Tom Cotton

GOP's New Foreign Policy Hero Is a Surveillance-Loving Interventionist Nightmare

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton wants to invade Iran and Syria, jail journalists and whistleblowers, eavesdrop on Americans, and keep the 'savages' locked up in Gitmo.

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In soviet America, Cotton picks you! |||

He's "the star of the 2014 Senate class," proclaims The Washington Post. A "conservative superstar," deems The Atlantic. The "leading GOP national security hawk," says The Washington Post again. Even a "dark horse" 2016 candidate for president, says The New Republic. So just who exactly is the new letter-writing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, and what does his prominence say about the contemporary GOP?

Beyond being a Harvard-educated Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol's biggest new political protégé, and also a target of sustained affection from National Review, Cotton is a politician who has already taken plenty of policy positions. Among them:

* That the U.S. should pre-emptively invade Iran, topple the mullahs, and ensure "replacement with [a] pro-western regime." (** UPDATE: See correction below.)

* That "we should be proud for the way we treated these savages at Guantanamo Bay," and that "the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is that there are too many empty beds."

* That we should keep at least 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the forseeable future to finally get the job done there.

* That the U.S. should deploy ground troops against ISIS.

* That President Barack Obama should have taken "decisive, effective military action" against Syria after the regime crossed the administration's "red line" in 2013.

* That the National Security Agency needs to be able to collect bulk metadata on unsuspecting Americans, because "Folks, we are at war. You may not like that truth … Do not take this tool away from our warriors on the front lines."

* That Edward Snowden is a "traitor."

* That defense spending needs to be jacked up: "We need to restore money not only cut by the sequester but the $1 trillion [reduced before that]."

* That, "Far from restraining the use of drones […] through unwise and unconstitutional mechanisms, we should continue and probably expand their use in our war against radical Islam."

* That Iraq was a "just and noble war."

* That, concerning pre-emptive military intervention, "George Bush largely did have it right, that we can't wait for dangers to gather on the horizon, that we can't let the world's most dangerous people get the world's most dangerous weapons, and that we have to be willing to defend our interests and the safety of our citizens abroad even if we don't get the approval of the United Nations."

* That ending President Barack Obama's negotiations with Iran "is very much an intended consequence" of Cotton's efforts in the Senate; "a feature, not a bug."

* That, concerning the Obama administration's November 2013 agreement with Iran in Geneva, "I fear that future generations may view what happened in Geneva as we have viewed Munich for 75 years. What makes this moment worse is that the West appeased Hitler at Munich out of fear and weakness. President Obama capitulated at Geneva even though we were in a position of strength given the sanctions regime. One can only imagine the thinking behind this grievous, historic mistake."

Cotton first came to prominence as an Army lieutenant in Iraq in 2006, when he wrote a soon-to-be-viral open letter to then-New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau criticizing the paper's investigative piece about administration efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. The letter closes with a desire to see the journalists deprived of their freedom:

And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars. 

It is no wonder that neoconservatives such as Washington Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb wish "there were 20 Tom Cottons." The open question, as it pertains to the new GOP majority, is whether Goldfarb is correct in his assessment that "At the end of the day, the Republican base is for bombing bad people."

** Correction: Cotton did not, to my knowledge, ever state explicitly that he was in favor of pre-emptive U.S.-led war against Iran, for which I apologize. He did, however, utter the quote in question. For a longer discussion about his views, see this link.

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  1. If loving America so much is a presidential disqualification, then consider him disqualified.

    1. In fact, he should be arrested for stated views in strict violation of the constitution.

      1. Why? Those are his views. Just because they’re not your views, they’re not unconstitutional.

  2. * That the U.S. should pre-emptively invade Iran, topple the mullahs, and ensure “replacement with [a] pro-western regime.”

    The 1950’s called, they want their stupid policy that caused a sympathetic people to hate Americans back.

    1. Also, it’s a really brilliant idea to invade Iran and topple their government at a time when ISIS is currently infesting a half-dozen different countries in the Middle East. They’re in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, and are recruiting and gaining some territory in Afghanistan. I’m a bit rusty on Middle Eastern geography, but it appears to me that ISIS therefore has ongoing operations on both the east and the west borders of Iran. So you destabilize Iran and ISIS will basically be able to carry out operations across the entire Middle East at their leisure since there will be virtually no stable governments to stop them between Libya and Afghanistan.

      Really, brilliant idea.

      1. Perhaps Obama’s idea is to destabilize the Middle East so ISIS can achieve its caliphate. After all, he killed Ghadaffi leaving a power vacuum there, then withdrew US troops from Iraq, leaving the corrupt Shia government without the US to back it up. He did bow to the Saudi King. And he even threatened to shoot down Israeli jets on a mission to blow up Iranian nuclear facilities.

        One thing is for sure, this creates an incentive for more military spending, and Obama is the biggest spender on US military adventures than any other president in history. He makes the Bushes and Regan look like doves: http://www.cato.org/blog/budge…..nistration

    2. I don’t know, it sounds pretty simple. How hard could it be?

      Just go in there, topple a government, install a new one. We certainly have the manpower and finances to see this through without issue.

      1. Well MJ, since it’s always worked in the past when the U.S. government tried it in the Midddle East, all of your points are valid points.

        #WinningHeartsAndMinds

        1. #WinningHeartsAndMindsByPuttingBulletsInThem

          Why wouldn’t it work? Nothing brings people to your side like killing their innocent friends and relatives.

          1. “#WinningHeartsAndMindsByPuttingBulletsInThem”

            Okay. You made me laugh.

          2. +1

      2. Not only that, the Iranian people will welcome us as liberators and we can pay for it all with Iran’s huge oil supply! Go for it!

        1. History will certainly repeat itself Big T.
          As Iraq went so shall Iran.

          Also, the Iranians certainly remember how our government helped them oust that Mossadegh character and replace him with that spiffy dresser, the Shah.

    3. Especially when it seems like the young people in Iran already like the US.

      http://jeffweintraub.blogspot……ngton.html

      Sounds like a genius move to alienate them by invading their country. Why not wait them out?

    4. The only thing that is guaranteed to protect Iran from getting bombed by (nuclear powers) America and/or Israel is a nuclear weapon.

      1. Not if they can start WW III before then!? I guess that might be the work in progress! But we would never do anything…preemptively! Or would we? There seems to be plenty of insanity to go around!

  3. If loving America is wrong, he doesn’t want to be right.

  4. At least he served in a war zone, unlike a lot of other hawks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cotton put forth legislation to re-instate the draft. Once the U.S. is involved stopping bad guys all over the world, the volunteer army ain’t going to be able to find enough enlistees otherwise.

    1. With his obvious hatred of freedom, and his desire to convert a free republic into an empire that imposes its will within and without its borders, it would be surprising if he doesn’t have a hard-on for bringing slavery back for the youth of his country. *His* kids would get draft deferments, but mine wouldn’t.

      And if my beautiful son had all his potential snuffed out by a sniper’s bullet while trying to pacify goat-herders on the foothills of the Zagros mountains, I’m sure Cotton’s heart will swell with pride as he salutes the coffin, without a care in the world to the loss to business, science, or the Left for Dead 2 community.

      1. Wow, Tarran. Very passionately and beautifully written.

    2. I’m not sure. When I was in the Corps, all the lifers who still remembered the draft were dead set against it. They always told us that it was so much better with volunteers.

      I’d bet that the same mind set is still around the armed forces today.

      On the other hand, I could probably also be talked into betting that Cotten is a loon who like McCain thinks that there is no greater glory than serving your country. And if you have to force people to serve at gunpoint, well I’m sure they will thank you later.

      1. Slave armies suck.

        Tom Cotton – fuck off, slaver.

        1. Slave armies suck. / Daenerys Targaryen

  5. My prediction:

    Within the next 10 years a career ending scandal regarding Cotton will emerge; one that *will* involve blatant law-breaking.

    He’s got that Rep. Cunningham vibe all over him.

  6. Tom Cotton is horrible. Also, the worst part of this Iran letter is that I personally feel the Iran letter was idiotic and ill-advised, but the left went so crazy with their ludicrous claims of treason that they made Tom Cotton look sane by comparison.

    It’s dumb to send out letters like that because you should deal with your squabbles internally rather than broadcasting them to a country you’re negotiating with. However, the fact that progressives apparently believe, in all seriousness, that the president should arrest 47% of the Senate really shows how outright fascist the modern left has become. They’re basically arguing in favor of a military coup.

    1. Not to mention the Democrats who went to Iraq in 2003 (?).

    2. From what I’ve seen, the letter is considered treason by appealing to an 18th century law born from the Alien and Sedition Acts.

      You “liberals” really should hang your hat on that abomination!

  7. Cytotoxic will cream his jeans when he reads about this guy.

    1. I thought this guy WAS Cytotoxic.

  8. What an ass. It is impressive how much his beliefs trump obvious facts, even after serving in the army and being a trained lawyer, all he wants and can see is American Empire forever. Very sad.

    1. Yes, CRD.

      I first learned of him when a couple of buddies showed me the video of his belief-fueled logically challenged rant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg6lus7mld0

      In fact, I thought of posting that link here at Reason to elicit advice and responses which I could use when later “debating” what Senator Cotton claimed. In the end I handled it on my own, with no success. They believed him regardless, and rather than argue against my points one kept repeating “Everything he said is 100% correct.” while the other one steadily increased the volume of his voice.

      Against such conviction my evidentiary material stood no chance.

      1. Are you trying to claim that you are some poor man’s Judge Napalitano?

        http://www.powerlineblog.com/a…..take-3.php

        1. Oh my.

          The author’s “certain arrogant stridency” was on full display, and the fact that he attributed the same to Judge Napolitano without any sense of irony was quite rich.

    2. As a former officer, I’d like to point out that it’s very hard to get ahead in the military without lying.

      I’ve been asked to lie on inspections to say everything is fine when it isn’t, and also to lie and say I found problems when I didn’t.

      The guys who lie the best have a huge advantage in promotions, because they do the best job of supporting their bosses’ lies.

      Decent men can rise, but they have to have the wisdom to know when to lie and when not to. They have to have the moral strength to retain their moral compass – to elastically deform rather than to plastically deform.

      Many decent men cannot master this, and are broken and cast out of the system.

      The people who thrive – who rocket up the promotion ladder – who look on paper to be water-walkers – are generally the sociopaths and narcissists. And they are the ones who most easily surrender when offered the benefits of corruption.

      1. tarran,

        Do you think after years of adjusting oneself into the “flexible” frame of mind required according to your post that some individuals either a) have a hard time sorting fact from fiction or b) embrace lies or counter-factual positions to fulfil their bosses’ and/or their own agendas?

        I’m asking not only about the men and women from your experience, but I’m also wondering about the buddies I mentioned above.

      2. Damn, dude. I am glad I was in the Army – lies get exposed when you go fight.

      3. The people who thrive – who rocket up the promotion ladder – who look on paper to be water-walkers – are generally the sociopaths and narcissists.

        This statement can be applied to nearly every hierarchal organization, given enough time.

      4. It’s the promotion system. It’s an abomination.

        The competent are tossed aside in favor of the politician. Therefore politicians make the decision on who’s promoted, and, of course, “the way I got here is obviously the right way….”

        Self licking icecream cone.

        (Oh and, politician = liar in case there was any confusion)

      5. True, and this applies to enlisted as well.

        And (as a Christian) I refused to lie. I’ll let you figure out how well that worked…

      6. Marine vet here (01-06) and a lot of what you say is true. I have seen some (not me) who I think had unquestionable integrity get promoted really quick, but it seemed to be an anomaly. I got out after five years disgusted and depressed by the politics of it all.

        Even though we were a minority though, I will say there was a lot more rabid Constitutionalists pro-freedom types in the Marines than any civilian sector I’ve worked in. And for the rest, when someone DID rant about the Constitution being violated, most people agreed and would nod in uncomfortable approval. Kind of like some Christian teen who was being lectured about sleeping around or something.

        Also, I voted for Cotton. Sorry. I just hate the Pryors so much, and all old school Arkansas Democrats of power in general. Be reminded though that Pryor is all the foreign hawk Cotton is, AND he cast one of the deciding votes for the ACA.

  9. “we should keep at least 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for the forseeable future to finally get the job done there.”

    Can tom actually say what the job “is”, and why 10,000 troops would “get it done” when many more have failed to?

    I’m guessing no.

    Out of those list of bullet points, I can’t find one that even remotely makes sense. He probably loves the Joint Strike Fighter too, adding insult to injury. The drones, NSA, and ‘invading Iran/syria’ stuff are basically the kind of dealbreakers that would have me voting for Liz Warran before letting this idiot loose on the world.

    1. Ok, I take than back. I’d never vote for Liz Warren. But I’d join Code Pink. Which I think is probably more horrible.

      1. But less harmful to others.

      2. ha!, agreed on all fronts. its amazing how little elections mean when they are able to keep finding the same schmuck with a different face & name and putting him in office.

  10. “And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others ? laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.”

    Man, this guy’s a peach. There’s something wonderfully ironic about him wanting to throw journalists in jail given the left’s current desire to see Cotton hanged for treason.

    1. “I’m a lawyer so…” is a good way to alienate people who will otherwise pay attention to you.

      People only care about what self-proclaimed lawyers have to say when that lawyer is THEIR LAWYER.

      1. Oh, not saying his little speech is completely idiotic. But starting it talking about how he’s a Harvard-educated lawyer is just… ugh.

        1. … is not completely idiotic.

          So, when is Reason getting an editable comment board? I’m sure there’s an open-source option you can make one your unpaid interns integrate in…

  11. having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others ? laws you have plainly violated.

    I AM ACCREDITED!!!!!!!!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I AM ACCREDITED!!!!!!!!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!

      AND I WORE A UNIFORM AND CARRIED A GUN!!! I AM PATRIOTIC!!! LISTEN TO ME!!!!!!

  12. Full (humiliating) disclosure: I sort of follow PowerLineBlog.com because they are local guys and hit some local topics. It is my secret shame.

    PowerLine has been tongue bathing Cotton ever since he was thinking about running. So – like a hipster – I’ve been hating on him before it was cool.

    What is shocking is that Cotton was able to beat an incumbent senator. How bad was Pryor that a loon like this could beat him?

    1. How bad was Pryor that a loon like this could beat him?

      Sadly, there are one hell of a lot of people that support and agree with Cotton. As I’ve said before, it may be past time to find a new country to call America because this ain’t it any more.

  13. Every time I think Greg Stillson was just an over-the-top charicature, the Republicans have to go and trot out the real thing.

  14. Sounds like a real piece of shit. He’s going to have a home in the republican party forever.

  15. He wants to invade Syria and fight both ISIS and the Assad regime?

    1. “What are you, chicken? Bawk bawk bawk!”

      Maybe he’ll have Chuck Norris in his cabinet.

    2. He wants to invade Syria and fight both ISIS and the Assad regime?

      Wouldn’t it be great if he could do that by himself, on his own dime?

      Alas, no. He will confiscate our money at gunpoint, and send our kids to go die for his “vision”.

      A$$hole.

  16. How long until Salon runs an article calling Tom Cotton a libertarian?

    1. How long until Salon runs an article calling Tom Cotton a libertarian?

      After they’ve published an article explaining why Clarence Thomas is a KKK black white supremacist like one of Dave Chapelle’s characters? (Ref: Barron’s AP Test Prep Guide: Clarence Thomas Is A Fascist In League With KKK [PHOTOS])

      1. Depressingly, Cotton was endorsed by Tea Party Express and Salon does have an article on that.

    2. For your reading pleasure, SugarFree: “Since When Is Honduras a Libertarian Paradise?!”

      [Bob Murphy goes through a Salon article paragraph by paragraph. Hilarity ensues]
      http://mises.ca/posts/blog/sin…..-paradise/

      1. In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win. So get yours before someone else does.

        Did a certain someone write this from the future?

        h/t John Titor

  17. The idea that the world is gonna be just fine if we don’t intervene is naive.

    There will always be a dominant power that will use money, influence and force to change the global landscape to its advantage.

    We can either sit back and chase the development of events on the world stage, just as we did in the late 1930s, or we can actively shape events in our favor.

    Of course there’s gonna be blowback, but we are by large better off today, fighting regional powers on a limited scale, then we were when we had another superpower with a finger on the red button.

    1. There will always be a dominant power that will use money, influence and force to change the global landscape to its advantage.

      Maybe this is a good reason for EVERY country in the world to have nuclear weapons.

      Russia won’t attack Ukraine.
      America won’t attack Iraq.
      China won’t attack Tibet, Viet Nam or the Philippines.
      etc. etc. etc.

      1. Mutual assured destruction only works with rational players.

        It doesn’t work with people who would love to blow themselves up, nor with people who think losing a few million of your own its ok as long as you kill more of your enemies

        1. And you think Iran is not a rational player?

          America is rational despite its headlong rush to bomb Iraq?
          Russia is rational in its handling of Ukraine?
          China is rational with its treatment of its neighbors?

          Might is right in international polity. If Iran is guaranteed total annihilation, it won’t use its nukes. If America has an actual threat of Iran nuclear bombs going off in Manhattan, it won’t attack Iran.

          It is not the case that Iran can actually nuke Manhattan, hence America can actually go and bomb Iran with impunity.

    2. Who is “we,” kemosabe?

    3. The idea that the world is gonna be just fine if we don’t intervene is naive.

      It’s not the job of the US government or the American taxpayer to make sure that “the world” is fine.

      We can either sit back and chase the development of events on the world stage, just as we did in the late 1930s, or we can actively shape events in our favor.

      Really? “We can actively shape events in our favor?” What exactly do you suggest?

      Of course there’s gonna be blowback, but we are by large better off today, fighting regional powers on a limited scale, then we were when we had another superpower with a finger on the red button.

      The last superpower with a finger on the red button self-destructed; our diplomacy or “shaping” did nothing.

  18. “He’s “the star of the 2014 Senate class,” proclaims The Washington Post. A “conservative superstar,” deems The Atlantic. The “leading GOP national security hawk,” says The Washington Post again. Even a “dark horse” 2016 candidate for president, says The New Republic. So just who exactly is the new letter-writing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, and what does his prominence say about the contemporary GOP?”

    You took all of your descriptions from opposition publications who have a partisan interest in labeling him the “star” of their opposition, yet you take it as gospel truth that he is, and want to know what it “says” about the GOP?

    It says the opposition is trying to paint a picture to make it easier for themselves, is what it says. A picture you’re buying into and treating as objective truth.

    1. Im not seeing any conflict with what he is saying & the GOP party line at all. Sure there are plenty of GOP insurgents who dont agree, but they have yet to sway the party from the great statist dick measuring contest its been for years.

    2. Exactly. Reason has a vested interest in hating on the GOP at every opportunity to maintain street cred with liberal circuit.

    3. i think conservative/liberal “superstar” is increasingly like being a porn star.

  19. “We need to restore money not only cut by the sequester but the $1 trillion [reduced before that].”

    To be clear: before the sequester’s mandatory cuts, the DoD still received increases (well) in excess of inflation, they just weren’t the insane amounts the DoD had asked for in their pie-in-the-sky budget requests.

  20. More Lindsey Graham-ier than Lindsey Graham himself.

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  22. Tom Cotton makes Nicole look, like, second-worst.

  23. he attended Harvard College, where he wrote for the Harvard Crimson[4], and was a member of the Harvard Republican Club. After graduating from Harvard magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government,[5] he went on to Harvard Law School, where he was taught by Elizabeth Warren.

    So middle-of-nowhere Bible Belt high school to Harvard and Harvard Law.

    Jesus Christ, no wonder he’s a crazy asshole. If that’s not a recipe for a siege mentality, I don’t know what is.

    1. And he’s a fucking gov jock to boot. A shiny nickel says he hasn’t read a book in the past year.

      1. Yes, but he is the recognized expert on how you should live your life.

  24. What a right fucking twat. Sounds like the adopted child of John McCain and Lindsay Graham in an alternate universe where gay marriage.adoption was legal in Arizona and/or South Carolina.

  25. So let me get this straight. A lawyer who describes himself as, “having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms” joins the Army as a Lieutenant and after a couple years comes back home, still a Lieutenant, to be elected to the Senate? Sounds like he spent a lot more time as a lawyer than as a soldier.

    Wow. I wonder if he joined the Army as a REMF simply to advance his political career? NAHHHH! Politicians NEVER do that!!!

    1. How dare you impugn a war hero with the same congressional qualifications as Michael Corleone?

  26. Works for me!
    You can deal with it now, or deal with it later – Fram is not an option.

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  30. I voted for TC but this appears now to be a mistake.
    Isn’t he still too young to run for President?
    Perhaps he will learn to respect others better as a father?

  31. Why should he be any different than any other of the representatives from Arkansas? They don’t have the best educated crop to draw from, you know?! Why should he care about doing things the way the founding fathers suggested, when they wrote the Constitution? I am tired of my rights being denied, one by one! The people that think we need to topple the other Middle Eastern countries, and put in our approved governments, surely, must be asleep!? I mean, it is working so well, so far!……..(;-P

    1. They don’t have the best educated crop to draw from, you know?!

      Seems to me he has done just fine in the educational department; perhaps that’s the real problem?

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  33. He was an officer in the military. Is it really any surprise he has such clearly defined views? On a battle field you must have such views or people die. He is a typical military industrial complex neo-con. Unfortunately, these views are no better than the appeasement views of the Democrats. The simple truth is the US needs to realize the middle east will never be pro western for a number of reasons, but #1 is Islam. The majority of inhabitants in the Middle East follow a religion that demands absolute obedience to all authority which makes democracy impossible. Democracy is requires citizens to question the actions and motivations of leaders, Islam labels such actions as blasphemy. The reality is we are headed to a war, a real war with Islam in the middle east. When the time comes, the US will have to fight that war like we did WWI and WWII. IN other words fight a TOTAL war. A war where our enemies no longer have the capability to make war and we keep what we conquer. No BS lines or political solutions. Unconditional surrender is the only goal and only outcome. Cotton and others on both sides of the aisle in DC refuse to accept this is the only real option left.

  34. “Dark horse candidate” as in “The Third Horseman of the Apocalypse”?

  35. hat “we should be proud for the way we treated these savages at Guantanamo Bay,” and that “the only problem with Guantanamo Bay is that there are too many empty beds.”

    I vote for making Guantanamo the mandatory government retirement plan for US senators.

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