A Hero vs. The Coward

Wired’s Garrett Graff digs into Robert Mueller’s Vietnam combat experience. A fine read, especially when done with Donald Trump’s bogus bone-spur deferments in mind:

Today, the face-off between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and President Donald Trump stands out, amid the black comedy of Trump’s Washington, as an epic tale of diverging American elites: a story of two men—born just two years apart, raised in similar wealthy backgrounds in Northeastern cities, both deeply influenced by their fathers, both star prep school athletes, both Ivy League educated—who now find themselves playing very different roles in a riveting national drama about political corruption and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The two men have lived their lives in pursuit of almost diametrically opposed goals—Mueller a life of patrician public service, Trump a life of private profit.

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Craig Crawford

Author: Craig Crawford

Trail Mix Host

59 thoughts on “A Hero vs. The Coward”

  1. The Vietnam aspect brought back a remembrance of 1992, of Bill Clinton & the ensuing controversy of hero vs dodger. Present day brings the issue of respect towards John McCain vs the remarks of President Trump’s staffer. Vietnam will forever be our historical ghost of America past, present, future for politicians of a certain age. Does the voting populace, growing ever younger, care? Does the general public care, especially in light of the plight of so many veterans? Interesting topic today that asks us to think.

  2. Is being a live coward smarter than being a dead hero, especially in light of a war so bitterly divisive as being considered an unjust cause? Just throwing logs on the fire here, folks. Holding the prism to the light & breaking down the colors. Like you I grew up during that era & remember the swirling emotions, young neighbor boys going away & coming back in coffins or returning home changed in ways both seen & unseen. No easy answers, lots of scars.

  3. Interesting nuance SJ. Has Vietnam become such a stain that some see those who avoided it as smarter than those who served?

  4. Listened to some telling conversations yesterday that my dad had with other veterans while we were in waiting rooms at the Medical Center. Anymore, he is the only World War 2 vet in the room and the others get a kick out of him. But it is sort of sad because from Vietnam (maybe even Korea), to Iraq and Afghanistan, those vets seem a bit envious he fought in a war the nation still believes in.

  5. The war in indochina…the great American draft was ended by nixon in 1973.   The conscription (better known as the draft) was the great equalizer.  A volunteer army instead?  When the wars are over and the soldiers come home?  Our police departments become militarized.  Many citizens beaten or killed under military tactics reserved for the enemy.

    U.S. military draft ends, Jan. 27, 1973. On the day in 1973, as the Vietnam War drew to a close, the Selective Service announced that there would be no further draftcalls.

    The soldiers coming home from Vietnam?  Brought drugs and the 2nd wave of opiates began in the US.

  6. I keep meeting more who served, beginning with Desert Storm.  There is no shortage of heroes.

    The Coward-In-Chief will see everyone around him flee as the benefit of being near him continues to evaporate.  There is also no shortage of cowards; Mnuchin, Pruitt, Carson…

    As for the younger generation, they are fighting many battles, including one not to get shot in school.   I was never afraid to go to school (except for a couple of bullies we all feared).  I can’t imagine being a teacher and having to prep elementary school kids for an active shooter scenario.


  7. IMHO, the draft changed how we view war.  Mercenary, sparta…it used to be ordinary citizens who fought for our values and safety.   Provision and protection…what we used to expect from our government.  Not the reckless sacking going on over at the WH.  The bolton doctrine?  Weak and diluted American failing in Asia.

  8. The gun culture also gets a bump from returning soldiers.   Pervasive use of weapons in a peaceful society…we create culture wars and fake enemies of citizens to have shoot-outs resembling sorties against the enemy.

  9. After WWII, some of my great-uncles could just suck it up & deal with what they had been through.  However, the one who was at Guadalcanal started drinking.  Shell-shocked, that’s what they called PTSD back then.

    I know a guy struggling with that…he just took his kid to talk to a recruiter.   If you can’t afford college, there aren’t many ways to build any kind of a life.

    I would like to see at least a year of required service of some sort (like VISTA Volunteers) for everyone.   Does that Americorp group still exist?   No deferments.  Rich kids can go to college and complete service in 3-month increments or take a gap year.  Maybe they could work changing linens and assisting patients at a VA hospital to see how these folks are coming back home.

  10. Family story just took a very strange turn.  I saw my former brother in law in 1968 smoking pot, dining on macrobiotics, sleeping on a cot in the living room while heading for the Summer of Love in San Francisco.  He was definitely a draft dodger until the feds caught up with him in Chicago and he was given a choice:  Army or jail.  He went to Nam and other places actually being very brave (ran in the family his father died at Chosin Reservoir).  He ended up in a prison camp having unpleasant things done to him, but moved to Canada, had relationships and children and then headed for the mountains when the PTSD demons caught up with him.

    Flash forward decades where a recent blizzard caught him in the middle of nowhere between truck and cabin that led to severe frost bite and the loss of both legs below the knee.  He is now in therapy learning to walk again.  At 74 he is still very very brave, and he still hates war.


  11. Ah, then we get to the stupid gaming community.  Violent games being “played” by developing brains.  Peel them off of their couches when they turn 18 & stick ‘em in a uniform; they could probably kill without conscience.

    If parents were worth their salt & schools would actually do more than teach kids to pass a standardized test, maybe they would become engaged and responsible citizens.   We’ve seen it from Parkland, but that seems to be an exception.  TX public schools are an embarrassment unless it’s an area where there are a lot of folks from India and Singapore.  There are tutoring offices all over and they push them to do many extra activities.   They aren’t relying on the public schools to educate their kids.

  12. meanwhile back on thread subject of opposites attractive and unattractive

    craig, thanks for the indeed “fine read” wherein one of the most glaring differences of the two men (and perhaps the most tell-tale, so to speak)  can be seen in this quote:

    “A lie was the worst sin,” Mueller says. “The one thing you didn’t do was to give anything less than the truth…….”

  13. Dereliction of Duty…mcmasters gone, flynn gone.  A juxtaposition of generals in the trumpence junta.  The last draft generation got kicked to the curb by the reagan and the gop.   It wasn’t until Obama’s Hagel made PTSD a legit disease of the Vietnam vet …upgrading discharge records, that vets of this era were not shamed.   Vietnam vets, the last of the draft, treated like crap by reagan.  He fed the concrete with homeless vets who needed mental health counseling, not poverty.

  14. continuing the discussion of dissonance and maybe a how-many-angels-on-a-pin argument or the dependence of what “is” is debate,  an excerpt from today’s wapo:


    The dozen people were selected as part of Emory University’s “Dialogue with America” focus group series because of their diverse backgrounds and because they make up a cross-section of political attitudes, though their statements are not a scientific representation of overall opinion.


    All 12 of the assembled voters said they were following news about the Mueller probe, and their views of the special counsel were colored by their feelings about the president. Those who oppose Trump described Mueller as “intelligent,” “respected,” “smart,” “diligent” and “unstoppable.” But Trump’s supporters called the former Marine Corps captain and FBI director “unethical,” “desperate,” “partisan” and “a liar.”

  15. BW, I’m offended by your recurring attacks against me and my fellow Vietnam veterans.

  16. It is a fact that America elected Donald Trump after he made that totally awful comment about John McCain being captured. That memory will always make me angry. Interesting it was made while Trump was still one of Republican pack of primary candidates, so GOP voters still had choices.

    Btw, whatever happened to the “Veterans Rally” $$$ that was supposedly raised when Trump used the soldiers in his hissy fit against certain networks/debates? Any person who serves this country deserves the utmost respect & unbreakable promise of a decent life after they return to civilian existence. It’s the least we can do for anyone willing to die for us. Should we have more respect for politicians who meet privately with soldiers/families over those who publicly use them? Well, duh, yes. I’m adding that stipulation to my What Do You Need To Do To Earn My Vote list. Hoping more Americans are crotchety this way too. 2020 coming up mighty fast, Gertrude.

  17. Ironic that First Lady Michelle Obama & Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden ( both Democrats ) worked sincerely & tirelessly for soldiers & their families while Republicans ( the Party of all things American, ahem ) did their utmost to obstruct the very government these service members were defending.

    Question for our Democratic friends: Why the disconnect between truth & perception in support of these two Parties re: national defense & as importantly the people behind our defense? Messaging? Money? Corporate puppets?

    Do the Democrats have a strong personality in their quiver who can articulate that hey, we are the Party that has your genuine back, soldiers? If so, who?


  18. Flatus…  I don’t see BlondeW as attacking veterans.  Perhaps it would be more helpful if you pointed out exactly what offends you and then state and defend your own position.

    It still pisses me off to think that Trump tried to put the WH doctor as head of the VA.  The fact that he would name someone so unqualified to run that agency says all one needs to know about Trump and his feelings (and/or lack thereof)  of veterans.

  19. craig, wonder how many discrepancies or misstatements (aka lies) are buried in those transcripts compared to what same persons said to Mueller’s team.  were all the folks interviewed by Grassley et al under oath subject to thou-shalt-not-lie-to-congress threat and are the documents/statements submitted covered by perjury prohibition?

  20. No one thinks Trump is a smart guy for avoiding service.  Everyone from Ken Burns to the most antiwar Democrats appreciates the service of the men and women of the American military.  Especially now because Trump obviously isn’t an anti-war guy — he is a militaristic fool.   No one blames the soldiers for the war in Vietnam — the blame is fairly laid at the feet of the various presidents who wish to continue colonial rule.

  21. All good points KGC. I just wonder if generations born after Vietnam, who have heard nothing but trashing of the war, appreciate the sacrifice so many gave — Or whether they realize most were drafted, had no choice.

  22. The primaries yesterday, especially for the Democrats, set the tone for who is the party

    Candidates who ran on a left progressive platform standing with the Nancy P progressive agenda did well  lackluster centrist Dems not so much.  For people still whining about everything Democratic should take a good look at what is going on and turn off the tabloid news.\

    There is no doubt that Democrats everywhere are wide awake and paying attention now.  Thje factors that caused such a election disaster are still in play but now people know what they are dealing with.  The Koch’s are handing out billions of dollars to prevert Democracy -if anything is going to cause trouble this is it.

  23. Craig

    It would be interesting to see high school history texts and how they treat the war.  One of the most astonishing facts for me as I went to college was how incomplete and unfortunately inaccurate school history textbooks are,  Even teachers who knew better taught to the textbook.

    This is an article from Howard Zinn’s group about this very subject

  24. I don’t care who wins the Dem primaries as long as I don’t see anyone interview Bernie Sanders about how it is all because of him while totally neglecting the fact that every good idea he ever had he stole from Hillary Clinton’s policy pages.

  25. Unfortunately – the winning candidates are from the Bernie wing of the party for the most part — especially the woman in Nebraska.  She ran on the Nancy P platform but her support came from the Berniecrats – the traditional lib Dem groups supported the other guy.

    I think fear of losing is keeping party Dems is the thrall of centralist thinking — people have seen what goopers are really all about and they don’t like it. I think the dotard’s words about going back to the white majority American thinking has made an impact. Despite nostalgia no one wants to live in the 1950’s again especially if you are not a white man.

  26. The Bernie cult backing a candidate unless it is a general and they are acting as spoilers are perfectly okay.  I understand that Nebraska vote, I would have voted for her as well.  Pro choice woman of course.  I just don’t want the lazy flaming ego living off others for the past 40 years getting credit.


  27. I just wonder if generations born after Vietnam, who have heard nothing but trashing of the war, appreciate the sacrifice so many gave — Or whether they realize most were drafted, had no choice.

    Craig….   It is human nature to think of issues from the perspective of one’s own personal experience.  I’m sure most young people today think of Vietnam as some ancient history…  just as I and my friends thought of WWII back in the day.  As to appreciating the sacrifice…  they seem to appreciate the sacrifice of those that are in/ or have been in Iraq and Afghanistan.  So as they get older, I think they will see the sacrifice just as our generation finally saw it from WWII vets.

  28. la times:

    Russia favored Trump in 2016, Senate panel says, breaking with House GOP

    The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined that the intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump, contradicting findings House Republicans reached last month.


    “Our staff concluded that the [intelligence community’s] conclusions were accurate and on point,” the panel’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Wednesday in a joint statement with Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman. “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton,” Warner continued.


  29. [more from above link]
    The Senate intelligence panel has yet to weigh in on the collusion allegations, a subject that will be left to its final report. But Burr and Warner have been dropping hints for days that their panel’s interim findings on the intelligence community would depart from those of the House Intelligence Committee Republicans. House Democrats also roundly disagreed with those findings.


    “I’m not sure that the House was required to substantiate every conclusion with facts,” Burr told reporters last week, when asked whether the Senate Intelligence Committee would also find fault with the intelligence community’s assessment. He promised the Senate panel would “have the facts to show for” its conclusions.


    “Everyone that we’ve ever had testify still stands by the full findings of the ICA,” Warner said Monday, referring to the intelligence community’s assessment. “We’ve had all the Obama officials, we’ve had all the Trump officials. Every person.”


    The committee’s review is not yet complete: On Wednesday, panel members huddled behind closed doors with former intelligence chiefs to discuss their impressions and conclusions. Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, and former National Security Agency director Adm. Mchael S. Rogers were in attendance. Former FBI director James B. Comey also was invited.


  30. I think regardless of the risk of someone worse (how is that possible) – the new report points out that she went out of her way to destroy the tapes of the enhanced interrogations despite the wishes of the shrubs.   She is a rudderless person who will do whatever and then cover it up

  31. Holy shit, the way you people think out loud…


    Trump not only dodged the draft, he campaigned for POTUS on an expanded military and the threat of military force, while simultaneously slandering the names and memories of combat veterans like John McCain and Humayun Khan.  It’s Trump’s self-serving hypocrisy that’s the issue, not whether or not he was “smart” to evade the draft.

    Why is Trump’s “self-serving hypocrisy” relevant, you may wonder?  Because it indicates that his priority is his own self-interest, and not the welfare of his fellow citizens or the greater United States as an entity, itself; that when given a choice between serving himself and serving his country, he will choose himself every time, which is a terrible trait for the leader of a country, although not terribly uncommon.

    Have thought experiments in your head- type them out when you’ve reached conclusions.

  32. “Or whether they realize most were drafted, had no choice.”

    same could be said about a lot of confederates in civil war…confederacy started conscription in 1862 and union started conscription in 1863.

    from u.s. history The Draft in the Civil War

    The initial war fever soon dissipated in both the North and South, and each side was compelled to resort to conscription. The South instituted a draft in 1862, requiring three years of service for those selected between the ages of 18 and 35; later, as the war prospects dimmed, the pool was enlarged by taking in ages 17 to 50. A large number of exemptions were allowed and there were provisions for substitutions.

  33. Adults all had choices during the Viet Nam War. Some didn’t see any attractive menu selections, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t choices.

    It’s not my intention to judge the choices that people made, except for the top Pentagon, Congressional, State Department, and White House officials. With very few exceptions, the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coasties did a fine job in the face of abysmal leadership and cowardice at the top.


    the guardian:
    Trump attorney fed statement to publicist for Russians about Trump Tower meeting

    The Trump Organization fed a prepared statement to a publicist for Russians involved in the notorious 2016 meeting at Trump Tower on what to tell the press about what was discussed, it emerged on Wednesday.
    An attorney for the Trump family’s company urged the publicist in an email to endorse Donald Trump Jr’s version of events on the meeting and said it “would be our preference” if he did not say anything else in response to inquiries.
    The attorney, Alan Futerfas, also directly contacted two Russians involved in the meeting shortly before its existence was made public in the media, according to copies of emails released by Congress.
    Another email showed the incoming White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, told the same publicist, Rob Goldstone, it was important that “we remain consistent and united” in the face of public pressure about the meeting.
    The emails were released among 2,500 documents published on Wednesday by the Senate judiciary committee, which has been investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.

  35. cbs news:  Christopher Wylie: Bannon wanted “weapons to fight a culture war” at Cambridge Analytica

    Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica who provided multiple reports about how the London-based data firm misused Facebook data of as many as 87 million people during the 2016 election, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as part of a congressional probe into data privacy and security.
    The revelations have since forced the social media titan and other tech companies to reevaluate how they manage user data.
    During the three-hour-long hearing, Wylie provided new details into the firm’s more controversial practices, including discussions of voter suppression, targeting African-American voters, and testing of slogans in 2014 that would be later used throughout the Trump campaign in 2016.

    Read Wylie’s testimony here

    “One of the things that did provoke me to leave was the beginnings of discussions of voter disengagement, I have seen documents reference and I recall conversations that it was intended to focus on African American voters,” Wylie said.
    The whistleblower told lawmakers that former vice president of Cambridge Analytica and Trump ally Steve Bannon, “saw cultural warfare as the means to create enduring change in American politics.”
    “The company learned that were segments of the population that responded to messages like ‘drain the swamp’ or images of walls or indeed paranoia about the deep state that weren’t necessarily reflected in mainstream polling or mainstream political discourse that Steve Bannon was interested in to help build his movement,” Wylie told lawmakers. He said that under Bannon’s leadership at Cambridge Anlaytica, U.S. clients could request testing voter suppression efforts in their contracts.
    “Steve Bannon believes that politics is downstream from culture. They were seeking out companies to build an arsenal of weapons to fight a culture war,” he added.

  36. Politicians deplore negative campaigning but they all do it if they can.

  37. Jamie…  have a great time on your adventure starting tomorrow.  Eat great food and drink lots of great wine!

    Rick got a college deferment for the VN war…  his draft number was 2…  as far as I’m concerned…  smart move.

  38. Flatus,

    Having parsed BW’s statements here, today, i found nothing disparaging of Viet Nam veterans, although i suppose her line about them “bringing drugs home” could have been more tactfully expressed.  Not being one for tact, myself, i personally couldn’t criticize one for the lack of it, on that basis alone.  Regardless, the study-summary on a government public health website, to which she links, corroborates her assertions, for whatever that’s worth.


    From my perspective, she defends Viet Nam vets as helpless pawns of an amoral power-structure, which you may also find offensive, but such a sentiment is something i’ve heard continually throughout my life, sometimes from actual Viet Nam vets, themselves.


    i shouldn’t get in the middle of it, but surely we must hang together, or…

  39. KGC…  the Celtics have beat the Cavs in both games…  go Celtics!

    I did watch until half time of the Warriors first game vs the Rockets.  IMO, they are most likely going to repeat their championship.  But if the Celtics get to play them…  it’s more than anyone here in the East ever expected.

  40. Jaime

    I wish – but neighbors are getting married and we are hosting some of the out of town family

    You are going to have the best time – so beautiful and still early enough to avoid the holiday hoards,

  41. RR

    I haven’t seen any of the cavs/celtic games but the reporting makes the cavs seem clueless and perhaps even Lebron is too tired to carry the whole game …again.

    The warriors should do well -I think the early round losses to the Pelicans and Spurs woke them up to the fact they cannot coast.  It looks like from a far distant position, that they would have a tougher time with the Celtics.

  42. I got a II-S college deferment my first year in college that didn’t keep me out of service – my number never came up anyway so in ’71 I didn’t reapply for the deferment.  My USAF Lt.Col. uncle and USN midshipman father (WWII) encouraged me to take the deferment – uncle had been in AF Intel for a while in Saigon and said he didn’t want me over there and dad said he didn’t want a dead son.  Who was I to argue?  Both of my roommates – both of whom are in all likelihood repugs and SFB supporters now, also got deferments.  One likely would have been IV-F because of his lingering polio limitations.  The other, likely a I-A when not a II-S.  I had a couple of HS buddies who didn’t go to college and ended up serving.  Luckily I didn’t have any friends who came home in a box.  Had a few VN vet friends when I was in grad school.  Never saw them receive poor treatment or get a ration of shit for having served. The now obligatory “thank you for your service” meme hadn’t cranked up yet, and VN had wound down, so service was pretty much a non-issue by then.

    For those who did serve, I do offer a heartfelt thank you for your service – and not because I feel I should, but because I do appreciate the sacrifices made by those who stand the post to preserve our country.

  43. KC, I on the other hand watched both of the games.  First, it’s hard to win in the Garden.  In the first game the cavs couldn’t buy a shot and the celts couldn’t miss – midway through the 3rd their respective shot percentages from the floor were 32 & 64. Celts ended up with 11 3 pointers to 4 for the cavs.  Lebron had an off night with 15 points and single digit assists and rebounds.  I attribute most of it to the celtics’ tight defense.  Last night LeBron had 42 points, 12 assists & 10 rebounds.  Only Kevin Love (22) and Kyle Korver (11) gave any real support. Again, Celtics’ 2nd half defense was tight and kept the cavs from taking good shots and led to 15 total turnovers for the cavs versus 6 for the celts.   LeBron is still playing better than he had, but his supporting cast is pretty weak.  Celtics had 6 players in double figures – pretty good recipe for success.

  44. Excellent day.  I had not seen the post before I left for work this morning, so my thinking, while walking my dog at noon, of writing a post to bring up the topic is now moot.

    The issue of VN and the political failure it is I occasionally think about.  Yes I enlisted, but I had already had notice that the draft had already touched me, so it was more like I need to find somewhere other than a mudpit in the “deep muddy”.  Or “green garbage can” as put by one of my dorm mates.

    Today, fifty years after Tet, school children know nothing about VN.  Growing up in the fifties everyone knew a veteran, other than your father or uncle.  Family and neighbors were in WWII and often Korea too. All children were around talk of WWII and often WWI because those veterans were still around as WWI was just over twenty years earlier. We knew all about the wars and Korea.  I also can see a logical progression from WWII and Korea to taking on the VN conflict, but only to a point.  The early years were seen as an extension of what had happened earlier.  But, when it came to escalation something changed and that is what when bad.  By 1967 it was the bog we all know.

    Today (this is where I was going to start my post) we have troops in combat all over Africa and West Asia.  Along with hell in Syria.  SFB makes sure we do not get coverage of those.  The lack of coverage started with George, the village idiot, Bush and his team of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Ashcroft.  There was deliberate action to prevent or censor coverage of the wars to America.  You do not hear of anything, including deaths unless it is cleared.

    So what can we do?  First get rid of  the Caesar (Calligula) wannabe and his mob and cult.  That includes the House and Senate.  Get Dems in to stop the destruction of America and begin the rebuilding.

  45. Bink, took a quick look for some site with an appearance of substance as well as statistics that tend to mirror my recollections and here is what I came up with. As you can see, assuming that you’ve had the time to do a quick read of it, it differs substantially from the facts placed in front of us earlier.

    My direct involvement with Vietnam started in the Autumn of ’65. It ended, on Guam over Christmas of ’72 into January of ’73. That was when our B-52s flying massive loads of conventional bombs ‘convinced’ the North Vietnamese that it would be best to accept Dr Kissinger’s peace offer ending our involvement. This was done on Jan 23d of ’73. I returned to my base in Ohio for a few months then our family was off to Panama.

    I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life. I’ve never sampled any other drug. My people in Vietnam did not use drugs. I had one senior NCO in the UK who was an alcoholic; he disobeyed my order to stop drinking. He was discharged short of his retirement. I had two others that were overweight. They were given a chance to lose the overage; one did, one didn’t “…out, damned, spot!”

    Sleep Well, your Air Force is Awake!


  46. Thanks for your reply, Sir,

    i don’t love that website as a source, but i don’t have a dog in the fight, either, and although there may a be a good discussion to be had, there, won’t be involved in it (knocks on wood).  i’m glad you elaborated, though, thanks again.


    ok, i’ll probably be involved in it.  Fuck.

  47. Giuliani is just fulla shit.  Nothing he says is worth a bucket of warm spit….

    Spots on the Wall, by Hu Flung Dung

    There’s no way Mueller told that slobbering old fool the first damn thing about anything.

  48. I subscribe to the sentiments expressed by the distinguished Trail Hand from Gullahland, if not his exact words. Julie Annie may be signaling that a subpoena will be met with a legal hassle. More likely, he has DTs and is reassuring Jimmy Hoffa.

    The more I think of it, the more I subscribe to the exact words, too.

    Good night, America. Sleep well; your Special Counsel is standing guard.

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