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Iraq snapshot - March 5, 2012


March 5, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Eric Holder declares the president of the United States contemplating killing you qualifies as "due process," Haditha tries to recover from today's assault, Iraqi youths into EMO (or suspected being into) find their names on death lists, and more... early this morning in Iraq, police forces were attacked in Haditha. Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) reports, "This was obviously a very well-planned attack. It began when gunmen, dozens of them according to police sources, commandeered and stole SWAT vehicles. The SWAT teams are part of the counterterrorism forces. They drove around the city, dressed as SWAT members, in black-and-blue univorms. As they were stopped at a checkpoint, they opened fire." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes one of the assailants was killed in the attacks and that they used "at least 14 black USVs". Jack Healy (New York Times) reports that there were approximately 40 assailants and that they wore police uniforms and used vehicles which were like or were similar (or actually were) police vehicles and that they passed through police checkpoints by claiming "they had arrest warrants for criminal suspects." ...

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Iraq snapshot - March 5, 2012

The Common Ills

Monday, March 5, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Eric Holder declares the president of the United States contemplating killing you qualifies as "due process," Haditha tries to recover from today's assault, Iraqi youths into EMO (or suspected being into) find their names on death lists, and more.
 
Saturday night on NBC's The Firm (airing new episodes in the second hour of prime time and featuring Juliette Lewis delivering an amazing performance in the role of Tammy -- played by Holly Hunter in the film)  a military officer heard his son shot while the two were on the phone.  He needed Mitch (Josh Lucas) and Ray (Callum Keith Rennie) to help him find out what happened to his son. They quickly figure out that they're dealing with an assassination ordered by the White House.


Ray: This kill list, an actual list created by the feds?

Mitch: Approved by the White House, enemies of the state who are pre-approved for assassination.

Ray: Pre-approved?

Mitch: If US agents or military come across names on that list they are authorized to kill -- no due, process nothing.

Ray: Okay, I understand that on a battlefield but Rashad's an American on US soil.

Mitch: We've killed people on this list before, even US citizens, but never here in the US.
 
Ava and I noted the dialogue at Third.  As the episode(written by Lukas Reiter and Jonathan Shapiro) progresses, the government tries to stonewall the FISA court.  Mitch wants to know when it became acceptable to kill US citizens on US soil and when the discussion on that took place?  Today Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports the disturbing news that US Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at Northwestern University, declared that such assassinations were "legal and constitutional" and that Barack Obama -- or apparently any other US president to come -- making the decision to assassinate equaled "due process."  No, it doesn't.  Some will quibble and say that Holder was speaking of overseas (which doesn't make it any more legal) but if he's declaring that it can happen anywhere -- anywhere includes the United States.
 
 
 
In remarks delivered at the Northwestern University School of Law today, Attorney General Eric Holder provided the Obama Administration's most detailed public description yet of the legal authority under which it believes it can carry out targeted killings, including of U.S. citizens abroad. Unfortunately, the remarks still amounted to a broad defense of the government's claimed expansive authority to conduct targeted killings far from a battlefield, without judicial review of its legal justifications or evidence, either before or after a killing. The remarks also mischaracterized the debate over the need for judicial review of targeted killing decisions
Echoing statements made by Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson last month, Holder claimed that "some have argued that the President is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen" (our emphasis), and argued that courts should not get involved in the "real-time decisions" to deploy lethal force. But Holder is constructing a straw man argument here.   We are not aware of anyone who has argued that judicial review before a targeted killing is always required, or that courts should exercise real-time oversight over lethal operations.
Rather, in a lawsuit we filed with the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2010 on behalf of the father of Anwar al-Awlaki (who was placed on a government kill list in 2009 and died in a joint CIA/military drone strike in fall 2011), we asked the court to set standards describing when the government could constitutionally use lethal force against a U.S. citizen away from an active battlefield. We also asked the court to order the government to reveal the criteria it used to place al-Awlaki on so-called "kill lists." And we made clear to the court that we were not asking it to intervene in real-time decision-making by the Executive Branch. The court dismissed our lawsuit on the grounds that it raised "political questions," and held that the judiciary had no role to play in deciding the legal criteria pursuant to which the executive branch could take the life of one of its own citizens.
As Holder's speech demonstrates, though, judicial oversight is critically important given the breathtaking authority the government has claimed. Holder acknowledged that all U.S. citizens, including those accused of being terrorists, have a right to due process under the Constitution, but he argued that the Executive Branch, alone, should determine whether the due process requirement is satisfied when the government claims law of war or self-defense authority to kill. In a system of constitutional checks and balances, that simply cannot be the case. Courts must have a role in determining whether the government's authority to kill its own citizens is legal and whether a decision to kill complies with the Constitution. Otherwise, the government can wield the power to take life with impunity. We should not trust any president -- whether this one or the next -- to make such momentous decisions fully insulated from judicial review. As the Supreme Court has admonished, "a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens."
 
 
 
Josh Lucas plays an attorney (Mitch McDeere) on The Firm,  Nathan Freed Wessler is a real attorney and we'll stay with real attorneys to note that on this week's Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights).  Among the topics they explore this week is a potential secret indictment against Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.  Excerpt.
 
 
Michael Ratner: But what brings us really and brings me particularly to focus on these documents is the Center for Constitutional Rights and myself are advisors to Julian Assanfe and WikiLeaks, legal advisors.  And we've been particular advisors about the Bradley Manning trial [. . .] So in these documents, these Stratfor documents, there's one document from Fred Burton who is the vice president, former US official, a counter-terrorism official, that says, "We have a sealed indictment on Julian Assange.  Keep this private."  He did this in January 2011, just over a year ago. And, of course, WikiLeaks is analyzing documents and sees this document and says, "What's this? Is this true? Is this valid?"  And, of course, until we see it and know it, we don't know that it's 100% valid, but what Fred Burton has done in the past has been very reliable.  And he's very well connected.  So, for example, in another e-mail he says, within 10 days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, he said, "I can get the documents that were seized in that house from Osama bin laden."  So these guys have very close connections with US intelligence.  Other parts of these documents, in addition to this claim that there's an indictment, where they talk about Julian Assange, they talk about Julian Assange as a high tech terrorist, that's what Fred Burton says, and that we have to bring him down the way that we bring down al Qaeda.
 
Heidi Boghosian: No.
 
Michael Ratner: That's what they say.
Heidi Boghosian:  No.
 
Michael Ratner:  And the way we're going to do it, we're going to jail him wherever we can, we're going to cut off all his finances and, of course, that's exactly what happened.  They cut off Master Card contributions to WikiLeaks, they cut off Visa donations to WikiLeaks, they cut off pay pal to WikiLeaks, and they're obviously going after them any way they can.  So there's a lot of accuracy in this.  But, lookit, from my point of view,  the fact that there might be, or it looks like there is, a sealed indictment against Julian Assange is just incredible to me.  I mean, first of all, it would be, I think it's the first time in US history that a US journalist has actually been indicted for publishing classified documents that he himself didn't have access to as a classified person.  SO that's the first thing.  The second thing that's amazing, the secrecy.  If he's been indicted, it's by a secret grand jury sitting in Alexandria [Virginia], it's a secret indictment and it's secret to me, one of his --
 
Heidi Boghosian: Attorneys, legal advisors.
 
Michael Ratner: -- legal counsel, legal advisors, right. It's secret to Julian Assange, it's secret to WikiLeaks, but it's apparently not secret to a private security company that's like a back door for the US spy agencies.
 
Heidi Boghosian:  Michael, how often are secret indictments brought and under what circumstance?

Michael Ratner:  The normal case of a secret indictment is when a person is not in custody  and they're afraid, if a person gets news of a secret indictment, they'll flee. Now, of course, Julian Assange is in custody.  I mean, he sort of is in custody.  He has a [monitoring] bracelet on, he's under court --
 
Heidi Boghosian: He's under house arrest.
 
Michael Ratner: He's under house arrest essentially in the UK -- not house arrest exactly, but he has to go back to his house every day at six o'clock [p.m.], he could meet people for lunch or something --
 
Heidi Boghosian: He's under supervision.
 
Michael Ratner: And he has a bracelet that he can't get off. So the normal case would be when a person -- not really Julian Assange -- but when a person doesn't really know about it and then they do it in the sealed way so the person doesn't flee.  Now I think in this case, it may be --
 
Heidi Boghosian: I was going to say, could this be because he's enjoyed such broad support, especially in the online communities?  That the government, with their private arm, is afraid that there would be such a tremendous outcry and more support?  And perhaps more 'hacktivism,' as they say?
 
 
Michael Ratner: There's certainly going to be hacktivism as a result of this. I actually think the explanation may be differnent.  Two things.  One, let's hope it's not really an indictment and that the government isn't so crazy, Obama isn't so crazy -- and Holder, aren't so crazy to make their legacy  to be the execution of a person I consider to have exposed -- along with Bradley Manning if it's true that he was the source --
 
Heidi Boghosian: Murder.
 
Michael Ratner: Murder. Serious War Crimes.  Thousands of deaths in Iraq.  The Collateral Murder video of the Reuters people being killed. So these people have done an amazing, an amazing piece of work.  And the idea --
 
Heidi Boghosian: A public service.
 
Michael Ratner: A public service.  And the idea, of course -- I mean this is what happens to whistle blowers. They first get -- You know the government in power or charge, Obama and Holder, go after them --
 
Heidi Boghsian: Retaliation.
 
Michael Ratner: Right.  And eventually they're seen as what they really are, which are people who have played the crucial role in trying to change society in a positive direction.
 
 
 
Last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights weighed in on the possible secret indictement:
 
 
A sealed indictment against Julian Assange would underscore the very thing Wikileaks has been fighting against: abuses the government commits in an environment of secrecy and expansive, reflexive calls for "national security." From the shocking, inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning, to secret grand jury proceedings, to Stratfor's apparent knowledge of the existence of a sealed indictment before either Mr. Assange or the American public had such knowledge, the government's conduct in this case reveals why more transparency, not more secrecy, is essential. This would also mark perhaps the first time a journalist has been prosecuted for allegedly receiving and publishing "classified" documents. Indicting Julian Assange would represent a dramatic assault on the First Amendment, journalists, and the public's right to know. 
 
Rather than promoting transparency as promised, the Obama administration has aggressively pursued whistleblowers and dissenters, launching Espionage Act prosecutions twice as many times as all previous administrations in the last century combined. Attorney General Eric Holder should rethink this dangerous course. Instead of pursuing Julian Assange, Mr. Holder should investigate the serious crimes and abuse of government authority exposed by Wikileaks.
 
 
 
 
 
From shredding democracy in the US to the apparently failed 'democracy' 'experiment' of Iraq, early this morning in Iraq, police forces were attacked in Haditha. Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) reports, "This was obviously a very well-planned attack.  It began when gunmen, dozens of them according to police sources, commandeered and stole SWAT vehicles.  The SWAT teams are part of the counterterrorism forces. They drove around the city, dressed as SWAT members, in black-and-blue univorms.  As they were stopped at a checkpoint, they opened fire."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes one of the assailants was killed in the attacks and that they used "at least 14 black USVs". Jack Healy (New York Times) reports that there were approximately 40 assailants and that they wore police uniforms and used vehicles which were like or were similar (or actually were) police vehicles and that they passed through police checkpoints by claiming "they had arrest warrants for criminal suspects." David Blair (Telegraph of London) adds, "The nine officers on duty, who appear to have been taken in by this deception, were then disarmed and shot dead."  AFP states that, in addition to the "stolen army vehicles," they had others dispersed throughout the city in civilian cars and that police Col Mohammed Shauffeur and Captain Khaled Mohammed Sayil's homes were attacked with both men kidnapped and three bodyguards killed. Later Shauffer's corpse turned up in with "gunshots to the head." Bassim al-Anbari (AFP)  quotes police Lt Col Owaid Khalaf who states, "More than 50 gunment altogheter started attacking checkpoints all over the town."  Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) reports, "Three policemen survived the attacks with wounds and were being treated at Haditha hospital. A medical source at Haditha hospital confirmed the hospital received 27 bodies of slain victims and was treating three wounded." BBC News reports both Col Mohammed Shauffeur and Captain Khaled Mohammed Sayil corpses were discovered ("shot dead") shortly after they were kidnapped, "According to the Associated Press news agency, an al-Qaeda flag was raised at one of the checkpoints that was hit." NPR, in their hourly news updates, notes that "reportedly" the flag was raised.
AP really milks the "al Qaeda" -- notice it's not "al Qaeda in Iraq" and, turns out, they're yet again wrong.  Why do they lie?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "During the clashes, the attackers raised the black flags of Islamic State of Iraq -- an umbrella group which includes al Qaeda in Iraq."  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) offers, "The Islamic State of Iraq, which has claimed responsibility for a string of recent bombings, across the country appears to be stepping up efforts to eliminate all those who played a prominent role in the anti-al Qaeda Awakening movement launched by the U.S. military at the height of its presence in Iraq five years ago."


Alsumaria TV notes that, using "machine guns and grenades" the assailants carried out the attacks and quotes an unnamed "source in operational command of Anbar province" stating that "the gunmen took control of the majority of the checkpoints in the judiciary."  The Herald Sun states, "Shauffeur's body was found in a Haditha marketplace and Sayil was discovered in an alleyway, blindfolded with fatal gunshots to the head."  Alsumaria explains that there is a vehicle and pedistrian ban in Haditha currently as a result of the attacks.
 
 
France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:
 
France utterly condemns the attacks perpetrated this morning northwest of Baghdad against the security forces which led to the death of 26 police officers.
It extends its condolences to the Iraqi people and the families of the victims and expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi authorities in their fight against terrorism. 
In this context, France reaffirms that the Iraqi leaders must be able to work together in order to respond to the challenges posed by the violence and to meet the expectations of the Iraqi people.  France stands alongside Iraq and reaffirms its full support for the Iraqi institutions in their efforts to promote stability and security.
 
At the US State Dept (link is text and video) today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland declared, "Well, first of all, with regards to the attacks in Haditha today, we condemn the attack on Iraqi police forces in Haditha that killed at least 35 officers and wounded others.  These attacks are again a blatant attempt by extremists to undermine the progress that Iraq is trying to make."
Xinhua adds, "Later in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Commander in Chief of Iraqi Armed Forces, sacked Anbar's provincial operations chief Lieutenant General Abdul-Aziz al-Obeidi from his post, and ordered the appointment of Lieutenant General Tariq al-Azzawi instead after the deadly attacks in Haditha."  RTT notes, "A Sunni heartland and a former stronghold of insurgents, Anbar has been peaceful since a suicide-bomber targeted a bank in Haditha a year ago."
 
 
In addition to the above, Alsumaria also notes a Mosul home invasion in which a soldier was shot dead in his own home. There's enough violence, by the way, that Reuters might -- MIGHT -- get off their lazy butts and do a "Factbox" on violence today -- something they've avoided for about a week now (despite the continued violence). Alsumaria adds that a Kirkuk roadside bomb apparently targeted Judge Assem Omar who emerged without any injuries; however, his driver was wounded. In addition, they note that the corpse of Baquba fuel station worker Ali Hussein was discovered dumped by the side of the road and he apparently died from the gun shots to the head and chest and that this follows the discovery yesterday of the corpse of a young man who was executed by a Baquba 'firing squad' made up of gang members.
 
The violence never ends and maybe it never ends because security is never the focus of the Baghdad-based government.  Dropping back to February 13th:
 
By the way, why is Iraq suffering from so much violence? Because the police are idiots. There's no other conclusion when you read this Al Rafidayn article. The greatest threat to Iraqis, the Baghdad police believe, is Emo kids. Yes, Emo has made it to Iraq. And there is no concept or understanding of it on the part of the police who are connecting it to Satanism, to same-sex sex, and a hundred other things including autism. Autism has been a very popular 'cause' in Iraq so far this month. Last week, numerous stories at numerous outlets insisted that cigarette smoking by the mother causes children to born autistic. (No, it doesn't. Nor does Emo cause autism.) Of course, these anti-smoking pieces only began appearing after the government voted to ban smoking in public places. Autism is not caused by smoking, it's not caused by Emo.

For those late to the party on Emo, it's a type of music, early
Dashboard Confessional (Chris Carrabba's "Screaming Infidelities" remains a benchmark for the genre), My Chemical Romance, it's a fashion which includes long bangs covering an eye or both, it's many things. Here's a little tip for the Baghdad police, Emo is a solid genre of music and, most importantly, Emo could take root in Iraq. Iraq could be the MidEast center for Emo music. It has all that's needed, all the elements. Instead of trying to stamp it out, the government should be realizing that this could be a calling card for the country and part of a revitalization of the Iraqi cultural scene.

 
 
Today, the attack on Emo youth or suspected Emo youth in Iraq continues. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that those with longish hair, suspected of being Emo are being threatened and killed. Grace notes that there are lists of Emo youth (or accused of being Emo youth) publicly displayed in Sadr City, Shula and Kadhimiya with the promise that, one by one, each will be killed. An unnamed official in the Sadr City municipal court states that people have, on their cell phones, the names of young people to "liquidate" because they are Emo. This is beyond insanity and what happens when the US government turns a country over to thugs.
 
Back in August, Kadhim al-Attabi (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) reported on the emerging Emo scene in Iraq:
 
Emo people prefer to express their emotions through unusual means that some people find disturbing. Yet, for Fadiya, it is more of a style.
'For a month now, I have been immersed in the emo world, after I have seen it spread among my colleagues, who were wearing very distinctive costumes, bags and accessories,' she said.
'I do not care about the dark beliefs people usually link to emo. I like fashion and changed all my clothes to follow the emo style,' she said.
'Now I have huge amounts of accessories to go with every outfit, which is why I feel different and my family and friends are very impressed,' added Fadiya.
Fadiya is not the only one who likes to just pick what she likes from the emo concept. A Facebook group called 'Emo boys and girls in Iraq' says that 'most people (have) common perception of emo as someone who is very emotional. Some people just consider emo to be a sense of style.
'Our group is about music, fashion, life issues, whatever you want ... as long as you don't insult anybody.'
 
al-Attabi noted that, at that point, it seemed as if there wouldn't be the panic in Iraq the way alarmists had freaked out in Egypt two years prior.  Turns out it's worse than a panic.  And last week, Metality UAE reported metal heads are caught up in the crackdown due to confusion over what EMO is:
 
The government is currently running a crackdown on EMO's, but classifying them as wearing clothing/piercings that are usually associated with metal and metalheads.
In a post by the Iraq Ministry of the interior, they state that the way to detect an EMO is that: "they wear strange clothes and tight and the graphics like skulls, and use the tools of school in the form of skulls, and put the earrings in their noses and their tongues and other manifestations of the exotic." (for the entire Ministry statement, click here.)
Sources (who we will not name for their security) say that the Iraq government is also on the cusp of passing a law that will make wearing metal band t-shirts or ones with symbols usually related to metal and playing metal music illegal.
 
Tricia Macke:  Well it was the veterans march you probably heard nothing about.  320 active duty military and military veterans marched in DC Presidents' Day.  So why no coverage?  Plus, what about the issues these vets are drawing attention to?  How big of an issue have active duty suicides become in the US military?  Ben has the Reality Check you won't see anywhere else.
 
 
Ben Swann:  Well, in all, about 2,000 people were part of this march.  320 were active duty members of the military and military veterans marching, they say, to bring attention to the fact that presidential candidate Ron Paul is the choice of troops.  That based on the fact that Congressman Paul has raised more money from active duty military than all the other presidential candidates combined including President Obama.  The man who organized the event, internet host Adam Kokesh who himself is a former Marine Corps Reservist and served in Iraq
 
Adam Kokesh:  We had over 300 marching in formation to the White Houe, we did an about face, a symbolic repudiation of our president's foreign policy and his current military policy.
 
Ben Swann: For a moment, we're just going to let some of this video play so you can see the scene for yourself and, tell me this, if this event were held protesting President Bush a few years ago, you don't think ABC, CBS and MSNBC would have all been there?  What about if this were in support of any other Republican candidate other than Ron Paul?  Just watch.
 
[Adam Kokesh marches and calls out "President" as the marchers call out "Paul!"]
 
Ben Swann:  But, again, no media coverage at all. The march, though, was about more than just foreign policy.  As part of this march, these veterans held a special flag folding ceremony.
 
Adam Kokesh: We held a flag folding ceremony and held a hand salute to that flag for as many seconds as troops have committed suicide since Barack Obama was declared commander-in-chief.  
 
Ben Swann:  But there is a very important issue at hand here.  According to the departing Vice Chief of Staff of the Army [Gen Peter Chiarelli], 164 active-duty army, national guard and reserve troops took their own lives in 2011 -- compare that with 159 in 2010 and 162 in 2009.  The increase occurred even as the army has expanded suicide prevention efforts -- including drug and alcohol counseling.  There's been a steady rise in army suicides that began in 2004, one year after the start of the Iraq War.  So how do army suicide rates compare to civilian rates?  Well take a look.  Army suicide rates have been higher than civilian rates since 2008 when there were nearly 20 suicides per 100,000 in the army compared with close to 18 suicides per 100,000 in a civilian population.  But look at the numbers in this chart.  It shows how the increase in active duty soldier suicides has risen since 2004.  In 2004, just over 9 suicides per 100,000 people, 24 in 2011 for active-duty military.  Can't give you an answer for why the number of suicides is increasing so dramatically.  But Kokesh and the men and women who chose to march on Presidents' Day believe they know exactly what's going on.
 
Adam Kokesh: But I think if the American people knew that the foreign policy that the troops are being asked to carry out was leading them to kill themselves in record number, we'd see a much more heated demand for change in our foreign policy, we'd have the American people paying much more attention to what's going on in our name and we'd have a lot more of them demanding that Ron Paul be our next commander in chief. 
 
Ben Swann: So here's what you need to know.  As soldiers are retuning from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have an increasing number of men and women who are suffering from PTSD -- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder --  or from Traumatic Brain Injuries.  Those are emotional wounds, they can lead to extreme violence to themselves or their families when those soldiers return home.  As a country, we're very good at saying that we support our troops.  But we need to be a country that is better about listening to those troops when they come home, not simply listening to the politicians who are telling us what's best.  And that is Reality Check.
 
On the topic of the rally and videos, click here for Adam Kokesh speaking at the February 20th Veterans for Ron Paul action. US House Rep Ron Paul is running for president, he is the anti-war candidate with some comparing his run to that of Eugene McCarthy (though I'm not remembering McCarthy's anti-war stance resulting in his being tarred an "isolationist"). Adam is among many who have endorsed Ron Paul and Ron Paul has received more donations from active duty US troops than any other politician running for the GOP presidential nomination and he's also received more money from active duty troops than has Barack Obama.  Here's a sample of Adam's speech:



Adam Kokesh: Dear President Obama, I am writing to you as just one veteran, just one man. But today you may see that I am joined by many more. We gather before you in support of Ron Paul and not because we think he would merely be a better administrator of government than you, but because we believe your policies to be fundamentally immoral. We are here demanding peacefully, orderly change at the ballot box. We are gathered here today as active duty service members and veterans exercising the right to self-expression that we have all risked our lives to protect -- something you've never done in uniform. The military you command has made attempts to silence us -- not just in the existing codes and regulations intended to suppress dissent in the ranks but also in direct orders that your officers have issued to the troops who would be with us today, who would speak out against the status quo, who would challenge the man, who would speak a desperately needed truth to a desperately delusional power. Do not think for one second that you can silence this voice. Do not dare whisper the command to silence this voice. Do not deny that Ron Paul is the choice of the troops. You are not wanted as, you are not respected as and you are not fit to be the commander in chief of this great [force? -- applause and cheers are too loud for me to make out his next words].


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