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Lions, George Bush and Libya

I’m in the middle of the third part of The Last Lion:Winston Spencer Churchill.  Midway, actually.  Get it?  Ok, never mind.

Anyway, the third part is riveting.  No, seriously, I’m completely engrossed with the story of WWII.  I am my father’s daughter.  This part starts after Britain declares war on Germany and makes Churchill prime minister.  Churchill rallies the country with inspirational speeches and vows that Britain will not go down like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and France.  Wait, was that everyone?  No, indeed, there was much more to come.  The Brits looked across the channel at all the carnage and slavery and starvation and brutality and decided they were going to gird their loins and tough it out.  Then came the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, The Blitz, the destruction of Coventry.  Thousands of British lives were lost in incendiary bombs during nights of terror while the country waited for the invasion they knew Germany was planning.  And then there was the British navy, number one in the world, being picked off boat by boat, ship by ship, in the north Atlantic by German U-boats, battleships and bombers.  The carnage was horrific.

Meanwhile, Churchill was on his own.  No other European country was going to come to his rescue.  After years of appeasement, the ability of the military to respond to German aggression was very weak.  The RAF had far fewer planes, the navy’s ships were old, the army’s tanks couldn’t compete with the German panzers.  Churchill begged the US to send whatever was mothballed from WWI.  He turned British bases in the Atlantic over to America in exchange for some old rust buckets.  It wasn’t enough.  He pleaded with Roosevelt for help.  Britain was having trouble feeding itself.  He warned FDR that America was next, that Germany and Italy would come for them eventually.  But FDR had his own band of isolationists to deal with.  They held our country hostage and prevented any useful aid from reaching Britain.  Lend-Lease was only partially successful and Britain nearly bankrupted itself trying to purchase food and materials to ramp up weapons production.

Then came a series of British military disasters.  They initially had success in North Africa, but lost momentum to Rommel in Libya.  The Brits promised to defend Greece but after Yugoslavia signed the Tripartite agreement with Germany and Italy, then had a coup in protest, it was invaded by Germany, which rolled right on thru to occupy Greece.  Once again, the Brits had to evacuate – to Crete.  In Crete, German paratroopers captured a British airbase.  The RAF didn’t have the means to defend itself.  It didn’t have any arms.  The Brits evacuated to Egypt.  It was one retreat after another.  Pearl Harbor came as a blessing.  Finally, another country was going to share the misery.  But once the US got involved, it quickly found that it was no better off than the British.  With decades of appeasers running the show, the US military also didn’t have the ships, arms or aircraft to put up much of a fight.  If the Japanese hadn’t thought they were so far ahead of the game that they could afford to take a break refit their ships, the US might have lost all of the ships we had in the Pacific.

In the first months of 1942, Churchill was called by the House of Commons to account for all the military disasters.  Crete and Greece were particularly grating.  The Greek campaign was seen as unnecessary, especially because it was a voluntary action and it was a total loss.  But Churchill pointed out that the purpose of the campaign was to show the world that Britain was not just a sitting duck, it would resist assimilation.  Also, there was that whole business of the eastern Mediterranean.  If the area wasn’t secured for sea traffic, oil from the Persian Gulf and other goods, would have to go around Africa to get to England.  THAT’s why the British were in Egypt, to keep an eye on the Suez Canal.  That’s why they wanted to keep Tobruk in Libya.  It was the safest natural harbor in the area for the British fleet.  That’s why the Germans were bombing the shit out of Malta.  That’s why Churchill was hoping that Stalin was ready to fight Hitler in Russia, so Germany wouldn’t capture Iraqi and Iranian oil fields. By the way,  how many of us knew that when the Japanese declared war on us, it effectively cut off our rubber supply from Malaysia and that our cars and other vehicles were impacted by the Japanese navy threatening the trade routes?  I didn’t know that until yesterday.

And he was pissed off that he had to report this crap to the House of Commons because all they needed to do was look at a fricking map for the past decade to see that these areas needed reinforcement and military strength.  But while he spent a decade as a ridiculed back bencher, running around with his hair on fire about the evil brewing in Germany, he had to put up with a lot of snooty appeasers who thought keeping the peace so commerce could proceed without interruption was more important than a raving lunatic and his band of thugs in Berlin.

The House of Commons still couldn’t understand the Greek thing though.  Why pursue a battle if you aren’t sure you’re going to win?  He replied that if you have to know in advance that a win is a certainty, you never get off your ass to become a real threat.

So, now we come to our own Libya.  And I look at the map of all of the choke points in the world now for international shipments of oil and grain and all kinds of stuff and it’s really not all that different today than it was in WWII.

 

It’s still the Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, Singapore and the South China Sea, the Dardanelles.  We may all divinely wish that the world didn’t run on oil.  I certainly wish it.  But the powers that be are determined to keep us addicted and, let’s not kid ourselves, we haven’t really had a choice of president since 1996.  The election was stolen in 2000, probably 2004, certainly something went terribly wrong in 2008 and that led to 2012.  George Bush was a disaster for us.  The Iraq War was a disaster for us.  Afghanistan?  It started off well but quickly devolved.  We needed to go to Afghanistan.

And now we come to Libya.  Libya, the same damn place that was such a mess for the Brits in 1941.  There were probably a couple of reasons to do air strikes in Libya a couple of years ago.  The first may have been the oil.  I won’t deny it but I don’t know.  Yeah, oil is evil.  I think I’ve already mentioned that.  The second was to avoid a humanitarian crisis.  Qaddafi was going to scorch the earth.  And no, we can’t save the world.  It isn’t our jahb.  But I will remind the reader that in this case, the pre-WWII hypothesis of the military specialists was that air bombers were king. You get your best bang for your buck with a bomber.  That’s not necessarily the whole story.  It did eventually require a massive number of bodies thrown at Normandy to finally take Europe back.  But that was then and this is now.  Air strikes are incredibly effective and in Libya’s most recent case, it finished Qaddafi off.

Should we have not done it because there is now a bunch of Libyans fighting amongst themselves?  Should we only get involved if we know that people are going to not misbehave when we have our backs turned? I don’t know but I suspect that crazy dictators do not take you seriously if you don’t at least put up a fight to show that you mean business.  That doesn’t mean we should have gone to Iraq.  We shouldn’t have gone to Iraq because there was no reason besides greed to go to Iraq. Saddam Hussein had no WMDs.  And apparently, we learned our lesson back in 1941 and we are no longer lacking in military prowess.  No one is going to catch us without enough armament to turn any offending country into a glass parking lot if that’s what we want.  I just hope we don’t want.

Now our biggest problem is we are waging a different kind of war in the US.  The bad guys are so clever they ask us to disarm ourselves in completely different ways.  They are using our own safeguards against us.  I guess we can debate whether Libya was worth it or not.  Or we can pay better attention to the new dictators who are slipping in and taking over our country without shedding any blood at all.  Well, not yet anyway.

Our finest hour is coming.

 

24 Responses

  1. I thought I followed the news but, I really don’t get the Libya thing. I don’t get our plan and don’t understand what we thought we’d gain. What HAVE we gained?

    • Like I said, just because you do what you think is the right thing at the time, doesn’t mean that the people who benefitted won’t turn around and screw it up when your back is turned. If it was the right thing to do to take out Qaddafi and avoid a humanitarian crisis and we only provided air strikes, then that should have been the end of it.
      What was the alternative? We leave Qaddafi in place when we had a chance to dispatch him once and for all? That we let a Rwanda style mass murder happen in Libya? If we didn’t experience any or many casualties by bombing Libya, wasn’t our own exposure limited?
      But let me ask you this: what is the purpose of constantly questioning Libya instead of not questioning why we didn’t close Guantanemo or why the O admin didn’t plan for the orderly withdrawal from Iraq before the 2012 election or why we aren’t keeping a tighter lid on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
      I’ll tell you why I think Libya has been in the news 24/7 in one shape or form for the last couple of years. It’s because it was the only military success that Hillary Clinton was directly involved with and the powers that be want to sow mistrust.
      They really REALLY don’t want her to be president. Why don’t they want her to become president? Who is it that is fighting so hard to discredit the Clintons and why? It’s happening on both the right (with that Benghazi crap 24/7) and the left by goading the more pacifistic among us. They want us to turn against her and walk away. We will hear about Libya for the rest of her natural life even though there are much, much bigger problems we need to deal with. But even though Libya WAS a military success and we are not responsible for what has happened there recently, someone is trying to tie the two together. For what purpose? I wish I knew. Clinton must have some powerful mojo or the MOTU wouldn’t be trying so hard to take them out and discredit them.

      • Who is it that is fighting so hard to discredit the Clintons and why?Clinton must have some powerful mojo or the MOTU wouldn’t be trying so hard to take them out and discredit them

        My guess is that the Clintons aren’t CIA.

      • Please. Go back and check the text of Gaddafi’s speech. He said that anyone who laid down his arms would be treated leniently. He said he had no problem with folks fleeing the country. All he said was that armed rebels would be dealt with harshly. When is that not the case? Benghazi was the last stronghold of the rebellion. Far from enjoying popular support, it had been shown to be the handiwork of only a few groups of religious fanatics, with the support of some naïve Westernizers. On the road to Benghazi, Gaddafi’s troops overran many cities, and yet there was no blood baths.

        The notion of a “humanitarian crises,” much less a Rwanda style full blown genocide or “mass murder,” simply has no basis in fact. Gaddafi never ruled in that way, and there was nothing to suggest he intended to do so in putting down the rebellion.

        Rather, precisely because the rebellion was on its last legs (meaning, of course, that most of the bloodshed would soon be over), the West got the UNSC to hastily pass a no fly zone Resolution. And then that Resolution was distorted nine ways from Sunday to include a NATO supplied aerial “creeping artillery barrage,” behind which the brave rebels crept all the way from Benghazi to Tripoli. Allah only knows how many Libyan soldiers, most of them young conscripts convinced that they were doing their duty fighting against foreign bombardment, died in the air campaign at the hands of NATO.

        And the upshot? A more or less decent (by Third World standards) regime, which had done everything it could to make peace with the West, was removed. Chaos has followed in its wake, with the rebels turning on each other, settling scores, murdering Black folks for being Black, establishing and defending “turf,” and generally acting like the lawless bunch of thugs they always were. The Gaddafi regime also bargained hard with the Western oil companies, and used the proceeds to fund a fairly good system of public education, public health, and other social services. Now, the Western corporations are looting the country, and its oil resources.

        “But let me ask you this: what is the purpose of constantly questioning Libya instead of not questioning why we didn’t close Guantanemo or why the O admin didn’t plan for the orderly withdrawal from Iraq before the 2012 election or why we aren’t keeping a tighter lid on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan?
        ” I’ll tell you why I think Libya has been in the news 24/7 in one shape or form for the last couple of years. It’s because it was the only military success that Hillary Clinton was directly involved with and the powers that be want to sow mistrust.”

        Oh my God! Is it always about Hillary?! Obama was the president. He was the C in C. He ordered the Libyan campaign, not Hillary. And, of course, the same people who argue against that campaign are the very people who also argue for the closure of Guantanamo, and for a more “dovish” FP generally. This is not a conspiracy against Hillary, rather it is an expression of disappointment that “anti war” Obama and former McGovern supporter Hillary engaged in an immoral, ill considered, and unconstitutional (no Congressional approval) war, a war that also made a mockery of the UNSC (and, by the way, both the Russians and the Chinese feel burned because they allowed the no fly zone resolution to pass, ostensibly for “humanitarian” reasons, and then had to sit back and watched it turned into a carte blanche for “regime change”) and led to disaster on the ground. Those of us on the left, whether strictly pacifist, or just war advocates, or simply skeptical of military “solutions” need no “goading” to find the whole affair to be very disappointing, to say the least.

        I agree that the Benghazi incident has been trumped by the Right to discredit Hillary and Obama. But this:

        “…Libya WAS a military success and we are not responsible for what has happened there recently…”

        is indefensible. Yes, the campaign to remove Gaddafi was a “military” success. But, on that basis, so was Iraq II (after all, Saddam was removed as well). The point is that, having destroyed a functioning government and society, yes, actually, “we” (the USA, NATO, the Obama Administration, including, to a lesser degree, his SoS who supported the policy) ARE “responsible,” in every moral sense, for the anarchy that has followed.

  2. I would guess that many of the “appeasers” were hoping that if they just held back long enough, Hitler and Stalin would start fighting each other, getting rid of two problems. The appeasers didn’t expect that the two dictators would sign a pact.

    Also, they expected their armed forces could repel a German attack. Indeed, the Maginot Line would have worked if the French had just built it all the way to the coast. (The Germans never attacked the Line; they simply went around it.) For that matter, the French had a greater quantity and better quality of tanks in 1940 than the Germans. The French (and British) generals, with a few exceptions, just didn’t understand how to use them properly.

    Of course, Stalin was a fool to take the pact seriously. He had warning after warning from his spies that the Germans were planning to attack in 1941, but he didn’t believe them. He was an even bigger fool to crowd his armed forces near the border, within blitzkrieg range, so the Germans were able to destroy many of them in the first attack. Without that, Hitler would have lost significantly sooner than he did.

    Italy, of course, was a joke, with the exception of a few first-rate units.

    As for Imperial Japan–sure, the Japanese fought like demons on crystal meth, but the Empire never had a chance in Areinnye:
    http://www.combinedfleet.com/economic.htm

  3. Yesterday, I surfed into a nest of MacArthur worshipers– another bit of history that gets sanded down. The politics of WWII were more complex than today, I think, and are instrumental in contemplating in SOS Clinton who is the Patton of Politics– sans bitch slapping (so far).

    • Hmmm, are the politics really more complex? I wonder. It’s still the same world with the same continents, oceans and straits. It still has finite natural resources. Matter is neither created or destroyed.
      And when you think about it in those terms, the Arab Spring takes on quite a different personality, not that I would suppress righteous protests against oppression and corruption. It’s just that protests may be easily manipulated to serve another purpose, especially if the protestors don’t take the time to plan the next step, as has happened in Egypt.
      When you think about it, we came dangerously close in WWII to losing it all to Hitler. He might have been a malignant narcissistic megalomaniac sadist but he sure seemed to know what he was doing when he tag teamed with Italy and Japan. Just look at that map. It’s astonishing.

  4. All I can say: what a thought provoking post and the look at history, that somehow tends to be forgotten or rewritten (manipulated) by present greed and power mongers.

    • Yeah, pacifism kinda plays right into their hands, doesn’t it? It takes the eye off the bigger picture.
      I’m also finding out some not so nice things about Gandhi. For example, Churchill offered Gandhi an India with dominion status if he would join with Britain against the Axis. But Gandhi preferred that Indians break with Britain and sign a peace agreement with the Japanese. Yeah, he watched the rape of Nanking and said, “Ok, we’re going to go with you guys.” Churchill was an Imperialist, much to the chagrin of Roosevelt. But he was also a realist. He predicted that when India did gain its independence, the country’s 100million Muslims would be in grave danger of Indian Hindu nationalists. And that’s exactly what happened. India partitioned and millions of people died. Churchill saw the writing on the wall about India. Sooner or later, India was going to have to be decolonialized. He just thought it was a really, REALLY bad idea for it to happen during the war years. And it would have been one more catastrophe for him to worry about.
      You’d think that Gandhi would have seen it coming.

      • The distribution of natural resources and industrial capacity favored the Allies too much. The Ratzis only came as close as they did because the Western generals didn’t know how to use tanks at first, and the USSR labored under the severe disadvantage of Stalin’s “leadership”.

        As for the Japanese, see my “economic” link above. They never had a chance.

        • Well, bleep. That was supposed to be nested under RD’s “Hmmm, are the politics really more complex?” post.

          As for Gandhi, maybe he was more concerned with the British Empire’s decades-long institutionalized rape of India than with the rape of Nanking.

        • Um, the book I’m listening to does not support your theory. The problem was there weren’t enough tanks, battleships or aircraft to keep up with much less overwhelm the Nazis and Japanese. Indeed, we know this is true because the year that the allies calculated they would have enough armament to retake Europe based on how many ships they would need to carry enough men to stage an invasion was 1944. And that turned out to be pretty damn accurate. It took 3 years back then to build a battleship.
          Think about that for a moment. In essence, the Nazis really had won the war by 1941. The only thing we could do was build, build, build like crazy and wait three years before we could win it back.
          That’s pretty sad. Three years of most of Europe living in the most grim circumstances ever. And there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it until we had a critical mass of equipment.
          About the tanks, there was a problem with British tanks in the desert. They tended to accumulate sand in their gears. But even if they worked as advertised, there just weren’t enough of them.

          • Apparently you and I read different books.

            However, I gather that your book is a hagiography of Churchill, and if the Axis is portrayed as one step away from subjugating the planet, that makes Churchill look all the more heroic, suiting the author’s purpose.

            I do respect Churchill, but if someone else had been running the British Empire, and had made peace with Hitler, indeed continental Europe would have eventually been dominated by a totalitarian system.

            Namely, Communism.

            Lend-Lease certainly helped, but the USSR built most of their own equipment in WW2, much of it in factories the German armed forces could never have reached. The Germans only enjoyed early success in their invasion of the USSR because Stalin the Dumb@$$ had purged his officer corps a few years earlier, then crowded his armed forces too close to the border, in reach of one of the Germans’ patented blitzkriegs. The Russians would have eventually rolled into Berlin, and with no Allied troops in Western Europe, they would have rolled to the Atlantic. It just would have taken longer than in real history.

            The only way Hitler might have prevented that outcome is by not attacking the USSR, and he was always determined to do that sooner or later–or by developing the A-bomb first, but IIRC, while the Germans did work on that, they never got close to building one. (Maybe if the Ratzis hadn’t killed or run off all those Jewish scientists…)

            I will continue to think the Axis never had more than a long-shot chance of winning WW2, and they were overconfident fools to think otherwise–none of which means I regret their defeat, lest anyone become confused.

          • Hagiography it might be but part 3 is over 50 hours long. These two authors have a LOT of documentation and data including telegrams, papers, statistics on how many tons of shipping got blown up, etc, etc. If this were just hagiography, you wouldn’t expect so much backup material. Really, the amount of data in this book is staggering and they are going through the war day by day, week by week, month by month. There is nothing left out.
            And the conclusion I come to is this: Hitler and Japan had already won the war shortly after the US was bombed at Pearl Harbor. Our historians have done a pretty good job covering up just how bad things were. They weren’t just bad. They were catastrophic. We’re talking down to our last few battleships per country by 1942. It was that serious.
            If Hitler had played the Russian card a little differently, we might all be singing Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles right now instead of the Star Spangled Banner.
            Churchill had tenacity but that wasn’t enough to win the war and he knew it before the war ever started. What he needed was armaments. The only thing that saved Britain was the RAF and the fact that England is an island. If gave them just enough time to save their own asses. But it was extremely close for both of us.

          • None of the Axis Powers ever got close to building an A-bomb, so that alone, if nothing else, would have doomed them eventually.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nuclear_energy_project

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_nuclear_weapon_program

            The USA was immune to invasion and to any significant bombing raids.

            The USSR had so much space they could afford to lose some of it for a while.

            As you pointed out, Britain is an island, and the Germans didn’t have a significant surface navy. (Only the U-boats were significant.) Britain also had the tremendous resources of its Empire going for it.

            The fascists just look stronger than they truly were because:

            –they were able to exploit the enmity between Western capitalism and Communism (would Hitler have dared to move west without the Nazi-Soviet Pact?),

            –at first, the Germans understood how to use tanks better than their enemies,

            –and Stalin was a doofus in many ways.

            Meanwhile, no one on our side realized the Japanese had figured out how to make air-dropped torpedoes work in the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor, which was one of the main reasons our brass didn’t worry enough about the possibility of air raids.

            Even there, the Japanese missed the most important targets of all–no, not the carriers–the fuel storage dumps and repair facilities. Had they taken those out, Pearl Harbor would have become useless as a base. We might have had to go through Alaska and come down from the northeast. Of course, that would have just given us time to develop more A-bombs, so that might actually have turned out worse for Japan.

            The poor stupid fascists doomed themselves the day they chose to make war.

            I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Thank you for the warning, however inadvertent; I see I won’t be wasting any time reading The Last Lion.

  5. Awfully good of a book about Churchill to referrence Midway midway, eh wot?

  6. Twenty some years ago I read a book called Japan’s Secret War, about Japanese efforts to build atom bombs. I see that book is briefly mentioned in the wikilink Monster provides. That book makes claims about how close Japan got before losing the war, claims which the wikilinkd tends to dismiss. I do note with interest that the link itself referrences Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr as being two scientists who work Japanese physicists studied and accepted. So it seems that Japanese physicists hung out with all the right europhysicists. The book may be wrong about how close Japan got, but the book is probably correct about Japan being on the right conceptual track to getting the bomb; and merely fell short due to running out of time and money. Here is the book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Japans-Secret-War-Against-Atomic/dp/156924815X

    By the way, I remember seeing a TV show on one of those “history” channels about Japanese germ warfare research, ending with describing successful Japanese efforts to build a long-range bomber capable of reaching the United States with special light-weight bubonic plague bombs. They were almost ready to bubonic plague bomb us but we beat them with our own atom bombs by a matter of days.
    http://io9.com/5908290/during-world-war-ii-japan-plotted-to-unleash-a-plague-on-the-united-states

    And for those fainting-couch liberals who weepywail about our racismic genocidaloidal use of those atom bombs, here is an essay by Paul Fussell, a WWII veteran of the Japanese theatre, called Thank God For The Atom Bomb.
    http://crossroads.alexanderpiela.com/files/Fussell_Thank_God_AB.pdf

    • I don’t doubt the Japanese would have used a WMD had they managed to get one.

      As for how close did they actually get to it…I’m going to take those links with a grain of salt. Our, ahem, enthusiastic friend RUR sometimes lets his enthusiasm get the better of his skepticism.

      • OTOH, RUR showed enough savvy to put quotation marks around “history”.

      • Sometimes the official mainstream view itself deserves a measure of skepticism. Tinfoil is in the eye of the beholder.

        That said, a reasonable measure of due consideration is all these links would hope for, as with any links.

  7. RD, it looks like we’re both wrong–this is why the Allies won: :mrgreen:

    http://s175.photobucket.com/user/drkarma/media/ScissorsbeatpaperMP_zps1ed8ce6f.jpg.html

  8. >The point is that, having destroyed a functioning government and society,

    We have different definitions of “functioning.” And we (meaning the US) got involved in Libya only reluctantly and to a very limited degree: France took the lead on Libya (but we only hear about France from the Left when they oppose US military actions, not when they want them).

    Much of the world is dysfunctional for reasons that long predate our involvement. The governments of Chile and Iran would have fallen to anti-democratic forces without US help (which does not excuse or involvement, but does put it in perspective); Iraq, Libya, and Syria were doomed to either chaos and civil war or an endless string of brutal dictatorships regardless of our actions; Russia will continue to try to bring back as much of the Soviet/Tsarist empire as possible; and Israel and the Palestinians will continue to hate, fear, and distrust one another.

    >None of the Axis Powers ever got close to building an A-bomb, so that alone, if nothing else, would have doomed them eventually.

    No. First, the a-bomb is not a hydrogen bomb: the US did not have the capability to take out a nation with atomic weapons alone (and we didn’t; the a-bomb was the climax of the war against Japan, not the entire war).

    Second, an atomic bomb does you no good if you can’t deliver it. We were years behind the Axis in missile technology, and using a plane required absolute air superiority: you could hardly risk your bomb being shot down.

    Third, once the bomb was used the knowledge it could be done would have led to a crash program that would have soon produced a Nazi bomb. This didn’t happen because Nazi Germany was already defeated by a conventional war.

    Had Britain made a deal in 1940, or the USSR collapsed in 1941 or 42 (something that was closer to happening than is generally acknowledged) Nazi Germany would essentially have won its war for Europe and the Middle East. And with those resources, over time, it would have become a much greater threat-and at the least produced a much-uglier and more dangerous Cold War.

    rd, I suggest you follow up The Last Lion with Nigel Hamilton’s excellent The Mantle of Command on FDR’s war leadership in 41-42. The west was vastly fortunate to have both Churchill and FDR when we had to face Hitler. Whether we will be so fortunate in confronting our current and future problems is another question.

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