Great Moments in the National Review


Some selected responses to the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse story.

Douglas Kmiec:

The message is perfectly consistent with what Americans can see almost any day of the week on MTV, HBO, or until recently, Howard Stern.

Rich Lowry:

The Americans sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners, forcing them to masturbate, to wear women's underwear, and to commit (or feign committing) unnatural acts, and captured it on film. If they had done this stateside in different circumstances, they might be very rich and perhaps even up for an Adult Video Award.

Kate O'Beirne:

Left-wing critics of the Iraq war are no doubt delighted to finally see evidence of the atrocities they falsely accused a previous generation of soldiers of committing.

The Editors:

But nothing going on in Iraq is quite as alarming as the panic of our political class about it.

Jonah Goldberg:

Obviously, very real abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib, but news operations don't show pictures of rape victims, never mind actual rapes, even when they're sure they're real and the consequences for doing so are comparatively meager. [?]

CBS's scoop has gotten someone killed [?]

John Derbyshire, explaining his "mental state":

1. The Abu Ghraib "scandal": Good. Kick one for me. But bad discipline in the military (taking the pictures, I mean). Let's have a couple of courts martial for appearance's sake. Maximum sentence: 30 days CB.

2. The US press blowing up the Abu Ghraib business: Fury at these lefty jounalists doing down America. They just want to re-live the glory days of Vietnam, when they brought down a president they hated. (PS: They hated him because he was an anticommunist, while they themselves tought [sic]communism was just fine.)

John Derbyshire, defending his mental state:

If you think you can fight a war against a ferocious and unappeasable enemy without your interrogators kicking prisoners, you are dreaming.

No wonder Goldberg wishes the photos had never been released.

NEXT: John/Joan, RIP

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  1. Not easy to do, but these comments are as consistently dumb as The Nation’s, where they say this scandal is a normal outgrowth of hatred and incompetence at the top.

  2. Goldberg is right – these photos, by being released, will only create more tolerance in the Arab world for terrorists to thrive. Terrorists will keep doing this no matter what America does, but the Arab “swing voter” group that Mickey Kaus writes about will almost certainly swing closer to the terrorists and farther away from peaceful coexistence with the “encroaching forces of globalization.” It is them we should worry about. The military investigation into abuse would have punished the perpetrators fully and justly without the publication of those photos. The New Yorker and “60 Minutes II” put publicity over the ability of their country’s troops to pacify and rebuild Iraq. Call attention to the tact lapses at NR, sure, but admit the same judgment lapses on the part of the media – which, by the way, showed far more restraint over the Nick Berg execution than the prisoner abuse photos, in contrast to the blog world.

  3. I’m glad to see the folks at the NR still have their heads screwed on straight. Too many conservatives have criticized our psyc ops efforts to demasculinize the Arab man.

  4. Who gives a crap about what some of the National Reviewers think? What, did they kick the Reason team’s ass in the Pundit Softball League tourney or something?

    Seriously, the Reason Hit ‘n’ Runners seem to have a real hardon for the National Review. If you mixed in some H&R posts describing “what the idiots are saying at” the Nation/Atlantic/Time/American Spectator/Salon/TNR/McLaughlin Group, etc – all of which are highly possible, it might make the posts more credible. Instead, it’s like H&R is populated by petulant 14 year old boys who are ignored by their big crush.

  5. Roosevelt Franklin! An allusion after my own heart!

    Now where’s Hard-Headed Henry Harris?

  6. As fatuous as the NR writers’ comments are, they do make a valid point about the willingness of the “mainstream” media to self-censor when their own political sensibilities are at stake while publishing everything they can (in the name of a free press) when they believe it shows up the “bad guys” (as defined by, who else . . . them).

  7. The US press blowing up the Abu Ghraib business: Fury at these lefty jounalists doing down America. They just want to re-live the glory days of Vietnam, when they brought down a president they hated. (PS: They hated him because he was an anticommunist, while they themselves tought [sic]communism was just fine.)

    This is all horse shit. These guys would completely flip-flop if Clinton was still prez, or dread, John Kerry becomes prez and gets to inherit this mess. I think today’s soap opera’s are written by future liberal and conservative pundits.

  8. Blaming the media for publication is a cop out. If you don’t like the pictures, then don’t allow shit like this to happen.

  9. What TNR is concerned about is that their “man” is in deep fucking shit politically. Recent poll numbers show a 44%-46% approval rating; historically such numbers augur for Bush’s demise, and Kerry’s triumph. The folks at TNR are in panic mode; they know that their boy is in trouble.

  10. I blame the media blamers.

  11. Don’t remember my party asking for Cohen to step down when the Chinese Embassy got it or when we hit the train full of civilians.

    And I think Derbyshire is WRONG about 30 days confinement, but much of the writing is spot-on… AMERICANS HAVE DONE BAD-WE REPORT… Nick Berg is beheaded, let’s try to not inflame anyone’s sensibilities.

    Hit Instanpundit the lead story (18.00 EST) is from a Brit publication on an interesting discussion the journalist had with an American reporter. Anecdotes don’t “PROVE” anything, I know, but it does give one pause.

  12. What TNR is concerned about is that their “man” is in deep fucking shit politically.

    Then why are they loudly proclaiming that the President is wrong? Bush has unequivocally condemned the Abu Ghaib abuses; the National Review staff are, in most cases, either saying the abuses weren’t all that bad, or that they should have been worse, or that there are more important things to worry about.

    If their main concern was Bush’s election chances, they would be joining ranks behind him and sticking to the script.

    Recent poll numbers show a 44%-46% approval rating; historically such numbers augur for Bush’s demise, and Kerry’s triumph.

    Polls show Bush and Kerry as statistically tied, despite the fact that the last few weeks have seen the worst (for Bush) news of his term. Bush will only be in trouble if the news keeps being bad and Kerry suffers no setbacks of his own. That seems very unlikely to happen; Kerry’s popularity right now is as high as it’s ever likely to get.

  13. Joe L,

    Everyone knows Berg’s been beheaded. Without the abuse photos, who’d have believed that was really happening? (In this country, that is!)

  14. Dan,

    “Then why are they loudly proclaiming that the President is wrong?”

    They aren’t; they are preaching to the choir, while Bush is preaching to everyone else.

    “Polls show Bush and Kerry as statistically tied…”

    Another bad sign for Bush. Incumbents generally don’t lose by landslides (Carter being of course the exception).

    “Bush will only be in trouble…”

    Historically speaking, Bush is in trouble right now. No incumbent since Truman has ever been re-elected once their poll numbers dipped below 50% in an election year. The only good thing Bush has going for him currently is the fact that he and Kerry are equally loathesome.

  15. Don’t think its fair to lump Goldberg in with the rest of the NR ilk. He argues for editors to weigh the relative merits of the public’s right to know versus the potential harm and danger our soldiers and citizens might incur due to the 24/7 coverage of these inflammatory photos. Also, I do believe the willingness to publish these photos versus the reluctance to show images of people leaping from the WTC, Danny Pearl, and Nick Berg shows something troubling about big media.

  16. I wonder if Jonah Goldberg is actually dumb enough to believe that, absent the Abu Ghraib photos, Nick Berg would still be alive today (considering he was taken on or around 4/10), or if he expects his readers to be dumb enough to believe it? I suspect the latter, I fear the former.

  17. That’s why Ramesh is the saving grace of the Corner:

    “Torture of prisoners? ? No, not even to save a million lives. Some things are just wrong, and the deliberate torture of suspects is wrong, wrong, wrong, in some way that the dropping of bombs on cities is not.” Perhaps this statement is consistent with your comment today; I suppose it would depend on your definition of “torture.” But it sure seems inconsistent.

  18. Goldberg actually backtracked somewhat from that cause-and-effect statement. As for the consistency-in-showing-images debate, I’m of the school that says we didn’t see nearly enough of the Sept. 11 jumpers, we ought to see the maximum number of returning coffins, the Berg horror should be shown & linked, and I want all the Abu Ghraib photos to be public. Goldberg, as I understand it, seems to be pro-Berg, anti-Ghraib, while accusing The Media of hypocrisy.

    And Roosevelt, I have been generally freaked out by many different American reactions to Abu Ghraib (see my posts below), and figured I’d just lump my collected NR links into one entry. They have, in case that’s not clear, published other types of viewpoints on this.

  19. FUCK NRO! and fuck everyone who agrees with them and fuck the fucking administration and fuck everyone who voted for Bush and fuck the SCOTUS. FUCK FUCK FUCK

    sorry, I get too worked up whenever I encounter NROpinions.

  20. Dan,

    I believe it’s called left-handed criticism: “Sure the president has his faults–he’s too nice!”

    It “attacks” Bush for what most decent people would consider a virtue (apologizing), and establishes the NRO gang’s credentials for “evenhandedness.”

    It’s a lot like Bill O’Reilly “getting tough” on the Bush administration for the WMD issue, by saying they were too trusting of Tenet–a “criticism” that couldn’t have adhered any closer to administration talking points if Doug Feith himself had written it.

  21. Yes, Fyodor, everyone “Knows” Berg was beheaded, everyone Knows about the Holocaust, and everyone KNows about Stalin’s Crimes. But, what do they broadcast and act shocled about?

    I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but it almost comes off with, “Yes, yes, we know that, it’s old news.”

    What we on the Right Know is that the Left and pages such as this one, CARE Abou Abu Ghraib more because it hurts the folks in power more, and caring about Berg simply provides justification for further actions which the Left and many here oppose.

    And without the photo’s I BELIEVED it was happening because the Army had launched an investigation. You mean, no one got all lathered up about it until the photo’s were released. The BG in charge was doomed in Jan. and the MP’s were on track to courts martial then. The photo’s just gave Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy “reasons” for outrage.

  22. Paul Z: “As fatuous as the NR writers’ comments are, they do make a valid point about the willingness of the “mainstream” media to self-censor when their own political sensibilities are at stake while publishing everything they can (in the name of a free press) when they believe it shows up the “bad guys” (as defined by, who else . . . them).”

    Nonsense. It has nothing to do with politics.

    The US media will show dead Iraqis, but they rarely show dead Americans.

    The difference is apparently that they don’t care about offending the families of the dead Iraqis, because those people aren’t viewers or readers. On the other hand, running photos of dead US soldiers runs the risk of offending the families of the dead, so it rarely happens – if it does, it causes a stir like when they ran photos of the dead contractors on the bridge.

    Running photos of dead, burned Iraqis wouldn’t cause much discussion in the US media.

    That’s all there is to it, really. The boundaries of good taste generally only apply when Americans are involved.

  23. The complaint that the media didn’t show enough of the 9/11 carnage is specious. Recall how they played the video of the plane(s) flying in to the WTC OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. In fact, just recently our local news had some report related to 9/11 and showed a clip of the damn thing AGAIN.

    I do not recall seeing footage of people jumping from the towers, however, I generally avoided TV around that period because I thought the media overdid it on the horrible video.

    To match this, they will have to show *video* of the Iraq atrocities over and over again, and then little clips of it years later when referring to related stories. On the local evening news.

  24. Jon H —

    Point well taken on “big media”‘s showing dead Iraqis versus dead Americans. But I still think there’s a political aspect to it. How many dead Somalis or dead Tutsis or dead Kosovars did we ever see during the 1990’s?

    I don’t believe the media are as blatantly biased as many on the right seem to think; but their selection of images (and stories) certainly reflects their underlying judgments about who’s right, who’s at fault, and who should be blamed for various calamities in the world.

  25. If the sanctity of the individual still has anything to do with conservatism, then the ex-communication from the movement of some of these NR commenters isn’t out of line.

    But, kudos to Ramesh Ponnuru.

  26. “Great Moments in the National Review” is such a rich vein. If I’m ever really bored one weekend, I’m going to look in the archives of their blog, The Corner, and count how many discoveries of Weapons of Mass Destruction they reported in March-May 2003. I’m putting the over/under at 20.

    Oh, yeah, torture photos. Look, people in Iraq aren’t outraged that these photos were on the news, they’re outraged that the events they depict happened. People in the Middle East would have found out and been outraged by these events whether 60 Minutes had ignored this major story or not. The only difference American press coverage has made is to let Americans also know that these things are happening, and make it more difficult for National Review, Joe L, and their ilk to accuse Muslims who complain about America of being delusional.

  27. I?m usually the first to laugh at the suggestion of orchestration in these matters, but I can?t imagine how else to explain so many otherwise intelligent people spontaneously writing something so stupid. The madness of crowds and conditioned response might partially explain it. I’ve observed that when the NRO sees something damage Bush?s re-election campaign, a conditioned response kicks in and, much like Pavlov?s dog, collectively, they start humping the Administration?s leg.

    Suggesting that the Administration made a few calls and asked for some help is probably going too far. Suggesting something like that would be crazy. I mean, who would suggest something like that?

    Then I wake up this morning and see that the Bush Campaign has moved from tactical alert to DefCon 1. Call me callous, but did anyone else find Rumsfeld?s appearance in Iraq?what?s the word?obnoxious? Was the point of his appearance to show that America is still behind the troops, as I heard suggested on television, or was it to show America that the troops will still applaud Rumsfeld when prompted? (Please note that all references to Pavlov’s dog were terminated in the first paragraph.)

  28. I can’t believe I have to stand up for NRO’s independence. That magazine has had absolutely no problem bashing Bush for being insufficiently theocratic, or overly fond of the UN, or for otherwise violating their far right principles.

    I do not believe for a second that those comments are motivated by a partisan desire to defend George Bush, but from a genuine, principled opposition to people complaining about American soldiers torturing Middle Easterners. That magazine’s willingness to defend military atrocities committed under our flag, and their belief in using extreme force against the adherents of the inferior Muslim religion and culture, are both long established, and have nothing to do with day to day partisan skirmishes. The writers quoted are not bending over for George Bush, but are, in their own sick way, standing up for what they believe in.

    Vote Kerry 2004. Stop the Madness.

  29. Gee Joe, I’ve never said Muslims were DELUSIONAL, I’ve said they’re HYPOCRITICAL. I simply wonder where the outrage for the prisons in the Middle East is.

    And Joe, what IS the truth about America. that in our prisons is you MISTREAT your prisoners you go to jail?

    In other states if you mistreat the prisoners, you don’t get a promotion, our goal is to break or kill the prisoners.

    So, if that’s the truth you want or a truth you don’t think makes a difference, let me know.

  30. “How many dead Somalis or dead Tutsis or dead Kosovars did we ever see during the 1990’s?”

    Few, but I expect that’s because the press didn’t think the domestic interest level would be high enough. Somalia’s the only one where we had a real troop presence, and that was over pretty quick.

    The level of US involvement in Iraq is far higher.

    Note, that they were showing dead Iraqis even early on, when things seemed to have gone pretty well, the statue-toppling phase.

  31. How many dead Somalis or dead Tutsis or dead Kosovars did we ever see during the 1990’s?

    I’ll riddle you that if you riddle me this. How many Americans gave two shits about Foreign Affairs before 9/11? Ooops. I answered your question.

    As for the Abu Ghraib media frenzy. I think it’s fair to say that the incident provided a release. It’s not political as much as psychological.

    You see, the mainstream (esp. broadcast) media is very puritan. What can be covered and how it can be covered is rigidly controlled from the top, especially in times of war. Critical stories and leads that don’t fall in line (like dirty thoughts) are repressed. They pray to Jesus at the altar of “objectivity” to keep those dirty thoughts at bay.

    But resentment grows in the ranks. Eventually it gets so that top to bottom the system can’t contain itself. The quiet journalistic fantasy of nailing the pigs to the wall has been too long buried. Then we come across some dirty pictures that dad was hiding in the Pentagon. Hello! No more excuses needed. Next thing you know the media’s violently jerking the gherkin onto everybody’s face.

    And that’s the way it is.

  32. Joe,

    I don’t know what’s in the hearts of the people who wrote this drivel, but I think I know why they wrote it. According to the latest polls, as someone posted above, the winds aren’t blowing Bush’s direction right now. These people want to influence public opinion. They want the public to think that what happened wasn’t, really, all that bad, in a way. They want to do that because they want Bush to get re-elected. They seem to care more about getting Bush re-elected than they do about bringing the perpetrators of these crimes, horrid as they are, to justice.

    That’s disgusting.

    Personally, I’d rather have Bush than Kerry. But apologist Republicans, who have spent decades talking and talking about American values, suddenly discovering pragmatism, when it’s America that was un-American, in an election year, look to me like feminists defending Clinton’s right to shove himself down an intern’s throat. They sound like James Carville explaining why so many of Clinton’s former business associates are in jail. That’s it!

    They sound like a bunch of Clintonites.

  33. When the terrorists kill more American women and children,which they surely will,I suggest that those with an ounce of courage load that firearm-that so many on the left have tried to ban- and use it on the traitorous press that clearly sides with the Islamic enemy.
    p.s. Save some ammo for the politicians who are also on the side of terror.

  34. It is typical of the conservative mind– if the pictures caused problems then the solution is to ban digital cameras. All either gang cares about is staying in power and getting perks and cushy jobs for their deadbeat relatives. Fire them all.

  35. Ken, what world are you LIVING in?? They want Bush re-elected, of course they do.

    And Ted Kennedy and Patrick Leahy, they what want, only the best for America?

    The calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation, opening Saddam’s prison under new management?

    Don’t get me wrong democracies practice politcs, all the time. It happened in the Second World War, it happens now.

    But, please, don’t act like you’re shocked when one side plays politcs, especially when the other side is playing to win, as well.

  36. I suppose what concerns me most is that what’s happening in Iraq and in the White House should transcend politics. It’s not a realistic expectation, I know. But that doesn’t mean we should stop demanding it.

    Is it liberal or conservative to value honesty?

    Is it liberal or conservative to value human rights?

    Is it liberal or conservative to value competency?

    I think it’s an objective fact that the current administration has been dishonest and incompetent. I’m not a liberal. I’m trying to think of an administration that HAS been honest and competent.

    Would a Kerry administration be honest and competent? I’ve no reason to believe so, but I do know how the current administration has measured up. I hope Republicans and Democrats that value honesty and competence over loyalty will vote for someone they believe can bring those qualities to the White House.

    I know, I know. It’s not terribly realistic.

  37. The Berg video is much worse than any prison stuff I’ve seen yet. But I already knew Al Quaeda are evil scumbags. The prison stuff is surprising because one would have hoped the US military would be more disciplined. To me, the beheading just confirmed what i knew, the Abu Ghraib pics show proof of something new so they are more like news. Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised but i didn’t expect the army could be so clumsy on the optics.

  38. I think Derbyshire is the most wonderfully unintentional comic writer, maybe ever. Whatver you think of the views he expressed today, they were so appallingly direct and unapolgetic, I almost fell down laughing.

    Seriously, “Kick one for me.” hilarious. I disagree wholeheartedly, and on a lot of levels, but the guy is plain funny.

    Think: Michael o’donoghue level parody, circa 1972.

    about 3 years ago, Derb wrote a piece about Chelsea Clinton getting popular….at some point in it, he talked about her being really ugly, called her “a double bagger”, in a thread where he speculated what you would need to have sex with her.

    Seriously, the only time I’ve encountered people whose opinions were so whacked was at a NYC Libertarian thing.

  39. Joe L.

    I don’t want Rumsfeld to fall on his sword because the atrocities were so bad; I want him to resign because either he or the President can no longer be trusted. That is, either his boss can’t trust him, or we can’t trust his boss. That?s because, even while Rumsfeld knew that we had raped and tortured people in the same facility that the President was bragging about having closed, Bush made a speech bragging about having closed the torture chambers and rape rooms. So either Rumsfeld didn?t tell Bush that we had tortured and raped people, in which case Rumsfeld should resign for remaining silent and allowing the President to compromise his integrity, or Rumsfeld told the President everything, in which case the President deliberately decided to mislead us all and no one should ever take President Bush?s word for anything ever again.

    Iraqis don?t get to punish the President at the ballot box if he lies or if his Secretary of Defense does a bad job. The personal integrity of the President is all they have to go on. Our legitimacy with the silent but critical mass of Iraqis, who still hope that America will make an Iraq without government thugs, is the major difference between the way Iraq is now and the way Vietnam became. That?s what I see at stake here; their trust in us is going to make or break the war regardless of whether or not the war is run by Donald Rumsfeld. Asking them to believe that the same leadership, who oversaw the systemic failure that brought about these atrocities, will appropriately punish everyone responsible, including themselves, and that Donald Rumsfeld will keep an, as yet undelivered, promise to never do anything like that again is not going to regain their trust.

    So, in spite of what you read at the NRO, whether or not Rumsfeld should resign or be fired has nothing to do with whether our abuse of Iraqi Prisoners of War was relatively severe or not.

    P.S. Criticizing a Libertarian for being idealistic is like criticizing water for being wet.

  40. Perhaps this is a non-sequiter, but I’m sure someone here must remember the ‘Cripple Fight’ episode from South Park. After Big Gay Al is removed from being the leader of Scouts, he is replaced by another manly-man, known to some as ‘Mr. Slippy Fist’, who ends up being a child pornographer.

    The news reports it, saying “Hundreds of photos were recovered from his house, which we will show you now. Here’s one. Here’s another, the sick bastard. …” The parents, of course, are watching.

    I haven’t seen anyone else mention this. Is Reason still the home of pop-culture reference or not?

  41. Is it worse to be beheaded or to be cluster-bombed?

    Or does it depend on how brown you are?

  42. As long as there are Meliors around to make irrelevant points that piss off reasonable people, the Left has no chance.

    By the way, not that it deserves an answer, but I’d say it’s far, far preferable to be cluste-bombed than hacked to death.

  43. I think melior is the left’s answer to Walter Wallis.

    And I agree that it doesn’t deserve an answer, because there isn’t one.

  44. The military investigation into abuse would have punished the perpetrators fully and justly without the publication of those photos.

    You sir would probably be very interested in some bottom land I’ve got for sale down in Florida.

    I’ve got a bridge you might be interested in too.

    And these three magic beans…


  46. “the willingness to publish these photos versus the reluctance to show images of people leaping from the WTC, Danny Pearl, and Nick Berg shows something troubling about big media.”

    I don’t see anything troubling about showing pictures of what some of my tax dollars are buying directly. WTC, Pearl, and Berg are not directly funded by the feds, so the reluctance could be justified in that sense. Some of my tax dollars went into the draggaing of the Saddam statue that was shown constantly, so to paint the media picture as anti-Bush is to exaggerate; the “big media” in the US are more often press agents for the state rather than critics and it’s been then way no matter which party had more power.

    Meanwhile, the media was also reluctant to show coffins covered in American flags. Some considered those photos respectuful, others felt the opposite. Seems like the US military has a thin-skin when it comes to any of their failures of any kind being displayed. All the more reason to show the photos in my opinion, the DoD’s organizational arrogance causes a lot of problems and there’s no valid reason to perpetuate their delusions. I know pundits have to bitch about something, but it’s chicken-shit to bitch about the media as if it is somehow a coercive institution at the expense of ignoring the faults obvious one.

    If you don’t want to see the photos, don’t look at ’em. If you don’t want anyone else to see them, well that’s really not up to you.

  47. Rod, I think you’re right about Derbyshire. One of the funniest things I have ever read was his thing on how the worst thing about “the homosexualist agenda” was the fact that thanks to them he can no longer read the word “gay” in old poems without giggling like a 13 year old schoolgirl.

    And let us not forget the classic “POP CULTURE IS FILTH” essay. He could easily be a replacement for Jim Anchower or Herbert Kornfeld on The Onion. I bet he actually wrote angry letters back in the day to Tropicana protesting the unnatural and immoral juice pairings in their Tropicana Twisters products.

  48. Oh jeez, Joe L, do I have to say all the rights to show you you that I think beheading an American is fucked up? Your assumptions about my relative outrage over Berg vs ABu Graihb say more about you than me.

    My POINT, though you wish to ignore it, was that there was a REASON to show the photos. Easy (and glib) of you to say YOU had no doubt these abuses were happening already, but be a little less disengenuous and maybe you’ll admit that whether or not that’s true about you (doubtful, but of course there’s no way to prove or disprove that now) it’s quite obvious and clear that no one in this country gave a damn. Now maybe heads were JUST ABOUT to roll because of the investigations and these photos just unnecessarily inflamed the situation. And maybe the military would have sat on the charges and denied what all the pesky anti-Americans were saying in the Muslim world forever. It’s obvious you’ve chosen the former as a given. I think the latter is much more likely, not because I belong to Hate Bush TM but because that’s how both human nature and government work in general. Deny it to back your short term cockiness but at our nation’s long term peril. Only slaves allow their masters to police themselves.

  49. “Cherry picked” works better than “selected,” but OK.

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