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Kos Explains It All To Us

| 46 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

Kos said something quick and stupid yesterday...

[Update: And has now, in act of true courage, pulled it off his site without explanation. Here's a screenshot of it, in case you need to be reminded. Which side is it again that's fighting against Oceania? ]

...and followed it up today with something longer, more honeyed in tone, and saying exactly the same thing.
There's been much ado about my indifference to the Mercenary deaths in Falluja a couple days ago. I wrote in some diary comments somewhere that "I felt nothing" and "screw them". My language was harsh, and, in reality, not true. Fact is, I did feel something. That's why I was so angry.
Well, it's good that he did feel something's just not clear he felt anything for the four people killed and brutalized; so from his point of view, the operative point isn't the "screw them," it's the "I felt nothing." It's a characteristic of the people I oppose in this whole Bad Philosophy thing that feelings are what matters - that one's emotional state is all-important; it's how it makes you feel that matters, and whether your feelings are genuine.
I was angry that five soldiers -- the real heroes in my mind -- were killed the same day and got far lower billing in the newscasts. I was angry that 51 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly in Iraq in March alone. I was angry that these mercenaries make more in a day than our brave men and women in uniform make in an entire month. I was angry that the US is funding private armies, paying them $30,000 per soldier, per month, while the Bush administration tries to cut our soldiers' hazard pay. I was angry that these mercenaries would leave their wives and children behind to enter a war zone on their own violition. So I struck back.
So by attacking - striking back at - the dead civilians, he somehow felt he could remedy an injustice - the disregard by the media of the soldiers who were killed that day.
Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone. I witnessed communist guerillas execute students accused of being government collaborators. I was 8 years old, and I remember stepping over a dead body, warm blood flowing from a fresh wound. Dodging bullets while at market. I lived in the midsts of hate the likes of which most of you will never understand (Clinton and Bush hatred is nothing compared to that generated when people kill each other for politics or race or nationality). There's no way I could ever describe the ways this experience colors my worldview.
And, by extension, there's no way any one of us who hasn't shared his experiences can judge Here he wraps himself in the accusation-proof flag of victimhood, spins, and bows to the audience.
Back to Iraq, our men and women in uniform are there under orders, trying to make the best of an impossible situation. The war is not their fault, and I will always defend their honor and bravery to the end of my days. But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good. They answer to no one except their CEO. They are dangerous, hence international efforts (however fruitless they may be) to ban their use.
I'll skip over the whole "we have a volunteer army" argument as too obvious, and point out that the motivation of the contractors - like the motivation of the soldiers, or the motivation of the private contractors charging hazard pay to work in Iraq - is probably a little more complex than that. And that - as with the overarching importance of his feelings above, the fact that he besmirches the dead by challenging their motivations - rather than their actions - speaks volumes.
So not only was I wrong to say I felt nothing over their deaths, I was lying. I felt way too much. Nobody deserves to die. But in the greater scheme of things, there are a lot of greater tragedies going on in Iraq (51 last month, plus countless civilians and Iraqi police). That those tragedies are essentially ignored these days is, ultimately, the greatest tragedy of all.
It's funny; many of us are debating the issues around the war and around what to do. I certainly don't feel that I am ignoring the deaths that happen in Iraq every day (I do, however, believe it is important to put them into context, so that we are able to make intelligent judgments about where we are and what to do).

The reverence for life of the antiwar movement would be funny if it were not so wrapped up in the issues of Bad Philosophy. What matters isn't whether the world as a whole or even the set of people we're taking about is better or worse off - what matters is whether you can make sure you are morally isolated from any taint of blame.

I don't think you can live in the world and be isolated that way. Kos does. And, of course, that attitude helps as he takes money from Jim Moran, friend of the Jews (and MBNA) to help run his campaign.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: April 3, 2004 1:55 AM
Kos Watch from The Politburo Diktat
Excerpt: My name is Markos Moulitsas Z˙niga. My favorite activities: 1. Using the phrase "screw them" on my blog. 2. Deleting posts that revealed my truly vile nature, and substituting mealy-mouthed non-apologies. And I hate it when someone spoils my fun. 3. Ac...
Tracked: April 3, 2004 3:32 AM
Excerpt: George Bush's human rights triumph is why some liberals like Markos Zuniga (Kos) feel they must resort to shameful rhetoric - concerning the young men who were burned alive, mutilated and left to hang from a bridge - by saying the murdered Americans ...


A day spent digging up one of the mass graves under supervision of the genocide investigators and a lengthy chat with Iraqis who suffered under SH regime would do him a whole lot of good. At least, that is what one hopes.

Where did the orignal post go which started all this hoopla? All I see is an apology. Did Kos erase it?

"Did Kos erase it?"

Went down the memory hole, apparently. Ach, Orwell, what sins are committed in thy Name!

Ah. I see. "Gosh, a whole bunch of people got irritated with me for my recent remarks. I must backpeddle and try to dig myself deeper..."

I question his "$30,000/month" figure. There are "mercenaries", hired as civilian bodyguards, who make around $100,000/year, but there aren't many of them. It shouldn't be that hard to find the names of the American companies who deal in this market. The world has always had an ample supply of "soldier of fortune" types; this is nothing new.

Yes, they're there because the money is good, and also because they're good at what they do. And there aren't many civilian jobs that make good use of their particular skills. I'd rather see them in Iraq, fighting for us, than in the jungles of Columbia, fighting for a drug warlord.

"But the mercenary is a whole different deal. They willingly enter a war zone, and do so because of the paycheck. They're not there for humanitarian reasons (I doubt they'd donate half their paycheck to the Red Cross or whatever). They're there because the money is DAMN good. "

What is it with people claiming to be able to read minds and expecting everyone to believe them with no supporting evidence whatsoever?

I mean, seriously, has he given us any reason to believe that the "mercenaries" have no humanitarian intentions motivating them to voluntarily enter a war zone and accept jobs protecting people and property with their lives?

Let's not let Kos change the subject here.

Kos is right that numerous deaths occur in Iraq every day, both military and civilian, without coverage. However, that's NOT why this incident got so much attention and outrage. By focusing on the deaths Kos is trying to ignore the death orgy that followed.

Is he equally flippant about the grotesque play that followed? He certainly made no move in his response to seperate the two.

Having read Andrew's Post I and now Post II, I can't say I see much that is persuasive.

He has failed to adequately address all of the crucial pro-war arguments. Specifically:

(a) There has been no sustained critique or refutation of the democratization theory.

(b) We are told the humanitarian justification was insufficient, but we are not told why: no utilitarian, deontological or marxist analysis is presented in support of his claim. He presents no unflinching criticisms of his anti-war position that condemned Iraqis to slavery, torture and genocide.

(c ) Neither does he broach the manifest and anticipated strategic and deterrent effects of the policy of (pre-emptively) removing depraved rogue regimes reasonably thought to have WMDs.

(d) No alternative theory and approach to terrorism is suggested by which to evaluate the competing Bush policies. Given that political decisions are mostly about choosing between alternative policies (rather than between a policy and some Platonic Ideal), this is important.

Instead, we get a few unrelated points, some better or worse.

It is obviously true that (e) WMD were chosen as the most vociferously argued reason for invasion. It is also true that, as yet, no WMD have been found (although evidence of WMD programs have been found). It remains to be seen if any US official knew none would be found, yet stated otherwise. At most, we have improperly founded and ill-considered pronouncements, rather than deception. It remains to be seen if evidence of the latter will emerge.

However, it will not avail anti-war leftists to claim that the arguments (a)-(d) were not made prior to the war and thus can be ignored. They were indeed made, as can be quickly shown in any competent online search. The fact that argument (e) is not persuasive does not excuse a war opponent from dealing with the other arguments.

Andrew makes a few other points. He attempts to blame the alleged misconceived conflation of Iraq with Al Quaeda, but fails to provide a causal link between this belief and the official US position (which was to the contrary). This straw man has been identified as such long ago. He does not demonstrate the relevance of a wrongly held belief to the general justification for the war.

He attempts to suggest that Bush policies damaged the UN and US relations with Europe. Even if true, there is good reason to believe that pre-war relations were not preferable and should be subject to re-evaluation.

First, it is not clear that the UN, composed of number of undemocratic, illiberal and immoral regimes, is an institution that could not use reform. Certainly, an institution that engages in financial fraud and theft of Iraqi food & medicine, with the complicity of European partners, is unfit to act as a moral or legal arbiter. Rather, the UN has become an abuser, unwilling to enforce its own laws but willing to commit crimes for gain.

In this regard, the act of the Coalition in liberating Iraqis from genocide, rape and torure - in which the UN was complicit - can be seen as an attempt to have the UN enforce its own founding Charter and its Declaration of Human Rights, containing, as they do, obligations of all member countries to promote and rectify illiberal and abusive political circumstances.

Second, a number or European countries actively profitted from and encouraged Saddam's atrocities; essentially, Europe was engaged in slave trading - Iraqi blood for petro-dollars. European opposition to the Iraq war can thus be seen as a desire to continue its execrable practices. The morally proper US response, in my view, was a repudiation of such conduct.

Third, it is not certain that the UN and the EU, could be trusted to use sound moral and political judgment in assisting Iraqis they had previously condemned to slavery. The prisoner is unlikely to ask his abusive jailor to dinner.

So far, I have seen few good arguments against the war, and many attempts to avoid the tough questions.

Ack! Wrong thread, foolish me.

Unless you are equally outraged by this picture of a dead Iraqi child (killed by Bush):

...I am going to brand you a fascist.

Bush killed a child when he was in Iraq? How did he find the time between serving plastic turkeys?

Oh, and if you arent 10000x outraged at the half a million innocent victims of Saddam Hussein, that George Bush has put a cap on I might add, you are a silly unserious partisan hack with a nasty agenda.

Oh, and I beg any of you people that are calling these security people 'mercenaries', please, go down to the local VFW watering hole, and explain how this ex-navy seal and two ex-army soldiers were mercenaries. Just lay it out. Explain how they are different than bank guards or armored car drivers. Explain to them face to face your view of what these men were. Use the word mercenary to the face of a vet.

I beg you.

"takes money" link isn't working for me.


Call me a fascist on the proper thread, Peaches. I'd hate to thread hijack on top of baby killing.

SocialJustice, I want to really, really thank you for making my point about 'dirty hands' and the antiwar movement far, far better than I could have by myself.


Perhaps the major motivating factor for the disapperaing post is that Michael Friedman organized a campaign to make sure the the democratic candidates paying for blogs adds saw his comments.

Already one (who was paying 2K a month) withdrew. I suppose he figured that money over ideals works and killed not only the post but it's cached archive as well.

I posted this link in the first thread on this topic, thought it would also be useful here. It's to a 1994 special report commissioned by the UN on mercenaries, addressing the upswing in activities of mercenary groups around that time, and it's well worth a read. (The report lays out a pretty clear definition of "mercenary," BTW, and one that I agree with, so I'm not using the term casually.)

Bottom line: whether or not you agree with Kos -- and I don't, though AL's attempted fisking of him doesn't impress me much -- it simply should not shock you to learn that people who have lived in warzones and encountered PMCs firsthand have a low opinion of them. There's a long and dodgy history at work here. I'm not about to defend sloppy statements issued in anger, but it's hard to argue that the anger itself is necessarily beyond the pale. We simply need to know more about what role these people are playing in Iraq.

Incidentally, I'm not sure what your "update" means. The post is still up at DailyKos.

I'm off the net until tomorrow night, but the link that went to his comment: now redirects to the link to his 'apology':

...I'll go see if the original comment is still up andaccessible via the original post on 4/1, but I kinda doubt it.


Doctor S-

I've read some of the various UN reports on mercenaries, which tend to focus on Africa and Asia, and will also direct you to this 2001 UK report, which suggests that:

"We note the long experience of the United States government in working with private military companies. We recommend that, in considering options for regulation, the Government examine carefully the United States government's regime for regulating and monitoring the activities of private military companies." - emphasis in orginal.

The US regulates these companies fairly carefully (unlike, say, the Dutch). And while I've agreed that some transparency would do us all some good here, I'm equaly unimpressed by your attempt to tie the South African mercs of the 70's to the guys guarding sewer workers today.


And while I've agreed that some transparency would do us all some good here, I'm equaly unimpressed by your attempt to tie the South African mercs of the 70's to the guys guarding sewer workers today.

I can't make any sense of this. Concerns about the nature and influence of PMCs didn't end when Executive Options were disbanded, as I'm sure you know. Why would making that point imply "tying the South African mercs of the 70's" to anyone?

We do agree on the need for transparency. That's good. You're probably aware that there are widely divergent opinions of the US' regulation of PMCs, not all of them positive (if the Americans did in fact contract MPRI in Croatia during the '90s, that raises some serious questions) -- but maybe some public interest sparked by Fallujah can start clarifying that picture.

No, Doctor S, not quite.

The post is still there if you manually enter the link to the post itself; but he's redirected the direct link to his comment to his followup post without explanation, and if you go to the site and scroll through all the posts on April 1, the parent post isn't here.

So no, he hasn't taken it down; he's just moved the road in front of it and given another post the same address. If you want to claim that as more 'correct', rock on.


Ah, I see. Misunderstood which link you were referring to. My bad.


Thought we covered that UN report. Guess not. If you would provide a single piece of evidence that suggests American complicity in utilizing or condoning illegal or immoral acts by those it hires, you might have a leg to stand on. Show me an instance of a civilian complaining about the treatment recieved at the hands of US mercenaries.

What genuinely saddens me about Mr. Zuniga's further explication of his shameful declarations of yesterday which he incorrectly characterizes as an apology, is the apparent plea for sympathy due to a painful and abusive childhood.

Are we to conclude then that due to the horrors he witnessed as a child he is unable to form normal human sympathies? While we may pity him, this does not excuse him. It just suggests that his judgments are flawed and he is not a reliable source.

I'm not about to defend sloppy statements issued in anger, but it's hard to argue that the anger itself is necessarily beyond the pale. We simply need to know more about what role these people are playing in Iraq.

There is a point where one defines deviancy down so low that no purpose is served by further moral debate.

If you would provide a single piece of evidence that suggests American complicity in utilizing or condoning illegal or immoral acts by those it hires, you might have a leg to stand on.

Yes, DG, we did cover the UN report earlier. I argued that it wasn't out of line to suspect that all might not be kosher given the recent history of PMCs and concerns related thereto, and that this meant more transparency was needed to clarify what's happening in Iraq. Which is basically what I've argued here as well. So I find it bizarre that you're suddenly inventing strawman arguments for me.

There is a point where one defines deviancy down so low that no purpose is served by further moral debate.

Sorry, Gabriel, are you arguing that there are not grounds for people to be suspicious of private military contractors, or angry at the kinds of abuses that have been associated with some such companies in the past? If so, on what grounds are you arguing this? Be specific.

Nope, the redirect is complete now. You can't access the original post at all.

Amazing. The guy gets his panties in a bunch over people going to Iraq to make horror of horrors! money, yet when his cashflow from Democratic candidates is threatened, he has no problem disappearing a highly offensive post on a website that he maintains to horror of horrors! make money and build influence.

Basically, the guy's a merc for the Democratic Party. If he were to get whacked by some sick f***s, have his body mutilated, then hung from a highly visible point, can I just say, "Screw him?" Or would that be as equally repugnant as the act itself?

OMG! Four humans were not only killed, then burnt on live television, but then their bodies were drug from the vehicles by CHILDREN to be mutilated by a horde. Every stroke and every tear was documented on video to be viewed by the world.
And all I read is arguments about PMC, 'mercs' and
the damned MONEY.
Kos hasn't done anything that is surprising in his behaviour, he's just been caught showing his true colours. He has no rapport of sympathy for the terrible deaths that happened or the pain of loss the mens families are enduring. Interestingly enough he's still capitolist enough to be involved in making money off of his weblog. Hypocrite.
The amorality of the whole thing just effing stinks.

At this moment, 10:40 PM EST, Kos' comments can still be found here:

Open that URL, then do a search for "screw them"

While he HAS redirected some stuff, the original words are still there, but screen prints are well-advised.

One could accept - or at least contemplate seriously - Mr. Zuniga's "apology". Or his attempt to restate and amplify his original comments and put them in a larger context thereby mitigating the harshness and callousness of them.

But to do so requires one to dimiss dozens, indeed hundreds, of similiar outrageous and callous comments from him over the past years.

This is not an isolated incident. Or something out of character from him. If it was, we could shake our heads and fingers while recognizing that it was an anomaly, something out of the ordinary.

This is his M.O. This is Kos. Were one to boil down or synthesize his blog, simply take the above comment and show them to everyone.

Hate, sickness, ugliness personified. He's a David Duke of the Left.


Doc S.:

Regarding the mercenaries in Croatia, are you referring to the racketeering allegations against DynCorp employees in the former Yugoslavia peacekeeping missions?

As I understand it, these DynCorp employees, allegedly involved in prostitution, human and drug trafficking, and general racketeering, were part of the multinational POLICE force contracted by the UN in support of the various peace treaties.

1. The contract was not administered by the US DoD. Instead, it was the venerable UN, which is held in such high esteem by good people everywhere. If the DoD was in charge, you'd have seen Cohen & co. dragged over hot coals on the Hill. As it was, UN contracting officers did not have to publicly answer to anyone about how their contractors were misbehaving.

2. DynCorp had operations worldwide and had a diverse workforce. We don't know if these employees were US citizens. And without clear legal oversight nor local authorities, it is doubtful if we could prosecute them for these despicable crimes.

3. In case you were not talking about the DynCorp employees: Many of the mercenaries in the Croatian indepence war were recruited all over the world. The Croats were fighting to secede and needed bodies to fill the slots. They couldn't afford to be choosy.

On the overall argument over the role of contractors on the battlefield:
PMCs, if properly employeed, is a tremendous force multiplier. Could the DoD mobilize for the post-conflict stabilization phase as quickly as it has without PMCs providing security and training assistance? If we ever get into a general war, the US would need all of the PMCs it could get its hands on, to augment security at military bases (as the MPs head to the frontlines), to train the national guard (before they ship out to the war zone), and to guard the many POWs we'd surely be receiving. Not to mention protecting the convoys and privates Lynch from enemy fedayeens.

If Americans do not want to pay for 100 divisions during peacetime, then we need these PMCs.

Ha! Kos undeleted his entry when people started calling him a coward.

Someone call him a jerk again, see if he deletes it again!

You are all fascist hypocrites! Do you care about poor people or people with AIDS? Where is your outrage for that? Yet anyone who doesn't shed a tear for three corporate thugs oppressing brown people is guilty of TREASON?

See this post for more:

Enjoy it while you can wingnuts. Civilized countries ban hate speech such as what you warbloggers and talk radio milita spew. In November we will elect Kerry and ban hate speech such as this once and for all.

In November we will elect Kerry and ban hate speech such as this once and for all.

Really, Wobby? Has Mr. Kerry heard about this? Is he just going to suspend that pesky first amendment?

Koz: "They're doing their best to turn me into the devil, and they're making racist comments about my heritage and family and threatening to kick my ass -- you know, typical right-wing shit."

Nevermind the dead people he pissed on....KOZ IS THE REAL VICTIM!

Jimmy Wu: DynCorp isn't the most germane example for US contracting. OTOH, DynCorp couldn't be in business without the permission of the US government, so that case isn't without very serious ethical implications -- one major thrust of anti-mercenary measures in the past has been to pressure national governments not to harbour and support their activities unquestioningly, and the case of DynCorp arguably shows exactly why that is. Frankly, I'm not sure I buy the contention that there would have been political heat if it had been a direct US contractor. Congress just hasn't shown that much interest in following through on PMCs.

Far, far more troubling for me is the case of MPRI, which was directly involved with ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and which was apparently a direct US contractor at the time. For that reason, I'm far from convinced that the CPA has sufficient oversight of PMCs in Iraq, the opinion of the UK Foreign Office notwithstanding.

On the general issue of PMCs, I think the expanding use of them raises some pretty serious issues. I don't know what the answers to those issues are, but I've seen concerns raised even about employing them for logistical purposes that strike me as worth following up on. When PMCs are taking on a more active role in warzones, especially warzones where the mission is basically political (as in Iraq), the questions multiply. At minimum, we need answers to the questions Rep. Schakowsky raised a couple years ago:

"American taxpayers already pay $300 billion a year to fund the world's most powerful military," Ms. Schakowsky said. "Why should they have to pay a second time in order to privatize our operations? Are we outsourcing in order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment? Is it to hide body bags from the media and thus shield them from public opinion?"

Very valid questions.


Well, I wouldn't call those questions "invalid," but I would call them "obviously trivial," especially in light of recent events. The answer is clearly NO to both.

You are trying to cast indirect doubts on the motivations of the brutally murdered Americans in Iraq. This comes in defense of someone who chose to hawk a long-range loogie on their mutilated corpses.

Despite the best efforts of the Left, insensitivity isn't a crime. In this case, it is merely an act that reflects poorly on your moral center. Given the anonymous nature of the blogosphere, this detracts from the only real coin of the realm--your credibility.

Dr Slack- We outsource such guards because the US military is sized to meet threat levels which are projected across the next decade, not some requirement for guards over the next 6 months. You could critique the Pentagon for not rescoping its overall threat/resource matrix for the long term, but don't confuse that issue with how to guard powerline repair men in a country which supposedly is going to provide its own security next year for such activities. This is why we don't have a draft: the military doesn't just call the draft boards and tell them to skim off 5% of the possible pool rather than 3% like they did las month, put them in uniform, and ship them off to basic training. If we had a draft, that is what would happen. But we don't.

The answer is clearly NO to both.

How is the answer "clearly NO"? If you have info I don't, kindly point me to it. If you have answers to the question of what PMC personnel were doing in the middle of Fallujah, kindly point me to it. And spare me the bloviating about "moral centers" while you're at it.

We outsource such guards because the US military is sized to meet threat levels which are projected across the next decade

Exactly. The US military is currently not sized to fill all the needed roles without outsourcing. If you're going to be engaging in nation-building and counterinsurgency, that's a clear problem -- and comes right back to the aforementioned questions.

Slam: Please prove a negative. While you are at it, please show me proof that alien visits are not true.

PS: We outsource because it is cheaper. It is called not pissing away hard working Americans money while an alternative exists.

A1- I think he just agreed with the practical implications here. Where the disagreement is concerns long term force structures, which makes this thread on a very narrow incident in which 6 were killed an inappropriately parochial context. But perhaps there is a symbolism to the Fallujah atrocity that sparks interest in some people who normally wouldn't be concerned about the number of Army and Marine deployable brigade sized units and how their recruitment, training, logistical support, and deployments are organized. How to come to any realistic conclusion on such matters, in this thread, appears speculative to me.

Let's be brutally honest here: all contractors and consultants are mercenaries. They're not bound to the empoyer by any sense of duty, but work on a job-by-job basis. If they get a better offer after the contract expires, they will take it.

To be fair, the overreliance on contractors like KBR started under Clinton, when it appeared that they would only be needed for a short time. Our European presense was no longer needed, and companies like KBR were the cheaper way to supply our peacekeeping forces in the Balkans. It didn't seem to make sense to tool up the Corps of Engineers and recruit more Army cooks.

But this only goes so far,and Rumsfeld's plans make the situation worse. Our troops in Iraq were stuck eating MRE's much longer than planned because the civilian contractor didn't want to enter a combat zone. And to be honest, you can't order them to. But the job of building barracks and mess halls was one the Army used to do itself.

Mercenaries like the security guys that were ambushed in Falluja are often derided by active duty troops. They left the Service for money. After all, just look at how the Marines didn't bother to retrieve the bodies, and waited until some locals brought them out.

One defining qualifier for those who would make elite member of the Party That Will Build Better Tomorrow is ruthlessness. You have to have this shining belief that your ideology will bring Utopia and the march toward this Utopia trumps everything. And I mean everything: love, family, independence, liberty, the very life, not to mention a quaint American concept of "pursuit of happiness".

On the other hand one character flaw that will always brand you as human fodder at best and enemy of the people at worst (I suspect that the murdered and mutilated "mercenaries" nicely fit within The Enemy of the People category), is feeling of pity for the innocent. And to make sure that this dangerous feeling is not allowed to surface, it is usually wise to deny innocence of those whom one wants to denigrate and/or to eliminate.

Kos, I think, will make excellent leader of the Utopia Party. As an ordinary, stupid, human who values life, liberty etc. I dread the moment he and his comrades get the real power. I will be lucky if I end up in reeducation camp.

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