|Axis of Logic, September 15, 2010On August 22 a drone strike against the house of “suspected militants” in North Waziristan killed 20 people. It also destroyed a neighboring house full of women and children. So what! Collateral damage. And, as our dear Mr. Rumsfeld once said  – ‘Shit happens. Get over it.’
On July 28, the dams burst in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa area of north-western Pakistan after unprecedented monsoon rains. In the next few days the news was slowly trickling out to the world of the imminent disaster from the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
The North-West Frontier Province, however, had already been hit by disaster long before the monsoon rains started flooding the countryside, uprooting hundreds of thousands of people. The region had already been ravaged by the terrible fighting between Islamic militants and the Pakistani Armed Forces. Millions of people had already fled from their homes and their livelihoods.
Yet, Western reaction to these events, or even knowledge thereof, was practically nil.
History of Swat Valley – a tourist haven …
Swat Valley has a long and varied history. Before the U.S. Empire’s wars in Central Asia this wonderful valley and mountainous area used to be a center for tourists from all over the world. It is situated along the Swat River in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountain range. With its high mountains, green valleys, cascading rivers and clear lakes it was a region of breathtaking beauty and hospitable people. It has often been called the Switzerland of Pakistan.
In 2008, Swat Valley was captured by the Taliban insurgency and a whole new era began. Tourism became a thing of the past. In February 2009 the Pakistan government signed a peace deal with the Taliban which upset Washington a great deal. Creation of a ‘Taliban Safe Haven With Islamic Law’ (Fox News) was not exactly what the U.S government looked kindly on.
… and a war scene
Swat Valley and other areas in the North-West Frontier Province had already been devastated by these continuous wars between the Pakistani Armed Forces and Islamic militants, the regional Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other ‘Holy Warriors’. The warring began in 2004 with the Pakistani Army’s search for al-Qaeda members in Pakistan’s mountainous Waziristan area. It very soon turned into a war of armed resistance against the Pakistan armed forces with suicide bombings and roadside bombings being the daily horror events that made children and innocent civilians the victims of this unrelenting war. 
People have fled from their war-torn villages, abandoning their homes and their livelihoods in the hundreds of thousands – leaving behind their fields, their livestock, their possessions – their whole lives being uprooted. It is estimated that the total number of war-displaced people in the North West Frontier Province in May 2009 amounted to more than 2 million.
The destruction of Swat Valley has also been going on, beginning 2004, from the largely hushed-up unmanned drone attacks begun under President Bush and continuing under President Obama, these unmanned drones monitored from the Ground Control Stations in Nevada, Arizona or North Dakota – thus ‘merely’ risking the lives of Pakistani militants and civilians, women and children, but not the lives of U.S pilots. These drones or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ play a major role in the ongoing so-called ‘War on Terror’.
What the men who press the button at one of the control stations in the U.S. feel when they get back home and watch the dead bodies from the house full of children or the wedding party that they have just bombed – as they sip their beers in front of the television that same evening – that is another story.
The Pakistani government were at first ambivalent about fighting the militants in their own country but, under pressure from their ‘ally’, the U.S.A., they ordered their armed forces to wage outright war on the Taliban and the Mujahideen (“holy warriors” or “freedom fighters”). The almost decade-long attempt to rout the militants from the Taliban strongholds in Pakistan was seen by most of the regional people as fighting “America’s war”. This ‘America’s war’ had actually begun already in 2001, very soon after the events of September 11, even though it was never mentioned in the mass media, or barely anywhere at all.
Planned destruction before the flooding – by the U.S. military
It is a much-ignored fact that a large region of Pakistan had its infrastructure already badly damaged by this internal war and also by the huge number of drone attacks in the Afghanistan border areas. Bridges and dams were bombed, roads were destroyed and electric power stations were not functioning. This has indeed been a manmade disaster from the very beginning, from general neglect and deliberate destruction – a calamity waiting to strike.
Damage caused by internal corruption and by nature
Added to that, after the torrential rains started, much effort was given to make the flood waters spare the properties of the affluent, the towns and the cities, so that instead the fields in the villages, essential to the feeding of the country, were inundated and the crops ruined.
In Punjab and Sindh provinces, the breadbasket of Pakistan, in the deadliest floods in the history of Pakistan, more than a million acres of sugar cane, cotton and rice fields were damaged and a farmer’s group reported losses of over 250 billion rupees or $2.9 billion.
“Floodwaters ravaged 700,000 acres of planted cotton, and 200,000 acres each of rice and cane, Mohammed Ibrahim Moghul, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, said by phone. Rains also destroyed 500,000 metrics tons of wheat, 300,000 acres of animal fodder and 100,000 head of livestock, he said.
“Punjab, which was among the provinces hit by flooding in Pakistan, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the nation’s rice harvest, and Sindh 30 percent, Mohanty [an economist from the International Rice Research Institute] said. (Khurrum Anis and Madelene Pearson from Bloomberg Businessweek)
What the inept and corrupt governments of Pakistan, aided by the reckless bombing by U.S. drones had not managed to do to ravage this beautiful and civilized country, nature completed by coming to the assistance of Corporate warriors and inept politicians and in just over a month a luckless nation has been almost completely devastated.On August 9, my Pakistani woman journalist friend, Husna Ali, Islamabad, wrote to me:
Siv, it’s going to hit my province (Sindh) by the 12th – as the weather forecast goes – and it is supposed to be really really bad… The already fragile infrastructure of this country has been completely broken – and now it is feared that the hub of gas supply will soon crash due to heavy pressures of water – and if that happens then we will be without gas supply. Already there is a food, medicine and power crisis. With the gas supply down I don’t know how people will survive. Of course, the poor will be the first victims, but it will affect life in urban sectors as well. Everyday is like hell for us. And all this is due to the war on terror… all the money going to carry out military operations and feeding the corrupt military agencies and civilian puppet leaders, and no money is used for providing relief to people, improve infrastructure, provide health care or any other relief… and this has been going on for the past few decades. And this chaos – war, insurgency and now the natural disaster – is serving as a breeding ground for militancy. More and more people are joining the insurgents in a hope for a better life because, believe it or not, people have started to believe that the Taliban provide more security, employment, relief and even law (no matter how inhuman we might think it is), and you cannot convince them otherwise. On one hand there is the monstrous empire which kills and destructs with impunity and on the other hand there are the beastly religious fundamentalists who may take away a few liberties but protect your life better and provide employment and food…. it’s like choosing between life and liberty. And everyone wants to live, Siv. Capitalism is nothing but death. Though capitalism and fundamentalism are two faces of the same coin, they both nurture each other, but you cant convince this to people who have lost everything to war and corporate interests – the victims in a poor country which has been dragged into someone else’s war…
Pakistan was drawn into yet another Central Asian war by the United States for nothing but predatory reasons, and this latest utterly callous link by Washington in the ‘war on terror’ can never be labeled with a straight face as an act with any moral justification.
But then when did Washington need anything but to dress itself in a threadbare moral cloak, turn on the propaganda, and shoot?
The slow media response to the disaster
News about the torrential monsoon rains, beginning with the Swat Valley in the North-West Frontier Province began trickling down in the carefully censored Corporate media, the BBC and the PBS being among the first sources to uncover the ongoing devastation.On August 2, PBS News reported:
“JUDY WOODRUFF: The devastating flood in Pakistan, some in areas where the military has been fighting insurgents. More than 1,000 people have died, up to two million displaced.
“JONATHAN MILLER: Villages and villagers reportedly washed away by walls of water, entire districts submerged, cropland inundated, drinking water contaminated, communications down, bridges destroyed, roads gone, schools gone, homes gone, thousands of them.”
On August 9, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a lame appeal to the world, mentioning hundreds of people dead when already the number of deaths were in the thousands. He did, however, talk about “the catastrophic floods that have killed hundreds of people in Pakistan and urged donors to contribute generously to the humanitarian response”.
The Secretary-General upped the ante on August 21, after having visited the devastated country. He gave a fairly stirring account of the disaster that had so far left the world unmoved. He emphasized the sheer scale of the disaster, almost defying comprehension, and stated that, around the country, an estimated 15 to 20 million people had been affected. He said that we could not stand by and let this natural disaster turn into a manmade catastrophe. 
Well, it already was a partly manmade disaster, so his words rang a bit empty.
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in his article ‘Why Doesn’t the World Care About Pakistanis?’ in Foreign Policy gives us the scope of this natural plus manmade catastrophe:
His answer to the question is: “Because they live in Pakistan.”
“The United Nations has characterized the destruction caused by the floods in Pakistan as greater than the damage from the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined. Yet nearly three weeks since the floods began, aid is trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations, NGOs, and the Pakistani government.”
Three weeks after the beginning of the flooding, one fifth of the country was under water, a surface the size of Italy or England. Money for the rescue started coming in at a somewhat faster rate than the first couple of weeks, when the world was blind to the catastrophe. But it does not nearly equal the amount of aid that was rushed to the disaster areas after the three preceding monumental disasters.
Juan Cole in CommonDreams on September 9 sums up the indifference of the world:
“The Media as a Security Threat to America – The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened; Don’t Tune In, It’s Not Important”
The latest figures for victims of this catastrophic disaster amount to 20 million people who have lost their homes (nearly 12 percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million) and 1600 people killed by the floods. Almost 10 million people are suffering from hunger and disease and millions are without a roof over their heads.
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in ‘Why Doesn’t the World Care About Pakistanis?’ Foreign Policy, continues on August 19:
“Yet nearly three weeks since the floods began, aid is trickling in slowly and reluctantly to the United Nations, NGOs, and the Pakistani government.”
“Why has the most devastating natural disaster in recent memory generated such a tepid response from the international community? Something of a cottage industry is emerging to try to answer this latest and most sober of international mysteries.
“There is no shortage of theories. It’s donor fatigue. It’s Pakistan fatigue. It’s because the Pakistani government is corrupt and can’t be trusted. It’s because the victims are Muslim.”
Politicians and numerous opportunist leaders of Islamist religious groups are trying to outdo each other in their eagerness to seem like the best-organized rescue group. They are shuffling and posturing in the corridors of power, ready to declare that time is up for the current Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari and they are more than ready to step in – quite possibly more eager to take over his privileges than his responsibilities. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, one of Pakistan’s richest men, is eagerly expecting this crisis to be the end of Zardari, in order to come back to power for the third time, after having been ousted twice in 1993.
Hard-line religious groups are organizing aid to the millions of displaced persons. Even the Taliban have now called a truce on violence and are organizing aid operations. The military are transporting stranded and homeless people to safe ground. Is this a sign of an upcoming military putsch? Who knows. What we do know is that the Pakistani people, above all, don’t want another military dictatorship, on the models of former prime ministers, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf who was the Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army.
And then, at the height of the flooding, to our horror, comes the news about the Pakistan Air Force Base Shahbaz:
“Airbase near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told
“ISLAMABAD: Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US.
“The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.”
What we can wonder about is why the U.S. military, instead of continuing their drone attacks among all this suffering, well aware of the refugees being in the most urgent need of help, why the U.S. is not using its military bases to help the stranded and famished victims of the flooding. They would be in an excellent position to help with evacuation and supply shelter, food and clean water to the homeless.
On August 20, my friend Husna Ali wrote:
“The international community must pressure the US government to allow the air base in Jacobabad to be used for rescue and relief… Thousands of people are still waiting there – without food and water for days – to be rescued… Why can’t the fucking drones be used for relief… They have killed scores of innocents, cant they be used to save a few lives?
Zardari has spectacularly mismanaged the rescue work in this disaster, in the first place leaving the country for pre-arranged visits to Britain and France when his people were in great distress and shock and in need of a leader who could organize the rescue work – and, secondly, not having any relief plans ready to put into immediate action. There are also strong suspicions that politicians and influential people have done their utmost to lead the torrents of water away from their own precious properties and thus purposely allowing poor farmers’ lands to be devastated. Corruption is second nature to human beings and we can clearly see the effects of it here.
There was nobody at the helm those first couple of weeks after the flooding began in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Swat Valley) and spread to Balochistan, Punjab and finally to the southern province of Sindh.
What went wrong?
In the words of the World Socialist Web Site:
“The disaster in Pakistan is the product of years of neglect. Monsoons are an annual event and floods occur regularly, yet successive governments have failed to develop proper flood warning systems and flood control measures. Infrastructure has not been planned to deal with natural disasters, whether the current flooding or the devastating 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.”
The ‘world’ – private people and governments – probably believe that money they give to relieve the sufferings of millions might be used to finance the Taliban. The emergency right now is helping the millions of people who are displaced or diseased. The Taliban, which the U.S. helped create a couple of decades ago, (when Washington was intent on defeating the Soviet military in Afghanistan) is a totally different issue and they should not stand in our way of helping the victims in the world’s greatest natural disaster ever. The confused situation in Central Asia is of U.S. making and the world should come to the rescue in a disaster situation that has, as the assault of nature is concerned, very little to do with politics.
The destruction wrought by U.S. drone attacks began in 2004 and has been escalated dramatically since President Obama took office, as a part of the U.S. so-called ‘war on terrorism’ (a U.S.-made concept that was supposed to justify any and every act of war – this time in Central Asia, the region that is now designated as the ‘AfPak area’ and the ‘AfPak war’). The escalation by President Obama on January 23, 2009 obviously made the country far more vulnerable to nature’s succeeding onslaught. Especially so since one area that was a prime victim of the drone attacks was the Swat Valley where the flooding also began at the end of July.Most of the strikes by drones were concentrated on the mountainous region on the Afghan border and aimed at terrorists operating, among other places, out of North and South Waziristan in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
“The U.S. military had long remained silent about remote-controlled C.I.A. missile strikes [i.e. drones]. But a delegation of U.S. senators visiting Islamabad last week expressed their support of the “drone war,” which was started by the Bush administration in 2004 and has escalated dramatically since President Obama took office.” (WORLDFOCUS – January 12, 2010)
Add to that the responsibility of the Pakistani governments themselves in their general neglect of dams, roads, and bridges, the entire infrastructure, and the country would not have been so ill prepared for these killer floods.
This natural and partly manmade disaster was also rendered even more devastating for people in the villages since the politicians did everything in their power to lead the water away from the towns and from what was in their own personal interest to protect. And so farmlands were inundated to a far greater degree than would normally have happened without the interference of corrupt politicians.
What is the situation now? And what is the future?
The heart-rending effect of all this destruction, the situation the farmers now must face is the loss of this year’s harvests, the seed for next year and all of their income. They are now destitute, even those who were once relatively well off. They have lost their homes, their livestock, often their families. Their lands are ruined and they have no idea when they can get back to their villages to even begin the repair work from all this abysmal damage.
On August 24, my friend Husna Ali wrote – after mentioning the wonderful medical help Cuba extended in previous crises, such as in 2005, after the earth quake in Pakistani controlled Kashmir and NWFP (North-West Frontier Province) areas:
If any state, or individual has a will, they can help out whether there is recession or any other reason that stops them from sending cash. Europe and America have the larger means to show that they care, especially when it’s their industrialization and over-consumption that has caused such environmental degradation, and their policies, sanctions and now war on terror that have placed the country (Pakistan) in its present pathetic state.
I am emphasizing on grants from Europe and America only because they are in a much better financial position [than Cuba], also otherwise Pakistan will accept loans from the World Bank (900 million has been approved now) and we will go to IMF with a begging bowl and that will screw us more… It’s no secret that IMF funded projects, like creation of dams etc, have caused more havoc here – especially for the farmers who are deprived of their water resources – than they have helped Pakistan in the long run…
Mainly, Pakistan is, in the eyes of the world, part of the enemy tangle ‘over there in the Muslim countries’.
MOSHARRAF ZAIDI in Foreign Policy continues – in ‘Why Doesn’t the World Care About Pakistanis?’
“But the main reason that Pakistan isn’t receiving attention or aid proportionate to the devastation caused by these floods is because, well, it’s Pakistan. Given a catastrophe of such epic proportions in any normal country, the world would look first through a humanitarian lens. But Pakistan, of course, is not a normal country. When the victims are Haitian or Sri Lankan — hardly citizens of stable, well-government countries, themselves — Americans and Europeans are quick to open their hearts and wallets. But in this case, the humanity of Pakistan’s victims takes a backseat to the preconceived image that Westerners have of Pakistan as a country.”
The number of victims today is bound to grow as after-flood diseases are spreading. What has to be feared is that there might be an outbreak of cholera, diphtheria, typhus and other water-borne diseases. Food shortages and malnutrition are going to make further ravages. Flood waters are receding but the disaster is not nearly over. The southern part of the country is still under deep water.
Daily Times – A new voice for a new Pakistan – writes on September 01, 2010 in ‘Floodwaters finally heading to Arabian Sea’
“Southern Sindh is the worst-affected province, with 19 of its 23 districts ravaged as floodwaters have swollen the raging Indus River to 40 times its usual volume. One million people have been displaced over the past few days alone.”
Is there a future for Pakistan as a peaceful nation?
What intelligent Pakistanis do not want is another military regime or a religious republic, like Iran.
It is clear to everyone who is paying any attention at all that Zardari (the husband of the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in December 2007) is a deeply corrupt man. However, whoever a potential successor might be, there is a great chance that a military dictator or a fundamentalist religious leader might take up the leadership of this unstable and ethnically divided nation. Either possibility – religious or military leadership – would be far worse for the Pakistani people and probably also for the rest of the world than the kind of corruption that is now almost taken for granted in numerous countries.
Even in Iran, a large percent of the population is extremely unfavorable to the religious rule of the ayatollahs. And military rule is of course the very opposite of democracy, which is something Pakistani leaders and judges have made several attempts at establishing since the probable assassination of General Zia in 1988. It seems obvious to all thinking people that, in order to keep opportunist religious or military groups from acceding to power, the West has to do its very utmost to help save the secular government of Pakistan.
On August 22, my friend Husna Ali wrote:
Siv, this confusion that you and so many others feel is because the political parties are using this crisis to exploit support.. all kinds of conspiracy theories are floating… just ignore them… The propaganda against Zardari has been going around for some time. I don’t like the man myself, but I also can not support the liberals of this country who are hell-bent on getting rid of a democratic leader (crook as he may be) and invite another dictator in this country…
The mishandling of this latest human disaster is just another step on the Corporate Empire’s path to effect the ruin of Central Asia so as to be able to step into the shoes of the former governments and get a firm stand in the geopolitical contest, mainly against Russia and China, for domination over the fossil resources in that region. The Corporate Empire is fanatically involved in insuring its military presence in the AfPak region so as to keep Russia in the first place from gaining a foothold in these countries. Actually, they already seem to be behind in this strategic game since Russia has for some time now been discretely supplying Afghanistan with aid of a peaceful nature, help building schools and hospitals, among other things. Where the U.S military bombs and kills, Russia is extending a helping hand. The future will tell which big power is going to win in this lethal see-saw game for domination of the region.
The hidden purpose of the destruction of Pakistan
This time freakish nature, very likely tied to global warming, got its hand into the game and finished off the destruction begun by the Pakistan government in collusion with Washington, with the alleged purpose of getting rid of the Taliban and other Mujahideen.
The Corporate Empire then successfully, through the bombing of the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the senseless killing of militants and civilians alike, continued putting the pieces of the puzzle in the right places for the New World Order, so as to hasten the destruction of what is, by one sweeping term, called the Third World. Putting Pakistan next to Rwanda or Mozambique doesn’t seem to surprise anyone. Just forget about the wonderful civilization of Pakistan. The world didn’t know about Pakistan anyway. The fact that it had been lured, by corrupt governments, into becoming the ally of the U.S. Empire was largely ignored. To Americans, Pakistan is not known as the ally, but as the Muslim country that we didn’t know anything about until the floods began. And Muslim equals enemy in the war on terror. Actually, for most people it did not get above their radar even then.
Links for donations to the victims of the floods in Pakistan:
Donate – UNICEF
Médecins sans frontiers (MSF) / Doctors Without Borders
 The Sunday Times, U.K., presents a chilling article on the Haditha massacre – Iraq May 2006. Donald Rumsfeld: “Shit happens. Get over it. ” – We Ourselves
 The Hindu Kush is a 500-mile mountain range stretching between north-western Pakistan and eastern and central Afghanistan. The highest point in the Hindu Kush is Tirich Mir (7,708 m or 25,289 ft) in the Chitral region of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.
 The Swat Valley, a Pakistani administrative district referred to as Asia’s Switzerland, has been home to a decades long struggle between the Pakistani government and militant groups agitating to impose Islamic law. Since its integration into the state of Pakistan in 1969, uprisings in the Swat Valley have consistently challenged the authority of the Pakistani government. – Suite 101.com
 “The United States government, led by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division, has made a series of attacks on targets in Pakistan since 2004 using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). Under the George W. Bush administration, these controversial attacks were called a part of the US’ “War on Terrorism” and sought to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who were thought to have found a safe haven in Pakistan. Most of these attacks are on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Northwest Pakistan.” – Wikipedia
 “Almost 1.5 million people have registered for assistance since fighting erupted three weeks ago, the UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] said, bringing the total number of war displaced in North West Frontier province to more than 2 million” – The Guardian
 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) – Predator and Reaper – monitored at the Ground Control Stations (GCS) at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, Sierra Vista, Arizona and Grand Forks, North Dakota
“Bigger, deadlier Reaper drone deployed in Iraq – With a wingspan of 66 feet, the Reaper is larger than the MQ-1 Predator, and can carry a much larger weapons payload.” (Washington Times) The manufacturer is General Atomics Inc. These drones have been used in U.S. aerial warfare ever since the 1991 Gulf War, including of course the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their ‘great precision’ is lauded and when they hit a wedding party or a house full of children – as has often happened – it is just hushed up in the corporate media.
 “There are two contrasting stories about the origin of Taliban. One story is that the rape and murder of boys and girls of a family who were travelling to Kandahar or some similar outrage by Mujahideen bandits aroused Mullah Omar, who is credited with the formation of Taliban, and his students to take a vow to rid Afghanistan of these criminals. The other story is that Pakistan-based “Afghanistan Transit Trade” and their allies in the Pakistan government, trained, armed, and financed Taliban for clearing the southern road across Afghanistan to Central Asia.” – ‘Difference Between Taliban and Mujahideen’
 “We have 100,000 activists deployed in flood-affected areas across the country,” says Naimatullah Khan, head of the Al-Khidmat (The Service) organisation, the social welfare wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s largest and most influential right-wing political party. – BBC
 His government was sacked on 18 April 1993 on charges of corruption, nepotism, extrajudicial killings, taking political revenge and victimisation of opponents
 “Afghanistan, while not an observer, is currently part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. The contact group was established in November 2005, and serves as a mechanism for SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) member states to jointly contribute to reconstruction and stability in Afghanistan.”
For more information on the Afghan catastrophy – see also: moscowtopnews
“After thousands of civilian deaths, nearly 1,000 military fatalities, eight years and $ 250 bn. the country is teetering on the edge of a chasm.”
See also: “SCO summit to focus on Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan”
More info on Pakista at pakobserver
Siv O’Neall is an Axis of Logic columnist, based in France. Her insightful essays are republished and read worldwide. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
:: Article nr. 69781 sent on 15-sep-2010 19:11 ECT
:: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.
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