary member of al-Qaeda. Your words have emboldened the enemy and endangered our troops on the ground. You have become the new Hanoi Jane." But Murtha has a thick hide.
Rep. MURTHA: When I don't agree with the policy, I have to speak out.
Me: unlike those cowardly Generals who won't speak out, and those soldiers who have to support the war except that one who sent you a letter...
WALLACE: Well, I've got to speak out about you. A year ago, you argued against what you're arguing for now. Let me quote; "A premature withdrawal of our troops based on a political timetable could rapidly devolve into a civil war which would leave America's foreign policy in disarray as countries question not only America's judgment, but also its perseverance." Were you wrong a year ago?
Rep. MURTHA: I was wrong a year ago. And--and--and times have changed since that--since that statement. (Footage of American troops; Zawahiri)
Me: That reminds me. When you first launched your new improved "anti-war" message you claimed that over 15,000 troops had been seriously wounded in Iraq. That was definitely "wrong", as I pointed out here. Then in your Town Hall meeting you changed your claim to reflect the actual number - about half that 15k. I know you're a big time hawk on the armed services committee and all, but did you find out the real number of wounded by reading here?
While we're on that topic, your brother has made money on defense contracts.
One of the companies benefiting from the contracts got $1.7 million, three times its 2004 sales. Other firms got contracts totaling more than half of their sales in 2004. Murtha received $68,000 in campaign contributions during the 2003 cycle from defense contractors.Your brother responded:
"Let's be honest: The name certainly creates some kind of impression, but I can't help that. We're not doing anything improper or underhanded. I'm entitled to make a living, like the next guy."Was he wrong to say that?
We're you wrong to take that money too?
WALLACE: But the change that Murtha wants, pulling all US troops out, could embolden the terrorists--when President Bush announced he'd withdraw just 20,000 troops after Iraq's recent election, al-Qaeda claimed victory.
Al-Qaeda's number two, Zawahiri, in a video message this month he said, "America's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq proved the victory of Islam in Iraq."
Rep. MURTHA: I think they are trying to incite this administration to stay. I think they want us there. Because they--they--we have united the Iraqis against us. We're spending all this money and diverting our resources away from the war on terrorism because we're involved in a civil war in Iraq.
Me: Okay, that's two "civil wars" versus just one "we are the primary target". At least you haven't called us the enemy - tonight.
WALLACE: Zawahiri also says al-Qaeda is growing and increasing in strength.
Rep. MURTHA: If it is increasing in strength, I think it's because it actually helps these terrorists to be in Iraq because it unites the--the world against us.
Me: Okay, let's clarify that, because I'm hoping I got that wrong. The world is taking the side of the terrorists - and you've made the distinction between terrorists and insurgents quite clearly. Is that really what you meant?
While I'm on the topic, you recently said the suicide attacks in Jordan were America's fault. Do you stand by that claim, or were you wrong then? And do you think the Jordanians think that way? Are they part of the "world turning against us"?
WALLACE: Hasn't the occupation done a lot of good in Iraq? Saddam's dictatorial reign over, democracy has begun, schools and factories are reopening, the economy is coming back.
Rep. MURTHA: That election, of course, is being trumpeted as being so important to democracy. When I came back from Vietnam in 1967, they had an election. It was supposed to set the state, it was supposed to legitimize the government, if you remember. And we lost 38,000 people after that. Now, I don't say that this has the same intensity and that we're going to lose 38,000 people. But I'm just saying that there's a lot more things have to be done if you're going to have a democratic government.
Me: The question was yes or no - reread it if you'd like. You're answer was no? And by the way, there were three elections in Iraq in which people risked death to vote, and you just dismissed them all...
Rep. MURTHA: Thirteen from my congressional district.
Me: Name one.
WALLACE: Do their families feel that you are--this is a tough one--do their families feel that you are dishonoring their memory by speaking out against the war that they gave their lives to?
Rep. MURTHA: Well, I hope they understand it's my job, my responsibility to speak out when I disagree with the policy of the president of the United States. All of us want this president to succeed. But you just can't sit back and allow this war to continue on without a clear exit strategy. That's the reason I'm so strong about this. I feel--I feel a mission here with my experience that--that I have to help the president find a way out of this thing.
Me: You hope they understand? Have you met with none of them? George Bush even met with the Sheehan family once - but you have no idea how those in your district feel? Or do you know exactly how they feel, you son of a...
Mrs G: Turn the TV off.
Posted by Greyhawk / January 18, 2006 6:39 PM | Permalink
TITLE: I wish, I wish URL: http://homefrontsix.blogspot.com/2006/01/i-wish-i-wish.html IP: 126.96.36.199 BLOG NAME: HomefrontSix DATE: 01/19/2006 03:04:01 AM Read More
Great article regarding the 60 Minutes piece on John Murtha, from Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette. I think Greyhawk should have Mike Wallace's job. But then again, I think just about anyone would be better than Mike Wallace. Read More
One of the more fascinating developments over the past few years is the Democrats' reliance on veterans to do their dirty work of pushing defeatism. John Kerry made a career out of this, but the ghosts of his past came Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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