Who Won Iran-Iraq War, You So Smart?

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The returns from Iraq's elections have been coming in, and the Shi'a religious parties seem to be doing awfully well. Sunni leaders are already crying fraud—and worse:

Alluding to Sunnis who chose to abandon their earlier rejection of Iraqi politics and participate in Thursday's election, Adnan Dulaimi, a chief of the main Sunni coalition, the Tawafaq front, demanded: "What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate?"

The preliminary results, he said, were "not in the interest of stability of the country."

Jim Henley has some lucid comments here.

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  1. The success of our Constitution wasn’t that it established wonderful democratic processes for choosing leaders, or even laid out the rights of persons. Those can be ignored by the guys with the guns any time they feel like it.

    The great success was that it achieved broad consensus, so that everyone agreed to carry out their political fights with “bullets not ballots.” You might remember, there came a time when a significant minority of the country decided it didn’t want to play by those rules anymore, and they bailed on the system and started shooting cannon balls at the nation’s military. And what a disaster that turned out to be.

    Can you imagine how the history of America would be different if Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia never ratified the Constitution, and the federal government imposed its authority over they anyway?

  2. Not responsible!

  3. Well they are new at this whole democracy thing. Eventually they will learn that if you’re not happy with the vote you go to court and sue to change the election procedures.

  4. You know, the fact that 15% of the seats weren’t purely regional votes in a tribally dominated society IS a good sign.

  5. Well, crap.

  6. Joe I am not so sure about broad consensus. Consider the fight over slavery that was taking place among the framers 75 years before the American Civil War even started. It is often overstated how smoothly the American ratification process went. There were some ugly compromises made. Expectations seem to be a bit unrealistic about Iraq.

    What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate

    Tell them the system works baby! Sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield.

  7. This democracy thing sure is messy. Quick name the other muslim democracies. Oh wait, that’s mixing politics and religion. Only a society that pays lip service to religion can pretend that religion doesn;t trump democracy when it comes to voting your beliefs. And we are all surprised at the outcome thus far?

  8. Ahh, the marginalized minority. I’m sympathetic.

    I don’t know that they have any better recourse than I do though. Stay in the system for the sake of stability and prosperity relative to your current state or engage in a civil war you can’t win. Your best hope there is to make sure nobody wins. Hak reminds us periodically that it is hard to find a true nihilist, but that mentality comes awfully close.

  9. woops.
    maybe the “spreading democracy” justification for warwill have to go into the shop for a makeover. Guess we’re left with the “bring on the end of days” rationale.
    merry f&*#ing christmas to one and all…

  10. The great success was that it achieved broad consensus, so that everyone agreed to carry out their political fights with “bullets not ballots.”

    No wonder they issued me a dueling pistol the last time I went down to the polling place.

  11. No wonder they issued me a dueling pistol the last time I went down to the polling place.

    They only gave me a starter’s pistol! No wonder my guys never win.

  12. Democracy’s a bitch when you lose.

  13. People in the West don’t realize how racist Sunnis are towards Shia. That Jim Henley’s allegedly lucid comments are basically a rehashing of the common blood liables put fourth against the Shia. They can’t be trusted. They are all under the thumb of Iran and are a fifth collum in any country in which they live. Most importantly, they are all religous fanatics.

    The fact is that Iraqis are not Iranians and the Shia there are not going to start sponsoring terrorism against the west or threatening Europe with nuclear destruction any time soon. Further, it is interesting how the very same people who howl about Islam being a religion of peace and religous muslims in the West being unfairly persucuted and penalized for pursueing their religion, are shocked that anyone actually living in the middle east might be of a religous bent and consider them voting that way to be a threat to all of civilization? Which is it? If it is wrong for France to ban head scarves from schools, then why is woman wearing one in Bahgdad such a threat?

    The fact is that the Iraqis have a right to determine what kind of country they want. If it is a religous theocracy so be it, as long as they are not murdering their minorities, sponsoring terrorism or threatening their neighbors. My guess is that as the economy continues to grow and people get more wealthy and accostumed to living under something besides a murderous dictatorship that the appeal of strict religion will begin to fade. If it doesn’t, that is their choice not ours. One thing is for sure, leaving a murdurous dictator in charge to keep them down is not the right sollution.

  14. Quick name the other muslim democracies.

    Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Niger, Mali.

  15. If it doesn’t, that is their choice not ours.

    Followed by: One thing is for sure, leaving a murdurous (sic) dictator in charge to keep them down is not the right sollution.(sic).

    What are you suggesting, John? That if they choose to move back in with a murderous dictator, it’s okay because we threw the first one out?

  16. Swillfredo, the consensus was sufficiently broad that it held together for seventy years or so.

    I’m not trying to play down the divisions that existed. My point is that the process of creating the government and establishing the Republic took those divisions into account, and made the achievement of a mutually-acceptable compromise among the different groups a precondition for the vesting of power over them in the government. It’s those ugly compromises I’m talking about – there weren’t made in the Iraqi Constitution, because (unlike our own), they didn’t have to be. The Kurds and Shiites could bring the government into effect, and assert power over the Sunni, without having to make the ugly compromises necessary to secure their consent.

  17. “Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Niger, Mali.”

    …Turkey, Bosnia…

  18. Well if they go back they were asking for it, right?

  19. John,

    The fact is that the Iraqis have a right to determine what kind of country they want. If it is a religous theocracy so be it, as long as they are not murdering their minorities, sponsoring terrorism or threatening their neighbors.

    Or their minorities murdering their majorities, as the case may be.

    Taking to your sword (nowadays guns) when you aren’t happy with politics is at least as old as Islam in the Middle East. It’s their heritage, as they put it so aptly themselves:

    What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate

    See, if you don’t get what you want any other way, there are always alternatives. Does anybody think the Sunnis are going to accept loosing power in Iraq?

    I said before this started, the US will not be willing to do all the evil that good requires. If you want peace in Iraq, than a) smash the dissention and I mean smash it, break the Sunni’s backs because they aren’t going to join the party, or b) split it up into three countries, and if they want to fight each other that’s fine.

    One thing is for sure, leaving a murdurous dictator in charge to keep them down is not the right sollution.

    The fact that nobody else has been able to rule the Middle East for past 100 years is a really big clue about what kind of rule is currently possible in the Middle East.

    With few exceptions, this is a region where people are not accustomed to plain old law and order. Nobody is going to rule Iraq as one country unless they carry a really big stick.

  20. Park and lock it!

    (Who the hell at H&R does these captions, anyway?)

  21. I wish it was suprising that the people who spent the last three years proclaiming their superiority for wanting to bring democracy and human rights to Iraq are now endorsing permanent civil war and government repression of a troublesom minority, rather than trying to follow our own model of a liberal Republic based on pluralism and consensual government.

    But it’s not. Did anyone ever actually believe that this line was anything but PR?

  22. Very good points joe. I’ll just add that the federal government created by the founders had much less to do with everyday life than what is being created in Iraq. Very little changed in the day to day life of the people here for at least a generation, with respect to what the federal government was doing. That led to a certain amount of disinterest in the controversies at the citizen level.

    Not so in Iraq. To address just the tip of the iceberg, the federal government will be intimately involved in dishing out pork from the nationalized oil revenues. Add in the role of Islamic law in the Iraqi Constitution vs. the relatively secular lifestyle the Kurds have established and that many Sunnis favor. These are issues that create alot of interest at the citizen level. They’re less likely to accept compromises because the outcome will have a large impact on their daily lives.

    But as you note, the real difference is that noone was pointing a gun at the colonies, telling them that they must form a federal government with each other. They all voluntarily decided to get into it. The Kurds and Shia have been told that they must be a part of some sort of unified Iraq. And some libertarians think that our excellent Iraqi adventure is somehow premised on libertarian philosophy?

  23. Henley’s post was a swarmy, disappointing rant, and joe – of all people – should know that bitching when you lose is normal in democracy…Democrats have done it for years now (wanna run those Senate numbers again, joe?)

    Relax…you just saw 20% of the Iraqi population transformed into adamant secularists! And, no, they aren’t resuming the insurgency….even a two-week vacation was just too much fun! The Sunni insurgents have just become the Sunni militia…with more interests with, than against, the US.

  24. Somehow these Verve lyrics may end up the theme of the whole Iraq intervention and its amateurish idealism:

    for the life of me,
    I cannot remember
    what made us think that
    we were
    wise and we didn’t compro-mise;
    for the life of me
    I cannot believe
    we’d ever die for these
    sins
    we were merely freshmen

  25. Taking to your sword (nowadays guns) when you aren’t happy with politics is at least as old as Islam in the Middle East.

    Right. Before Muhammed, worldwide and even still outside the region, political disputes were never solved by violence.

    Sounds like someone else has gotten hold of a Leon Uris novel, and took it seriously.

  26. Yes, there are Muslim democracies. But keep in mind that democracy and freedom aren’t the same thing, and those Muslim nations with democtacy aren’t necessarily all that free.

    I think the Press Freedom Index is a good indicator, in a canary in the mine shaft sort of way.

    The countries listed as Muslim democracies don’t rank very high on the Press Freedom Index, taking into account that any score over 75 counts as only “Partly Free” and any score above 125 ranks as “Not Free” (granted the US ranks lower than I’d expect, in 24th).

    Bangladesh 146th, Indonesia 120th, Malaysia 153rd, Lebanon 125th, Nigeria 112th, Niger 113th, Mali 52nd, Turkey 105th, Bosnia-Herzegovina 102nd…

    With the exception of Mali, none of those countries break into the top 100, and there are only 194 countries on the list.

    Food for thought from Freedom House:
    http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/pressurvey/fop05.pdf

  27. That was the far crappier band the Verve Pipe.

  28. Hang on, which side am I rooting for, the Shias for gaining a similar majority they hold in population in seats in parliament, or the Sunnis for being a secular minority? Which one am I to blame for Amerikkka’s failure in Iraq?

  29. the Shi’a religious parties seem to be doing awfully well.

    That’s a shocker, considering the Shi’a are a majority of the country and this is an election where, you know, the guy who gets the most votes wins.

    Keep in mind also that the Sunni baseline for governing Iraq is total Sunni domination, underscored by mass graves full of, you guessed it, Kurds and Shiites.

    The smarter Sunnis are already figuring out that the Americans are their best friends, given their history with said Kurds and Shiites. You watch – when the votes are taken ten years from now on whether the Americans stay or go, the Kurds and Sunnis will be united in favor of the Americans sticking around.

  30. But keep in mind that democracy and freedom aren’t the same thing, and those Muslim nations with democtacy aren’t necessarily all that free.

    You won’t see me dispute that. But the point of contention wasn’t the quality of Muslim democracies other than Iraq, but simply whether they exist.

  31. You watch – when the votes are taken ten years from now on whether the Americans stay or go, the Kurds and Sunnis will be united in favor of the Americans sticking around.

    well hopefully they will have a country there that respects the rights of its minorities enough not to need us there to police their majority.

  32. I’m with downstater. I’ve been assured by hawkish commenters that in 10 years Iraq will be a liberal beacon for the world.

    Were they all lying?

    Today has been a day of disappointments: First I discovered that pi isn’t equal to 3 and I became an atheist as a result. Now I find out that Iraq might not be all that liberal in 10 years.

    Well, in a few days I’ll be feeling better when I see what Santa Claus has brought me. At least I can still rely on him.

    Right? Um, right?

  33. The smarter Sunnis are already figuring out that the Americans are their best friends, given their history with said Kurds and Shiites.

    How many of the Sunnis are “smarter,” and how many of those hold positions of influence within the Sunni community? Before answering, reread the quote from Adnan Dulaimi.

  34. The Sunnis just got a reality check. Up until last week, the half-believed, or did believe, or wanted to believe there were a lot of “uncounted” Sunni…that they were somehow more than 20%.

    Now they know better – though it will take a few more days for the denial to wear off.

    The central myth fueling their “Resistance” just bit the dust!

    There is NO reason to think the outcome deviates significantly from what the electorate chose…it mirrors almost precisely the ethnic and sectarian breakdown of the population.

  35. The largest Muslim country in the world is a democracy. That’s right I’m talking about India. Granted the Muslims aren’t a majority but there more Muslims living in India than anywhere else. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are mostly Muslim and nominally democracies, certainly more democratic than Niger or Nigeria.

  36. Who the hell at H&R does these captions, anyway?

    We write our own. Shoes for industry, comrade.

  37. The Sunnis just got a reality check.

    You’ll hear a lot of people saying almost exactly the same thing within the Iraqi Sunni community over the next couple weeks. But the sentence will be phrased, “Those Sunnis who believe we can achieve our goals through electoral politics just got a reality check.”

  38. “To address just the tip of the iceberg, the [Iraqi] federal government will be intimately involved in dishing out pork from the nationalized oil revenues.”

    Actually, I think it would be mutton they plan on dishing out.

  39. Actually, I think it would be mutton they plan on dishing out.

    All I know is that if they don’t eat their meat they won’t get any pudding.

  40. vanya,

    i think you meant indonesia (muslim pop. apx. 213M*) instead of india (muslim pop. apx. 145M*)

    *from the cia world factbook

  41. not that it matters to your point, india still has a helluva large muslim population.

  42. TURKEY IS SECULAR.

    Shall we put the United States or Canada under “Christian”?

    Yes, 98% is Muslim. About 60% of Lebanon is. However, Turkey is a secular state.

  43. I have no hope whatsoever that anything in the Near East will ever be anything less than fucked up during my lifetime. This is not pessimism, but realism. 48 years and little has changed for the better…

  44. The largest Muslim country in the world is a democracy. That’s right I’m talking about India. Granted the Muslims aren’t a majority but there more Muslims living in India than anywhere else.

    Actually, the third-most, behind Indonesia and Pakistan. Though the former is a democracy as well.

    Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are mostly Muslim and nominally democracies, certainly more democratic than Niger or Nigeria.

    Kyrgyzstan, yes, imperfect though it is. Kazakhstan, however, is more like Ukraine minus the Orange Revolution.

  45. Fact Checker,
    Don’t look at me, I didn’t make the list up.

    “You won’t see me dispute that. But the point of contention wasn’t the quality of Muslim democracies other than Iraq, but simply whether they exist.” – Eric II

    Sounds like we’re in agreement then.

  46. So, getting back to the original point, if Iraq ends up as an Iran-leaning theocracy through reasonably legitimate democratic means, we will have won?

  47. Anthony Cordesman has some lucid comments here. (pdf)

  48. Jeff,
    That seems to be the Democratic Party’s plan… Which is why I voted Republican, despite how much it hurt.

  49. I can only laugh at people who think democracy is only working when the party they like wins. It called “democracy” because the people vote for what they want.

    Theocracy, vote fraud, corruption, religious extremists… these are the same things Democrats say about America’s elected government.

    Of course, there are more elections down the road if they change their minds. I recall our present fascist theocratic corrupt religious extremist Congress came to power only 11 years ago.

  50. I’ve been assured by hawkish commenters that in 10 years Iraq will be a liberal beacon for the world.

    It already is. Cafes from Lebanon to Damascus to Tehran to Cairo are abuzz with the idea of Mideast democracy.

  51. abuzz with the idea of Mideast democracy

    You make it sound like they’ve never experienced it before.

  52. Jesse

    I think you are totally wrong!

    If the Sunni can’t win an election, they can’t win a civil war, either. And if they can’t poll more than 20%, they can’t even wage a civil war. If the New Model (and largely Shi’ite) Army we’ve created comes, the tactical playbook they have been using against the US simply doesn’t apply…the shi’ites can permit all kinds of “collateral damage”, take hostages, and enact reprisals – the world will say NOTHING about a civil war. And especially not the US, if they give us a kick in the ass on the way out – “serves you right!”

    NO ONE will save them, any more than Dafur…the world will just buy oil from the Kurds and/or the Shia!

    All of the above pertains also for areas controlled by the Pesh Murga.

    And if the Sunnis “win” some kind of secession, all they inherit is a worthless dustbowl, contiguous with Syria, Jordan ,Saudi and a now-hostile Shia-town and Kurdistan – states that either cannot, or will not help them.

    The three provinces by themselves are NOT viable, and indeed, to crush the Sunni, all the Shia and Kurds have to do is seize and hold, Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkurk for a couple of months…anyone betting they can’t?

    But none of thid id going to happen…because the Sunni leaders ARE rational actors. And now they are constrained by the fact that their followings are fully apprised of the facts on the ground:

    A.) Baghdad is Shi’ite – has been for decades. 80 to 90% Shi’tite…might as well rename it Sadr City.

    B.) Mosul and Kirkuk were never “arabscised”…just another statist daydreanm that was mostly bullshit. The Arabs there are about as likely to be native Christians, or Shia looking for work, as Sunni.

    C.) The Sunni are 20% or less…have been for centuries, most likely – even Al-jazeera will cop to it in another couple of weeks.
    And if the Sunni are “under-counted”, in a violent confrontation, they are going to STAY under-counted. Does anyone believe that Sunni voters chased away from the polls by Shia militia or Pesh Murga “firing their guns in the air” are going to be any help in a civil war?

    D.) An America PRESENT in Iraq can stop a Shia offensive against the three provinces in a matter of hours, using air power alone, but…

    … a split in the Iraqi Army post-America, leaves the Shia with most of the airpower, heavy weapons, armor, communications and transport – as well as what Europe wants, oil.

    Aren’t elections wonderful Jesse? Just like the market-place: actors get ACCURATE information…and, an incentive to act on it!

  53. It’s not Muslims who don’t have democracies, it’s the Arabs. Well, until now, I guess.

    We really blew it with Iran, which could have been the moderate, stabilizing influence in the Middle East (oops). We just had to let the shah run amok, didn’t we?

  54. Question: why do we believe that the Kurds will throw in so eagerly with the Shiites? From what I have seen, my guess is that they will do as little as possible (except build up their own militia) and let the other two groups bleed each other down to the point where neither can effectively oppose a Kurdish secession. They may offer some token support for the central government, but only as much as they absolutely have to.

  55. “If the Sunni can’t win an election, they can’t win a civil war, either. And if they can’t poll more than 20%, they can’t even wage a civil war.”

    Tell it to the IRA and the Bolsheviki, bud.

  56. joe

    I rest my case on your examples.

    The Bolsheviks would have lost a civil war – and consequently, wouldn’t have attempted one – if they had to start with no effective control over Moscow and Petrograd, and the army, via the “soldier Soviets”…THAT is the actual position of the Sunni.

    The IRA did lose a civil war in the 1920’s, in the six counties, and the Catholic minority would have been run out altogether absent the British authority.
    But we do not claim Iraq is part of the US, in the sense that Britain claims Ulster is part of Britain…and we won’t stay to prevent the majority from finishing the job.

    All the Sunni politicians can do is use the threat of a boycott to get a few more seats and thwart a Shiia super-majority…

    …but none of that works, unless

    A.) they eventually show up

    B.) they can command a united minority of ALL the disaffected

    And the above means they must explain the facts to their own constituencies, and unite the opposition on broad political themes.

    And THIS trashes the founding myth of the Sunni insurgency.

    That is the point of Democratic Transformation – revanchist mythologies die, in the glare of actual polls.

    I know, joe…you would rather have a world where, state-actors, unnnaccoutable militias, terror-groups and mukhabarats, sorted it all out!

  57. “‘he Bolsheviks would have lost a civil war – and consequently, wouldn’t have attempted one – if they had to start with no effective control over Moscow and Petrograd, and the army, via the “soldier Soviets”‘

    You just described Mao, Andrew: Lenin, with no control of the cities, and no presence in the national army. And, of course, the Sunnis do have control (as much as any locals do under occupation) of Baghdad (outside of on neighborhood), and do appear to have infiltrators in the army.

    “The IRA did lose a civil war in the 1920’s, in the six counties,”

    I yield to no may in my drunken yearning for the Six Counties, but that’s one hell of a asterix to put on your statement. They drove the most powerful country on the planet out of 3/4 of the country!

  58. “I know, joe…you would rather have a world where…”

    ZZZZZzzzzzzz

  59. joe

    The IRA lost a civil war in the other 30 counties, too…AFTER losing an election – that should tell you something!

  60. joe

    The Balkan intervention you “supported” (in Pre-School?) wouldn’t have been necessary, if the Bosnian Moslems could have handled the Serbs…and I would rather have fancied their chances over the Sunni!

  61. The “neighborhood” the Shi’ites control in Baghdad is most of the city…even Americans can’t challenge the militia – the Sunni won’t try.

    Sunni infilatrators in the army won’t spirit away a single piece of field artillery.

    We have seen this before – in Bosnia. Absent world intervention, Serbs win…period. Your scenario doesn’t lead to some Green Line partition…it leads to Sunni disaster.

  62. An election in China, 1944-45 might have been an interesting idea…oh a Poli-Sci student’s nightmare – and Mao’s nightmare, too.

    Kerensky held off the Constituent Assembly elections “pending the outcome of the war”, right?

    But the soldiers Soviets would have slunk off like rebuked puppies faced with the evidence – even Trotsky admitted as much. A hundred thousand guerillas shrink before one election. Proof is available throughout central America.

  63. If the Sunni can’t win an election, they can’t win a civil war, either.

    Doesn’t matter if they can win one. What matters is if they can start one.

    And if they can’t poll more than 20%, they can’t even wage a civil war.

    I don’t agree, but even if that were true, there are parts of the country where they can poll much more than 20%. They don’t have to fight a war everywhere.

  64. “I know, joe…you would rather have a world where, state-actors, unnnaccoutable militias, terror-groups and MUKHABARATA…”

    Andrew, we’ve all read what you have to say about the torture scandals, the wiretapping scandals, the no-knock laws, and the secret prisons. And we’ve all read what I’ve had to say about those things.

    I think everybody here realizes who actually supports secret police, and who actually opposes them.

  65. Apparently, Trotsky was wrong. Iraq has had two elections already, and the insurgency and the death toll just keep growing.

    But it’s ok, Andrew assures us that we’re turning the corner. We’ll be back to a few dead enders any time now.

  66. joe

    “Andrew, we’ve all read what you have to say about the torture scandals, the wiretapping scandals, the no-knock laws, and the secret prisons”

    Whazzat?

    I have written practically nothing about any of these things…I am not a reflexive defender of the Administration, and frankly, not much interested in these discussions.

    I have always believed that there are two ALTERNATIVES in waging the war on terror:

    A.) To close our eyes and allow the CIA and mukhabarat proxies fight a “dirty war” against terror groups, while consigning ourselves to an overbearing Security State at home – this is where Clintonian Realism takes you, when the other guys want to fight, or…

    B.) Transform the terrain in the Mid East. So terror groups lose much of their impetus, and the remnant can reasonably be dealt with by civilised law enforcement.

    I have made THIS argument a hundred times!

    At least be honest about it joe – anyone who wants the Mid East to stay the same wants Mubarak to “handle” the problem by filling his dungeons with the Islamic Brothers.

    And frankly, if I was a militant, I’d rather be “renditioned” by the CIA.

  67. Andrew,

    You say you want a revolution. Well, you know, we ALL want to change the world. But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.

    I don’t buy your false choice. Wanting to work for change in the Middle East doesn’t require us to drive off a cliff.

  68. joe

    so, you will not retract the slanders in your previous post?

    Shame on you!

  69. No, Andrew, I won’t.

    You’ve never said dick about the secret police atrocities carried out in the name of this war and this president, but you sure have slandered those of us who have spoken out.

  70. Gee, rob, you almost make it sound as if establishing a system of assigning government positions via balloting isn’t enough to produce the rights-respecting, freedom-loving, democratic political systems the president tells us are necessary for defeating the terrorists.

    It’s as if there needs to be some kind of broader social compact, voluntarily agreed upon among the people of a nation.

    Who woulda thunk it?

  71. joe

    “Andrew, we’ve all read what you have to say…”

    “You’ve never said dick…”

    So, you were “improvising”…and lying?

    I guess we have the measure of your character.

  72. And since we’ve all seen you standing by torturers, liars, and spies, I guess we have the measure of yours.

    Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

  73. …and it is the character of a “man” who goes from accusing someone of supporting terror groupos and secret police, to whining about being “slandered,” in 21 hours and 56 minutes.

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