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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview on Fox News Sunday

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 02, 2003 9:00 AM EDT

Snow:  Today on Fox News Sunday, a new deadly attack on American soldiers in Iraq.  That's next.

 

            Terrorists in Iraq celebrate Ramadan with a new round of killings, prompting fresh catcalls from President Bush's opponents at home.  We'll get a War on Terror update from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, plus the heat-seeking opinions of Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol, and Juan Williams.  This is the November 2nd edition of Fox News Sunday.

 

            Good morning from Fox News in Washington.  We'll talk with Secretary Rumsfeld in a moment but first the latest from Iraq.  A U.S. military Chinook helicopter was shot down this morning near Fallujah west of Baghdad, killing at least 15 soldiers and injuring more than 20 others.  The troops were making their way to the Baghdad airport for what they hoped would be a journey home for leave.  Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan has more from Baghdad.  Steve?

 

            Steve Harrigan:  Tony, some of the details and the numbers about this incident have been changing throughout the morning but we know now is that there were two Chinook helicopters flying from that hotbed city of Fallujah on their way to Baghdad.  Many of the soldiers on board the Chinook were headed for some R&R – at least 35 soldiers on board the Chinook that went down.  The cause of the crash – not clear at this point according to U.S. military officials, but eyewitnesses on the ground say that it was shot out of the air; that two projectiles were launched from a field of date trees.  Someone was hidden in those date trees, shot the Chinook helicopter down.  It did crash in farmland, went on fire.  All those wounded were mini-vacced out, so they are in safe hands right now, but 15 killed, 21 wounded in the single deadliest attack since the end of major combat operations.  Tony, back to you.

 

            Snow:  Steve Harrigan, thank you very much.  Now joining us to discuss the events this morning, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  Secretary Rumsfeld, there is some question about the nature of the opposition in Iraq.  President Bush has said recent attacks strike him as signs of desperation.  However, Wesley Clark, who used to be a general and now is a presidential candidate had this to say the other day when it came to the topic.  He said, "Maybe it's desperation, maybe it isn't.  What if it isn't?  What if it's an expression of strength and resolve and conviction?"

 

            Doesn't today strike you as an act of resolve rather than desperation?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, I wouldn't put it that way, Tony.  It seems to me -- first of all, one has to say that this is a tragic day for those young men and women who are serving our country so wonderfully, and my prayers and sympathy go to the families and loved ones of those that were killed and wounded. 

 

            What it was, is a bad day, a bad day, a tragic day for those people.  In a war there are going to be days like that, and it is necessary that we recognize that.  It seems to me that trying to go to the motivation of this attack is relatively easy.  We know why they're doing it.  There are criminals in that country who will do things for money.  There are foreign terrorists in that country, like the Ansar al-Islam, who have come back in from Iran and are trying to kill people, and there are the remnants of the Baathist regime, and they want to take that country back, and they're not going to.  They're not going to come close to taking that country back.  And they are the ones who want to have the kind of a dictatorship that Saddam Hussein had, that is shown on the film clips on this station of people cutting off fingers, cutting off hands, cutting off heads, throwing them off the tops of buildings, cutting off tongues -- that is what those people want.  I wouldn't call that resolve.

 

            Snow:  Secretary, that's understood, but there are also reports today that people were dancing -- in fact, there was a report of one young man dancing around and laughing with an American soldier's helmet on his head.  It's not as if these people are working entirely in isolation.  As a matter of fact, a place like Fallujah, there is a fair number of people who are resisting the United States.  The question many Americans have today is how do you and how do our forces propose going after those insurgent forces?  Is there a counter-insurgency strategy that will reduce or prevent future recurrences of this sort of attack?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Tony, sighting a single young person dancing around cheering when something adverse happens is a fact, I am sure that there was somebody doing that.  It's also a fact that there are 20 million, 23 million people in that country who have been liberated, and the overwhelming majority are very much in support of the coalition.  They want Saddam Hussein gone.

 

            Snow:  Nobody is quibbling with that.  The problem is there are pockets of resistance that are making things difficult for the United States, and in some place they are concentrated -- Fallujah, Tikrit -- those are all hotbeds.

 

            Rumsfeld:  The area from Baghdad and North are hotbeds of opposition, and the area farther north is not and farther south is not, and the overwhelming majority is not.

 

            Snow:  But we are talking on a day when more American servicemen have died than on any day since the end of combat in April, and a lot of Americans are concerned again about the tactics we're going after.  General Ricardo Sanchez not long ago said that he thought the enemy within Iraq was getting better organized and more sophisticated.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think that's fair.

 

            Snow:  So it is getting better organized and more sophisticated.  So the question then is what is the counter tactic that the United States uses to break them up?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Sanchez also explained that, and what they are doing is are several things.  First of all, the coalition forces are out attacking these remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, and they are finding them, and they are capturing them, and they are killing them.  There are additional people being killed and captured every single day in that country, and their numbers are going down.

 

            Second, what's happening is, in the last analysis, the Iraqi people are going to defeat the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.  We now have over 100,000 Iraqis who were serving in the army -- the police, the site protection, the civil defense, the border patrols.  It's gone from zero up to 100,000.  Our plan is to take it in excess 200,000 by next year, and it will be Iraqis that will be out killing and capturing the remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, as they are today.  There have been 85 of these Iraqis killed already who are involved in these security forces.

 

            Snow:  Help us out, though, with the situation right now -- is the security situation deteriorating?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Any time you have an attack -- a successful attack on a helicopter, and you have to say it is a tragic day for those people who were killed and wounded.  We know that.  But there are going to be days like that.  There are going to be days where large numbers of people, as yesterday, are killed.  That's what war is about. 

 

            Is it deteriorating in general?  No, it's not.

 

            Snow:  There are reports --

 

            Rumsfeld:  The number of incidents have gone up in the last three or four weeks, that's for sure.

 

            Snow:  There are reports that a number of businesses that have gone in are now thinking about getting out because insurance and security is getting too expensive.  Are they wrong to do so?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Look, first of all, we talk about Iraq as though it's uniform across the country.  It isn't at all.  The situation in the North and the South and the West is really relatively calm and peaceful.  The security situation is not serious in those areas.  It is serious in Baghdad, and it is serious north of Baghdad, and people have to make their own judgments about that.  But as the total number of Iraqi security forces increase, we're going to see the number of Iraqis who are criminals, who are terrorists, who are Ansar al-Islam or Baathists captured and killed -- that number is going to go up, and this is going to be one.

 

            Snow:  You wrote a memo on the 16th of October.  One of the things you worried about was the recruiting.  You asked whether they were able to recruit and train terrorists more rapidly than we were able to dispose of them.  Where does that stand?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Worldwide, I was referring to -- not "them" meaning Iraqis or anything.  It's a fair question.  If you think about it, there are little places around the world where radical extremist clerics are teaching young men and women to become suicide bombers and to go out and kill innocent men, women, and children, and to do the kinds of things you saw Saddam Hussein's people doing -- cutting off hands and fingers.

 

            Our goal has to be to continue doing what we're doing on the global war on terror, and that is going well.  We are capturing and killing a lot of terrorists.  But we also have to think about the number of new ones that are being created, it seems to me, and the memo I wrote raised that question -- how might we do that?  How do we win that battle of ideas?  And it's not going to be so much the United States as it is people from other countries who see their religion hijacked and taken away from them.

 

            Snow:  Within Iraq, what is the situation in terms of terrorists?  Are we taking out or imprisoning more of them than they are killing of our people?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, my goodness, yes.  We are capturing or killed vastly more than are being killed of ours.

 

            Snow:  It's an interesting thing, because I get e-mails all the time, and people say we hear about our death counts; we never hear about theirs.  Why?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, we don't do body counts on other people, and we have certain rules on people we capture in terms of exposing them to the public -- Geneva Conventions, and the like.  On any given day, the dozens of terrorists or criminals or Baathists, remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, are being captured or killed all across that country.

 

            Snow:  You have been accused by some people of having no plan when it comes to Iraq.  I want to get your response.

 

            Rumsfeld:  I've heard that.  I think there was some fellow who was kind of a disappointed job office holder, who wanted the job of running Iraq and didn't get it.  We've had a plan.  My goodness, the "Wall Street Journal" had a big expose showing how we were working with the World Food Organization well before the war ever started, to avoid a humanitarian crisis, and they didn't want the world to know it, because they might look complicit in it.  How do you go from zero to 100,000 Iraq security folks who have trained to be in the army, the police, the border patrol, the site protection, the civil defense, if you don't have a plan. 

 

            Our plan has produced a Central Bank in a matter of months.  It took years in other countries -- in Germany or Japan or Bosnia or Kosovo.  We have a new currency in circulation; we have a governing council appointed; they have appointed ministers.  All of these things have happened in two, three, four, five months.  Now, that doesn't just happen.  We've got wonderful people, military and civilian, out there doing a terrific job of helping to restore the essential services in that country; helping to train the security force to take over security responsibilities.  Because it's the Iraqi people who are going to have win this battle.

 

            Snow:  You keep saying that.  Is it not also the case that the Iraqi people, like anybody under occupation, don't like being occupied, and they want us out sooner rather than later?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Who knows --

 

            Snow:  Provided you've got security and all the other [inaudible]?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I've seen polls that suggest that they're worried we'd leave too soon -- a large fraction.  But I agree with you, foreign troops in a country are unnatural, and the goal is not to keep them there.  The goal is to keep them there only as long as they are needed and not one day longer, and that's why we're putting so much effort, and why our plans have focused on training Iraqis to take over that security responsibility.

 

            Snow:  The "New York Times" is reporting that there are a number of people within the Pentagon and the military establishment who now want to remobilize so members of Saddam Hussein's military -- perhaps not even for military purposes but for police purposes.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, we do, no question.  In fact, they demobilized themselves -- the Iraq Army.  They fought pretty well as our forces came up from the South, but once we got to Baghdad, a lot of those forces just kind of dis-banned and left.  We've been recruiting them for six months.  We've been putting them in the police force; we've been putting them in the border patrol and the site protection and in the army, and that's been going on for months.  There is nothing new with that.

 

            Snow:  Do you not worry that some of the people who are going to come in will, in fact, be Saddam loyalists, who are Baathists?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We do.

 

            Snow:  And how do you protect against that?  Do you let the Iraqis take care of that as well?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, we vet them, we check them against database -- a number of databases, and if they pass the first vetting, we go ahead and bring them in and train them.  What happens, however, is that there is a public vetting.  Once people see people in the police and so forth, they come around and say, "Look, you've got the wrong fellow there.  That person was one of the bad guys."  In which case, we look into that and take action.  So there is a technical vetting, and then there is a public vetting that takes place, but it is something one has to worry about.

 

            On the other hand, let's face it, all the people who serve in Saddam Hussein's army -- a lot of them were conscript; they didn't want to be there; they had to be there or they'd get killed for not being there.  So they're not bad people.

 

            Snow:  Is Saddam or some of his lieutenants still actively engaged in coordinating resistance against the United States, and is it true that there are a series of regional commands -- at least that we believe -- that are headed up by former officers in Saddam's military, trying to coordinate the attacks on Americans throughout Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It's possible.  It is of course, for them, because we're putting so much pressure on them, and we keep plucking them up.  We've got something like -- killed or captured -- 42 out of the top 55, which isn't bad.

 

            Snow:  Yeah, but the top one is the most important.

 

            Rumsfeld:  True, and we have not got Saddam Hussein yet.  We will get him, and I suspect he is still in the country, and I suspect he is having a great deal of difficulty operating, and we'll eventually find him.

 

            Snow:  Do you find that former Saddam loyalists are giving our forces intelligence about the whereabouts of key members of the Baathist party?  Are we getting that kind of intelligence even now?

 

            Rumsfeld:  How else would we have found, captured, or killed 42 out of the top 55?  It's not a treasure hunt.  You just don't run around looking under every rock for these folks.  Much of that information came from people who we captured or killed or others who are against the former regime and want to see them defeated.

 

            Snow:  Do we have any idea how many foreign fighters are actually in Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  We know we've collected -- we have prisoners of somewhere between 200 and 300.  We know we've killed a lot.  How many we haven't found is hard to know, and I guess it's also a question of what do you mean by "foreign fighters?"  A lot of these folks have three or four passports.  There is an organization called Ansar el-Islam, which was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was there.  It was functioning, and Saddam Hussein knew all about it, and they then went into Iran, when we invaded the country, and they are now back in.  So they are foreign in the sense that they just came back in from Iran, and we're now in the process of finding them and capturing or killing them.

 

            Snow:  How active is Iran in trying to destabilize our efforts?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh -- active.

 

            Snow:  Muntada al Sadar -- is he on the Iranian payroll?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I'm not going to discuss him.

 

            Snow:  Why not?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't have perfect intelligence of visibility and trying to climb in and speculate about a person's motives is hard for me.

 

            Snow:  Okay, just by way of explanation, Muntada al Sadar is a Shia clerk who claims he is setting up a parallel government and is opposed to the United States. 

 

            We're going to take a quick break.  We will continue our interview with Secretary Rumsfeld in a couple of minutes.  Stay right here.

 

            Snow:  Now we're back with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.  Brit?

 

            Hume:  Mr. Secretary, General Wesley Clark suggested this week with regard to that memo that you wrote asking all the questions, that you had to leak it yourself, and that you did leak it.  What do you say?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That's just nonsense.  I didn't leak that memo.  That's insulting.

 

            Hume:  He said that he heard about it through the gossip and on the Sunday talk shows.  Shouldn't we believe that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Listen, if people start getting their information from that, we're all in trouble.

 

            Hume:  Let me take you back, if I can, to today, and --

 

            Rumsfeld:  That memo was a serious memo, and I wrote it because I think those are good questions, they're important questions, they're fair questions, and they are the kinds of things that need to be discussed and explored.  But I sent it just to four people.  I certainly didn't expect that it would end up out in the press.

 

            Hume:  Well, from the memo, you said earlier on this program that the war on terror, overall, is going well.

 

            Rumsfeld:  It is.

 

            Hume:  You also suggested in that memo that our metrics for measuring how well the war on terror is going are lacking.  What about that?

 

            Rumsfeld:  And probably will always be lacking.  In other words, it's probably not knowable how many people are being recruited.  Somewhere in a jail in America, in a madrasa school that's taught by a radical cleric somewhere in one of 20 other countries of the world.  We can't know how many there are, but what I do know, I think, is that we need to engage in that battle of ideas.  We need to be out there encouraging people not to do that.  Rather, they should be learning things like language or math or things that they can provide a living from.

 

            Hume:  Let me follow up -- Tony asked you about that earlier -- to what extent might our presence in Iraq -- military presence in Iraq -- be helping in the recruitment of new terrorists?  In other words, might we unwittingly be helping with the growth of the terrorist movement, if it can crudely be called that, while we're trying to defeat terrorism in that country?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I suppose -- that's like saying that by fighting crime, you encourage crime.

 

            Hume:  Well, in a particular sense --

 

            Rumsfeld:  And it's not clear to me that that is a good linkage there.  To the extent that there are 90 countries engaged in the global war on terror, and to the extent they are successfully arresting people; capturing people; killing people; interrogating people; putting pressure on their finances; making it harder for them to recruit; making it harder for them to move money; harder for them to travel -- I don't think that encourages terrorism.  I think there are things that do encourage terrorism.

 

            Hume:  Such as?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Such as people who are bringing in young people and training them to go out and commit suicide bombing attacks and telling them they'll go to heaven if they kill enough people.  I think that's the kind of thing that's doing it.

 

            Hume:  You mentioned earlier, Mr. Secretary, that we'd captured 42 of the 55 most wanted, and we're capturing them by the dozens every day.  What are we doing with these people that we capture, and what are you getting from the very high-level people we've captured, and where are they?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, we have a lot of the people from Afghanistan that were captured from a lot of different countries are in Guantanamo Bay.  All the people that have been captured in Iraq are in Iraq.  They are there being interrogated.

 

            Hume:  What's their life like?  I mean, what kind of place are they in?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, my goodness, they are being treated better than they ever would have been treated under a Saddam Hussein regime.  They have food, they have beds --

 

            Hume:  Well, some of them were in the Saddam Hussein regime.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Of course, they were.  That's why they're in the prisons in Iraq today.  But they are being interrogated -- we could not have captured or killed 42 of the top 55 Iraqi Saddam Hussein loyalists without getting a lot of good information from people who were Saddam Hussein loyalists.

 

            Hume:  How about the top people?  Are you getting a lot from them?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't want to get into who we're getting it from, but obviously it is an important aspect of our work there to interrogate people that are captured.

 

            Snow:  Mr. Secretary, are the tribunals going to be begin this week?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't know.

 

            Snow:  You don't know?

 

            Rumsfeld:  That's right.

 

            Snow:  Are they likely to start this week?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't know.

 

            Snow:  Are they going to start soon?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, they are certainly -- the work has been prepared so that in the event that it's time to start them, we'll be prepared to do that.

 

            Snow:  How do you judge when the time is right for a military tribunal?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, I don't.  I've delegated, for the most part, those responsibilities, and for anyone to be assigned to a tribunal under the current military order, the president has to do that.  So it's a matter for lawyers and the Department of Justice and the White House and, ultimately, the folks in the Pentagon.  But, to my knowledge, no one has been specifically designated to start next, in answer to your question.

 

            Snow:  All right.  You mentioned before the conditions -- Brit and you were discussing conditions.  There is a controversy involving Lt. Col. Alan West [sp].  Apparently, while interrogating a member of the Iraqi resistance, he fired a gun -- not at the guy directly, but it scared him sufficiently that, in fact, he ended up giving information that could have saved American lives.  Now it turns out that he is facing court martial for so doing.  Why?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It's a matter that the Army is looking into.  It is not a matter that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has been engaged in.  I am always under strict rules to not discuss particular cases because of the subject -- they call it "command influence" -- the risk that, by responding to questions like yours and being in the chain of command ultimately, someone -- somehow that issue could come on my desk for some sort of a judgment --

 

            Hume:  Well, actually, it could, couldn't it?  I mean, if you chose to overrule or short circuit this process, you could do it, couldn't you?

 

            Rumsfeld:  They tell me that's the case.

 

            Hume:  Well, when you see this guy about to be disciplined for being stern and tough and scary in interrogating some Iraq suspect, how does that strike you personally -- just as a general matter?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I can't discuss this as a general matter, and I can't discuss what I think personally, or I'd be happy to -- because to do so would be to mishandle my responsibilities as Secretary of Defense.  The Army has rules and requirements and regulations.  The Army is addressing this.  It will move along in its normal order and, at some point, it conceivably could come to me, in which case, I shouldn't say how I feel personally.

 

            Hume:  This case aside, then, what about a rule?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I cannot talk generically on this subject.

 

            Snow:  Well, then, I would give you a different generic question that may fit into the same topic area, which is this -- you talked before about what does not encourage people to commit acts of terror.  Let's talk about what discourages them.  Does not an effective show of force and an effective show of determination discourage terrorists?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm not talking about prisoners now, but if you're talking about --

 

            Snow:  People who could become prisoners.

 

            Rumsfeld:  People who might become terrorists or might become active terrorists -- certainly, the fact that the United States has put together a large coalition and demonstrated that we're going to do everything we can to go after them and to capture them and kill them has to be a deterrent, to some extent.  The only choice we have is to hunker down in the United States and hope they don't hit us again.  Well, they did hit us.  They hit us on September 11th, and that's proof that hunkering down does not work.  The only way to deal with terrorists is to go after them.

 

            Snow:  You know, you mentioned in the memo that you worried that maybe we're not showing sufficient imagination.  Should we take that to mean that you don't think we may be hitting people hard enough in enough places right now to send the message and to discourage them not only in terms of police action and military action but psychologically?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I was answering question, not answering -- asking not answering.  I was asking them because I think they are useful to get up on the table and talk about.  And I don't have answers for all of those.  Pardon me?

 

            Snow:  But questions do not arise out of the blue.  There have to be a set of considerations or [inaudible] --

 

            Rumsfeld:  You are quite right, and the essence of what I was probing at there was this concern I mentioned earlier -- what else might we be able to do to dissuade young people -- and these aren't young poor people -- a lot of these terrorists are very well educated.  How can we persuade them from thinking that that's a good thing to do?  And how can we reduce the number of recruits they have?

 

            Snow:  How much of this -- can you name any large Muslim organization that actually is being helpful to us in fighting terror?

 

            Rumsfeld:  There are any number of organizations.  I don't know quite what you mean by "organizations," but we're getting cooperation from countries that are Muslim countries.  We're getting cooperation from individuals within those countries and organizations within those countries.  The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists nor do they believe in terrorism.

 

            Snow:  Your memo mentions madrasas, and it is a concern of many Americans that children who come into Muslim academies come out hating the West.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Well, people who go into American jails end up becoming terrorists, too.  I mean, it isn't unique to madrasas.  There are a lot of wonderful madrasas schools around.

 

            Snow:  What is the role of Saudi Arabia in this?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The Saudi government, particularly since they were attacked some weeks and months ago, has been very aggressive -- more aggressive than ever in the past in arresting, in capturing, in prosecuting, and in cooperating with intelligence matters, and it's been a big help.

 

            Hume:  Let me ask a question about your expectations of the media.  You have expressed wonder, bordering, at times, on astonishment and many times irritation at what you have perceived to be the imbalance in the coverage from Iraq -- that the good stuff has not been covered; the bad stuff has been covered fairly well.  You have been around a long time, Mr. Secretary, serving in Republican administrations going back to the Nixon years.  Did you expect anything other than a hostile press?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, I didn't, but it --

 

            Hume:  Why the sense of wonder?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Oh, I think that it's useful to let the world know that what they're seeing and hearing is not the whole story, and it hasn't been.  I think it's helpful for the American people to have a chance to hear the other side of the story and know that good things are happening as well.  Anytime someone tries to do that, someone says, "Oh, they're trying to put a shiny face, a smiley face, on what's going on.  Look, we're in a way, and it's tough, and it's dangerous, and no one is trying to put a smiley face on anything.  But, by golly, when you've got that many Iraqis -- 100,000 -- now providing for their own security; where you have a governing council and a bunch of ministers; and you have a Central Bank; and you have a new currency; and you have all the universities and colleges open; and the hospitals are open; and there was not a humanitarian crisis -- sitting around wringing your hands and saying, "It's horrible, it's horrible, everything is terrible" is nonsense.  It isn't all terrible.  There's some darn good stuff happening.

 

            Hume:  Do you think you came a little late to the charge of telling that story?  That you waited too long to start to tell that story?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, I think I came a little too late to pin the tail on the donkey, that's all.

 

            Snow:  Well, as a member of the donkey establishment, one last question.  Do you worry sometimes, because of your position that you get too rosy a report from some of the people who work for you in Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  No, no, no, we -- I see the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it's all there.

 

            Snow:  All right.  Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.  Our panel will be here in a moment.  Stay tuned.

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