Leaflets of Operation Desert Shield
and Desert Storm


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Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf
Iraq's Minister of Information

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Baghdad Bob Bubblehead Doll

The main purveyor of audio and Television propaganda during the Gulf war was the Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf. He became quite a favorite among Coalition troops and the American public. No matter how black things were, how beaten the Iraqi Army was, how bleak things looked for the Iraqi Air Force, he regularly came on the air to state that the news was nothing but American lies and the Iraqis were victorious everywhere. He soon earned the name of “Baghdad Bob.” Listeners eagerly awaited his daily diatribes to discover what lies and exaggerations he would come up with next. His fame continued until Operation Iraqi Freedom over a decade later when he would tell the world that the myth that Americans were in Baghdad was a lie and the pictures of thousands of soldiers surrendering were really actors and not Iraqi troops. The final indignity occurred in 2008 when an Australian souvenir collector placed Bob’s shoulder rank up for auction. Apparently Baghdad Bob was old news. His symbols of rank sold for just $40.

The Iraqis also used PSYOP themes in an attempt to justify their occupation of Kuwait. Their major objectives were to rationalize the invasion, gain support of the Arab masses, discourage neutral and friendly nations from taking part in the UN-imposed embargo, and to deter military attacks on Iraq. These themes led directly to the following arguments; Anti-monarchy forces in Kuwait had invited Iraq to free them, Iraq is the champion of all oppressed Arabs, the West's embargo of Iraq is starving and killing innocent women and children, and Iraq will depart from Kuwait as soon as it is self-governing. This last argument had to be rethought after Saddam claimed Kuwait as its 19th Province.

Daniel A. Castro adds in his 2007 Naval Postgraduate School thesis: Do Psychological Operations Benefit from the use of Host Nation Media:

Prior to the invasion, Iraqi broadcast capabilities included two prime-time television broadcasts, two domestic radio services – “Baghdad Domestic Service” and “Voice of the Masses” (VOM) – and shortwave radio broadcasts of VOM in Kurdish, Turkoman, and Assyrian. Shortly after the invasion, Iraq seized several Kuwaiti media centers and began operating the Provisional Free Kuwait Government Radio Program. They also implemented at least five additional shortwave radio programs destined to undermine the Saudi and Egyptian governments and the morale of Arab troops in the Gulf.

Probably the most famous purveyors of Iraqi propaganda were radio personalities Baghdad Betty and Iraqi Jack. Iraq's anti-Coalition radio programming started in early August 1990, shortly after the arrival of the 82nd Airborne Division. The radio shows were taped and about two hours in length. The tapes were replayed multiple times during the day in the hopes of getting their message to the largest possible audience. Before each show ended the announcer would inform the listeners what time the next broadcast would be aired. This notification became more important with the initiation of the air campaign as transmissions became more irregular.

The radio personalities were a youthful sounding woman dubbed "Baghdad Betty" and a male voice which was quickly nicknamed "Iraqi Jack". American nicknaming of enemy radio personalities began with "Tokyo Rose", "Axis Sally", and "Hanoi Hanna." Of course, during WWII, the British had their own "Lord Haw Haw."  

The shows were reportedly broadcast from downtown Baghdad, which was about 500 miles from the Coalition forces. Baghdad Betty first broadcast in English to Coalition troops in Saudi Arabia in early September 1990. The format for the broadcasts typically included a mix of popular top 40 hits, "Oldies" and some "Blues" music by contemporary artists.

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Baghdad Betty accused Bart Simpson od sleeping with GI's wives

Unfortunately for Iraq, although the music selections were attractive to the target audience, the text was both silly and absurd. The Iraqi propaganda machine ignored the first rule of PSYOP, "Know and thoroughly understand your target audience." Iraq's propaganda developers had a predetermined opinion of life in the United States and it clearly showed in their perception of American culture. Their misguided presentations clearly destroyed any credibility that they could have hoped for. Betty's efforts to broadcast morale-busting messages to troops in the Gulf were, like most of Iraq's military efforts, a failure. Her alleged comments that the American soldier's wives were in bed with Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis and Bart Simpson made Iraqi radio a constant source of jokes on late-night American television.

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Don North

Don North was the media advisor to Saudi General Khalid Bin Sultan, the Commander of Saudi forces. He monitored Iraqi propaganda broadcasts and later wrote an article entitled “As Propagandists go, Gulf War’s Baghdad Betty was a Bomb” for Stars and Stripes. He said about Baghdad Betty in part:

In September 1990 soon after the arrival in Saudi Arabia of the U.S. 82nd Airborne, Iraq’s Voice of Peace began broadcasting with an English-speaking Iraqi woman. Americans named her Baghdad Betty. She played pop music more popular than the religious music on Saudi stations, but to bolster their own forces and influence Arab allies, she bad-mouthed American troops saying they drank liquor and defiled the holy places of Islam. Her propaganda writers had a jaundiced view of American culture.

Her efforts to broadcast morale-busting messages to troops in the Gulf war were, like most of Iraq’s military efforts, a failure. Baghdad Betty started broadcasting in English to Allied troops in Saudi Arabia in September 1990. Her broadcasts were believed to originate in Baghdad with transmitters in Southern Iraq and Kuwait.

Colonel Jeff Jones, commanding officer of the Army's 8th Psychological Task Force at Fort Bragg, N.C., who directed U.S. PSYOP in the Gulf, says Betty's broadcasts were laughable:

Her broadcasts proved the Iraqis didn't understand us at all. Her ignorance was pervasive. She was never sure of her sources, and broadcast old information based on dated news.

Saddam Hussein was similarly unimpressed. In mid-December 1990, he sacked Betty after three months of broadcasting and replaced her with a bevy of announcers who called themselves the "Mother of Battles Radio." Unfortunately for them, Mother of Battles Radio was near the top of the Allied target list and was bombed off the air in mid-January, when the mother of air wars began.

American PSYOP troops then used the same frequency, and in partnership with Saudi Kuwait and Egyptian forces, they broadcast in Arabic 18 hours per day for 40 days. They transmitted from two ground stations in Saudi Arabia, a platform in Gulf waters and a transmitter in Turkey. Jones continued:

“Thanks to Saddam we were pretty effective. The Iraqi soldier was betrayed by Saddam. Hey were ill-supported and vulnerable to everything we broadcast, which was basically just the truth.”

Curiously, Baghdad Betty turned out to be an efficient broadcaster when not reading badly written Iraqi propaganda. North told me:

In 2003 I was Senior Advisor and Journalist trainer at the Iraq Media Network in Baghdad, a radio and TV station organized by the Pentagon. The woman who had been "Baghdad Betty" was hired and under supervision became a valued announcer on Iraq Media Radio.

Soldiers of January 1991 featured an article by Bill Licatovich entitled "Iraqi Propaganda Ploys." He mentions that the enemy propaganda portrayed Americans as those who threaten Arab morals. For instance, cartoons show the Americans behaving badly and defiling the holy places of Islam. The Iraqis attacked the fighting ability of American soldiers and said that they were addicted to alcohol, women and song, could not survive in the desert and are afraid of the Iraqi Army. America was accused of using other Arab soldiers to do its fighting so that it could prop up other unpopular Arab rulers and take over Iraq. And of course, America wanted to steal Iraq's oil. A number of Iraqi cartoons are depicted. In one a soldier facing a giant Iraqi cannon asks President Bush, “How long are we going to sit here pointlessly? I have a baby at home. I want to go back before the cannon starts firing.” In another, two Iraqi soldiers look at a military vehicle with three skeletons inside and say “Bush’s Army.” In a third cartoon, a burning Bush runs away from a burning tank with the caption, ‘If Bush starts a war, he won’t be able to stop it.”

British General Sir Peter de la Billiere adds in Storm Command about Iraqi propaganda:

The prisoners we took were in a wretched state, half starved, exhausted, louse ridden. Many were suffering from wounds which had remained untreated for many days, and all had been terrified by their own propaganda that if they entered any Allied field hospital they would be tortured by being operated on without any anesthetics. So thoroughly were the Iraqis brainwashed that one dying man refused to call on Allah for his salvation and invoked Saddam Hussein as his savior.

Nigel Pearce adds in The Shield and the Sabre:

The Iraqis had dummy weapons, decoys and other deception measures of their own, and their propaganda, too, was occasionally convincing. Even conscripts could be fanatical Baathists or extreme fundamentalists ready for martyrdom.

I wrote an article in the fall 1992 issue of Perspectives entitled “A Brief Look at Iraqi Propaganda Leaflets, in which I illustrated and translated seven of Saddam's leaflets. I pointed out at that time that Saddam never had the ability to drop his leaflets from the air, so all that had been found was either blowing along the desert floor or in Iraqi bunkers. There was no real dissemination as we know it. However, there are a number of reported cases of Iraqi propaganda being disseminated near the United States Marine expeditionary forces along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border during the early defensive phase of operation "Desert Shield." Most Iraqi leaflets were captured in enemy bunkers or headquarters during the offensive phase of operation "Desert Storm." An exhibit in the George C. Patton Museum in Ft. Knox, Kentucky, states that most of the Iraqi leaflets were found in the abandoned Iraqi 4th Corps headquarters in Kuwait by the 3rd DTAC G2 and EOD Team on March 8, 1991.

Retired Major Ed Rouse adds:

I was assigned to the 4th Psychological Operations Group during Operation Desert Storm. It is believed that the Iraqis transported the leaflets into Kuwait in the early days of the war. There were two known Iraqi print and/or storage facilities located within the Kuwait theater of Operations. The first known facilities was at the extreme western end of the airstrip at Safwan. At that location, a large four floor underground bunker complex was discovered containing a substantial number of large thick cardboard crates crammed with propaganda leaflets.  The crates at the Safwan facility contained leaflets 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, and V07.  Beside the Safwan facility, another Iraqi propaganda leaflet operation was found about 25 kilometers within Kuwait at a point South of Iraq border,

A member of the 3rd Armored Division who was among the American forces that found the leaflets said:

I liberated these leaflets on 3 March 91 at an Iraqi logistics base south of Safwan Iraq on Highway 1. The area was in Kuwaiti military City, occupied by the Iraqi Army on 3 August 1990. I went inside the basement of a Kuwaiti Military Barracks (east side of Highway) to reconnoiter it for the use by our Battalion. In the basement of one of the buildings we came across a printing operation. I had an extra rucksack in my M1009 and filled it with leaflets. The building was later blown up. The plan seemed to be that the Iraqis were going to shoot them in artillery shells from positions south of this site, for release over our lines.

The following leaflets are usually prepared in a single bright color. They have been found on both glossy and bond paper. There are also a large number of forged leaflets. These forgeries can be identified by shiny black ink in place of the flat black of the genuine leaflets. The following forgeries have been identified: Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The dimensions of the leaflets may vary slightly due to poor and irregular cutting.

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F: Coffins lined up next to aircraft marked "USA." Pink. Glossy paper. 200x115mm.

"Dear soldiers: Your commanders have said that the war will take a few days. Were they correct? And convinced you that losses will be minimum in the ground combat. We assure you they won't be correct."

B: Blank.

This leaflet has been forged on pink bond paper and as a B&W reprint. Although it is a terrible product, the propaganda is interesting because it preyed on the American fear that the Gulf War might turn into another Vietnam. Everyone remembered the daily parade of body bags being returned to the United States on the evening news and the Iraqis tried to take advantage of that fear and feed the liberal anti-war crowd with images that they believed would soon be true.

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F: Statue of Liberty weeps over dead Iraqi civilians. Pink. Glossy paper. 125x215mm.

"Liberty stadium cried for help because of your aggression and killing civilians, innocent kids, mothers and olds."

B: Blank.

This leaflet has been forged on a pink bond paper. Besides being a badly produced leaflet, the grammar is terrible. This is unacceptable in a leaflet. The language must be perfect to be credible. Because of such poor terminology such as “mothers and olds” instead of “mothers and old folks,” Iraqi propaganda became a laughing stock around the world.

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F: Iraqi weapons massed against an American and British soldier. Pink. Glossy paper. 190x115mm.

"Beware, don't step forward, Iraqi fire is fatal."

B: Blank.

Although this leaflet is still printed on a terrible pink glossy paper, the message itself is not bad. The Iraqis did have their scud missiles, a vast array of armor and experienced soldiers, and very advanced artillery. This leaflet might give a Coalition soldier cause to stop and think.

These leaflets could be officially brought back if identified on the War Trophy and Registration form. The form was prepared for captured enemy equipment retained by a unit or individual. One form I saw stated that the preparer had permission to bring back “one box of propaganda leaflets.”

He must have made a very lucky find in an Iraqi bunker.

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F: English text at left, Arabic at right. Green. 180x122mm. Glossy paper.

L: Is it fair to die for a corrupt sheikh and for oil companies, thousands of miles away from home? Isn't it Vietnam revisited?

R: Is it in accord with the principles of honor and the true Islamic religion that you, the Moslem Arab, is under the command of foreign powers in order to destroy Iraq and kill innocent Moslem people when God says in his venerable book: "In the name of Allah the merciful, the compassionate. A believer should not kill a believer intentionally, only by error. Whoever kills a believer deliberately, his punishment is eternal Hell." God has said the truth."

B: Blank.

This leaflet uses the Koran in an attempt to convince Muslim soldiers in the Coalition that they should not fight against a brother Arab nation. That all sounds very well until you remember that Saddam himself had fought against and occupied a brother Arab nation.

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F: American, British and Saudi soldiers think of Kuwaiti Sheik with women and liquor at "Sheraton Taif." Blue. Bond paper. 155x215mm.

"Is he worth dying for??" (English and Arabic)

B: Blank.

Shortly before the start of the war the leaders of the allied Arab nations met at the Sheraton Taif to discuss the Iraq-Kuwait situation. Saddam takes advantage of that meeting and the belief (which might not be so far from incorrect) that when the Muslim leaders are away from their people and safely out of sight they drink alcohol and carouse with women. There is a bond paper forgery of this leaflet printed in purple ink.

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F: Blue 11mm horizontal stripe at top and bottom. Bond paper. 195x130mm.

Two hands clasping, one sleeve bears an Iraqi flag, the other bears the words, "Arabic and Islamic Forces." Crushed between the hands is an American soldier identified by his broken U.S. flag.

B: Blank

This is not a bad propaganda leaflet, except that Iraq had no allies and there was no other nation that would join Iraq to crush the forces of the United States. As a result, although a good image, the leaflet makes no sense.

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F: Iraqi points AK47 at US, British and two Arab soldiers. One Arab soldier thinks of friendship with his Iraqi brother. Green. Glossy or dull bond paper. 215x120mm.

"Brother Arab soldiers! Why do you face us with your weapons? You think that those which you are fighting alongside today are your allies when they are causing the Palestinians to suffer in the Sinai and the Golan. How can you reach your glory by dying for the Americans in their attempt to destroy Iraq?"

B: Blank.

I like this leaflet. The illustration is strong and the message is clear. To fight with the Americans is to help the Israelis who are persecuting other Arabs. To die for the Coalition will not make a Muslim a martyr and open the doors to paradise. This leaflet has been forged twice, once on yellow bond paper and in plain B&W.

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F: Three cartoons. The first shows an Arab ruler who appears to be Saudi Arabian King Fahd welcoming an American soldier holding an Israeli flag into the holy lands. The soldier has an immodestly dressed woman on his arm. The second cartoon shows a soldier with a Star of David on his helmet pointing a pistol at an Arab soldier. The third shows an Arab soldier carrying an Iraqi flag marching towards what appears to be the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The leaflet is printed in B&W on oversized Bond paper about 9 x 12-inches in size.

"Muslim Arab brothers. We are your brothers both in religion and race. Join us in fighting the foreigners, and stopping them in their attack against the Iraqi people. The Iraqi warriors will be victorious in their fight, and with your help, it will make us all more glorious to Allah in our holy war with the foreigners. It is not honorable for you to face your Arab and Muslim brothers with weapons. Our religion teaches us that we should fight together for one common goal, of stopping invaders, especially the Americans who are enslaving the Palestinians and taking their lands. Do you want to be like the Americans and Jews by helping them destroy the Iraqi people and take their land? Is this your Jewish duty?"

B: Blank.

This is the only large propaganda leaflet made by the Iraqis. Once again it reminds fellow Muslims of the prohibition against fighting one-another, while conveniently ignoring the fact that it was Saddam who first attacked a fellow Arab state. A copy of this leaflet was found on an Iraqi soldier captured at Khafji on 31 January.

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F: Blue-grey with thin 2mm dark blue border. Bond paper. 235x160mm. An Iraqi soldier listens to radio marked "USA."

"It is part of psychological warfare."

B: Blank

This might be the best PSYOP leaflet prepared by the Iraqis. It is a morale leaflet for their own soldiers and reminds them that the Coalition radio is filled with lies and they should ignore it. The problem was that the Coalition was broadcasting day and night on several frequencies and telling the Iraqis the truth about the war. It was their only real source of information. There was not much chance that they would stop listening.

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F: All text leaflet. Light green paper. 230x155mm.

"Enemy Leaflet. To Brave Fighter: You have seen some of the enemy leaflets dropped by enemy planes. As you already know, these leaflets have been dropped by enemy intelligence units in order to lower your morale. This method has been used in all 20th century wars. These leaflets are meaningless when they invite Iraqi soldiers to become what is referred to as a "guest" of the Allied forces, which are really the occupying forces of the Holy Land. And another leaflet asks you to leave your position because it too is a target of enemy planes. In reality, if it is up to them, they will target you. They think that this method can undermine your determination to fight them. So, be careful and make these leaflets fuel for the fire that prepares your tea. Victory for Iraq is assured.

B: Blank

Another morale leaflet for the Iraqi troops, trying to convince them of final victory even as they were bombed daily, their communications were destroyed, their supplies nonexistent, and their officers deserted. One copy of this leaflet was found by a French officer of the Daquet Division. A second copy on file in U.S. Army Archives.

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F: B&W with thin 2mm green border. Bond paper. 227x154mm

Left: Strong Iraqi soldier sharpens two knives.

Right: Scared American soldier pulls petals from flower.

"We attack...we don't attack...we attack...we don't attack...."

B: Blank

There is an old saying that you should be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Here the Iraqi soldier sharpens his knives, threatening emasculation for the fearful American soldier who is afraid to attack. The attack was on schedule; 100 straight hours of advance through the Iraqi lines.

U. S. Marine Ken Kurcio of the 2nd Military Police Company found such leaflets in March 1991 in a bunker by the Kuwait City waterfront.

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F: Three fists over a map of Iraq. Text at right. Green. Bond paper. 212x127mm.

"Brother Iraqi soldiers: Your resistance has baffled Iraq's enemies. You have become the object of the world's amazement and appreciation while you defend glorious Iraq."

B: Blank.

A morale leaflet meant to motivate the Iraqis to fight on. Nobody watched in Amazement, although some Palestinians did cheer for Saddam. This cost them dearly when the Saudis and Kuwaitis stopped providing money for their refugee camps.

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F: Arabic text. Green. Bond paper. 145x204mm.

"In the name of Allah the most gracious and merciful – ‘All will be defeated and their plans demolished.' The great truth is Allah. Fighting brothers: Our enemies bet that the war would be short and they lost. There are those who claim that the ground attack will decide this war, but their fear and concern caused them to hesitate over attacking on various pretexts. What is happening is that your legendary resistance has baffled our enemies and confused their calculations. Your patience and endurance will remain the sharp weapon in this honorable battle, and the way to victory. Remember the teachings of Allah the exalted one. ‘The patient ones receive their reward without limit.’ The great truth is Allah."

B: Arabic calendar. Green bond paper.

A morale leaflet for the Iraqi Army. It talks about resistance, but resistance had nothing to do with the date of attack. The initial date was set by the United Nations, and the ground war was decided by General Schwarzkopf because he wanted a 50% destruction of Iraqi forces before he attacked. Resistance was futile. The Coalition pounded away from the air and when they felt they had achieved their goals, the General gave the order to attack.

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F: Ten linked hands surround a map of Iraq. Red-pink paper. 156x229mm.

"All of us protect Iraq."

B: Calendar.

This is one of two leaflets that show Iraq surround and protected. In this leaflet it is the clasped hands that protect Iraq. A morale leaflet for the Iraqi Army.

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F: Map of Iraq and Kuwait surrounded by eight AK47s with bayonets. Red-pink paper. 156x229mm.

"Iraq - Drawn guns at the face of the invaders."

B: Calendar.

This is the second leaflet that show Iraq protected. Instead of hands, it is a circle of AK47 rifles. A morale leaflet for the Iraqi Army. One copy of this leaflet was found by a British Major of the 1st Armored Division in an Iraqi command post in Kuwait.

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F: Two columns of Arabic text on light green background. White paper. 144x104mm.

Right side: "Allah. There is no God save him, the alive, the eternal. Neither slumber or sleep overtake him. Unto him belongs whatsoever is in Heaven and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedes with him save by his leave? He knows that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of his knowledge save his will. His throne includes the heavens and the earth, and he is never weary of preserving them. He is sublime, the tremendous."

Left side: "In the name of God, most gracious and most merciful. God likes those whom sacrifices himself in the name of God. The name is known to be powerful. In the name of God, most gracious and most merciful. God permits those who are cruel to be killed. God is powerful to the victory."

NOTE: The text is internal religious motivation from the Koran.

1. Suraal-Baqara (Chapter 2: The Cow or the Heifer, verse 255)

2. Surat al-Saff (Chapter 61: The Battle Array, verse 4)

3. Surat al-Hajj (Chapter 22: The Pilgrimage, verse 39)

A morale leaflet for the Iraqi Army reminding them that to die for their faith is a pathway to eternal life.

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F: Arabic text on light blue background. White paper. Same as above I16 but in blue.

The U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington D.C. published a set of five books entitled GULF WAR AIR POWER SURVEY. Volume 4 deals with Special Operations and shows two additional leaflets produced by Iraqi forces. It is unknown if these were air-dropped. They look more like newspaper political cartoons to me, but I include on the chance that the book is correct.

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F: Two American soldiers in desert with half-naked women. Several bottles of alcohol and beer cans in sand. One soldier wears a Star of David. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia expresses his approval.

"Our holy things, our land, and our honor are in safe hands."

B: Blank

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F: Caricature of George Bush, Arab behind him.

"Mr. Bush's hobby: increasing the budget."

B: Brief Arab text.


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