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Osama Eight Fingers

Ever since the Democrats announced their "security plan," parts of it bothered me. Especially the bit where they said they will "eliminate Osama Bin Laden." In addition to being far more of an aspiration than a plan, it's also not that relevant. I've said before that Bin Laden is not the alpha and the omega of our problem with terrorism -- it didn't begin with him, and it won't end with him. But I lacked any sort of historical precedent or analogy to make my point better.

Earlier today, though, I did think of a decent comparison.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was the commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy for much of World War II. He was the architect and leader of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (albeit reluctantly -- he warned his superiors that "I shall run wild for the first six months... but I have utterly no confidence for the second or third year," and that's precisely what happened). He led the Japanese Navy through some of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Then, less than a year and a half after the Pearl Harbor attack, we found out exactly when and where he would be taking a transport flight in the South Pacific. Two squadrons of fighters intercepted his flight, fought past his escorts, and shot down his plane. Yamamoto was struck by two bullets, one through his head. On April 18, 1943, the man who planned and carried out "the day of infamy" was dead.

The war, however, continued. For almost two and a half more years, the fighting went on, with even bloodier battles and hundreds of thousands more to die.

Historians, with the benefit of decades of distance and access to far more information than those living at the time, sometimes speculate whether the killing of Yamamoto was actually such a great move. For all his stupendous reputation, many consider him a very poor naval tactician and strategist. His battle plans were tremendously overcomplicated, he tended to divide his forces and fritter them away on efforts that were ultimately pointless, and his plans always depended on both sides doing everything exactly as he planned. He never made provisions for his own side doing something wrong or our side being smarter than he thought. Had he lived, he very well might have continued to make even greater blunders than those that cost him the Battle of Midway, and the war might have ended sooner.

But that overlooks a critical factor. Yamamoto was revered by the Japanese. He was seen as almost divine, loved and lauded by the Japanese people. His death was a tremendous blow to the Japanese morale, and made all of them face mortality -- both their own and their empire's. If the legendary Yamamoto, who lost two fingers fighting the Russians at the Battle of Tsushima, could fall to the Americans, who was safe?

In some ways, Bin Laden reminds me a little of Yamamoto. Both were highly revered figures among their followers. Both could be stunningly brilliant tacticians, but terrible at strategy. (Bin Laden's greatest success, the 9/11 attacks, ultimately cost him his sanctuary among the Taliban, dozens of his best lieutenants, thousands of his followers, and the hope for support among any other nation in the world.) Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has pulled off very few successful attacks -- and they have almost uniformly been strategic failures. The London bombings did little to shake the British resolve. The bombings in Egypt and Syria only convinced those governments that they had little to gain and much to lose in tolerating Al Qaeda. And their sole success -- the Madrid bombings -- only achieved their strategic goal of peeling Spain out of the coalition through the incompetence of the former Spanish government, who tried to use the bombings to go after the Basques yet again instead of putting the blame where it belonged.

So, historically, perhaps it's good for us if Bin Laden is still alive and still directing attacks. I don't care, though -- I still want him dead. Verifiably, unequivocally dead. I just don't think it matters too much in the big picture.


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Comments (31)

Although there are similari... (Below threshold)

Although there are similarities between Yamamoto and Bin Laden, there are glaring differences between the two people.

Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto was personally opposed to war against the USA, and his opposition resulted in death threats against him.

The only reason why he agreed to lead an attack on Pearl Harbor is because he knew that the Japanese Navy would attack the USA with or without him, and he wanted to minimize Japanese casualties. Yamamoto had warned Japan's politicians that if the USA were attacked, then a sleeping giant would be awoken. Indeed, Yamamoto did not believe that Japan could win a war against the USA.

Also, after the attack on Pearl Harbor succeeded, some Japanese officers wanted to follow up by attacking the USA again on Christmas Day. Yamamoto told his officers that there would be no attack on Dec. 25th because that day was the USA's holy day.

By the way, Yamamoto didn't have much of an ego problem because, unlike other Japanese men of his day, he agreed to marry a woman who was taller than him. If I recall correctly, his wife was 5'4".

"Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has p... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

"Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has pulled off very few successful attacks -- and they have almost uniformly been strategic failures. " Don't forget, Jay Tea, that Osama's over-riding goal was to remove the infidels from muslim holy land. In that respect he was successful. It is almost as if our invasion of Iraq was the cover behind which this goal was acceded to. I'd rate him high in the pantheon of political strategists in light of Sun Tzu's Acme of War thesis.

-- For all his stupendous r... (Below threshold)

-- For all his stupendous reputation, many consider him a very poor naval tactician and strategist. --

Many do. Yet master intellect Herman Kahn considered Yamamoto's attack on Pearl Harbor to have been the most magnificent and complex military assault ever attempted. It was successful far beyond what any analyst of the day would have predicted.

Yamamoto was working with weapons platforms that traveled at speeds ranging from 20 to 300 knots, that had to be coordinated over 2000 miles of ocean for an eleven-day voyage. His aircraft were specified to have 200 miles less range than they would need to reach Hawaii and execute their mission. Several of the weapons deployed in the attack had never been used before.

Given the technology of the time, and the difficulties of striking so distant a target with such a diverse force, the attack on Pearl Harbor, though admittedly strategically irrational, must rank as one of the greatest military feats of all time.

Although I would like to se... (Below threshold)
Charles Bannerman:

Although I would like to see Osama dragged by his balls behind a HumVee, his capture or death would make very little difference in Al Qaeda. The infrastructure is in place for it to continue whether Bin Laden is at the head or not.

In my opinion, Al Queda isn't the root cause of the terrorist problem. Wahabism (sp) is the root cause. We are not going to stop Islamic terrorism until we either convert them from the Wahabi version of Islam or kill all of them.

Saudia Arabia is the home if Wahabism and therefore is the preeminant terrorist state. They fund the schools that teach Wahabism, fund the terrorists themselves indirectly and have as an ultimate goal of the world being Wahabi Islamic.

Saudia Arabia is the bottom line of terrorism and we have put ourselves at their mercy by pouring money into their coffers for oil when we should be developing alternate fuels and exploring for additional domestic supplies.

We are playing into the hands of the radical Islamists because our politicians are so shortsighted and focused on political correctness that we self destructing.
Chuck

I think the real leader of ... (Below threshold)
Eric:

I think the real leader of Al-Qaeda is Zawahiri, not so much Bin Laden. I've long felt that Zawahiri is the Tony Soprano to Bin Laden's Junior Soprano.

In the analogy, Tony Soprano was the real boss of the family, but let Junior and the public at large think Junior was the boss. That way the focus of the FBI was on Junior and his penny-ante crimes while Tony was behind the scenes hatching the big schemes.

I think the same analogy may apply to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. While the world focuses on Bin Laden as the leader, it's really Zawahiri who is the brain behind the throne.

BryanD's comment that Al Qa... (Below threshold)
Bill:

BryanD's comment that Al Qaeda has accomplished very few successful attacks since 9/11 is true - only if you exclude Iraq. And if they succeed in igniting a civil war, which some say they already have, they will have won the war.

I would have to somewhat di... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

I would have to somewhat disagree with JT. The longer Osama is alive and/or not captured, the more it embarrasses the US and encourages recruits to join al Qaeda.

Tacticly, Osama dead or alive doesn't matter in individual battles. But strategically, his presence is a guiding force for those opposed to the US to take up the fight. And that is the war that must be won, not the sweeping, clearing, or leveling of towns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We cannot permanently repress terrorism by occupying countries and killing their rebellious citizens, that will only encourage it. Doing so along with bin laden's rhetoric that the US is fighting a war against the religion of Islam has been the best recruiting tool al Qaeda has had. Bin laden alive definitely detracts from our efforts in the WOT.

Wouldn't elimating Bin Ladi... (Below threshold)
coward:

Wouldn't elimating Bin Ladin be denying him his rights? Shouldn't he have a lawyer and his day in court? I also find it funny that this is coming from the crowd that opposes the death penality...

BryanD,I'd rate... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

BryanD,

I'd rate him high in the pantheon of political strategists in light of Sun Tzu's Acme of War thesis.

Except that our response cost him, you know, his allies, his base of operations, hundreds of top & middle managers of his group, and thousands of trained fighters, and left him able to do little more than send the occasional audio tape. Boy, that's a real success story there...

Wouldn't elimating Bin Ladi... (Below threshold)
vietvet:

Wouldn't elimating Bin Ladin be denying him his rights? Shouldn't he have a lawyer and his day in court? I also find it funny that this is coming from the crowd that opposes the death penality...
Posted by: coward at April 7, 2006 09:01 AM

Coward:

Your comment shows your ignorance. In fact, yes he should have his day in court. It would only be the total incompetence of the Bush Justice Dept that would be to blame if he weren't convicted (remember the fuck-up lawyer in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial?) .
And your comment is very funny considering that your crowd is always the one waving the flag the hardest and claiming to be more patriotic. Patriotism includes protecting the rights of every individual (whether a terrorist or not) the right to a trial, just as much as it is protecting the rights of idiots like you to voice your uneducated opinion.

"Ever since the Democrats a... (Below threshold)
astigafa:

"Ever since the Democrats announced their 'security plan,' parts of it bothered me."

Yeah. It bothered you before they even described what it would be. They could have come up with the cure for cancer and the key to world peace, and done something about your beer belly, but you would never have heard it. Bleat your little song about Democrats not having a plan, then bleat your little song when they come up with something. One note slim. Democrats bad, Republicans good. Except of course when they've been caught red-state-handed. Until then, saith the Lord, this is my party, in whom I am well represented.

You know, you haven't *refuted* anything. Not that that was ever the plan, right? All you need to do is characterize & demonize & and slander, then wink at your witless dittohead followers and get them to flatter you for your witless prating. What a racket.

I've said before t... (Below threshold)
pennywit:
I've said before that Bin Laden is not the alpha and the omega of our problem with terrorism -- it didn't begin with him, and it won't end with him.

What if we catch Achmed bin Alphaomega?

--|PW|--

You all make the assumptio... (Below threshold)
virgo:

You all make the assumption that Bin Laden is alive , I for one think He is dead !

Call me crazy but I think O... (Below threshold)
lakestate:

Call me crazy but I think Osama bin Liquidated. We haven't heard from him for years (the last "contact" was the tape a few months ago that experts think was an old recording.) I'm not the only one who thinks that, there are ex-CIA experts that believe he's dead too (I don't profess to be an expert.) It is something to think about though. I don't think it matters much either way, because his legend would live on with the Wahabists - probably in line with one of Mohammad's relatives as the man that brought down the "Great Satan.".

Sorry virgo you beat me to ... (Below threshold)
lakestate:

Sorry virgo you beat me to it - I agree, obviously.

THE QUICK FIXI rec... (Below threshold)
Bob Neal:

THE QUICK FIX

I recently read two articles which compare our present middle east situation to events of the past.

The first article compares our unpreparedness for the 9-11-01 tragedy to America's attitude of isolationism in the 1930's. Hitler brutally conquered most of Europe before we got involved. The Japanese Army committed unspeakable atrocities to millions of Chinese citizens while the United States did nothing. Then came Pearl Harbor in 1941. Had we been ready and willing to confront Hitler and Tojo before they became powerful, World War 2 would have been avoided and 50,000,000 lives would have been saved. As was the case with 9-11, the warning signs were always in plain view for anyone that paid attention. "Quick fixers" have always thought that we should ignore foreign affairs because it is none of our business. It takes thousands of deaths to change the minds of these people, and then they still do not really get it.

The second article compares our current activities in Iraq to the post World War 2 occupation of Europe. President Truman encountered stiff opposition when he presented his "Marshall Plan" to restore and rebuild Berlin along with other portions of Europe. A lot of Americans said, "the hell with 'em. Wars over. Not our business" I think that Harry Truman took the high road of patience, kindness, and courage by following through with the Marshall Plan. This did a lot to curb Communist expansion. It is entirely possible that we would all be wearing "comrade clothes" and doing calisthenics in the parking lot at 6:00 AM if Mr. Truman had caved in to the "quick fix" people of his era. Likewise, we may end up wearing turbans and praying to Mecca five times a day if we listen to the isolationists of today.

The "quick fix" mentality applies to a lot of situations. Raising taxes for things like transportation without doing thorough research on every potentially cost effective alternative is an example. Passing civil rights laws to protect every group imaginable is a quick fix. Aborting "inconvenient" babies is the ultimate "quick fix".

It is unfortunate that there are a lot of "quick fix" people who are very clever and present convincing arguments. Sometimes I almost believe them...

The comparison of bin Laden... (Below threshold)
Cousin Dave:

The comparison of bin Laden to Yamamoto interests me because, ultimately, Pearl Harbor was a strategic disaster for Imperial Japan. In fact, I've never been able to figure out what the point of the Pearl attack really was. It didn't gain the Japanese any territory. It greatly exceeded the reach of their logistics, and they didn't have the ability to actually occupy Hawaii and hold it. I've debated this point with people who are more knowledgable about WWII than I am, and some of them think the real goal was to destroy the U.S. carrier fleet. However, if that were the purpose, one would think that the attack would have been broken off when the first scouts realized that the carriers were not in port at Pearl. It really winds up looking like there was no thought-out purpose; it was just an exercise in bullying. And, as so often happens, once the bully pushes the victims past a certain point, the balance of power changes very abruptly. (As Yamamoto himself said it would.)

Was 9/11 bin Laden's Pearl Harbor, an expensive operation with no strategic point other than swaggering? We'll see, but I'm guessing that history will regard the two operations similarly.

I dont believe We are unde... (Below threshold)
virgo:

I dont believe We are under any obligation to grant a mass murdering terrorist a trial, i would think anybody ( militarily speaking ) would wipe Him out on the spot like they should have done with Hussein !

Bush of course has been sin... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Bush of course has been singing from the same song sheet as Jay Tea for some time:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

But we all recall Bush saying earlier after 9/11:
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01
and
"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'"
- G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI
So now the Democrats are roundly criticized for stating that they will "eliminate Osama bin Laden ,destroy terrorist networks like al-Queda. ..I agree that these are probably only words aimed for eletoral purposes, but somehow I would rather Bush return to this refrain. .It is hard to imagine a Giovanni Falcone or a Simon Wiesenthal becoming so complacent as the President who loves to exude such a frontier sheriff pose. I'm sure the families of the victims of 9/11 would also like to see justice (Osama bin Laden) relentlessly pursued.. particularly as the US and (Jay Tea) is spending so much effort to wring the head of lowly al-Queda spear carrier in Zacarias Moussaoui.


Re Bob Neal's "Quick Fix", ... (Below threshold)
Bill:

Re Bob Neal's "Quick Fix", I think some better analogies to our current situation might be found within the Middle East region itself. Europe doesn't have warring tribal factions that have been at odds for over a thousand years. Or in the film the Battle of Algiers. This has been a guerilla war against an insurgency since day 5 of the war. Rumsfeld and his dummies denied it for too long, until it was too late and it's one of the "thousands of mistakes" we've made in Iraq, to quote Condi. And of course Vietnam is a good example. We won that war by getting out and returning to being the shining city on the hill. Now we're the $9 Trillion in debt violent ghetto. We need some new leadership - this Plame thing gets more disgusting every minute - they should have fired Rove months ago to protect the President. Dumb move.

Cybrludite, Let me re-itera... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

Cybrludite, Let me re-iterate: Osama launched his jihad SPECIFICALLY to remove the infidel (the American military presence) from Saudi Arabia. In the run-up to the Iraqi War we did that for him: from S A to Iraq, etc. (I believe there are about 200 personel left as advisors, though, confined on base with home delivery only- VERY low key). So that is a victory for O, like it or not. As far as chain-of-command and base ops issues, if he's alive, he's were he has always been: in the field in Waziristan. Maybe Afghanistan. The "open-source" style of warfare which employs video tutorials (the master bomb maker/ demonstrator may be long dead) to inspire and train the next generation, depends not on who was who and when; it's the shared expertise and plenty of targets to practice on that becomes the new recruiting tool.

9-11. Pearl Harbor. Let's... (Below threshold)
docjim505:

9-11. Pearl Harbor. Let's also add Tet and Lee's invasion of the north in the summer of 1863.

All were actions designed to have a sharp POLITICAL effect on the enemy:

The leadership of the CSA hoped that thrashing the yankee army on northern soil would entice the British and French to openly recognize / support the CSA and compel Lincoln to stop the war.

Yamamoto hoped that by knocking out the US fleet, it would give the Japanese enough time to consolidate their gains in the western Pacific and also (hopefully) convince the United States that the costs of going to war were too high. If Pearl Harbor hadn't been a "sneak attack" (due to a slow Japanese typist), he might have been right.

Giap and the Hanoi leadership thought that the Tet Offensive would cause a general rising in South Vietnam against the GVN / US, forcing negotiations on terms favorable to Hanoi.

bin Laden seems to have wanted to demonstrate both al Qaeda's power and the American's lack of resolve ("paper tiger"). It remains to be seen if he isn't ultimately right.

Regarding bin Laden himself: his death won't mean the end of the war. That being said, I want him dead, his corpse wrapped in a pigskin, and tossed in the nearest cesspool.

bryanD,Hate to bus... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

bryanD,

Hate to bust your bubble but you need to check your facts. Our military presence in Saudi Arabia has actually increased. My brother just finished a rotation at KF Military City.

Steve Crickmore:Yo... (Below threshold)

Steve Crickmore:

You quoted

Bush of course has been singing from the same song sheet as Jay Tea for some time:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02
But we all recall Bush saying earlier after 9/11:
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01
Between the second and the first, Tora Bora was reduced and Al Quaeda in Afghanistan was pretty well castrated. We got a lot of intel from that operation, which was used elsewhere to very good effect.

And since then, we've heard pretty much jack shit from Osama. A videotape of indeterminate date, a couple of audio tapes - apparently this wonderfully elusive and successful mastermind can't find a follower with a camcorder for anything NEW.

The audiotapes, however... do you mean to tell me that you couldn't take five or ten hours of recorded speeches by Osama and cut and paste audio clips (using something as simple as Windows Sound Recorder utility) into a 10 minute screed? Then copy it out onto a cheap cassette recorder?

"See! Osama's still alive! We have his voice on a cheap audio cassette!"

While his moldering carcass has been chewed up and spat out by worms in a blown-in cave in Tora Bora long ago.

I think Bush KNOWS Osama's dead and gone. Yet - who would believe us if we said so? Even if we showed the body with video? It'd be denounced immediately as a fake by a rampaging cowboy. After all, he doesn't have any credibility!

Would YOU believe it? Would anyone at DU or Kos? And if Bush couldn't convince someone nominally aligned AGAINST terrorism, how could he convince someone who whole-heartedly believes in their fantasy ideology?

J.

faith+1, Isn't that a Saudi... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

faith+1, Isn't that a Saudi base? And was your brother's unit attached? Anyway, thanks for the info. I'll look in to it.

Hmmm.1. <blockquot... (Below threshold)
ed:

Hmmm.

1.

Had he lived, he very well might have continued to make even greater blunders than those that cost him the Battle of Midway, and the war might have ended sooner.

Frankly I can't say that I'd lay the Battle of Midway on Yamamoto. It was a complete fluke that rationally we didn't deserve to win.


2. Whether or not Iraq moves into a civil war is frankly immaterial to whether or not we "win". Like all of the previous times the Democrats are moving the goalposts yet again.

If there is a civil war then it'll be between the Kurds+Shia vs Sunnni. I.e. 80% of the population vs 20%. So it'll be one of the shortest "civil wars" on record with the Sunni either slaughtered outright or driven into exile.

Something that the Sunni have deliberately courted with their terrorism and criminal behavior.

faith+1, tough search for r... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

faith+1, tough search for recent troop levels in S A (makes sense during war). All I read mentioned is 400. A low number was apx. 200 after August 2003.

I think Bush KNOWS Osama's ... (Below threshold)
vietvet:

I think Bush KNOWS Osama's dead and gone. Yet - who would believe us if we said so? Even if we showed the body with video? It'd be denounced immediately as a fake by a rampaging cowboy.
Posted by JLawson

I've seem some really dumb statements from the right-wing assholes on this site, but this one wins the grand prize.

JLawson, you should pay your drug dealer twice what he charges, because that's some good shit your on.

BryanD,And let me ... (Below threshold)
Cybrludite:

BryanD,

And let me reiterate that in exchange for our troops leaving Saudi (On our own terms, and to go and topple the terrorist-friendly dictator next door in the bargain), Osama got the snot kicked out of his organization. Severely. If you call that winning without fighting, I hope every enemy general we ever face thinks like you.

On a personal level, I woul... (Below threshold)
F15C:

On a personal level, I would love to kill Osama Bin Laden myself, but from a military strategy perspective, OBL is probably the 'best' Al Qaeda leader we could hope for at this time. That sounds counter-intuitive to many, but there are rational arguments to support that claim. Clearly OBL is highly marginalized in terms of his day to day control of the organization; he is arguably not the strongest tactician or strategist that AQ has to offer, yet exerts control of varying degrees over those possibly better qualified to develop and execute their strategy, thus minimizing AQs potential effectiveness; many of OBL's staff of experts have been killed and/or captured further blunting his effectiveness; the value of the intel we've gathered around OBL's AQ would be diminished significantly should another leader emerge requiring new efforts to understand the new leader's structure, goals, and staff; even the densest and most rabid Islamist understands on some level that OBL is marginalized as a leader. Compare him with Iran's president, some of the top radical Imams, or pre-invasion Hussein. They are/were animated, visible, and openly defiant in front of the masses which is important to Islamists - OBL is not; OBL's death would make him an instant martry (which is what he ultimately wants, but on his timetable not ours) elevating him to a level that a new and ostensibly better leader would leverage as a psychologically important weapon against us due to the motivating power that martyrdom has with the Islamic masses, thus rendering the final victory in the battle (not the war) of OBL vs. USA to OBL.

OBL's death and the emergence of a new and ostensibly better leader would serve to re-invigorate AQ, changing the dynamics of the war between us and them in their favor at least temporarily and requiring signficant efforts (time/people/money/luck) to restore the equilibrium (it is not a stalemate as some simplistically think) that we have now. Such equilibrium clearly favors us in the long term as we can gnaw away at AQs leadership and slaughter masses of their troops and syncophants/allies, while they are forced to fight a defensive terrorist war that kills predominately more Islamics than infidels - which even Islamics tire of over time.

It is clear that we are keeping OBL hopping from place to place and minimizing his visibility and viability. He and his staff are forced to spend significant time and resources on planning and executing the logistics of staying alive right now and that is time and resources not spent on other nasty things. He is in an extreme defensive stance that consumes valuable resources just to maintain day in and day out. He is a marginal leader. I think that is the best scenario we can realistically hope for while we tear away at the mind and body of AQ and their syncophants/allies on other fronts of more of our choosing.

"Bush of course has been si... (Below threshold)
Joe:

"Bush of course has been singing from the same song sheet as Jay Tea for some time:
"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
- G.W. Bush, 3/13/02

But we all recall Bush saying earlier after 9/11:
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01

Just did a Nexis search, and both quotes are certainly false. The first one did have some slight resemblance to what he said in reality on March 13 but it is exaggerated and falsified and taken totally out of context.

The seconf quote, on the other hand, is definitely fabricated out of whole cloth. Only two gullible journalists have written about these quotes, and then three letter-to-the-editor writers.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020313-8.html




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