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Time To Pay Up

By Philipp in Op-Ed
Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:53:51 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

Currently a fascinating event to watch is the ongoing donors conference for Afghanistan in Tokyo. Representatives of the rich countries come together to pledge money for the reconstruction of this totally devastated country. The UN estimates that $15 billion is needed over the next 10 years, $2.9 billion is pledged so far.

The end of the cold war over ten years ago brought what former president Bush called a New World Order. While it is still unclear what that order might look like, one thing definitly changed: Before, every conflict in a minor country was seen (at least by the US) as a battle between Communism and the Free World. Afghanistan was one such a country, and the US funded rebel forces to destabilize the Soviet-backed government.

Military meddling in other countries has since been reduced, but clearly not stopped. The US seems to be mostly motivated by the fight against rogue states such as Iraq, which threaten their national interest. UN missions are mostly motivated to negotiate peace deals and help countries to rebuild themselves. East Timor is one example for this. For some reason the latter is often dismissed in conservative circles in the US as nation building and therefore somehow bad.

The current situation of Afghanistan is a clear case of nation building, if there ever was one. A country that lacks everything: security, roads, sewage systems, irrigation, schools, an endless list of services that are usually carried out by a functioning state. And Afghanistan has no money, and will not be able to collect significant amount of money through taxes, because the majorty of people is unemployed and does not have any income.

The UN estimate of $15 billion over the next 10 years sounds like a lot. That would be $600 per person in Afghanistan. Or, it would be 0.015% of US GDP over the same period. So, from a rich world perspective it is chump change. The cost to wage war in Afghanistan was reportedly $1 billion a month for the US. Rebuilding the World Trade Center would cost much more.

International financial aid is a messy issue: Often countries demand that their aid money is spend on services of companies from their own country, so none of the money actually ever shows up in the receiving country. Often this means that the aid is spent on what the donor wants to provide and not what the recipient needs.

If money is passed on directly, a big concern is that it will end up in the pockets of the powerful, and not reach the people. So, money is often channeled through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are based in donor countries but that have people on the ground in the recipient countries to work on specific projects.

Afghanistan is an unusual case here: The rulers of the country are not too much concerned about the meddling in internal affairs, which is the usual excuse against too much foreign involvement. Reportedly, the people are demanding UN involvement, because they see it as a force of stability.

Besides being simple the right thing to do, the West could demonstrate here clearly that it does stand for freedom and democracy and prosperity. Building a successful democratic muslim nation would be valuable propaganda in the war against terror that will never come this cheap again. Having a center of stability in Afghanistan would radiate out to the region which is always at the brink of collapse into chaos (see Pakistan).

In short: It time to pay up. Write you political representative today!


Voxel dot net
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No money for Afghanistan, because
o they are all terrorists 3%
o they can help themselves 2%
o it will end up in the pockets of the wrong people 18%
o other countries need it more 1%
o we need it ourselves 11%
o WTF! Of course we pay! 62%

Votes: 80
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o $2.9 billion is pledged
o Also by Philipp

Display: Sort:
Time To Pay Up | 61 comments (57 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
A couple of problems (4.08 / 12) (#4)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:14:52 PM EST

First of all, no matter how well we build up their infrastructure, Afghanistan will still be a poor country, because there's nothing there to base an economy on. They have next to no natural resources, there's no advantage to locating a company there(and a lot of disadvantages,) and herding animals does not make a viable basis for a modern economy to sustain millions of people. Thus, that infrastructure will simply crumble again, albeit not so quickly as it did in wartime.

Second, doing it right would cost a lot more than $15 billion even if they had or could build the economy to sustain it. That's the "appealing lowball" figure that politicians use to make something sound feasible, but anyone who's ever looked at any public works project knows that $15 billion won't even build a decent transportation system, much less all the other stuff they'd need.

Third, yes, we should help them anyway, insofar as we can, because we blew the shit out of their country. We're already on our way to doing that, in case you've been ignoring the headlines.

Fourth, despite all the media hype, don't expect Pakistan to collapse or to go to war with India. It just isn't going to happen.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

So then what do we do? (4.22 / 9) (#5)
by skim123 on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:22:45 PM EST

I agree that Afghanistan really can't build a viable economy due to their lack of natural resources. Currently they depend upon nature (farming/herding) and multi-year long droughts can really screw up an economy, much more so than some Dot Com Bubble Burst.

Anywho, what should we use that money (be it $2.9 billion, $15 billion, $150 billion) to do in Afghanistan? One option would be to build schools and factories, attempt to educate their populace and hope for the best. Of course this is a country who violently rejected "modernization" in the early 20th century when their then-leader attempted such a course. (Read a bit about their history a few months ago, but can't recall the URL.)

Interested to hear what you think the money should be spent on.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
rejecting? (none / 0) (#57)
by linca on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 02:19:36 AM EST

Saying they rejected modernisation is a bit far-fetched.

In th 60's they were quite modernised. then both the URSS and the US started to meddle in their affairs, one of the two invaded them, they revolted and got back to barbary

(cut and copy for other middle-east countries)

I'm not kidding about this. at least in Kabul, women walked with nothing on their hair, etc...

[ Parent ]
resources (4.37 / 8) (#7)
by alprazolam on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:45:15 PM EST

because there's nothing there to base an economy on.

Which is why Japan could never really join the modern world.

[ Parent ]

Two differences (3.25 / 4) (#10)
by trhurler on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:25:03 PM EST

First off, the Japanese culture that spawned fascist militarism also happened to spawn fascist corporatism, but only in the face of massive efforts from the US, and only in an era where it was relatively cheap to build up an industrial infrastructure. These days, it is not cheap, and the Afghan culture is not about working hard for someone else or something else, be it a nation, a corporation, or anything inbetween.

Second, Japan embraced high technology and the refinement and "retail-ization of the developments of other first world countries as a means to success. Do you really think Afghans will do so, regardless of how much money we pour in? This would be a sea change from their present semi-luddite Western-wary Muslim lifestyle.

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Ask the CIA ,the ISI and NA about Afghan resources (4.66 / 3) (#16)
by sticky on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:19:01 PM EST

They've all made a lot of money off of Afghanistan's "natural resources". In fact, a new crop was just recently planted.

Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
Good location too (1.00 / 3) (#17)
by sigwinch on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:21:39 PM EST

Afghanistan could also serve as a sea port for Russian exports. (E.g., outlet for oil pipeline.)

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Landlocked (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by Woundweavr on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 10:28:29 PM EST

It could be a seaport.... if it wasn't land locked!

[ Parent ]
D'oh! (none / 0) (#55)
by sigwinch on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:05:13 PM EST

Serves me right for posting when sleepy. I meant that it would be a great way to get most of the way to the sea, for the most part side stepping the other local powers. (Which is one of the major reasons the Soviet Union invaded...)

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

No natural resources? (none / 0) (#19)
by xiitone on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 12:13:25 AM EST

It's a little outdated, but most of these are minerals(they aren't easily destroyed by bombing.) From the CIA World Factbook:

Natural resources: natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, precious and semiprecious stones

and, as mony others have said, opium. If nothing else, the US should pump some money in to slow down the opium trade by a. maintaining a presence and b. giving people some other income, even if it ends up being bureacracy and corruption.
Give me enough duct tape (perl) and I'll hang the world.
[ Parent ]
how to rebuild? (3.75 / 4) (#6)
by guet on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:27:33 PM EST

As you mention, more important than how much money is committed is how it's spent in rural areas (ie rebuilding infrastructure/providing tools as opposed to doling out food) and how the economy is restarted and the society demilitarised. The number of guns will be a problem for any government in the long term (though luckily they don't have it in their constitution ;-)

There's an interesting article over at new scientist today about rebuilding Afghanistan, and it quotes the new transport minister as saying

Here's a country that is destroyed and ground into the mud. To go back and rebuild it, my God, what a sense of opportunity.

The Afghan provisional government does seem to be committed to genuine long term reconstruction... I can't help wondering if the real problems will begin when democracy, with all the short-termism and infighting that can involve, is restored.

Not worth the effort. (4.00 / 10) (#8)
by nicksand on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 05:56:54 PM EST

First off, I can only think of two real cases where the west manage to successfully nation build: West Germany and Japan. Besides happening at the same time (post WWII), these countries already had the industrial and technological expertise to setup a strong, modern economy. Furthermore, both countries had experienced beaurocrats to run their policitcal machines (a suprising number of post WWII politicians in Japan also held power during the war). Finally, social structures existed in each country which could be channeled into building a democratic people.

Afghanistan has nothing. It has deep running social problems with its populance (bombing the fuck out of the country doesn't change the fact that the tribes hate each other), it has no industrial base (the country was already rubble before we started bombing it, we just piled dust on top of the existing dust), and its people have absolutely no democratic background (all they have real experience with are autocratic governing entities).

Fifteen billion dollars won't do shit when it comes to nation building. First off, half the money will dissapear in the donor country's beaurocracies, another third will dissapear as corrupt Afghani beaurocrats embezzle as much as they can (don't be naive and idealistic, third world countries, especially ones beset by chaos, are rife with corruption), and the remaining 1/6 of the cash will pumped in to various projects. Of these projects, expect about half to fail outright, a quarter to perform poorly, and the. remaining quarter to perform mediocrely. Yes, these fractions are being pulled out of my ass; however, they seem quite reasonable if you look at the world around you (eg: compare Afghani spending money on social programs to USA spending money on social programs).

Finally, I would also like to point out a piece on the cato.org website regarding this precise topic.

Worth the effort (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by wiredog on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:53:49 AM EST

If we had spent that money, and otherwise been involved, in the early 90's we probably wouldn't be deploying troops there now. There's a good possibility that more engagement on the ground there would have prevented the Taliban from taking over the country. The war in Afghanistan and, especially, the events leading up to that war, cost a hell of a lot more than $15E9.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
Ya know, its strange... (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by NaCh0 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:56:00 AM EST

The US is criticized for not dumping billions into foreign nations before a conflict starts. But at the same time, people hate us around the world because we meddle in other nations.

I don't know what the real solution is, but I just find it interesting how we're never appreciated.

(The ideal solution is if countries could mind their business and take care of their own shit, but that obviously isn't happening -- US included.)

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]

The contradiction there (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by rasilon on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 11:34:48 AM EST

Note that the US gets criticised for not helping. The perception, rightly or wrongly, is that US involvement only occurs when it serves its own interests. The feeling that this engenders is that the people involved are pawns in US power games, to be abandoned when they become inconvenient. In Afghanistan they appear to feel that they have spent years fighting a proxy war for the US only to be abandoned and left with a shattered country the moment the Russians left. Whether the US was actually fighting a proxy war or only assisting with one that would have been fought anyway is irrelevant - the perception is that the US is the puppet master and that it will abandon its puppets as soon as a better one comes along. A lot of the damned it we do, damned if we don't criticism would vanish if the US was seen to finish what it starts and in this case that finality isn't pulling out as soon as the shooting is over, it is leaving the place better than they found it. The UK, US, Russia and Pakistan have to be seen to tidy up the mess that we have made over the years and if all we do is paint over the rot, it'll just seep through again and we'll have to fight another afghan war in a couple of decades.

[ Parent ]
Seems dubious (5.00 / 1) (#52)
by nicksand on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:16:31 PM EST

How do which choose which third world countries to pump money into? Take the social hellhole that is most of Africa for instance . . . should we prop up existing two bit dictators to prevent the possible rise of extremist groups to power? How will throwing money at a country help with its problems? Certainly, a strong modern economy is critical to a democratic country (since it comes with a skilled, educated labor force capable of making educated decisions), but building such an economy requires staggering amounts of money, not a measly fifteen billion dollars. Furthermore, it also requires political leadership and a local climate (in terms of laws) which encourages business and entrepreneurism.

As for simply getting involved . . . I point out that we used to be very involved with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. We were cheerfully selling him weapons (including the anthrax spores which he has in his arsenal) for as long as it was convenient to our local interests. A bit later our country considers him an enemy.

Finally, we need to ask our selves whether active nation building on our part is desirable, let alone feasible. How does it serve our interests to spend countless billions on developing third world nations? You might say terrorists. How many people were killed in the United States by terrorists in the year 2001? Less than four thousand. How many people were killed in automobile accidents in the United States in the year 2001? I rest my case. Remember, money is finite, and there are many social ills that need to be fixed. Spend it wisely.

[ Parent ]

How naive... (3.92 / 13) (#9)
by m0rzo on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:02:32 PM EST

you are to think that the USA is in Afghanistan to rebuild a nation. Look at every conflict over the last decade; The Gulf, Balkans, East Timor and now Afghanistan. All inextricably linked by economics. Where are the Allies in Chechnya? Zimbabwe? Answer: Nowhere to be seen.

Examine the relationship between US large corporations and the way America shapes it's foreign policy and you're in for a shock. The fact that the United States gets involved in overseas conflicts has little to do with democracy and everything to do with Capitalism and dollars.

It's an old argument but it's true. Does anyone really think that we, the West, sent troops to the Gulf to sustain democracy? Call me a cynic, but I think the fact that the area possesses abundant quanities of the lovely black stuff (not Guiness) mattered a little more.

My last sig was just plain offensive.

Simplistic One-Track Thought (4.27 / 11) (#13)
by Woundweavr on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 07:35:41 PM EST

Some people seem to think that the US's foreign policy is simply altruistic. They're wrong.

Others think its all evil empire, big business, money money money. They are wrong.

Afghanistan isn't really oil rich. Estimates generally put the oil reserve around 95 million barrels. Alaska has between 400 million to 3 billion. Afghanistan, further, will not be secure enough for drilling for quite awhile.

Do you honestly think the US is in Afghanistan cause of money? Did you miss that little incident in September?

Hey, doesn't Chechnya have a huge oil reserve? In fact, the Caspian Sea Basin has about 1/2 as much oil as the whole Middle East. Plus, there was supposed to be a major pipeline from the area to the Balkans that can't happen now because of the conflict. If the US was merely acting for profit, that "nation" would have been "built".

The US has no place being in Zimbabwe. Its a bloody conflict that is not going to stop for quite a while and sending in a force not numbering in the hundreds of thousands would amount to little more than death.

The fact is, the US was attacked and in order to defend itself it went into Afghanistan. Going back historically: Balkans. The US actually did not want to get into this conflict going back to the original Bosnia conflict. However, with pressure from other NATO members, and a series of media campaigns (^1) (starting with Bush and including one very confrontational questioning on live television of Clinton) public support eventually sent the troops in.

Internationally, the US is generally critized for lack of action in the Indonesian conflict.

The Gulf Conflict was massively affected by economics. Can you truly say it wasn't also the right thing?

Know what the true link to all those conflicts you mentioned? (and you left out Somalia because it didn't help your argument but it's also the exception here) Muslims. Look at it. In the Balkans, the Muslims were the victims as often as the perpetrators. In Timor, a minority of Muslim extemists caused the turmoil to escalate (altho the government was more at fault). Part of Sadam Hussein's propaganda to this day remains that he wished to create a Nation of Islam (under his control). The Taliban was a repressive regime that supported Muslim terrorists.

Some say money is the root of all conflict. Conflicting ideology is as much at fault. In the past this was almost synomnous[sic](Capitalist v Communist). However, now it has revereted to relgious as those nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia revert to the way it has been for hundreds of years, since the Crusades and the Moorish invasion of the Iberian Pennisula.

Blaming everything on cash is just too simplistic and deceptive. (Plus how long do you think the US would have to wait to get that $15b back on their investment from a wasteland like Afghanistan?).

[ Parent ]

I'm off to bed... (3.00 / 4) (#14)
by m0rzo on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 07:59:05 PM EST

but, you might want to check US plans prior to September 11th to build an oil pipe-line through Afghanistan.

Do a search on Google for information on Halliburton Corp (former Principle was Dick Cheney). Halliburton Corp will now be able to build an overland oil pipe-line overland through Georgia to the Middle East (cutting straight through Afghanistan). The Taliban opposed this.

Thanks to an e-mail associate of mine, rschu@cwnet.com for supplying me with info.

My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

Pipeline (4.60 / 5) (#15)
by Woundweavr on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 08:10:08 PM EST

I'm aware of the pipeline plans. (link) However, for one thing its ~45% US and the remainder Japanese (who get a vast majority of Middle East oil), Saudi and Central Asian. Second the plans were abandoned in 98 (the latest, plans went back to pre-Soviet invasion). Third, the pipeline was stated to be worth ~$6billion to the oil industry. Does that justify $15billion?

Do you really think that the US went into Afghanistan about oil? Seriously? Did you miss the attack on the US? The greatest single day loss of life of US citizens in decades and the largest one of US soil since the US Civil War?

[ Parent ]

Single-day civilian deaths (none / 0) (#20)
by srichman on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 12:44:46 AM EST

Did you miss the attack on the US? The greatest single day loss of life of US citizens in decades...
I'm curious, what was the previous event(s) that surpassed 9/11's toll?

[ Parent ]
I think he means... (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by m0rzo on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 05:16:39 AM EST

Pearl Harbour. I'm not really sure about the death toll but I think it's pretty much similar to September 11th.

Of course, Afghanistan is a different scenario altogether to previous conflicts. I accept that America had to react to global terror but I refuse to see things in just one way. I'm pretty sure that there were some economic factors which gave an impetus to the US toppling the Taliban. Don't get me wrong, I think toppling a regime such as the Taliban; a barbaric, totally inhuman entity was a good thing for the region. Who is this guy though that has replaced Mulah Omar as leader of Afghanistan? Is he simply another puppet that can be used until he starts to get greedy?

A lot of people were murdered on 9/11 and it is imperative that we prevent it happening again. Just try and see the bigger picture, don't take the press' word as gospel.

My last sig was just plain offensive.
[ Parent ]

Anteitam (none / 0) (#32)
by wiredog on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:01:29 AM EST

And I think a few other Civil War battles (though Gettysburg was a three day battle). Pearl Harbor had fewer deaths, but more immediate casualties, than Sept 11.

More Americans need to study the Civil War, the PBS series is a good place to start. More Americans (North and South combined) died in the Civil War than in all other US wars combined.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

War time (none / 0) (#44)
by Woundweavr on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 11:40:58 AM EST

Basically I was refering to wartime casualties. They outstretch 9/11 by far (although they were combatants so it is a bit different):

D-Day-6,600casualties/4,900killed US
Iwo Jima - 28,500/7000
Antietam 23,000 killed

Pearl Harbor 2,500 killed, ~1100 wounded.
9/11 - ~3,000-3,500 killed

[ Parent ]

Nation building != altruism (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by srichman on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 01:11:38 AM EST

How naive you are to think that the USA is in Afghanistan to rebuild a nation.
The US is "in" Afghanistan because of 9/11. (That's the immediate cause. You can argue to your heart's content about whether our role in the conflict with Russia precipitated it. The oil pipeline argument is sophistry.)

I do believe that the US's goal for the future of Afghanistan is to "rebuild the nation," and I don't consider this view to be "naive" at all. The United States's motivation in rebuilding Afghanistan is not altruism, but that the stability and Westernization of Afghanistan contribute to the stability of the Middle East and to national (the US's) and international security.

Why do you think the United States has time and time again supported the establishment of democratic, Western-style (or at least US-friendly) governments, and opposed communistic, socialistic, and US-unfriendly totalitarian alternatives? It's not because the US fancies itself an evangelist of an intellectually superior form of government. It's not because we want to free the people of the world and give them a better life. It's because stable, US-friendly governments contribute to the US's national security. This was particularly and obviously true during the Cold War, when communist states represented a direct threat to the US, and is true even today. This is why the US has shown such an interest in establishing US-friendly governments in Central and South America. This is why the US doesn't like the commies in North Korea. This is why the US is rebuilding Afghanistan. It makes Americans safer.

If the US didn't "rebuild" Afghanistan to her liking, there is a not insignificant chance that another autocratic, terrorist-friendly leadership would come to power.

The stability of the Middle East is very important to the US for another reason: oil (as you mentioned). However, you should be able to see that the stability of the region is dependent on the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Even if all you believe in is the oil interests you mentioned in your post, I can't believe that you can't see this, that you would believe that we just went over there to kick some terrorist ass and that perceived national building is naiveté.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps 9/11 was an excuse, if not the reason. (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by martman on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 05:10:24 AM EST

The US is "in" Afghanistan because of 9/11.

I was pointed at this article [bbc.co.uk] by another post to kuro5hin.org. It's not conclusive evidence of anything by any stretch of the argumentative imagination, i realise. But I don't think it's superfluous to point out that we shouldn't be too quick to assume government's motives as the most obvious.

(For those of us with little patience the article describes a US incursion into Afghanistan being planned as early as July, with a view to move in mid-october at the latest)

"Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes."
--P. J. O'Rourke

[ Parent ]
Battle plans (5.00 / 2) (#33)
by wiredog on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:06:49 AM EST

The Washington Post had a story about that on Sunday.
...Sept. 4. It called for phased escalation of pressure against Taliban leaders to present them with an unavoidable choice - disgorge al Qaeda or face removal from power. The directive asked the CIA and the Pentagon to produce options involving force - covert and overt - but it deferred decisions on their use. It had not reached Bush's desk by Sept. 11, and on that day its multiyear plan of single steps became a race to start the war on every front at once.

By the way. The US has plans on the books to invade Mexico and Canada. Those plans aren't intended ever to be used, but they are made, and updated, just in case...

And I suspect that the Canadian Army knows where the back roads in Vermont and Maine run. Not they ever intend to run tanks down those roads, but...

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

No, I agree! (none / 0) (#58)
by martman on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 11:27:55 PM EST

I don't know whether it sounded like i was slighting the US government for planning its actions. If so, that's not what i intended. I *like* it when governments plan their actions in advance!

My point was that this wasn't the knee-jerk reaction that many people assumed it was (and many did, i think, in the initial stages of the conflict), but rather a long-standing plan whose time line fit surprisingly well with coincidence. Fodder for the conspirational machine, no less.

In regards to the plans to invade/defend the borders of Mexico and Canada. Yes, i'm aware that they have plans for them, as well as pretty much every other situation they can pay someone to imagine. But they didn't tell a minister of a foreign government that they were pressing ahead with them and had a timetable in mind. That's what the difference is, that's why that's a news article.

"Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes."
--P. J. O'Rourke

[ Parent ]
National security (none / 0) (#51)
by svampa on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:05:38 PM EST

Isn't USA, the most powerful millitary country of the history, safe enough? Which country would dare to direct attack USA soil?

I'm not just bashing, but I think you mix up 'National security' with 'Out of our frontiers interests security'. Are both the same thing for you?

[ Parent ]
National Security (none / 0) (#54)
by whoozit on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:02:39 PM EST

No _COUNTRY_ would directly attack the US. Some groups - e.g. Al-Qaeda - might. But how do you defend against them? The short answer is, you can't. Not without eliminating our free society, and then where would we be? You're better off reducing the source (alter US foregin policy?).

The problem the US has, I think, is that it is thinking too much in its immediate interest. The whole Afghanistan thing is a case in point. As someone astutely pointed out, if the states hadn't pulled out after the Russians - at the time they figured why spend our money & energy on this dump? - things would have been very different today.

srichman seems to thing the US has learned and is 'nation-building' now (when they should have a decade ago). Judging by centuries of history, I remain skeptical.

...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
[ Parent ]

"Pay Up?" (3.36 / 11) (#11)
by wiggin on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:26:37 PM EST

This is probably 1/2 topical & 1/2 editorial, but I'll go with topical for now.
After seeing the note that English isn't your first language, I'm not sure if "time to pay up" is quite the tone you were intending. If so, I find it a best annoying (and this repsonse should probably be topical, not editorial).
Leading and ending with "pay up" seems to imply that aiding Afghanistan is not only the morally correct thing to do, but that we actually owe it to them. In my experience, "pay up" is usually used in the same context as "pay the piper" or other similar phrases, implying that one has had their fun and now must attone for what has occurred.
There are those who believe that the U.S., by reaching our position in the world, owes other nations aid. While I think that it may be the responsible thing to do to help rebuild Afghanistan, I don't believe that we owe it to them. In most senses of the word, they started it. I hope that isn't what you were implying.

Explain what you mean, please (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by martman on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 02:56:10 AM EST

If you're going to be topical please provide some evidence for your generalisations. I accept that fact that it's difficult (impossible, perhaps) to prove which nations "owe" which other nations what. To say something like "they started it", though, begs explanation lest someone label you a name-caller.

"Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes."
--P. J. O'Rourke

[ Parent ]
Who started what? (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by elgardo on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:44:09 AM EST

Please, do not forget that the US created the Al Quaida network in the beginning of the 1980s as part of Reagen's own "war against terrorism" (as well as using them as an army against Russia).

The US vs Russia / US vs Communism / US vs Terrorism intervention in the 80s played a big role in throwing Afghanistan back into the stone age, when they were trying to catch up with the rest of the world. The constant war left US backed warlords in charge, which raised more internal conflict when the US pulled out. The general population has only been caught in the middle for 20 years as a result.

To say that Afghanistan started it completely disregards the history that led up to this. And to make matters worse, the US and the UK willingly used banned weapons (cluster bombs, as well as those other things I can't remember the name of, but is about as close you get to a nuke without being a nuke) in order to catch CRIMINALS! (Terrorists are, by definition, large scale criminals and are treated as such. If this was not the case, the UK should have bombed Boston a long time ago, because that's where the IRA got the majority of its funding.)

So do we owe them to rebuild the country? YOU BET!

[ Parent ]
Don't confuse the victim with the enemy, (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by t0rment on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:20:39 AM EST

While I think that it may be the responsible thing to do to help rebuild Afghanistan, I don't believe that we owe it to them. In most senses of the word, they started it. I hope that isn't what you were implying.

How did the Afghans start this? So tell me what did those innocent Afghans do? Are you sure it wasn't Al Queda, that did Sept. 11?

So please don't confuse the innocents with the enemy.

. - = [ t 0 r m e n t ] = - .

Anyone can become angry--that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.

- Aristotle
[ Parent ]
Afghans outnumbered Al Queda by huge amount (2.00 / 2) (#42)
by NaCh0 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 11:29:06 AM EST

So tell me what did those innocent Afghans do?

They harbored the terrorists.

If the "innocent Afghans" didn't let Al Queda live and train there in the first place, they wouldn't have gotten bombed. And as a matter of fact, it wasn't the "innocent Afghans" who were the target, it was Al Queda.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]

Of course they'll pay (1.33 / 6) (#12)
by _cbj on Mon Jan 21, 2002 at 06:47:26 PM EST

The Americans aren't thieves. They can't be repayed (by whatever convenient means) if they don't loan money in the first place.

Rebuilding the Trade Center (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by imrdkl on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 05:34:06 AM EST

I confess, your consistent allusion to the cost and profits associated with Afghanistan has raised my ire, and almost motivated me to vote this story down. (Not that it would've done much good) You infer that we should be helping them rebuild because the cost of doing nothing is the world trade center, along with other "losses".

The right thing to do is to help them, yes. But only if they want to help themselves. The feuding and bloodshed must decline as the status improves, or we will simply be feeding murderers.

The Islamic newspapers (you dont see them there) are reporting that at least one of the major warlords in the southern region has begun to recruit Iranians to hunt the Pashtunis. If I had to make a recommendation at this point, it'd be for a firmer hand and stronger will to impose justice and peace. But sniveling about the money without demanding the force is definitely not what is needed. Thats been tried before.

It's good to see the brits coming in. If anyone can help them help themselves, it's the british army. Write your congressman, yes, but dont just ask for handouts and less risk.

Update (2.00 / 1) (#26)
by DarkZero on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 06:02:32 AM EST

As of the end of the conference, 30 countries have pledged to collectively give $4.5bn to Afghanistan for reconstruction. As of the last I heard on specific countries' donations, which was Monday, Japan is leading with one half of a billion dollars, netting them my personal award for Nation That Has Learned The Most From History. The US, a far richer country that is in far less economic turmoil, donated only $300mn, netting little more than an unpleasant, but not unexpected head shake and a mutter that sounded suspiciously like "Dumb asses" from this American citizen.

Japan? (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by streetlawyer on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:05:28 AM EST

Try typing the words "rape nanking history textbooks" into a search engine, and you may want to reconsider that award.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
read the fine print (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 01:03:05 PM EST

Japan pledged $500 million over 2 1/2 years. That's $200 million a year.

The US pledged $296 million for next year only. It's laws prevent it from pledging beyond a year.

The most generous was the European Union, which pledged $500 million for just next year.

Of course, you can divide by GDP, in which case, Japan is a bit more generous that the US, but not greatly so.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Somehow I just don't know (3.00 / 3) (#27)
by inerte on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 06:20:03 AM EST

Rebuild Afghanistan is a nice idea. USA 'helps' it while protect their security interests.

But I just don't know. Don't you think that's dangerous too? I mean, throw billions of dollars there, bring peace, etc... Will not other countries want the same? Is the developed world ready to help other countries?

IMHO, well, they should be. Because that's the right thing to do. Limiting your actions to those who are a threat to your nation is somewhat contradictory. I mean, there are a lot of countries that want to have a peaceful relationship with USA and they won't get anything.

SO... that's what I just don't know. It's a doubled edged sword, infinite possibilities.

Hell I don't mean developed countries should not try to do anything, look at where I live. Vrazil with 170 million people has 20 million without a house to live and almost half is suffering with severe poverty.

And still, I think it's dangerous to concentrate what you do in one country, and is more dangerous (to humankind) not do anything.

Sorry that's highly unclear, but I am sure I am not alone! (Or am I? ;-))

The Marshall Plan, 21st-Century Style (2.80 / 5) (#28)
by amike on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 06:56:26 AM EST

I've listened to this story on NPR, and what gets me is that these world leaders see this as nothing more than an incentive to keep the Afghan people from harboring terrorists. This is so humanitarian, especially after we bombed them back to the Stone Age. Actually, they were in the Stone Age beforehand - we bombed them back further. It seems apparent to me that these people don't really care about the citizens of Afghanistan, as long as they don't grow up to be terrorists. Like the Marshall Plan, only with less a regard for human life.

Also, the US (the ones that actually caused the bombing) only gave $300M because of Bush's distaste for "nation building." Seems like that's one of the only campaign promises he hasn't managed to screw up yet with his own stupidity. Give him time, though, and I'm sure he'll come up with something.

Dog Bless America.

In a mad world, only the mad are sane. -Akira Kurosawa
The US *caused* the bombing??? (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by NaCh0 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:23:38 AM EST

Also, the US (the ones that actually caused the bombing)... (emphasis yours)

That sure is an interesting use of the word "caused."

All this time I thought it was the terrorists that flew loaded jets into buildings full of civilians who caused the bombing.

K5: Your daily dose of socialism.
[ Parent ]

US vs Afghanistan & causation (2.00 / 4) (#36)
by whoozit on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 09:52:54 AM EST

Two points:

1) It could be argued that the terrorists were just getting the US back for the countless harm they had caused 3rd world nations through bullying foreign policy and unforgiving economic interests. This might explain their actions, but does not excuse them. It is an avenue for future exploration to AVERT such things. The US seems quite content to show how tough they are by knocking anyone that so much as stings them back to the stone age instead of solving why so many want to kick their ass... but I digress.

2) The US could have gone about the whole campaign differently, that left what pathetic infrastructure they had already, intact. Or they could have avoided this altogether by ponying up the evidence to at least the security council that Osama bin Laden did it and twisting some arms to get him out. Of course, that would set a precedent that the US actually had to PROVE that someone they were kicking the shit out of was guilty. Imagine that. (NB I don't actually think Osama didn't do it, but it's the principle that matters.)

...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
[ Parent ]

Your ignorance astounds me. (4.00 / 2) (#48)
by br284 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 01:08:51 PM EST

1. While it could be argues that the terrorists attacked the US because of a unilateral and oppresive foreign policy, it would be futile because it is incorrect. I don't think that Osama started talking about poor third world countries until he wanted to garner the support of the Arab world. It is well documented that the probable root of Osama's America angst has to do with the American presence in the Muslim holy land of Saudia Arabia. This is more of a religious issue than an economic issue. Do you honestly think that the people who rammed those planes into the WTC thought for an instant that by doing so, Americans were going to change their foreign and economic policy? If not, declaring that as the reason for the attacks is either untruthful or stupid as there are better ways of altering policy than ramming planes into buildings. Almost anything else advances that goal better than terrorism. Terrorism only insures that the goal you are trying to achieve becomes associated with suicidal murdering fanatics.

2. Since you know that there was a better way to wage this campaign, but only allude that there "could" have been a better way, please enlighten us. If you were put in charge of the mission of removing the Taliban from power and eradicating Al-Qaeda, tell us how it would have been waged better. From my perspective, I could not have imagined a better execution. The Taliban are out of power, much of Al-Qaeda is sitting and sweating in Cuba and there is a progressive and stable government forming that wants to become a constructive part of the international community. What would your approach (please don't forget to describe it) have contributed beyond what the current one has accomplished for the relatively small price paid?


[ Parent ]
On those points... (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by whoozit on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:34:29 PM EST

1. You said it yourself, Osama's pissed because the US is in Saudi Arabia. That has to do with their foreign policy, doesn't it? Note that I wasn't arguing that Osama's actions would or even were intended to force a change in the US's policy, just that they had some causal role in Al-Qeada's attacks. Wether directly, or simply by getting people pissed off at the US in general and therefore more likely to join such terrorist groups, one cannot deny that US foreign policy has SOMETHING to do with this attack. It might therefore be a fruitful exercise, should one wish to avoid similar attacks in the future, to think about this cause.

2. Your challenge is loaded with assumptions. In your first sentence in this point, you say 'wage this campaign'. The thrust of my argument is that the whole campaign may have been unnecessary. I use uncertain language because no one can possibly know what 'might' have happened, only what did. For example, the Taliban was making offerst to hand over bin Laden, provided the US gave it evidence of wrongdoing. The Taliban might have been lying through their teeth, but we'll never know. The US never tried that route. It begs the question, why not? Moving forward, the UN never gave the US explicit permission to attack - and it was an attack, not 'self-defense' - Afghanistan. The US had wide support, it could have gotten such permission had it asked. Again, the question is, why didn't they ask? Maybe, as I alluded to before, the US was not interested in negotiating - with the Taliban nor with the UN - because they're the biggest and can simply take what they want. To do anything but take it undermines their power; to unilaterally make decisions and remain unchallenged increases it (at the expense of International Law and many Afghani's lives).

As for removing the Taliban from power, there were elements already searching to overthrow them. The people would have loved to be rid of them. The US could have given them diplomatic support, monetary support, maybe more limited military support. Bombing everyone only restricted opposition to the Taliban to military terms. As you said yourself, terrorism (read 'bombing' 'violence') is the stupidest way to alter policy.

Keep in mind, the US put them there in the first place, leaving their savage dogs of war to do as they would in a country no longer important to them.

And finally, that you consider the price 'relatively small' shows that you do not realize the extent of what many international aid groups are calling a humanitarian catastrophe. Do you have any idea how many millions of people are starving and dying as a result of the bombing, which severed aid to that country?

If someone burned your house down, and you think you know who did it, you don't have the right to go after them with an Uzi, even if you are rich and have a gang behind you. Mowing down the guy, his buddies, and his landlord for good measure, not to mention the stray bullets that hit the neighbours, isn't an acceptable way of solving your differences. Especially when the only results you can claim are that you nailed the landlord, but actually missed the house burner, who's hiding somewhere with the rest of his buddies, even more pissed at you.

...Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.
[ Parent ]

And on that note... (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by br284 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 11:22:12 PM EST

1. The only foreign policy that doesn't have something to do with anything is one where there is no foreign policy. We were encouraged to stay in Saudi Arabia at the behest of the rulers for fear that Iraq would come barging in after the Gulf War. Had we not been in Saudi Arabia and Iraq had gone barging through, our foreign policy would have been blamed when something else happened. With respect to foreign policy (or any policy), it is impossible for a single policy to please every group of people. It just doesn't happen. With that in mind, the foreign policy should be focused on advancing American interests.

On that note, I always hear how the United States gets blamed for supporting a repressive regime that is the House of Saudi. Now, answer me a question... would it be better for the local people and American interests if the United States were to withdraw, and the country was plunged into chaos? Given that there are plenty of radical parties withing Saudi Arabia, any transition of power would be neither peaceful or uncontested. You would end up with a situation similar to Iran or Afghanistan pre-Taliban.

2. Seeing how the Taliban was not a recognized government of Afghanistan, the United States had no legal or moral requirement to negotiate with the Taliban in the first place. We asked them to hand Osama over, and they refused. They have been sheltering him for some time, and using history as a precedent, their tactics of offering him up were merely delaying tactics. Given how entrenched Al-Qaeda was within the Taliban society and government, they never would have handed Osama over.

Now, regarding the UN's lack of permission of giving the United States a green light to go after Afghanistan. It may be that they did not (though I thought that some approval was given). However, the community of nations also did not pass any resolutions saying that the United States should chill out and try other means. We may not have been explicitly encouraged by the UN, but we were not discouraged in the least. It should be noted that we had the full support of the Organization of American States and NATO. The only vocal opponent to our actions in Afghanistan was Iraq, and they are against whatever the United States does anyway. You are also assuming that the UN is a body whose control supercedes national laws. This is not the case, and the United States can and will do what it pleases without the support of the UN. Don't think of the UN as an almighty policing organization -- think of it as more of a discussion forum for independent states. And for what it is worth, the Afghan UN representation was completely supportive of the American action.

Now for removing the Taliban, your approach has been tried many times in similar fashions by intelligence services in places like Latin America. I think that it is better to overtly do these operations with the help of the local population than to resort to tactics such as training freedom fighters and engaging in activities such as assassination. And that presupposes that such actions would be successful. More times than not, what you suggest has failed spectacularly. Better to do it and finish the job quickly as we have done now, than ways that we've tried in the past.

It was impossible that the United States placed the Taliban in power. They were formed long after Amercan interest had faded in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. The Taliban ascended to power through traditional warfare, conquering enough of the local warlords.

Now, you call Afghanistan a humanitarian catastrophe. What was it before American actions? I don't recall that the Afghans were particularly well fed underneath the Taliban either. You must also be confused about severed aid to Afghanistan. Read the parent article again. More aid is coming into Afghanistan now than it was under the Taliban. Not only that, but it also has a greater chance of getting to the truly needy as we are there to protect the aid and distribution.

Now if a jerk attacked my house, killed some of my family and has had a history of trying to attack me, I would certainly track the bastard down and kill him. If his landlord stood between me and him and was protecting him despite what he's done, I would mow down the landlord in an instant then shoot the perp. I would shoot his buddies / accomplices also and would feel completely justified. It beats whining about it and trying to negotiate with them to make them stop.


[ Parent ]
The US did give the Taliban evidence... (none / 0) (#60)
by KilljoyAZ on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 01:54:12 PM EST

... of Osama's terrorist activities in 1999. They simply chose to ignore it, because they were too busy getting cars and money from al Qaeda. See here for more. The Taliban had their chance, they blew it and they are as responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11 as al Qaeda was.

Ask yourself this: how many Afghans would have been killed if the US hadn't intervened and the civil war had dragged out for a decade or more? Probably a whole lot more than were killed in accidental US bombings. And the "elements already searching to overthrow them" weren't about to succeed anytime in the near future. The Northern Alliance had been consistently routed from most of the country, their military leader had been assassinated by Al Qaeda agents, and they lacked the manpower and equipment to launch an assault on Taliban positions without air support. It was only when the US effectively provided them an air force that they had a chance of success.

Here's something that might give you a little perspective. In the liberation of Europe during World War II, the US used far, far less accurate weaponry and often had to decimate whole towns to destroy a legitimate military target. I would wager that the French, German, etc. civilian casualties caused by US operations in WWII were orders of magnitude greater than those in Afghanistan. And yet the French and Germans seemed generally supportive of our conduct in that war. Are you saying that Afghans aren't able to appreciate liberty, or the price that has to sometimes be paid to win it?

Now that the Taliban are out, Afghanistan is getting billions more in aid that they never would have seen if the Taliban were still there. The place was a humitarian catastrophe before we got there anyways, but now that the Taliban is ousted, there is a chance for it to get better.

Finally, the UN Charter specifically states that all nations have an unalienable right to self-defense. The US (or any other nation, for that matter) doesn't need to ask permission from the UN to exercise it. And yes, it was self defense. We have been under sustained assault from a guerilla force based in Afghanistan for the better part of a decade. We endured the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the destruction of two embassies, an attack on a US destroyer, and the bombing of a marine barracks in Saudi Arabia without doing anything except launch a couple cruise missiles.

As the CNN article shows, the US tried to negotiate the peaceful surrender of Osama & Co. and was rewarded with the deaths of 3,000 people for their patience.

Creativitiy cannot be SPELT by over 98% of all American troops. - psychologist
[ Parent ]
jeez, only $2.9B (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by jayfoo2 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 08:09:38 AM EST

Considering that the UN thinks Afghanistan needs $15B <b> over 10 years <b> and most of that $2.9B is pledged in the next couple of years it sounds like a good start to me.
I think before anyone runs off talking about how developed nations (especially the U.S.) is failing to help they should remember that this is only the first installment. They also need to remember that there is a legitimate need to ensure that the money goes where its supposed to, not into someone's swiss bank account.

Here's a futile thought (1.66 / 3) (#39)
by loaf on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:09:27 AM EST

How much would they have needed if "the West" hadn't bombed them to smithereens in the last few months?

Obviously Afghanistan has always been a less than developed country and the last decade with the Russian occupation did nothing to help several centuries of under-development, but the last few months won't have helped.

So, there's the nub: will this pile of cash be used to bring Afghanisation up to the point it was on September 10th ... or will it be gaining from its notoriety, in effect, profiting from its association with terrorists?

Pointless Question (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by br284 on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 01:02:58 PM EST

... because had the US not bombed the Taliban silly, the various factions in Afghanistan would have not taken power, leading to the gov't that is in place now. So, sending money to Afghanistan now, without the Taliban removed would have only strengthened them by fattening their coffers.

Plus, it's not like there was that much infrastructure in place that was destroyed by American bombing. Unless you count caves as crucial infrastructure.


[ Parent ]
How much? (none / 0) (#61)
by davidduncanscott on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 10:31:17 PM EST

I figure it at about $9,999,999,950. The country was already pretty much a wreck.

We probably didn't do very much, for instance, to their 25 miles of railroad. We may have beaten up some of their 3 working radio stations.

We're talking about a country which exported (exclusive of opium) about $80 million dollars worth of goods in all of 1996 (and imported $150 million the same year). For God's sake, pelts are among the major exports!

[ Parent ]

A small correction. (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by dram on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 10:30:59 AM EST

They UN says that it will take $10b over the next ten years to rebuild Afghanistan. The World Bank says $15b. In all honesty, I don't think anybody knows how much money it is going to take to rebuild this country. There are also many factors that tie into how much outside money they will need and what it will be used for. There are some in the country that have the ability to farm, it's how they grow poppies. If Afghanistan's interm government can get the drug producers to change their trade to farming food then that is less international aid that will be needed. Right now, from watching the American media, Afghanistan seems as if it will be able to quickly create a stable internal economey. The people of Afghanistan are ready to get back to living productive, meaningful lives and I think they want their livelyhood back. All in all, the amount of money givin to the Afghans will rely upon the Afghans, if they do well for themselves they will get less money, because they will need it less. And lets hope they do well, I'm all for spending money to rebuild their country, but I would like to see them rebuild their own country as much as possible.


Update (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 12:53:29 PM EST

The pledges have been upped to 4.5 billion.

Also, note that the UN request is for a ten year period. None of the countries seem to have pledged money for that whole period, most pledging for 1-5 years. In particular, the European ($500 million) and US ($296 million) are for next year only. US budgeting rules prohibit it from pledging past next year.

The UN actually has more money than they can use next year, but they are afraid that these pledges won't be followed up. If every country were to continue their pledges over the ten years, Afghanistan would get $18 billion, but that is probably unlikely.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

not much money i think (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by dannu on Tue Jan 22, 2002 at 02:51:33 PM EST

todays german newspapers reported about afghanistan help money.
On the same page there were some other amounts mentioned like
8.3 billion Euro for 73 military transport airplanes
or 2.3 billion Euro for a superflous new transport system
called "transrapid".

So it's hard to imagine that some billions for afghanistan will
be enough to provide food, some infrastructure,
schools, universities and so on... even if you take
into account that the same amount of money is probably spent more
effectively in afghanistan than in western countries
(due to their already highly developed infrastructure).

just my 2ec, dannu

$48 billion: a good investment in peace? (none / 0) (#59)
by looksaus on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 04:28:25 AM EST

What could you do with a $48 bn investment in Afghanistan, in terms, for the next 5 years?

This is exactly the amount reported on the state radio here to be added next year to the US "defense" budget...

That COULD be the way to win this "War on terrorism".
The other way (bombing, extra security measures,...) is sure to get us to Orwell's 1984 faster than you might have imagined.
Think Israel, bombings included, with extra security measures and mucho less privacy.
http://MusicaLiberata.org Towards a Free Classical Music Library
Time To Pay Up | 61 comments (57 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
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