Commentary Magazine


Topic: injuries

Pulling Back the Curtain on the NGO Scam

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state'”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

The worldwide effort by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state takes many forms. In international bodies, nation-states use the patina of respectability to indict and defame Israel. And a crop of NGOs have made it a full-time job, under the guise of “humanitarian” work, to carry out the same mission. Now Israel is pushing back, endeavoring to find out just who is behind these outfits.

NGO Monitor reports:

In another step towards greater transparency in funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Israel, the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee tomorrow will discuss a bill to introduce transparency for NGOS that receive foreign government support. The draft legislation is sponsored by MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), and constitutes a revision of an earlier text introduced in February.

In this hearing, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, will provide background information and analysis on the role played by the European Union (EU) and member states in secretly funding Palestinian, Israeli, and other NGOs and “civil society” organizations.

“This bill is an important step towards protecting Israeli democracy and civil society from manipulation,” Steinberg comments. “While foreign governments allocate funds to many activities and organizations in Israel, the secrecy regarding political advocacy groups stands out, as does the role of recipient groups in demonization through the UN, the European parliament, and foreign capitals.”

“Many political advocacy NGOs, many of which are funded by the EU, distort international law to issue one-sided condemnations of Israel,” Steinberg stated to the European Parliament. “At the same time, they belie their claim to be working for universal human rights by giving very little attention to the rights of Israelis. While EU-funded NGOs have issued hundreds of reports condemning Israel, they have shown very little concern for the rights of the children from Sderot.” …

Steinberg adds, “Israelis, like citizens of all democracies, have the right to know how political advocacy groups receive their funding and how they look to fulfill their missions. Unfortunately, Israeli democracy often is easily exploited and manipulated.  Funding transparency will give Israelis the information necessary to assess these groups and their activities.”

A savvy pro-Israel activist e-mailed me to explain that this is going to upset a lot of Israel’s adversaries:

[T]he bottom line is that the EU governments are funding the delegitimization war on Israel. All these NGO’s you see running around, suing the government in court, lobbying, releasing “studies” about this and that Israeli “crime” or “violation” — where does the money come from? It comes from the EU. It’s a war they’re waging. This bill in the Knesset aims to do something very simple: require transparency in the funding of NGO’s that operate in Israel and bankrolled by foreign governments. The lefty “human rights” crowd is completely freaked out about this. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.

In a must-read op-ed, Professor Steinberg explains the insidious work of the NGOs, as well as the EU’s role in funding and enabling the onslaught against the Jewish state. Steinberg writes:

Examples of NGO campaigns are, unfortunately, plentiful. The recent “Free Gaza” flotilla incident demonstrated the sophisticated use of the “humanitarian,” “peace” and “non-governmental” labels to cover a preplanned attack on IDF soldiers, resulting in injuries and deaths. Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) – a Turkish “charity” with close links to Hamas, jihadist groups, and the Turkish government – led the efforts in this instance.

Working with European and American anti-Israel campaigners, including the confrontational International Solidarity Movement (ISM), they tapped into a wider diplomatic and political campaign driven by the false charges of “war crimes” and “collective punishment.”

The possibility that “anonymous officials in European governments” would be exposed as central players in this offensive has understandably set off alarm bells. So naturally, the  Israeli-Arab NGO Adalah (which Steinberg explains is “funded by the New Israel Fund-NIF and the European Union [and] portrays ‘Israel as an inherent undemocratic state'”) and other groups are trying to block the measure. “These groups fear that they too would lose their funding and impact, and placed their private agendas and interests above the right of the public to know who is paying for the de-legitimization efforts.”

Well, transparency would certainly be a step in the right direction. And those on the left here and around the world who say they are oh so concerned about Israel’s democratic character should cheer and support this development, right? Don’t hold your breath — the prospect that these “human rights” and “humanitarian” groups (which provide so much fodder for the daily Israel-bashing) might be exposed as the pawns of garden-variety European anti-Semites and Israel-haters is not one, I assure you, that they are cheering.

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RE: The Incoherent Response to the Flotilla Incident

The White House released a statement late on Sunday concerning the Israeli investigation of the flotilla incident. It is further proof that no good comes from soft-pedaling criticism of the administration or from wishful thinking that one day Obama will emerge as a stalwart friend of the Jewish state. The statement reads in full:

Today, the Government of Israel took an important step forward in proposing an independent public commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent tragic events on board the flotilla headed for Gaza. Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.

We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.

While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.

Let’s count the ways in which this statement is, as a colleague puts it, “appalling.”

First, contrary to assurances to some Jewish leaders, the Obama administration is not enthusiastically embracing or participating in an investigation of Israel. In fact, the administration’s response is a grudging acknowledgment that Israel insists on doing this itself and a warning that Obama and the “international community” will continue to sit in judgment. There is no repudiation of an international inquest; to the contrary, the door is left wide open if the UN decides that the results of the inquiry aren’t “credible.”

Second, after being apparently encouraged by the Reid-McConnell letter, which treated the UN statement as a positive development, the Obama team gloats about its move. (“Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.”) This is what comes from cheer leading the unacceptable — you get more of it.

Third, it orders Israel to present the findings to the “international community.” What other country must do so? Would the U.S. dream of seeking the UN’s stamp of approval on its drone policy?

Finally, there is no indication that we are the least bit interested in investigating Turkey or the terrorists responsible for the violence. Since Turkey will not investigate itself, why is no international inquest convened to explore that nation’s “acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla”? It is because Obama refuses to cast blame or focus the international community’s ire anywhere but on Israel.

This should be a warning to those earnestly trying to curb the worst instincts of this president. It won’t be done by walking on eggshells, making excuses, or trying to soften criticism. In other words, it is time to robustly and clearly enunciate the ways in which this administration is doing damage to our ally, our security, and our moral standing. Obama continues to put all three in jeopardy.

The White House released a statement late on Sunday concerning the Israeli investigation of the flotilla incident. It is further proof that no good comes from soft-pedaling criticism of the administration or from wishful thinking that one day Obama will emerge as a stalwart friend of the Jewish state. The statement reads in full:

Today, the Government of Israel took an important step forward in proposing an independent public commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent tragic events on board the flotilla headed for Gaza. Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.

We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.

While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.

Let’s count the ways in which this statement is, as a colleague puts it, “appalling.”

First, contrary to assurances to some Jewish leaders, the Obama administration is not enthusiastically embracing or participating in an investigation of Israel. In fact, the administration’s response is a grudging acknowledgment that Israel insists on doing this itself and a warning that Obama and the “international community” will continue to sit in judgment. There is no repudiation of an international inquest; to the contrary, the door is left wide open if the UN decides that the results of the inquiry aren’t “credible.”

Second, after being apparently encouraged by the Reid-McConnell letter, which treated the UN statement as a positive development, the Obama team gloats about its move. (“Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.”) This is what comes from cheer leading the unacceptable — you get more of it.

Third, it orders Israel to present the findings to the “international community.” What other country must do so? Would the U.S. dream of seeking the UN’s stamp of approval on its drone policy?

Finally, there is no indication that we are the least bit interested in investigating Turkey or the terrorists responsible for the violence. Since Turkey will not investigate itself, why is no international inquest convened to explore that nation’s “acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla”? It is because Obama refuses to cast blame or focus the international community’s ire anywhere but on Israel.

This should be a warning to those earnestly trying to curb the worst instincts of this president. It won’t be done by walking on eggshells, making excuses, or trying to soften criticism. In other words, it is time to robustly and clearly enunciate the ways in which this administration is doing damage to our ally, our security, and our moral standing. Obama continues to put all three in jeopardy.

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Useful Idiot

Many House and Senate members are stepping forward with statements in support of Israel’s right of self-defense. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reads like a parody of a J Street news release:

I regret the loss of life and look forward to learning the facts from a credible and transparent investigation. This event underscores the urgent need for negotiations designed to achieve an enduring and comprehensive regional peace.

No mention of the injuries to Israeli forces or of Israel’s right of self-defense. Is she now angling for a UN witch hunt? And how, pray tell, will the peace process with Fatah, which has failed for 60 years because of Palestinian rejectionism, help matters? Has Hamas renounced terrorism? It is a statement remarkable — even for Nancy Pelosi — in its dimness. She is plainly shilling for the White House, but the ventriloquists at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. need a more effective dummy.

Many House and Senate members are stepping forward with statements in support of Israel’s right of self-defense. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reads like a parody of a J Street news release:

I regret the loss of life and look forward to learning the facts from a credible and transparent investigation. This event underscores the urgent need for negotiations designed to achieve an enduring and comprehensive regional peace.

No mention of the injuries to Israeli forces or of Israel’s right of self-defense. Is she now angling for a UN witch hunt? And how, pray tell, will the peace process with Fatah, which has failed for 60 years because of Palestinian rejectionism, help matters? Has Hamas renounced terrorism? It is a statement remarkable — even for Nancy Pelosi — in its dimness. She is plainly shilling for the White House, but the ventriloquists at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. need a more effective dummy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

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Realities of War

Sigh. I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole with the argument that General Stanley McChrystal has promulgated rules of engagement that place our troops at needless risk. As I soon as I take a whack at the argument in one place — most recently in a New York Times op-ed by someone named Lara Dadkhah — it appears somewhere else. The most recent incarnation is this article by Nolan Finley, editorial editor of the Detroit News. He offers a particularly over-the-top and un-nuanced version of the argument articulated by a few other conservatives:

Every American soldier should be pulled out of Afghanistan today. It’s immoral to commit our troops — our children — to a war without doing everything possible to protect their lives.

That’s not happening in Afghanistan.

The politicians and generals have decided to make the safety of Afghan citizens a higher priority than avoiding American deaths and injuries.

Where to start? Perhaps with the observation that war involves risk. You cannot win a war without putting your troops in harm’s way. Finley writes with approval: “Harry Truman rained down hellfire on Japan’s civilian population to spare the lives of a half-million allied troops.” That’s true, but U.S. troops also suffered huge casualties in WWII — unimaginable by today’s standards — in missions like storming heavily defended Pacific islands and bombing heavily defended German cities. Their commanders sent men toward almost certain death or injury because they knew there was no alternative. McChrystal is guided by the same realization in Afghanistan.

The only way to win in a counterinsurgency — or just about any other war, for that matter — is to send infantrymen with rifles to occupy the enemy’s strongholds. In Afghanistan, those strongholds are among the population. That’s where our troops need to go. In the process of driving the insurgents out of the population centers, it is strategically smart to minimize civilian casualties because that will help us to win the allegiance of the wavering population. That is not an untested theory; it is the reality of successful counterinsurgency campaigns from Malaya to Iraq.

And, yes, our troops will be placed at risk in the process of protecting the population and defeating the insurgents. There is no other way to achieve our goals. In Iraq from 2003 to 2007, we tried the alternative approach of putting our troops into giant Forward Operating Bases and employing copious firepower. Because this strategy failed to defeat the insurgency, it actually resulted in more American casualties. Conversely the surge strategy of 2007, which placed our troops in more exposed Combat Outposts and Joint Security Stations in Iraqi neighborhoods, incurred more casualties in the short run but saved American (and Iraqi) lives in the long run by actually pacifying Iraq. That strategy is also our best bet in Afghanistan. That’s something that Gen. McChrystal realizes and that Stateside naysayers fail to grasp.

Sigh. I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole with the argument that General Stanley McChrystal has promulgated rules of engagement that place our troops at needless risk. As I soon as I take a whack at the argument in one place — most recently in a New York Times op-ed by someone named Lara Dadkhah — it appears somewhere else. The most recent incarnation is this article by Nolan Finley, editorial editor of the Detroit News. He offers a particularly over-the-top and un-nuanced version of the argument articulated by a few other conservatives:

Every American soldier should be pulled out of Afghanistan today. It’s immoral to commit our troops — our children — to a war without doing everything possible to protect their lives.

That’s not happening in Afghanistan.

The politicians and generals have decided to make the safety of Afghan citizens a higher priority than avoiding American deaths and injuries.

Where to start? Perhaps with the observation that war involves risk. You cannot win a war without putting your troops in harm’s way. Finley writes with approval: “Harry Truman rained down hellfire on Japan’s civilian population to spare the lives of a half-million allied troops.” That’s true, but U.S. troops also suffered huge casualties in WWII — unimaginable by today’s standards — in missions like storming heavily defended Pacific islands and bombing heavily defended German cities. Their commanders sent men toward almost certain death or injury because they knew there was no alternative. McChrystal is guided by the same realization in Afghanistan.

The only way to win in a counterinsurgency — or just about any other war, for that matter — is to send infantrymen with rifles to occupy the enemy’s strongholds. In Afghanistan, those strongholds are among the population. That’s where our troops need to go. In the process of driving the insurgents out of the population centers, it is strategically smart to minimize civilian casualties because that will help us to win the allegiance of the wavering population. That is not an untested theory; it is the reality of successful counterinsurgency campaigns from Malaya to Iraq.

And, yes, our troops will be placed at risk in the process of protecting the population and defeating the insurgents. There is no other way to achieve our goals. In Iraq from 2003 to 2007, we tried the alternative approach of putting our troops into giant Forward Operating Bases and employing copious firepower. Because this strategy failed to defeat the insurgency, it actually resulted in more American casualties. Conversely the surge strategy of 2007, which placed our troops in more exposed Combat Outposts and Joint Security Stations in Iraqi neighborhoods, incurred more casualties in the short run but saved American (and Iraqi) lives in the long run by actually pacifying Iraq. That strategy is also our best bet in Afghanistan. That’s something that Gen. McChrystal realizes and that Stateside naysayers fail to grasp.

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Democrats Flee the Battleground

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick — who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick — who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

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Don’t Blame the Tools

Stuart Koehl has an excellent piece up at the Weekly Standard on a Washington Post article that characterized the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle as a “kevlar coffin.” Koehl’s not an unmitigated supporter of the Stryker, but his main point is that criticism of the Stryker’s ability to protect infantry in Afghanistan is misinformed in ways both obvious and subtle.

The first and more obvious point is that the Post provides no information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by troops in Strykers as compared with  past alternatives, and appears to proceed on the assumption that every Stryker “lost” is a Stryker that has been totally destroyed instead of one sent to the shop. Without this, it’s hard to know just how well or poorly the Stryker is actually doing.

The second and more subtle point is that some of the destroyed Strykers hit IEDs that were as large as 2,000 pounds. At that size, even a main battle tank would not protect its occupants. As Koehl notes, if it becomes a pure race between the armor makers –- who  have to design vehicles that are actually useable –- and an undisturbed network of bomb makers with access to unlimited quantities of explosives, the bomb makers will win every time.

The U.S. has seen this kind of criticism before: it’s reminiscent of the up-armored Humvee “scandal” of 2004-05. As with that incident, the brief burst of criticism of the Stryker combines a bit of commonsense — yes, of course the U.S. and its allies should seek to provide their forces with ample quantities of the best equipment — with a lot of disguised criticism of the administration.

Now this administration deserves to be criticized. As Con Coughlin and Fraser Nelson point out in the latest Spectator, the Obama administration’s dithering isn’t just hurting the U.S. cause; it’s treating its allies — especially Britain – with “astonishing disregard.” But in the U.S., and especially in Britain, the criticism has tended to focus too much on equipment. In the U.S., it’s the Stryker and the Humvee; in Britain, it’s the British Army’s
shortage of helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles.

It’s certainly true that the British Army could use more of both. But as Koehl points out, “the solution to the IED problem is not technical, but rather tactical and operational.” In other words, since you can’t win the battle with the bomb makers by building an invulnerable vehicle, you have to win it by fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. If you control the ground, protect the people, and gather intelligence, you win not by beefing up your armor, but by making it impossible for the bomb makers to make and plant bombs.

Criticizing the supposed failures of the equipment is an easy way to make the correct point that the government is getting it wrong.  But it has a serious cost: it encourages administrations on both sides of the Atlantic to respond to the criticism as a short-term political issue simply by rush-ordering more equipment, while neglecting the more serious problem of how to fight the war effectively. By all means, criticize the Obama and Brown administrations on Afghanistan. but if the criticism is to serve anything more than a political purpose, it needs to proceed from a realization that even the best equipment can’t rescue bad strategy.

Stuart Koehl has an excellent piece up at the Weekly Standard on a Washington Post article that characterized the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle as a “kevlar coffin.” Koehl’s not an unmitigated supporter of the Stryker, but his main point is that criticism of the Stryker’s ability to protect infantry in Afghanistan is misinformed in ways both obvious and subtle.

The first and more obvious point is that the Post provides no information about the number of injuries and fatalities sustained by troops in Strykers as compared with  past alternatives, and appears to proceed on the assumption that every Stryker “lost” is a Stryker that has been totally destroyed instead of one sent to the shop. Without this, it’s hard to know just how well or poorly the Stryker is actually doing.

The second and more subtle point is that some of the destroyed Strykers hit IEDs that were as large as 2,000 pounds. At that size, even a main battle tank would not protect its occupants. As Koehl notes, if it becomes a pure race between the armor makers –- who  have to design vehicles that are actually useable –- and an undisturbed network of bomb makers with access to unlimited quantities of explosives, the bomb makers will win every time.

The U.S. has seen this kind of criticism before: it’s reminiscent of the up-armored Humvee “scandal” of 2004-05. As with that incident, the brief burst of criticism of the Stryker combines a bit of commonsense — yes, of course the U.S. and its allies should seek to provide their forces with ample quantities of the best equipment — with a lot of disguised criticism of the administration.

Now this administration deserves to be criticized. As Con Coughlin and Fraser Nelson point out in the latest Spectator, the Obama administration’s dithering isn’t just hurting the U.S. cause; it’s treating its allies — especially Britain – with “astonishing disregard.” But in the U.S., and especially in Britain, the criticism has tended to focus too much on equipment. In the U.S., it’s the Stryker and the Humvee; in Britain, it’s the British Army’s
shortage of helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles.

It’s certainly true that the British Army could use more of both. But as Koehl points out, “the solution to the IED problem is not technical, but rather tactical and operational.” In other words, since you can’t win the battle with the bomb makers by building an invulnerable vehicle, you have to win it by fighting a counterinsurgency campaign. If you control the ground, protect the people, and gather intelligence, you win not by beefing up your armor, but by making it impossible for the bomb makers to make and plant bombs.

Criticizing the supposed failures of the equipment is an easy way to make the correct point that the government is getting it wrong.  But it has a serious cost: it encourages administrations on both sides of the Atlantic to respond to the criticism as a short-term political issue simply by rush-ordering more equipment, while neglecting the more serious problem of how to fight the war effectively. By all means, criticize the Obama and Brown administrations on Afghanistan. but if the criticism is to serve anything more than a political purpose, it needs to proceed from a realization that even the best equipment can’t rescue bad strategy.

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Backlash

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

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Something To Be Really Thankful For

If any more evidence were needed of how dramatically things have changed in Iraq, a senior military official sends along statistics that show snapshots of three dates: this Thanksgiving; last Thanksgiving, November 22, 2006; and the midway point between them, May 22, 2007.

On Thanksgiving 2006 there were 126 enemy attacks across Iraq and 26 of them were “effective,” meaning they caused injuries or damaged buildings, vehicles, or other infrastructure. Six months later, attack levels were virtually unchanged: May 22 saw 122 attacks, 35 of them effective. And then came the big turn: On Thursday, there were 53 attacks and only 18 of them were effective—drops from a year ago of 58 percent and 31 perecent respectively.

Baghdad, which had been the primary center of violence on November 22, 2006, and May 22, 2007, no longer had that distinction on Thursday: It saw only 10 attacks (half of them effective), compared with 37 in northern Iraq (less than a third of them effective). It’s still cause for concern that the violence level remains so high in the north, but it is cause for celebration that Baghdad is becoming so peaceful. Given that it is the capital of the country, improvements are more significant politically if they occur there than in the provinces.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping result was the change that occurred not in Baghdad, however, but in Anbar Province, which saw 28 attacks (seven of them effective) a year ago and none—repeat none—yesterday.

Those are the kinds of results that should make us grateful to the hard work of the soldiers in Iraq, not only Americans but Iraqis and other coalition partners, and to their commanders in Baghdad and Washington who had the wisdom to implement a new strategy after it became apparent that the old one was failing.

If any more evidence were needed of how dramatically things have changed in Iraq, a senior military official sends along statistics that show snapshots of three dates: this Thanksgiving; last Thanksgiving, November 22, 2006; and the midway point between them, May 22, 2007.

On Thanksgiving 2006 there were 126 enemy attacks across Iraq and 26 of them were “effective,” meaning they caused injuries or damaged buildings, vehicles, or other infrastructure. Six months later, attack levels were virtually unchanged: May 22 saw 122 attacks, 35 of them effective. And then came the big turn: On Thursday, there were 53 attacks and only 18 of them were effective—drops from a year ago of 58 percent and 31 perecent respectively.

Baghdad, which had been the primary center of violence on November 22, 2006, and May 22, 2007, no longer had that distinction on Thursday: It saw only 10 attacks (half of them effective), compared with 37 in northern Iraq (less than a third of them effective). It’s still cause for concern that the violence level remains so high in the north, but it is cause for celebration that Baghdad is becoming so peaceful. Given that it is the capital of the country, improvements are more significant politically if they occur there than in the provinces.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping result was the change that occurred not in Baghdad, however, but in Anbar Province, which saw 28 attacks (seven of them effective) a year ago and none—repeat none—yesterday.

Those are the kinds of results that should make us grateful to the hard work of the soldiers in Iraq, not only Americans but Iraqis and other coalition partners, and to their commanders in Baghdad and Washington who had the wisdom to implement a new strategy after it became apparent that the old one was failing.

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The al-Dura Hoax

Daniel Seaman, chairman of Israel’s Government Press Office, declared today that the al-Dura news report was staged. This was the report filmed on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip by a Palestinian cameraman employed by state-owned French channel France 2, which purported to show the death of a Palestinian boy at the hands of the Israeli army. The news broke in the Israeli media this morning, is spreading in the United States, but has not pierced the firewall of mainstream media in France.

In the voice-over to the footage, France 2 Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin dramatically described the “death” of the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, “target of gunfire from the Israeli position.” The 55-second video was immediately broadcast worldwide and assimilated by unsuspecting viewers. It functioned as a blood libel, justifying atrocities against Israelis and Jews.

For seven years investigators and analysts have labored relentlessly to counter that unfounded accusation. For seven years Charles Enderlin and France 2, protected by the Chirac government and upheld by mainstream media, have stifled criticism and discredited these investigators. The Israeli government, pursuing a “let sleeping dogs lie” policy, discouraged efforts to expose the hoax. Jewish organizations shied away from the controversy.

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Daniel Seaman, chairman of Israel’s Government Press Office, declared today that the al-Dura news report was staged. This was the report filmed on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in the Gaza Strip by a Palestinian cameraman employed by state-owned French channel France 2, which purported to show the death of a Palestinian boy at the hands of the Israeli army. The news broke in the Israeli media this morning, is spreading in the United States, but has not pierced the firewall of mainstream media in France.

In the voice-over to the footage, France 2 Jerusalem bureau chief Charles Enderlin dramatically described the “death” of the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, “target of gunfire from the Israeli position.” The 55-second video was immediately broadcast worldwide and assimilated by unsuspecting viewers. It functioned as a blood libel, justifying atrocities against Israelis and Jews.

For seven years investigators and analysts have labored relentlessly to counter that unfounded accusation. For seven years Charles Enderlin and France 2, protected by the Chirac government and upheld by mainstream media, have stifled criticism and discredited these investigators. The Israeli government, pursuing a “let sleeping dogs lie” policy, discouraged efforts to expose the hoax. Jewish organizations shied away from the controversy.

The al-Dura affair is a smudge on the face of coverage of the “Middle East conflict”; every attempt to wipe it away spreads and deepens the stain. In 2005, France 2 and Enderlin, apparently confident that they could wipe away the smudge, brought defamation lawsuits against three French-based websites that had posted material questioning the authenticity of the al-Dura video. The cases were heard in the autumn and winter of 2006-2007. France 2 lost one on a technicality, and won the other two. Suddenly mainstream media in France discovered the affair . . . long enough to report that the al-Dura scene was not staged!

But one of the defendants, Philippe Karsenty, director of the French news watchdog site Media-Ratings, appealed his conviction and has achieved a major victory—the Appellate Court asked France 2 to produce the 27 minutes of raw footage from which the 55-second “news” video was excerpted. If France 2 has not turned over the document by tomorrow, the Court will order them to do so. The raw footage will be projected at a hearing scheduled for November 14, and the case will be heard in full on February 27, 2008.

The Palestinian cameraman, Tala Abu Rahma, testified under oath that Muhammad al-Dura and his father Jamal were pinned down by uninterrupted gunfire from the Israeli position for 45 minutes. Rahma claims he filmed the incident off and on from beginning to end for a total of 27 minutes, from which Charles Enderlin excerpted 55 seconds for the news report. Enderlin, backed by his hierarchy, insists that the raw footage confirms the authenticity of the news report . . . but has refused to make it available for public scrutiny.

Four reliable witnesses who have viewed the footage testify that it is composed of staged scenes, faked injuries, and falsified ambulance evacuations. There are no images of the al-Duras.

If the raw footage is projected in the courtroom, the battle will be half won, no matter how the court rules on Karsenty’s appeal. If a dozen world-class journalists attend the November 14 hearing, the al-Dura affair will be brought out of its dark alley and into the agora of democratic societies, where it should receive its final judgment.

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