Charisma, Courage, Leadership: MLK’s Heroic Legacy

A few decades ago, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, I ignorantly explained to my curious classroom that Dr. King was important because he freed a lot of black people. A courageous and well-informed young (black) student raised her hand and gently reminded me: “He freed white people too.”


Many black Christian churches proudly plan welcoming celebrations in Dr. King’s honor, in part because he was one of their own. But Dr. King was one of our own too, whoever we are, whatever our race or religion or nationality.


Dr. King was that rare, brave, idealistic hero willing to courageously stand up publicly, to speak out, and thus risk his life, so that all who dreamed, with him, of non-violent political change, equality of opportunity in America, and an end to racism, war, and poverty, could find own their own courage in his brave leadership, and walk beside him. 


Dr. King's life and stirring words have touched, in our own generation, another great and inspiring leader, Barack Obama, who just as courageously as Dr. King, leads us today, encouraging us to work with him in unity for change.


In 1967, at a time when nationalistic fervor made opposition to the Vietnam war an agonizing choice, Dr. King spoke out boldly:  “America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way (in a) revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. These are the times for real choices and not false ones.”


Dr. King’s words could not be more relevant today. Barack Obama has been equally bold in his own steadfast opposition to the Iraq war since before its inception, when nearly everyone else was calling for the much more popular idea of vengeance and retaliation after the 9/11 tragedy.


If Dr. King were alive today, he would be working to help Barack Obama, today’s bravest American hero, as he courageously leads us to work together for political reform reflecting our deepest American values and ideals. 


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The Winning Factors that Obama and Huckabee Share

Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are unique among the Presidential candidates in relishing honest opportunities to think on their feet. They are visibly energized by being publicly asked to consider hard, original questions on-the-spot, answering them directly and freshly.

From the other candidates, we mostly get their rehashed and rehearsed campaign rhetoric, no matter the questions. Despite their varying perspectives and strengths, no other candidates have that star-quality ability to rise to the challenge of thinking and speaking and leading under pressure, on-the-fly, extemporaneously, critically, creatively, and even charmingly, which Huckabee and Obama share.

I'm unnerved at the prospect of listening for another four years to more canned nonsense, pre-masticated gobbledygook, and predictable ideology from some partisan political hack speaking on behalf of the corporate and political power elites.

Obama and Huckabee could not possibly be more different in their thinking and perspectives, and, to be honest, I have little confidence in the breadth and robustness of Huckabee's world view, while I have great confidence in Obama's inclusive, visionary one. But at least both are honest and self-consistent. A few of the other candidates are also trustworthy, but either they are unelectable, or they're too polarizing, too contentious, too partisan, too 20th-century / old-world, too boring, too opportunistic, too old, too out-of-touch, too fringey, too militaristic, or too unprincipled to earn the necessary universal respect and trust required by the mass of American citizens who are frantic to move forward on change.

If what we need is a President with the fine mind, listening skills, and good judgment necessary to consider and evaluate and act confidently upon a blurringly-fast array of hugely complex and pressing problems almost instantaneously, while offering continuous, passionate, vigorous leadership, then we would be wise not to entrust our future into the hands of someone who responds to difficult questions by nervously squeezing out yet another familiar, practiced, safe, distantly-related soundbite-of-choice.

Make no mistake, only a President embodying a combination of trustworthiness, charisma, confidence, and instantaneous brilliant articulation of principled policies can lead everyday Americans into pressing Congress for sweeping policy reforms in a multitude of urgent issue-areas. A trustworthy, kick-ass leader unafraid to lead will cut through the crap and point us toward truth and away from hucksterism, using his reputation for straight-shooting to aggressively and successfully pursue policy changes.

Consider that, if a (theoretically) beloved and trusted President Obama pushing for health care reform informed us on television that “Harry and Louise are lying,” ordinary citizens with faith in his judgment and good heart would inundate Congress with supportive phone calls. The primary reason our citizenry is currently apathetic is our universal paralysis arising from fear and confusion from too-much conflicting “information”; we're so overwhelmed we don't know who or what to believe. Only a universally-trusted President can lead us confidently toward real change.

Relatively few Americans share Mr. Huckabee's doctrinal and theological beliefs and assumptions. Nevertheless, I would (almost) rather see Huckabee become President than endure another four years of listening to yet another political hack, another timid pawn owned by today's national political and corporate power elites, mouthing appropriately soothing platitudes and selling a self-interested agenda.

We need a President committed to change, one who is brilliant, knowledgeable, a non-polarizing problem-solver who loves grappling with complex issues, who easily, persuasively, and usefully reframes and explains issues and solutions, who will use the bully pulpit to convincingly build the citizen consensus and power-base so necessary to moving forward to solve today's global pressing problems.

And only one candidate meets that description.

My Credit Card and I Just Gave Barack Obama’s Campaign a Nice Christmas Present

Barack Obama can become a truly great U.S. President–and we so sorely need one.


His hopeful youthful perspectives and his calm quiet strength can soften our imminent crash-landing into tomorrow’s unbelievable array of global and national problems.


Obama gets it that we’re all in this together on our tiny, fragile, shared blue planet. He has the values, the vision, the words and the charisma to lead all of us—ordinary citizens and world movers-and-shakers alike—away from the fear that paralyzes and divides us, toward faith and courage, caring and cooperation, towards reconciliation within and among nations. 


Whatever Obama hasn’t learned yet, he’ll learn on the job, because he knows the complexity of the questions, knows who to ask, and how to listen. He's confident, his own man, not easily frightened or manipulated. And yes, he’ll make mistakes (all the candidates will, being human) but Obama will be honest about them, correct them, and move forward.


Obama is smart and creative and determined. He’ll find inventive ways to do whatever needs to be done. He’s open, a problem-solver, unafraid to throw away what doesn’t work and try something different. He'll persist and get it done.


Obama has a good heart, a good head, and a humble gentle spirit.


Yes, I admit I'm hoping, praying, and dreaming that Barack Obama will one day be remembered as a great statesman, a great humanitarian, a great healer for all the ages. So I'm taking responsibility for creating and contributing to that lovely possibility.


Peace on Earth, Good Will to All (especially Obama) and God Bless Us, Every One (especially Obama.)

Roadmap to Peace

Peaceful political arrangements in the Middle East are a good place to start, but real and lasting peace will come only when, one-by-one, we in the United States and Iran and Iraq and China and Israel and Palestine and everywhere else, we Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and atheists alike, first humbly strive to embrace peace in our own hearts, endure injustices without adding to their sum, renounce violent resolution of conflicts, and offer to all others in this and every nation that same forgiveness, acceptance, and love we so long for ourselves (the universal “Golden Rule.”)

Questioning the Wisdom of Secret Biowarfare Research at Fort Detrick, MD

The Expansion of Biowarfare Research
Laboratories at USAMRIID, Fort Detrick:

A Call to attend a Public Forum before the Frederick Board of
County Commissioners (BOCC)
Monday, November 19 at 7 pm, 1st Floor Meeting Room,
Winchester Hall 12 East Church Street Frederick

This is
the time, the only public opportunity to persuade our Commissioners
that we want them to obtain a Court Review of the USAMRIID Environmental Impact
Statement. A court review will hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with
NEPA- the National Environmental Policy Act, which is designed to protect communities
from development harmful to health and safety.
The Commissioners are holding this public forum
to hear from us about the public health,
safety and environmental concerns associated with the expansion of biological research
laboratories at Fort Detrick. USAMRIID is planned to be the cornerstone of a massive
expansion of such laboratories, involving at least 6 different Federal agencies on what would
be named the National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). NIBC would occupy 200
acres at Fort Detrick. This would be by far the largest biowarfare research complex in the

What can you do?

Come to the forum, whether or not you plan to speak. We need to fill the room! You
will learn a lot about the issue, and your presence is very important.
Learn more (resources and contacts below), and consider speaking. This meeting is
about the need for a court review, because health, safety and environmental impacts are
properly addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
NEPA requires, and the
USAMRIID EIS does not:

Evaluate alternate, less densely populated locations for these labs.
Provide a comprehensive evaluation of the cumulative impacts of the entire National
Interagency Biodefense Campus.

Address the many burdens upon our community’s public health, safety, growth, taxes and

Use your own unique background to talk about your concerns in your own words. Comments
will be limited to five (5) minutes per speaker and ten (10) minutes for recognized organizations.

Persuade everyone you know to come to the forum! Pass this on, BUT– talking
to people is much more effective!

E-mail the commissioners and tell them what you think. If you can’t come, tell
them you would be there if you could…..
Jan Gardner: David Gray:
Kai Hagen: Charles Jenkins: Lenny
Thompson: Send letters to the editor:

Learn More:
Informational meeting, open to all
: Viewing of recent PBS
documentary “The Living Weapon”, followed by discussion of the current situation
. 7 pm Monday
in the Notre Dame Room, Parish Center of St. John the Evangelist Church, 118 East 2nd St
Frederick. The parish center is two buildings to the right of the church. Sponsored by St John’s Peace
and Justice Committee
August 24, 2007

“It has been pointed out to me, by those that have read it thoroughly, that the Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the USAMRIID expansion does not adequately examine the following very
important question:
Why has an alternate location for the new BSL 3 and BSL 4 labs not been thoroughly examined? This
would be an ideal time to move these labs. They have been a source of concern in this county for
years. They will house the most dangerous pathogens known to man (ie Ebola, Marburg, etc).
Presently they are planned to be again located in the high population area where Fort Detrick is now
located. Public safety fears would be greatly alleviated if they were moved to a more remote and safe
I understand that the EIS is now subject to a court review if requested. I am willing to call for such a
court review before construction commences. I have also been informed that such a review by the
courts was requested when BSL 4 labs were planned to be installed at Boston University which is in a
similar high population area. In that case, in 2006, both the Massachusetts state court as well as the
U.S. District Court ordered that the labs not be operated until alternate (less populated sites) are
properly considered, and simulation of real-world disease transmission is properly analyzed. (This risk
analysis is expected to address in detail the potential threats to the community arising from the use of
several BSL 4 agents that are planned to be studied in the Boston labs. This risk analysis will examine
the effects of a laboratory-acquired infection of a laboratory worker with Ebola; the transportation of a
vector-borne agent, such as tick-borne encephalitis; an aerosol event involving a hemorrhagic fever;
and the use of rDNA in monkey pox.) Our situation in Frederick County seems very similar.
In October 2001 there was an anthrax attack on postal workers, members of congress and the media,
resulting in 5 deaths. This was the first known biological attack on US citizens. It is widely believed
that the source of that anthrax (the Ames strain) was Ft Detrick.
Last December I and four other County Commissioner were sworn into office and we took an oath to
“Preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County”. I am
committed to that oath.”

Much more information is available about this issue. Contact:
Beth Willis:
Barry Kissin: The BOCC obtaining a Court Review has been
endorsed by: Citizens for Quality of Life, Friends of Frederick County, St. John the Evangelist Peace and Justice
Committee, Sierra Club Catoctin Group, the Fort Detrick Watchdog Group, Women in Black Frederick, the Frederick
Peace Resource Center, FredPac, and many many citizens like you.

Breach of trust
Originally published November 07, 2007
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By Katherine Heerbrandt

A week before Sen. Barbara Mikulski visited Frederick County extolling the economic promise of Fort Detrick's expansion, Keith Rhodes, chief technologist for the Government Accountability Office, told members of Congress that the proliferation of high-level biolabs raises serious questions about public safety.
“The more BSL-4 labs there are, the more opportunity for mistakes and the more opportunities for release,” Rhodes told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Oct. 4.
Since 9/11 the number of labs researching the most virulent pathogens — those with no cure — grew from two to 15. With no central oversight of the growing number of labs, and disincentives inherent in reporting safety breaches, the security and operations of BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are in question.
The oversight of these labs is “fragmented and relies on self-policing. High-risk labs have health risks for individual lab workers as well as the surrounding community. The risks due to accidental exposure or release can never be completely eliminated, and even labs within sophisticated biological research programs, including those most extensively regulated, have had and will continue to have safety failures,” Rhodes said.
Burning to spend the billions unleashed for biodefense research, the feds rushed to act with little consideration of the consequences. A sadly familiar refrain.
The U.S. Army War College's 2005 “Assessing Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat” concludes money was spent with no analysis of the bioterrorism threat, which it called “systematically and deliberately exaggerated” by this administration.
More probable than a bioterrorist attack is that we infect ourselves by theft, design or mishap. With every new lab opened, every square foot added, the risk increases, according to the GAO.
The Associated Press produced an interactive map that reveals biolab breaches in the U.S. (
As recently as June, anthrax bacteria was found on a freezer handle, light switch and shoes in a changing room at USAMRIID.
With stories of accidents, breaches of protocol and incompetence from biolabs emerging with disturbing regularity, Detrick's refusal to participate in a public meeting isn't surprising.
Why subject itself to more national attention when biolabs are under assault?
The request came from County Commissioner David Gray, who issued a statement in August saying that federal officials ignored policy in their Environmental Impact Statement by not seeking alternate sites for the labs.
Detrick agreed to meet, then backed out, offering a private meeting with county commissioners. Gray wanted to bring community members and the press. Detrick declined that offer, too.
Detrick has already done its duty, says spokesperson Eileen Mitchell, providing ample opportunity for public comment and complying with federal regulations.
Maybe they weren't counting on anyone actually reading the EIS, but local attorney Barry Kissin and Beth Willis have made a thorough study of it, culminating in a 17-page statement including tough questions for Detrick officials. At best, the EIS is a cursory attempt to comply with federal guidelines. At worst, it ignores documented breaches and blithely concludes that any danger is “negligible.”
The lack of serious effort in such a critical report is yet another example of the arrogance characterizing the federal government's tactics in the name of keeping America safe from terrorists.
Wave the flag and our brains shut down?
Undeterred by Detrick's refusal, Gray will have his forum at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Winchester Hall. But it will take more than the usual 20 to 25 regulars to convince a majority of commissioners that the EIS is severely flawed and deserves a court review.
It's your last chance. Make it count.

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Why a Court Review on the USAMRIID Expansion?  
What would it do, and why support it?
The people and government of Frederick County need a court review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the USAMRIID expansion, because the FEIS does not comply with The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).   A court review would provide an independent, binding assessment and judgment about the specific ways the FEIS does not meet NEPA requirements in assessing whether Frederick is an appropriate location for these laboratories, and for adequately evaluating the health and safety issues these laboratories would bring to the community.
The purpose and spirit of NEPA requirements assume that a full and thorough environmental assessment is needed to properly make fundamental decisions about site location and risk mitigation.  A complete and thorough analysis of alternative sites is required in order to compare those alternative sites, leading to:
¨      information adequate enough for local elected officials to develop a full and informed understanding of  impacts, risks and issues
¨      information adequate enough for  citizens of the county and other affected parties to do the same
¨      a sound decision on the proper site, based on legally specified health, safety, environmental  and economic factors
The current FEIS does not provide the information needed for decision-makers to determine if these programs should be located in Frederick County.  It does not provide the information needed for officials and citizens to be adequately informed about the risks and impacts, as intended by NEPA.
A court review would, at a minimum, address the following NEPA-related FEIS defects:
¨      the failure during the FEIS process to squarely address fundamental issues raised repeatedly, verbally and in writing by residents of the community.
¨      the failure to properly identify alternatives sites, including one in a less populated area.
¨      the failure to provide credible and serious evaluations and comparisons of such alternatives.
¨      the failure to analyze the cumulative environmental impacts of the entire National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). Facilities for NIH, DHS, USDA, CDC, BRAC (Naval and Army Bio-Labs), as well as USAMRIID are planned to be located on NIBC. NEPA clearly requires a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” (PEIS) with respect to the NIBC, which has never been done.  Rather, there have been only cursory references to the full program in the USAMRIID EIS.
¨      the failure to adequately analyze the environmental impact of  BSL-3 and BSL-4 pathogens escaping from containment.
¨      the failure to evaluate potential environmental impacts of genetic engineering of BSL-3 and BSL- 4 pathogens.  The Army’s own regulations specifically refer to genetic engineering as an action that demands evaluation for potential impacts.
¨      the failure to explain in specific detail how the cumulative program would satisfy its water requirements, which would at least double the current water requirements of the Fort.
¨      the failure to analyze potential scenarios related to transport of bio-agents to and from facility and failure to include a threat and vulnerability analysis for a terrorist attack or infiltration.
Tell our County Commissioners:
You want them to obtain a Court Review
of the latest Fort Detrick Biocontainment laboratory expansion Environmental Impact Statement.
Women In Black, Frederick commends Commissioner David Gray for his statement questioning the thoroughness of the Environmental Impact Statement  (EIS) on the proposed USAMRIID expansion, especially as it pertains to site location, and calling for a court review of the EIS before construction commences.
The function of the planned Biosafety Level 4 labs scheduled for construction as part of the expansion is to house experiments on infectious pathogens for which there is neither vaccine nor cure. Activities planned at some of the new Fort Detrick labs include the acquisition, growth, modification, storage and packaging of those pathogens most adaptable to being used as bioweapons.
One does not need to read voluminous documents to question the wisdom of locating such a facility in a highly populated area of robust growth such as Frederick County, especially in light of the previous record of failed safety procedures and accidents. This is a rational and logical question and one the citizens of Frederick County cannot afford to take lightly. Once built, this facility will be a permanent part of our community environment. Do we really want to risk the health and safety of our families?  Many accidents at such labs have recently been in the news.  Congress is now holding hearings investigating safety failures in the nation’s 400+ biowarfare laboratory system, for which Frederick will be Headquarters. 
We thank Commissioner Gray for his integrity and commitment to his oath of office,  “to preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County.” We urge all our elected officials to meet this same standard, and we urge all Frederick County residents to hold them to that standard.
Please contact ALL of our County Commissioners now, and tell them you want them to protect our health and safety by calling for a legally binding, impartial Court Review of the Army’s USAMRIID expansion Environmental Impact Statement.  Tell them you want them to act on our behalf, and hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act, which is designed to protect communities from development that is harmful to health and safety. 

Call: : (301) 600-9000   Email:
Jan Gardner:
David Gray:
Kai Hagen:
Charles Jenkins:
Lenny Thompson:

Tired of Doing All the Dirty Work for the Greedy Oil-and-War-Profiteering Corporations

Why all the subterfuge and indirection? Let's just get down to it, be straightforward and direct:

Instead of dragging U.S. troops, diplomats, politicians, reporters, and the rest of us citizens into the Middle East holocaust, why not just drop all our stupidly transparent political pretenses and hand over the whole bloody mess to the corporations? Let’s just give them all the depressing tasks related to stealing and controlling the oil, let them go ahead and divvy up all the various conquest-and-occupation tasks–and of course, the profits, too–but they were going to get those anyway.

Our expensive, time-consuming national hand-wringing is such a waste. Why elaborately go through all those pointlessly unsettling motions of giving a damn, all those silly political and journalistic rituals intended I suppose to ease our way into Middle East hegemony—when our very professional corporations could get the job done much more efficiently and thoughtfully, well out of the public eye.

Why should we Americans have to be involved at all (except of course a few staggeringly-wealthy shareholders, who can't help themselves.) Why should the rest of us even have to pull ourselves away from our video games and shopping and stuff to think about any of this distressing business? What does it have to do with us? 

It’s not like we have any illusions anymore that the war has anything to do with our consent, our safety, or our future well-being. We're clear already that we'll get nothing out of Bush’s endless war but more debts and enemies, so why must we also participate in all the suffering—or even watch it unfold?

The corporations could easily buy up all their own weapons, hire and train their own militaries, attack and conquer (whomever), grab up their own oilfields, bribe and terrorize their own collaborators, subdue and exploit foreign populations, and write and produce their own media propaganda–as in fact they already do now–without the U.S. government and citizenry being so embarrassingly dragged into the whole mess to provide political cover. The corporations obviously don’t need our citizen support or even our (present-day) tax money. They've managed to move forward on their agenda quite nicely for many years without any of that.

And if we're no help to them, we're certainly no bother to them, either, as we've clearly decided to roll over and play dead, asking polite permission for only a few brief opportunities to attempt to dignify our/their actions with silent moments of protest and mourning. 

Insufficient to maintain a shred of dignity? Then to heck with faking it. Just make it official, give them carte blanche. They're running the show already anyway. Let them just take whatever they want, however and whenever they want to, from whomever, wherever; they’re going to do it anyway, and the niceties of humanitarian and spiritual and political ideals be damned, because, don't forget, we’re still, by far, the biggest bully on the block, and so long as we are, such niceties aren't worth our trouble. Are they?

Unless of course empire-building is not what America is about….

Unless of course we’re willing to risk peace, and turn our national will and resources toward cooperating with all the world’s peoples everywhere to end violence and solve our problems together, as one.

(So let's just do it. Now.)


Fighting Words

My letter below was published in the Washington Post Book World on Sunday, September 2, 2007. Following my letter is the reviewer's own response to my criticism, and then a somewhat-satirical, but-you-get-the-point response to the reviewer describing the review that I think he should have written if he wanted to be fair.

Nancy Pace's letter:

“Andrew Nagorski apparently thinks Giles MacDonogh shouldn't have bothered to dredge up all those nasty facts about the occupation of Germany in After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, because, after all, the Germans had it coming, and Allied cruelties were understandable considering their pain and sacrifices (Book World, “The Squall After The Whirlwind,” Aug. 26).

In fact, while we're at it, why don't we just throw away the entire historical record of suffering by losers of all wars throughout history, because they all deserved what they got? From now on, let's write only one-sided histories glorifying the bloody actions of wars' winners and keep on using history primarily to perpetuate the myth that conflicts have only one side worth listening to. That way, we can have more wars.

Justifying fresh injustices by pointing out past injustices does nothing to end the cycle of violence and retribution. Every war, like every retaliatory “peace,” sows the bloody dragon seeds reaped in future wars. Good historians rightly tell the story of the suffering on both sides of wars and about how all the leaders failed to keep the peace.”

ANDREW NAGORSKI'S REPLY on Sept. 2 (in the Washington Post):

Ms Pace seems to have deliberately misread my review. As I pointed out, this last gruesome chapter of World War II needs to be told. And the efforts of the Poles, Czechs and others to confront such uncomfortable truths should be commended. But historians have an obligation to put the events they chronicle in their proper context and to avoid anything that smacks of moral equivalency between the crimes of the Nazi regime and the revenge exacted by some of the victors.

HERE'S THE ANDREW NAGORSKI BOOK REVIEW I (Nancy Pace) WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE SEEN. (I published this in the comments section below the above Nagorski comment in the Washington Post online, and he probably read it.) I hope it helped….:

Finally. At last. A reputable historian has found not only the courage, but the commitment, perseverence, and moral fortitude to report on “the other side” of WWII, to lift up and look under the few remaining pebbles of undestroyed evidence, and to climb over the huge boulders of resistance strewn for generations by the war's victors in their massive efforts to block such reporting, as victors always do.

To be sure, as a loyal and patriotic supporter of the war's victorious Allied side, I might have preferred to see a little more context about my side's sufferings. However, I can certainly understand why Giles MacDonogh didn't feel it necessary to re-tell that particular story, since hundreds, perhaps thousands of historians have already told it in great and welcome detail—i.e., the desperately tragic story of Allied suffering.

However, I recognize that Mr. MacDonogh's difficult task of researching and reporting on the previously under-reported suffering of the losers was certainly a daunting enough task, one difficult to confine to a single volume, without adding extraneous material beyond “perfunctory nods.” Therefore, MacDonogh's effort is a warmly welcomed addition to the reporting on this war, well-worth his considerable trouble. I hope his noteworthy efforts will be recognized and rewarded, and that he will be widely commended for undertaking this long-neglected task, and for filling in an important part of history's sad record of the suffering of the losers of war everywhere.

(Ps. I, Nancy Pace, am no expert on WWII, nor have I any connection with either above writer. Nor have I read the book in question. I am reacting to what I consider probably unintentioned and unconcious bias in historical writing/reviewing. (I would have retitled the Andrew Nagorski review: “YES, BUT….”) Please. All sides, whether citizens or soldiers–all innocents alike–suffer in all wars, which are generally initiated and sold by short-sighted, inadequately informed, megalomaniacal, greedy leaders unwilling or unable to empathize, communicate, and make difficult (but bloodless) compromises with one another.)

Please see Nagorski's original review at  the Washington Post website:

Please send your comments to: . Thank you! 🙂



Everyone Says We Wouldn't, We Couldn't, We Shouldn't Do It To A Dog…. So Why Do We Keep Doing It to People?

I just read Sally Jenkins' sports column in the 8/22/07 Washington Post, about Michael Vick and his dog-fighting choices…. Jenkins said that people who train animals to fight, and then make them fight, are “brutal…sleaze…wallowing in gore by choice…out of sheer dumb meanness…punishing…torturing…battering…killing…enslaving and tormenting…with unnerving ruthlessness…. (Fighting animals is) a bloodsport…barbaric…a gratuitous form of cruelty…a calculating, deliberate and sustained cruelty….” 

If anyone did such things to people, Jenkins says, we would call it genocidal fascism.

No. We would call it military training, and war, and we would perpetrate such crimes without thought, everywhere, every day. We would take innocent, gentle, ethical young men, and put them through military (or terrorist) training, and then throw them into combat, to kill and maim or be killed and maimed, along with their buddies.

We would condition and indoctrinate our soldiers into forgetting everything they’ve ever learned about how to treat other people. We would turn them into knee-jerk mental, physical and emotional monsters, so that they can efficiently “do their jobs” without thinking of their victims as human beings.

After excruciating training, we would turn them loose upon strangers, many of whom are themselves innocents protecting their own homes and families. We would make our young heroes into snipers and bombers and interrogators and other cold-blooded executioners, to do “work” they can do only because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking of whole populations as demonized “others,” as “the enemy.”

Wars are about powerful, misguided leaders taking for themselves whatever they want—resources, power, money, land—by killing large swaths of people. But soldiers are carefully taught a very different kind of morality, a kind of contextual fuzzy logic that ethically “covers” their bloodiest actions for as long as they can believe that they’re fighting, killing, and dying to protect their friends and families, and to further their country’s noblest ideals and purposes. Soldiers cling to the illusion that that their jobs are necessary and valuable and moral, in hopes that their losses and sacrifices are not in vain, that they have not wasted their lives–and others'.

Unfortunately, when soldiers come home from wars, few can morally rectify the gore they've participated in with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious belief systems about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the understandings which make relationships work, and which make life worth living. Many veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives. 

Everyone says training and fighting animals is an outrage. We wouldn't, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog. So why do we keep doing it to people?

It's time to reconsider the inevitability of our centuries-old practice of solving problems through violence.  Human conflict is perfectly natural and unavoidable, since people will always have competing interests, misunderstandings, old grievances…. In fact, conflict is very beneficial, because it nearly always points to inequities or confusions which need addressing.

But violent resolutions of conflict only make things worse.

We can teach all people to resolve conflicts peacefully just as easily as we can raise them to respond to problems violently. It's time for America the beautiful, the once and future leader of the free world, to take the first step toward committing to building a world culture of peace.

War Was My Path to Peace

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God….

                                                                        – The Beatitudes, Matthew 6


I grew up loving a gentle, funny, talented man who was also a highly-decorated war hero and career military man—my father. Many long nights I lay awake listening to the sad bugled tones of “Taps” floating through the quiet night air of the far-flung military stations where we were posted, worrying and wondering about whether my darling Dad might be called away again at any moment, to fight, to suffer, maybe even to die. My deep respect and affection for this dear man made my lifelong fascination with war and my search for alternative paths to peace inevitable.


But war itself no longer seems inevitable to me. I’ve come to believe that, while human conflict is completely natural, and while our many differences and disagreements offer the necessary challenges leading to growth, learning, and change, violent responses to conflict only complicate issues, making them that much more difficult to resolve. In fact, I’ve come to believe that violence itself, and the fear which begets it, is the greatest threat both to our nation and to mankind.


Rather than a religious or utopian ideal, cooperative harmonious relationships are a very practical goal, critical to our national security. Peaceful responses to conflict can be learned and taught as easily as destructive ones.


The enormous costs of domestic and international violence—to our children, to American society and the world—are unsustainable. The World Health Organization estimates that the effects of domestic violence in the U.S. alone annually cost us over $300 billion. Annual defense expenditures in the U.S. top $500 billion. Roughly 100 million lives were lost during the 20th century to war. We can sustain neither a desirable standard of living nor our well-loved freedoms at such levels of spending; yet the problems we face in a violent, unstable world relentlessly compound.


We can no longer kid ourselves that America can shoot its way out of a world full of angry, well-armed enemies and criminals. Growing cycles of hatred, injustice, and violence increasingly threaten the very survival of mankind, while other serious problems on our fast-shrinking planet go unaddressed.


Establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Peace would be a huge step toward solving our nation’s biggest and most costly problem—domestic and international violence—because despite our many prisons, laws, and police forces, despite our huge nuclear and conventional arsenals, our vast military, and our seemingly limitless expenditures for espionage, we are becoming less safe with each passing day.


Department of Peace legislation would be a unifying, groundbreaking, even visionary legacy for the Bush presidency, because it is in essence a conservative idea, conserving lives, resources, good will, money, health, principles, and values, our American ideals and traditional way of life, our environment and talents, our time, energy, and property.


If we the people don't stand up for peace and against violence, what do we stand for? Peace and stability, both within and among nations, has matured to be a practical mainstream political goal for generations of Americans. What better way could we find to show our troops our appreciation and support for their past and future service than to express our debt of gratitude to them by giving them a Department of Peace charged with partnering with our defense and diplomatic leadership to insure that American soldiers never again march into an ill-planned or unnecessary war?


The common goal of Defense, State, Homeland, and Peace departments alike is to insure peace and stability, even if each has a different strategy for achieving this common goal. A strong military force is considered by many to be a deterrent to war, but without a cabinet-level Department of Peace, political leaders turn too quickly to military forces to resolve political problems, and too easily allow war profiteers to manipulate them into wars of aggression, greed, and domination. A Department of Peace offers a strong counterweight to such commonplace misuse of military might.


Our present approach to national defense is not working. We’re strong in conventional military operations, but weak in alliance-building (win-win negotiations and diplomacy) and very weak in the use of the many innovative, well-tested non-violent peace-building technologies used so successfully by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and other peaceful non-violent activists around the world.


A Secretary of Peace can nurture a growing culture of peace both nationally and internationally, partnering with the President and his cabinet to provide necessary alternative non-violent conflict-resolution strategies for every possible conflict area in the world, asking hard questions when war seems inevitable, and preventing, reducing, ameliorating, and de-escalating conflicts before they boil over into deadly violence.


Domestically, a Department of Peace can support and strongly disseminate best practices originating in neighborhood and faith-based programs, addressing drug and alcohol problems, crime, incarceration and recidivism, the spread of weapons, school bullying and violence, gangs, racism, ethnic and homophobic intolerance, child, elder, and spousal abuse, and other pressing domestic violence problems, through proven programs of peer mediation, violence-prevention counseling, restorative justice, and other successful non-violent approaches.


Like other past social grass-roots protest movements (e.g., civil rights, women’s suffrage, emancipation of slaves, etc.) non-violent peace-building may not have seemed obvious at first. But there is no reason why the long-held American dream of “peace in our time” should not be the business of a government charged with insuring domestic tranquility, a more perfect union, justice, the common defense, the general welfare, and the blessings of liberty.


We no longer live in our fathers’ world. We cannot find solutions to tomorrow’s problems using the same approaches that got us into trouble in the first place. In today’s small, interconnected world, what we do to others comes back quickly to help us or to harm us, as we have chosen. As in WWII, we cannot avoid suffering some injustices, but we canavoid adding to their sum. We no longer have a choice of changing or not changing. Our only choice now is whether to change for the better, or for the worse. Our fathers once risked war; it is time for us to risk peace.


(Please read about H.R. #808, establishing a Department of Peace, at, and let your members of Congress know where you stand.)



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Is Islamic Extremism ‘the Problem’? Is Endless War ‘the Answer’? How Can We Stop Terrorism?

We can’t just turn the other cheek to angry Islamic extremists, and we can’t fight an endless, economy-breaking, un-winnable war against terrorists either. Talk show simpletons say “just nuke ‘em all,” but even President Bush admits that America must “change the conditions that moved nineteen kids to come on airplanes to murder our citizens.”


And we’d be upset too, if Islamic nations had done to our country what we’ve done to them. To the world’s Muslims, our attacks have not been isolated incidents, but part of a long chain of conspiracies in a war upon Islam itself.


Western powers have indeed killed and wounded millions of Muslims during the last century, blighting their livelihoods and dreams with little consideration for justice, political freedom, and tolerance. Most of us in the West aren’t even aware of this tragic history of Western interference in Islamic nations. Our mainstream press has tiptoed around topics unpopular with their corporate sponsors, and TV and radio send out a torrent of xenophobia from reckless demagogues portraying Islam as a destructive ideology that has brought all its problems upon itself.


Americans express outrage at attacks on American soldiers, but turn a deaf ear to the pleas of millions of Iraqi war refugees desperate for asylum from our wars. We express indignation when an Israeli dies, but can’t be bothered to count—much less mourn—the untold Muslim victims of our Middle East wars. This double standard would shock us if the oceans of propaganda we swim in daily did not prevent our awareness of it.


Terrorism, like war, is a continuation of politics “by other means.” Grieving and jobless Muslim youth “join up” with terrorist forces in hopes of prevailing against regional and international foes, just as American youths patriotically join the armed services to donate their young bodies in service to their government’s many goals, and end up killing innocent strangers, or dying, or being maimed, only for the mercenary protection and expansion of far-flung corporate/economic interests.


Our country has never been invaded by Muslims, nor, credibly, by anyone else. We spend an annual military budget larger than the next fourteen largest nations combined–in total, 45% of the entire military spending in the whole world–on attacks on and within the homelands of foreigners who have never come anywhere near our homes. We have over 600 military bases all over the world. All this pretense of “defense” of America…even though former Secretary of State Madeline Albright guilelessly admitted after 9/11 that “…’homeland security’ is something people hadn’t really thought of before.”


For years, we’ve been instructed that our wars against Islam were fought defensively in response to 1400 years of aggressions in adherence to obscure Islamic scriptures urging global conquest and the spread of Islam by the sword. Few Americans realize that the Crusades were an unimaginably cruel and bloody centuries-long Western invasion of Islamic lands, or that for more than three hundred years, English adventurers penetrating Middle Eastern society have drawn up elaborate plans for assuming control through colonization, plans later pursued by a newly imperialistic America.


Some think our attacks on Islam well-intentioned—i.e., we hope to save misguided Muslims from themselves—so blind are we to the failings of our own brash young culture, and to the glories and losses of ancient Islamic ones. Of course Muslims/Arabs long for many changes of various kinds—but only those changes which arise from their own efforts, not from external interference, and certainly not from foreign aggressors. Americans wouldn’t appreciate foreign occupiers telling us how to live either. Different cultures with long separate traditions and histories, with different assumptions about values, beliefs, practices and ideals, have no business forcing themselves on other cultures. Many Muslim women, for instance, await the day they can move about more freely without their coverings; nevertheless, without exception, there are no Muslim women who want strangers to come from far away to shoot their fathers, sons and brothers in order to secure their “rights” for them.


In today’s brave new world of the internet, freedom of information is no longer a luxury, but a requirement for economic growth—so change will come to every remote corner of the globe, faster than puny humanity can thoughtfully adapt to it. The important question is not “Will things change?” but “How will things change?” While some people will always be more resistant to change than others, change will come to everyone, everywhere, inevitably. No one can stop it. We will all ultimately influence one another, for the better or for the worse, as we choose.


As long as we strove to live up to our ideals, America was a beacon to the world, effectively marketing our highest values of freedom and human rights worldwide. However, since we’ve begun to rely primarily upon our military, and not our moral strength during the last century, since we have used our might primarily to support the greedy ambitions of unscrupulous corporate profiteers, we have temporarily lost our persuasive influence for positive international change.


We now have only a “shrewd” Secretary of State who refuses dialogue with opposing states, and who bribes and bullies our nervous “allies” into tolerating our unfair international practices. Where is our strong, cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peace, promoting global peace and harmony? Where are our official national ambassadors of compassion and justice, sharing our expertise, riches and good will with all nations and all peoples? How do the puny efforts grounded in our highest patriotic and religious ideals and heritage stack up against our unlimited expenditures for endless war?


The literate class in the Muslim world certainly blames the U.S. for oppressing Muslim states. As cruelly and certainly as war kills both body and spirit, so do economic and political exploitations kill, maim and warp lives. Western nations have been meddling politically, financially and militarily throughout the twentieth century, repressing democratic movements and political freedoms throughout all Arab nations, propping up Western-friendly dictators, failing to promote good governance and economic advancement, and neglecting to address rapidly-changing social, demographic and economic developmental challenges. Islamic extremism will continue to thrive until Muslim youth everywhere are offered real hope of political and economic improvements.


During the twentieth century, U.S.-based international corporations backed by powerful military forces reliably insured a steady flow of oil westward at bargain basement prices, while suppressing the economic development and progress of the countries which owned that finite, precious resource. Increasingly, our goal has been military and economic hegemony in the Middle East, by way of incursions into Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Israel/Palestine, Somalia, Western Sudan, Kashmir, the Philippines, Bosnia, Chechnya, Assam, and East Timor. Besides fighting to insure “our” cheap, reliable oil “supply,” we’ve insisted on favorable trade advantages, prevented the spread of nuclear weapons (with the exception, of course, of our own thousands of weapons, and those of our allies) and supported and protected our friend Israel, in part because such support offers us a conveniently aggressive military wedge/base into the Middle East.


Angry Muslims believe that we want to weaken and divide the Arab world, shake the foundations of Islamic belief, and dismantle the structures of Muslim society—their culture, traditions, and their approaches to justice, government, rights, and freedom, however controversial. They believe we want to lead their young people astray, control and limit their use of and profit from their resources, and emasculate and neutralize all opposition to our agenda by spreading our competing western values and influence.


Many Muslims believe that we in the West very much want to keep their countries backward, afflicted, poor and miserable, so we can more easily exploit their riches—their oil, land and human resources. They attribute America’s historical political and economic success not to a morally, economically and politically superior system of government, but to a two-hundred year exploitation of the richest swath of virgin territory and resources that the world has ever known, on the backs of slaves and slaughtered Native Americans, using a form of government primarily supportive of the growth of wealth (the U.S. was originally settled by capitalist business ventures in Jamestown, Plymouth, etc.) and backed up by a growing military force which turned next to support for similar profitable exploitations in the third world.


The West’s war against Islam is considered criminally immoral by the millions of peaceful/innocent non-“enemy” Muslims who have been the “collateral damage” of western aggressions. Like Americans, Arabs have the right to keep and/or sell their resources whenever and at whatever price they prefer. They feel their only hope is to resist and endure Western onslaughts until their undeserved suffering redemptively earns them international sympathy and respect—and/or breaks the American economy—as their resistance broke the national economies of the late great Soviet and British empires.


Muslims pray that the U.S. will lose their political will for unending war, that media backlash from our allies will eventually convince us of endless war’s tragic and wasteful effects. A survey of 47 major nations by Pew Research recently demonstrated that “global public opinion (is) increasingly wary of the world’s dominant nations (and) disapproving of their leaders. Anti-Americanism is extensive, as it has been for the past five years…. Global support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is shrinking, and distrust of American leadership and foreign policy is growing. Not only is there worldwide support for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but there also is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.”


The biggest problem with fighting an endless war on terrorism is that such a war does nothing at all to resolve the terrorist problem, while creating more terrorists. Wars on terrorism are wars no one wins and everyone loses.


Nevertheless, U.S. war profiteers continue to press for expanded wars throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, opportunistically portraying Islam not as a peaceful religion practiced variously by a billion people, not as a tolerant, moderate, ancient faith with a rich tradition of scholarship, compatible with political democracy and religious pluralism, but instead, as a fundamentalist terrorist cult different from all other religions in its aggressive global political agenda, solely responsible for atrocities, civil wars, attacks on Americans, the 9/11 tragedy, and for disgusting practices such as stonings and beheadings–an “evil religion” deserving of annihilation by “the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.”


Stereotypes of Islam as a monolithic religion predisposed to violence simplify the realities of a complex, multi-faceted religion. Some Islamists, like some fundamentalist Christians, pervert what is in essence a peaceful religion, through violent cults bent on universal conversion and conquest—but we can’t blame the whole of either Islam or of Christianity for such aberrations. As in Christianity, there is simply too much diversity within Islam, which has its own versions of Jesus Freaks and criminally violent cults, but also its spiritual mystics and its vast majority of family-centered, civic-minded, peaceful—if very human—communities. As with Christianity, the educated (or uneducated) conscience of each individual Muslim determines his interpretation about “what is Islam” and what is “true Muslim practice.” Like Christians, Muslims can find congregations and leaders who support just about any strain of peaceful or reactionary religious practice, in both secular and Islamic societies.


Millions of Christians currently live in Arab countries, sharing very much the same culture as their Muslim counterparts, just as Muslims in America share much of our American culture. Unarguably, some Muslim leaders are intransigent and fearful, and some fundamentalist Muslims are as crazy as loons—just like some of our own crazy leaders and fundamentalist Christians, who would nuke whole Arab nations right now. But just because each culture has its crazies doesn’t give anyone the right to attack all Christians or all Muslims in “self-defense.” No society can prevent all senseless, tragic injustices, but we do not have to add to their sum.


Some Muslims believe an Islamic state best-suited to achieving Islamic ideals, just as Americans are partial to their own familiar political systems–however imperfect all these political systems are. Some Muslims see Al-Qaeda jihadists as legitimate martyrs, just as we honor the sacrifices and good intentions of our own fallen soldiers even when their wars are discredited. Some Muslims believe stoning and beheading to be true Islamic practices, just as some of our own Christians sects still practice exorcism, voodoo and other bloody or satanic rituals. Most otherwise-peaceful Christians would react violently if America were invaded, just as, during wartime in Arab lands, otherwise-peaceful sects react with what appears to be religiously-inspired violence, making it difficult to consistently distinguish among essentially peaceful groups.


Religion can be misused in any land, whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim—to win votes, to gain political power and control, to further various nationalist and ethnic motives. Just as political electioneering in America relies upon familiar, emotion-stirring patriotic and Judeo/Christian words and images, politics in Arab lands come clothed in the garb of Islam. Like our own neoconservative opportunists, radical Islamic opportunists urge their political ideologies and associated plans—whether for a utopian future embracing Sharia law and rejecting secularism and all things foreign, or for world domination and a global empire run by international corporations—all these unscrupulous politicians (whether clerical or secular) urge their dark visions using religion as a motivator for change, and not the other way around.


In their worst forms, both Islam and Christianity encourage violence and persecution. At best, both are cooperative, tolerant religions. Surprisingly, within contemporary American society, Muslims often seem to be almost more christian than Christians, since modern Christianity has stripped down (to the distress of some and the satisfaction of others) under the influences of modern media, academia and consumer economics to the two primary commandments of “love God and love your neighbor”—while encouraging widely varying interpretations about what these two commandments might mean.


Like most traditional Christian congregations, most American Muslim congregations resist the blandishments of Western media and money which are making so many inroads into modern Christian lifestyles. Most Muslim congregations in America remain deeply devoted to traditional moral principles and values, to avoidance of evaluating people on the basis of what they produce and consume, and—for better or worse—to clearly-defined gender expectations, including a firm rejection of sodomy, pornography, gay lifestyles, abortion and birth control. American Muslims also strongly commit to generous giving, to volunteerism, large families, and to other related traditions embraced by many Christians. Islam’s firm resistance to the biblically-forbidden practice of usury (lending at interest) has long remained a thorn in the side of American capitalists.


Some Christians are concerned that American Muslims will parlay their success in resisting modern/Western temptations in order to lure new converts from Christianity, and thus conquer the West via a sort of stealth attack through immigration without assimilation. Unfortunately, such paranoia is often stoked by demagogic Christian ministers fearful of losing their congregations (and their livelihoods), pastors who might better serve their flocks, their Saviour, and God by trusting in them and turning their examples and service toward higher, more inclusive, more loving goals.


If we stop “warring” on terrorism, we can still firmly resist the crime of terrorism wherever it occurs in the world, by partnering with criminal justice organizations in all governments, most especially those in need of our good example and support.


The very best way to reverse Islamic terrorism, though, is step-by-step, the same way it was created, by reversing the causes of anti-Americanism and extremist violence. Step-by-step, we can move away from a foreign policy of violence-based international competition toward one embracing non-violent global cooperation. Neither approach to ending terrorism is simple, obvious or guaranteed. But only one has any chance of succeeding.


Our first step can be to recognize Islam’s highest priority, after the practice of their faith: to repel aggressors whom they fear will corrupt their religion or Muslim way of life. Out of respect for this principle, Western powers can withdraw their unwelcome pressure and influence along with their troops, and attend instead to the business and pleasure of dwelling and working in Islamic lands, as polite, invited guests respectful of different cultures and traditions.


We can find ways to work against religious and ethnic xenophobia, educating ourselves about historic predations in Arab lands, and promoting understanding and acceptance of Islamic perspectives.


A change of heart toward Islam can support expenditures for reparations to Iraqis and other injured parties, which will go a long way toward rebuilding good will and positive relationships among nations.


We can expand our diplomatic missions to so-called “hostile” nations, spending the money freed from foreign wars on more diplomacy and open dialogue, which will increase mutual understanding and respect, and diminish the likelihood of future wars.


We can demonstrate our good will by welcoming Iraqi refugees into the U.S., helping them create peaceful Muslim communities, and integrate into American civic life.


We can reform our own political system so that the will and welfare of the people can be heard above the demands of big business, the wealthy, corporations, lobbyists, and the military-industrial complex.


We can offer our generous support across the world only for indigenous, peaceful, representative political movements and leaders, whether or not they follow our familiar western parliamentary and constitutional models. We can promote dialogue and better understanding with regional and national organizations which have turned to violence under the pressure of wars and occupations, and together find peaceful, just solutions to conflicts.


We can work together to reduce the spread of nuclear and conventional weapons, first reducing our own to provide a convincing example.


We can purchase land in exchange for peace in Israel/Palestine, and offer our financial assistance only to peaceful leaders on all sides who reject the politics of fear and violence, who respect all ancestries, beliefs, and traditions, and who embrace inclusivity and equitability.


We can work toward respectful, peaceful, just and equitable trade relations with all nations.


We can build good will by respecting local ownership of resources, and offer our principled support in resolving problems of development, production and distribution.


We can work to redirect and downsize our military forces to those necessary only for homeland defense, reduce the global spread of arms, and end the global influence of our own home-grown American military/industrial complex.


We can generously fund the establishment and stated goals of the proposed cabinet-level U.S. Department of Peace


We can reform and rebuild the U.N. into a universally trusted and respected world body, effective in furthering its noble goals.


We can fully fund national peacekeeping armies to work with the U.N. to prevent the rise of national and regional military powers, wars of aggression, war crimes, and violent interferences with the sovereignty of nations.


We can create a U.S. military health system, a sort of national Doctors Without Borders, maintaining its readiness for national emergencies (such as acts of terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters, and military invasions) by sending it everywhere else on the globe where such emergencies may occur.


We can support the most-cherished projects of the peoples of all nations whom we have formerly distrusted, misunderstood, and feared.


We can work together to build a world culture of peace and non-violent conflict resolution, a culture that fits comfortably within all religious and secular systems, that is tolerant of all religions and ideologies, that can be gradually institutionalized into international law, universally taught, and culturally supported through exchanges.


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