Joe Biden on War & Peace
Democratic Sr Senator (DE); nominee for Vice President
BIDEN: With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan: Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing: You've got to have a time line to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis. This is a fundamental difference between us, we'll end this war. For John McCain, there's no end in sight to end this war.
PALIN: Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not wha our troops need to hear today. We'll know when we're finished in Iraq when the Iraqi government can govern its people and when the Iraqi security forces can secure its people. We are getting closer to that point, that victory that's within sight.
A central government would sit atop of this regional setup, responsible for "common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues." Shared oil resources would most likely restore Iraq to an earlier status: The country, after all, was once a colonial appendage of Britain before World War I, acquired solely for its oil.
Biden said in Feb. 2007, "Any country that comes into being as a consequence of the pen of a diplomat has never been able to be stable except by (a) an imperial power dominating it, (b) a dictator or strongman, or (c) a federal system." Biden clearly believes in the third of these options, but in practice his plan may well recreate the first.
"President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. His strategy is to prevent defeat and to hand the problem off to his successor. As a result, more and more Americans understandably want a rapid withdrawal, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war. Both are bad alternatives."
"There is a third way that can achieve the two objectives most Americans share: to bring our troops home, without leaving chaos behind. The idea is to maintain a unified Iraq by federalizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis breathing room in their own region."
A: Everyone says there's no military solution, only a political solution. We offered a political solution today, the Biden plan, & it go 75 votes. It rejected fundamentally the president's position that there's a possibility of establishing a strong central government in Iraq and said we're going to have a federal system. That is the thing that will allow us to come home without leaving chaos behind.
Q: Will you pledge that you have all troops out of Iraq by January of 2013?
A: If you go along with the Biden plan, and you have a stable Iraq like we have in Bosnia--we've had 20,000 Western troops in Bosnia for 10 years. Not one has been killed--not one. The genocide has ended. So it would depend on the circumstances.
Q: You would not make a commitment?
A: I would make a commitment to have them all out if there is not a political reconciliation, because they're just fodder.
A: Absolutely not. I think it's the wrong strategy. We should be drawing down troops now. We should be in the middle of the 2008, down to 30,000 to 40,000 troops with an end date of getting out of there based upon a political settlement where you set up a federal system there.
Q: What is it Petraeus believes in that you don't?
A: I think Petraeus believes in what I believe in, that his troops will do whatever they're asked. I think Petraeus doubts whether or not militarily he can reach a political solution. He's given a military mission to try to stabilize as much of the country as he can. As a military man, he's doing what he's asked to do, but he knows it will not solve the problem. There is no military solution to Iraq that will allow us to leave without leaving chaos and a civil war behind.
NARRATOR: "In a world this dangerous, with a crisis as tough as Iraq, hard truths need to be told. Joe Biden says this war must end now."Q: In 2005, you said: "We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake. Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out--equally a mistake." You've changed your mind?
A: Well, I have changed my mind, but I haven't changed my mind in any fundamental way. If you go back, I [always said] you need a political solution. And there's time, I thought back then, if the administration had been wiser, to generate a political solution allowing us to pull out. Now the situation we're in, if the president continues to insist on this strategically-flawed notion of being able to establish a central government that can control Iraq before we leave, I ain't buying into that.
A: I will insist on a target date to get American combat forces out, all but those who are necessary to protect our civilians that are remaining there, and to deal with al-Qaeda.
Q: If the president does not accept a firm withdrawal date, will you vote to cut off funding?
A: I will vote, as long as there's a single troop in there, for the money necessary to protect them, period.
Q: Many Democrats who will vote in the primary will say "The only way to stop this war is to cut off funding. Everything else is small talk, and unless you're willing to do that, you will not be the Democratic nominee."
A: You need 67 votes to cut that off. All 51 votes will do is delay building these vehicles [with armor to protect troops]. And if you tell me I've got to take away this protection for these kids in order to win the election, some things aren't worth it. Some things are worth losing over. That would be worth losing over.
A: You know, Bush has not told the truth for seven years; it's time we tell the truth. The truth is if al Qaeda establishes a base in Iraq, all these people who talk about going into Pakistan are going to have to send your kids back to Iraq. And so the fact of the matter is it matters how we get out of Iraq. Separate the parties. Give them control over their own security. Begin to draw down our troops. But let's start talking the truth to the American people.
But the president was giving personal assurances that he would try every avenue of diplomacy before he took the country to war. And it was clear that Colin Powell and members of the Joint Chiefs were not eager to go to war in Iraq. With that in mind, I decided to vote for the resolution.
I believed the resolution passed by Congress provided the firm & united support Powell needed to be able to get the United Nations Security Council to pass and enforce a new resolution that got the inspectors back into Iraq, kept Saddam in his box, and thus avoided a war. I wasn't alone in that.
I made a mistake. I underestimated the influence of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the neocons; I vastly underestimated their disingenuousness and incompetence. So Bush went to war just the way the neocons wanted him to--without significant international backing.
I thought this approach was flawed. The facts showed that terrorist groups didn't base their training camps in countries with strong governments or dictators; they found safe haven in failed states & grew stronger in the vacuum of power.
There was a lot of noise about overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Of the three Axis of Evil countries, Iraq was the country that could put up the least military resistance, and I believed Cheney & Rumsfeld were pushing the president toward an invasion
A: We can't just pull out now. Let's get something straight. It's time to start to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is: If we started today, it would take one year, one year to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq, logistically. That's number one. Number two, you cannot pull out of Iraq without the follow-on that's been projected here, unless you have a political solution. I'm the only one that's offered a political solution. And it literally means separate the parties; give them jurisdiction in their own areas; have a decentralized government, a federal system. No central government will work. And, thirdly, the fact of the matter is, the very thing everybody's quoting is the very legislation I wrote in January. It said: Begin to draw down combat troops now; get the majority of the combat troops out by March of '08.
A: think it's the only option. We're not going to be able to sustain 160,000 troops for another year there. There's going to be drawing down. The civil war is going to get worst. And Iraq is not going to split into three parts. It's going to splinter into many parts. The biggest problem is the administration doesn't deal with what's on the ground. On the ground, you have prime minister that who is incapable--and, I think, does not have the desire--to make the kind of accommodation needed with the Sunnis. We're in the midst of a civil war with nobody. Nobody in this administration offering a political alternative brought about by the international community.
But as long as there's a single soldier left in Iraq, I will not vote to de-fund protecting that soldier. That's why--and I know I say this straight up--that's why I voted, and the only one who voted the way I did, for a simple basic reason. I will not vote to delay one week, not one week, getting these new mine resistant vehicles in the field. That will protect and reduce by 80% the lives saved. This war must end, but must end in a way that we not only bring our children home but that we don't have to send our grandchildren back.
A: That language is actually the language that Carl Levin and I drafted, which said that, "Mr. President, you got to start moving combat troops out of harm's way now." This tries to get this president to change his strategy. He operates on the premise that, if we put enough troops in the middle of a civil war, we can give breeding room to a group of people in Baghdad to get together and form a strong central government that's a democracy. That will not happen in your lifetime or mine. I said that four years ago; I say it now. The only rational purpose for troops in Iraq now: train Iraqis, prevent al-Qaeda from occupying large chunks of territory, and we should begin to decentralize the government. That's the underlying essence of what the language in this bill is about.
BIDEN: I think it is unconstitutional to say we're going to tell you, "You can go, but we're going to micromanage the war." When we wrote the Constitution, the intention was to give the commander in chief the authority how to use the forces when you authorize him to be able to use the forces.Q: [By linking spending authorization to a withdrawal date,] aren't you now micromanaging?
(Videotape, January 7, 2007)
BIDEN: Not at all. We have authority to tell him how to use the forces. We have a responsibility to tell him what the mission is. He does not have the authority to engage in a mission of the use of our force that we do not authorize. And that's the thrust of what we're trying to do here. We're trying to fundamentally change what this president is using our forces for. He's in the midst of a civil war with a flawed objective of establishing a strong central government.
A: No, we're not setting a deadline. Read what the bill says. It says the target date, left up to the generals to determine whether or not it is appropriate to withdraw all forces.
Q: Well, a target date is setting a deadline.
A: No, no, but it leaves forces behind. We're trying to change the mission. The problem here is this is also a moving target. I also called for more troops a couple years ago, in order to stop a civil war. Once the civil war began I said all the troops in the world cannot settle a civil war. So what I'm having to respond to, like everyone else, is the president's initiatives and his failures that required different answers at different times.
A: Before we went to war, I wrote a report saying the decade after, and everyone was talking about the day after. And the point I was making was, if you went in and used force, which he should not have done when he did it, that we were committing and signing on to a decade. That was the minimum requirement. I also pointed out we needed more troops. I also pointed out at that time we would not be greeted with open arms. I also pointed out at that time oil would not pay for this. It was a warning to the president. The objective of us giving [Bush the Iraq war] authority was to get inspectors back in, bring the pressure of the world community. [And to decide] are we going to lift sanctions on Iraq or are we going to put more sanctions on Iraq? That was the context.
A: They are mistaken. They are making a mistake that is not practical. I don't know how that can work.
Q: Senators Reid & Feingold have a bill that says: "No funds appropriated may be expended to continue the deployment in Iraq after March 31st, "2008." Do you support that?
A: Here's where we may end up. This president makes it so difficult to reach the objective--which is to leave Iraq, leaving behind a country secure within its own borders, not a threat to its neighbors, that is a loosely federated republic. It may get so bad that we do not have that option, and the only option we have available to us is to withdraw and try to contain the civil war inside Iraq. We are not there yet. And until we reach that point, I am not prepared to say there are no circumstances under which, after a date certain, we would not have a single troop inside of Iraq.
A: I was correct about that. I also said at the time that I did not think he had weaponized his material, but he did have these stockpiles everywhere.
A: It turned out they didn't, but everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. What he did with them, who knows?
Q: Gen. Zinni, when he heard the discussion about WMD that Saddam had, said, "I've never heard that" in any of the briefings he had as head of the Central Command. How could you as a US Senator be so wrong?
A: I wasn't wrong. When asked about aluminum tubes, I said they're for artillery. I don't believe they're for cascading.
Q: But you said Saddam was a threat.
A: He was a threat.
Q: In what way?
A: If Saddam was left unfettered, with sanctions lifted and billions in his coffers, then he had the ability to purchase a tactical nuclear weapon.
A: I believe we are less safe as a nation now because what has happened is the conduct of this war has so badly damaged our readiness. It has limited our credibility around the world and limited our flexibility in terms of the use of force. We could end the carnage in Darfur tomorrow, but why aren't we doing it? In part we're not doing it because we are so tied down. We could fundamentally change the dynamic in Afghanistan. Why aren't we doing it? Because we are tied down. Saddam was a butcher, the world's happy, may he burn in hell. He deserves it. But in terms of our global positioning, our geopolitical strategy, we are worse off than we were when we had Saddam sitting there because of the impact on our military and the impact on our credibility.
A: Basically, Baker's in a minority. Henry Kissinger & Madeleine Albright have signed onto the plan. If you look at the Baker report, it goes on to say "We may get where Biden is talking about." Guess what? We're getting there. What is this administration implicitly acknowledging by building a wall? They're building a wall, and they're talking about a centralized government? There's never been a time in history where there's been a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence that has ended even remotely reasonably without a federated system. Never. What for the 1st time in history is different? There's an inevitability to what I'm talking about.
A: This is not a football game. This is not win or lose. The fact of the matter is that the president has a fundamentally flawed policy. It's based upon the notion of being able to set a strong, central government in Baghdad that will be democratic. And the real question is: Are we going to be able to leave Iraq, get our troops out, and leave behind something other than chaos? The president should start off by not vetoing the language which we just passed today. Look, there's only one way. You've got to change the fundamental premise of this engagement: you've got to decentralize Iraq, you've got to give the regions control over their own destiny, get them control over their police forces, and have a limited central government and share their oil wealth. The president better get on the game plan here, or he is just going to drag this out to the point where it's not recognizable.
A: Many of my colleagues have offered ideas, just capping troops or cutting troops, or removing troops, but none of them offered a political alternative. To be responsible, one has to be able to answer a two-word question: Then what? After we pull our troops out, then what? After we cap troops, then what? After we cut partial funding, then what? Well, I put forward a political solution that's been referred to as the Biden-Gelb plan. And it's totally consistent with the Iraqi constitution. The problem in Iraq today is a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence. To maintain a unified Iraq, you have to decentralize it. You have to give the courage to the Sunnis and Shias, control over the fabric of their daily lives, control over the local police forces, rules relating to marriage and divorce and education. all the things they're killing each other over.
A: We should stop training the national Iraqi police force. Two years prior to the Iraqi study group report, I wrote a similar report on the very same thing, after visiting Iraq. I pointed out there was no vetting of recruits, no way to weed out criminals, and that in fact, sectarian thugs were making up the police force. That is why it is so critically important to give local control to the Sunni-, Shia & Kurds in their own regions over their police force, so that we don't end up in a situation where these thugs continue to undermine the security of neighborhoods. There's room for a national army, but not for a national police force.
There is a way to do this the right way. Not one person but me has offered a specific political solution for inside Iraq. The Iraqis can't do it by themselves. That's why I'd get the Permanent Five of the Security Council; I would bring in the major Muslim nations; and I would put immense pressure upon the regional partners there to stay out of Iraq.
I'd put pressure on Iraq for a federal system. That's what their constitution calls for. It says Iraq is a de-centralized federal state. And this president continues to try to have a strong central power that's not within the capacity.
BIDEN: I think the American public has the stomach for success. My recommendations on Bosnia. I admit I was the first one to recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people. But the end result was it worked. Look what we did in Bosnia. We took Serbs, Croats and Bosnians, being told by everyone, I was told by everyone that this would mean that they had been killing each other for a thousand years, it would never work. There's a relatively stable government there now as in Kosovo. With regard to Iraq, I gave the president the power, because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted.
A: [The NIE concludes that] in 2003, they stopped their nuclear program. This president is not trustworthy. He has undermined our security in the region. He has undermined our credibility in the world. He has made it more difficult to get cooperation from the rest of the world. He has caused oil to go up roughly $25 a barrel--a security premium--because of his threat of war. It is outrageous, intolerable, & it must stop.
A: The reason why we are disliked so much is because we are trusted so little. I'm talking about the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world who look at us and, when we say and do things as we're talking about now with Iran, conclude that this is a war on Islam. When we went into Afghanistan, we did it the right way. They knew al-Qaeda were bad guys & supported us. When we do things that don't sound rational to them, it undercuts our legitimacy.
On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has been chair or ranking minority member since the late 1990s. In recent decades, he has consistently taken an interventionist stance, promoting the idea that the US, as the lone remaining superpower, ought to step in--with the UN, with NATO, or on its own--to prevent genocide, keep the peace, and promote democracy. Under Clinton, he pushed for intervention in Bosnia, and supported NATO's intervention in Kosovo. More recently, he has argued for an immediate intercession in Darfur, with US troops if need be.
A: It can be used as declaration. It's not even about going to war. Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place. Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel. Who benefits from that? All this talk of war and declaring people to be terrorists droves up the price of oil. We have emboldened Bush, at a minimum, his talk of world war III--totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him to be able to move, if he chooses to move. They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side of the border or the other, we just declare them terrorists. That gives him the right to move against them. Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have no driven, underground, every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. This puts Karzai and Musharraf in jeopardy. The notion is it plays into this whole urban legend that America's on a crusade against Islam. This was bad policy.
DODD: It was a mistake to suggest somehow that going in unilaterally here into Pakistan was somehow in our interest. That is dangerous.
CLINTON: It may well be that the strategy we have to pursue on the basis of actionable intelligence. But I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that [by publicly stating it and to thereby] destabilize the Musharraf regime.
BIDEN: It's already the policy of the US, has been for four years, that if there was actionable intelligence, we would go into Pakistan. That's the law. Secondly, it's already the law, that I wrote into the law, saying that in fact we don't cooperation from Musharraf, we cut off his money. It's time everybody start to know the facts.
7,000 Muslims were killed in Srebrenica. UN forces stood there & watched. I thought about the times I'd been told that the Bosnians were not able to defend themselves against the Serbs. Of course they couldn't. They had no weapons. The UN had seen to that. The UN had disgraced itself.
I went back to the Senate to go on the record. "Time does not work for these people. They will all be dead by the time the West decides to do anything about this problem. We have stood by and watched something no one thought would ever happen again in Europe. It is happening now." The next day, nearly three years after I'd called for the plan, the Senate voted to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia. The House followed. NATO began its air campaign
And he did. In March 1999, I introduced a resolution authorizing the president to use any means necessary to stop Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. With Clinton resolved to act, NATO began bombing Serb targets in 1999.
From the first days of the bombing, the criticism of Clinton by the Republicans was withering. But through the 78 day campaign, Clinton never wavered in public. I got worried about his resolve once. Clinton asked, "What would you say to my halting the bombing?" I said, "I'd call a press conference and say you reneged on a promise. Do not yield. Milosevic will capitulate."
I have no idea if my advice had any effect on Clinton, but he did not halt the bombings. He kept the pressure on, and it paid off.
And, two, we have to move in the direction of making sure that we deal with the one thing that no one's talking about, and that is conduct change, not regime change. Think of the folly of what this administration has acted on. It has said, "By the way, give up your weapons, the very thing that's [stopping] us from attacking you. And once you give them up, then we're going to take you out." That's the logic of this administration. That's why we've lost respect all over the world. My goal would be to reestablish America's place in the world.
A: That's unfair. I said it was a mistake between, and you make it sound like I went to Iowa and all of a sudden [changed my position].
Q: Well, there was a change from being a just vote to a mistake.
A: Yeah, because I learned more. We were told at the time that all these Iraqi generals were ready to step up and take on Saddam. We had commitments at the time from the president that he would not move without the international community. There were a whole lot of things that changed.
Q: So what do you regret?
A: I regret having believed that this administration had any competence. If I'd known they were going to misuse the authority we gave them, I would have never ever given them the authority.
A: Oh, I did. I called every intelligence agency before the Foreign Relations Committee, had them all sit there at once. I pointed out to all my colleagues who came that there was vast disagreement among the intelligence community.
Q: But despite the doubts you heard, you voted for the war.
A: I voted to give the president the authority to avoid a war. We had a more constrictive amendment, but he had 55 votes no matter what.
A: It allowed the president to go to war. It did not authorize him to go to it. You make it sound like it said, "Mr. President, go to war." It said, "Mr President, don't go to war." It said "go to the United Nations. Try to get a deal. Get the inspectors back in. Tell us that that's what you're about to do. And, Mr. President, if all else fails, you have authority to use force." That's what it said.
A: I'm against building permanent US Military bases in Iraq, and I've led this fight to make sure we don't do that. Last year I introduced a law barring US Military bases in Iraq. In fact I introduced it three different times because although it passed the Senate each time, it got kicked out by the House. We finally got it put in the appropriations. I'm doing this same thing this year. Just 2 weeks ago, the same provision got through banning a permanent military bases in Iraq by the US. I also feel very strongly that we should be barred from exercising control of Iraqi natural resources, including oil. We have to knock down the belief that we're there for oil, and we have to knock down the ability of anyone in this administration misguided enough to believe that our mission actually has anything to do with oil or permanent military basing in Iraq. Absent that, we'll never be able to get it right.
A: First of all, I think that I vastly underestimated the incompetence of this administration. I really mean it. Remember, they did it pretty well in Afghanistan. They acted responsibly. Almost every major network, almost every major editorial board in America said that they were acting responsibly. And when [Bush] came forward with this plan for Iraq, his wanting this authority, we assumed he'd act equally as responsibly. But they have been absolutely irresponsible.
I wrote a report six months before we went to war, called "The Decade After Iraq." It stated we would not be greeted with open arms. There would not be enough oil to pay for the war. We'd be there for five to 10 years, and we better not go unless we're prepared to go with a lot more forces. And so I assumed they would understand that. And that was a giant mistake I made -- assuming their competence.
Proponents support voting YES because:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Some of our colleagues thought the Sense of the Senate may have opened the door to some kind of military action against Iran [so we removed some text]. That is not our intention. In fact, our intention is to increase the economic pressure on Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so that we will never have to consider the use of the military to stop them from what they are doing to kill our soldiers.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Sen. BIDEN. I will oppose the Kyl-Lieberman amendment for one simple reason: this administration cannot be trusted. I am very concerned about the evidence that suggests that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities inside Iraq. Arguably, if we had a different President who abided by the meaning and intent of laws we pass, I might support this amendment. I fear, however, that this President might use the designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity as a pretext to use force against Iran as he sees fit. [The same was done with the Senate resolution on Iraq in 2002]. Given this President's actions and misuse of authority, I cannot support the amendment.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Our troops are caught in the midst of a civil war. The administration has begun to escalate this war with 21,000 more troops. This idea is not a new one. During this war, four previous surges have all failed. It is time for a different direction. It is time for a drawdown of our troops.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This resolution calls for imposing an artificial timeline to withdraw our troops from Iraq, regardless of the conditions on the ground or the consequences of defeat; a defeat that will surely be added to what is unfortunately a growing list of American humiliations. This legislation would hobble American commanders in the field and substantially endanger America's strategic objective of a unified federal democratic Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself and be an ally in the war against Islamic fascism. The unintended consequence of this resolution is to bring to reality Osama bin Laden's vision for Iraq; that after 4 years of fighting in Iraq the US Congress loses its will to fight. If we leave Iraq before the job is done, as surely as night follows day, the terrorists will follow us home. Osama bin Laden has openly said: America does not have the stomach to stay in the fight. He is a fanatic. He is an Islamic fascist. He is determined to destroy us and our way of life.
Title: Condemning bigotry and violence against Sikh Americans in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001.
Summary: Declares that, in the quest to identify, locate, and bring to justice the perpetrators and sponsors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, including Sikh-Americans, should be protected.
Sponsor's introductory remarks: Sen. BIDEN: This bipartisan resolution opposes the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq. This resolution says what we and many of our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, are against: deepening America's military involvement in Iraq by escalating our troop presence. Just as important, it says what we and many of our colleagues are for: a strategy that can produce a political settlement in Iraq. That's the only way to stop Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other and allow our troops to leave Iraq without leaving chaos behind.
Calling for the urgent deployment of a robust and effective multinational peacekeeping mission with sufficient size, resources, leadership, and mandate to protect civilians in Darfur.
Legislative Outcome: Agreed to by Senate by Unanimous Consent.
|Other candidates on War & Peace:||Joe Biden on other issues:|
Ruth Ann Minner
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( * if new to the Senate)
AK:*Begich over Stevens
DE:Biden and Kaufman
GA:Chambliss v.Martin (Dec. 2 runoff)
MN:Coleman v.Franken (recounting as of Dec.1)
NC:*Hagan over Dole
NH:*Shaheen over Sununu
OR:*Merkley over Smith
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