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Simon Wiesenthal Center - Asking Questions = Terrorism

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:09 am    Post subject: Simon Wiesenthal Center - Asking Questions = Terrorism Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deconstructing Simon Wiesenthal
News Lawrence Swaim on January 4, 2010 149 Comments

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, California, is named after the famed Austrian Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, a connection that turns out to be appropriate in disturbing but unexpected ways. That is, both Simon Wiesenthal and the Center named after him have been accused of flagrant lying, exaggerations and half-truths. Wiesenthal’s confabulations were never a matter of published discourse among scholars, so far as this writer can determine, nor were they popular knowledge until quite recently. In any case, it is now known that Wiesenthal, a born story-teller, rarely let the facts get in the way of a good story—in fact many of the things he claimed to have done were fabrications. This recently came to light with the publication, in June of 2009, of Hunting Evil, by British Author Guy Walters, in which he characterizes Simon Wiesenthal as “a liar—and a bad one at that.” Wiesenthal, he maintains, would “concoct outrageous stories about his war years and make false claims about his academic career.” Walters found that there were “so many inconsistencies between his three main memoirs and between those memoirs and contemporaneous documents, that it is impossible to establish a reliable narrative from them. Wiesenthal’s scant regard for the truth makes it possible to doubt everything he ever wrote or said.”1

Daniel Finkelstein, grandson of the founder of the Wiener Library in London, one of the oldest and most reputable institutions for the study of the Holocaust, had this to say in an August 2009 article in the London Times about Guy Walters’ Hunting Evil: “Walters’s documentary evidence on Wiesenthal’s inconsistencies and lies is impeccable. He shows how the Nazi hunter’s accounts of his wartime experiences are contradictory and implausible. He demonstrates that he had no role, contrary to his own assertion, in the capture of Adolf Eichmann. He pitilessly dissects Wiesenthal’s overblown claims about the number he brought to justice, suggesting it was not much more than a handful.”2

So far the Wiener Library itself has not responded directly to this revaluation of Wiesenthal. That is interesting because one assumes that they, like many others in the field of Holocaust Studies, may have been aware for some time that there were problems with Wiesenthal’s resume.

So what is the truth about Simon Wiesenthal? Born in 1908 in Galicia, Wiesenthal attended the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1929, where he had a reputation as a gifted raconteur. (Walters says he appeared as “a stand-up comedian,” which could be a British approximation of the cabaret theatre popular at that time.) Wiesenthal claimed to have graduated from Czech Technical, but records show that he didn’t. He also maintained that he studied at Lwow Polytechnic in Galicia in 1935, but there is no record of him ever attending classes there. Wiesenthal likewise claimed to have operated his own architectural office and built elegant villas, but again Polish records do not support this. Instead he appears to have worked as a supervisor in a Lviv furniture factory from 1935 until 1939, a somewhat more mundane occupation, and one that Wiesenthal himself acknowledged before he became a famous celebrity in Vienna.

During the Second World War, Wiesenthal was apprehended by the Nazis, and was in at least six different Nazi camps. For reasons unknown, however, he claimed later to have been in 13 of them. This raises the question that must inevitably come up when contemplating Wiesenthal’s stories about himself. Being in a single Nazi camp would clearly be a horrific, mind-blowing experience, much less being in six of them. (This writer cannot confirm which ones were death camps and which ones labor or concentration camps.) So why did Wiesenthal feel it necessary to inflate the number of camps he’d been in to 13, particularly since such claims were likely to be checked later?

Part of the answer seems to be that Wiesenthal was a natural-born confabulator and liar who had a powerful need to create the persona of a superhero. But that alone does not explain his behavior. The Holocaust raises questions about human nature, and there is a demand for accounts that can explain, rationalize, and create a moral context for it. Wiesenthal offered people a plausible narrative with a moral framework: Nazis incarcerated him; he miraculously escaped; he now tracked them down. The systemic evil of the Holocaust was so huge and so threatening that it could be successfully addressed only by a superman whose capacity to survive evil and punish transgressors was larger than life. Wiesenthal was acutely aware of this; and his heart-stopping accounts of last-minutes escapes from the Nazis played to this anxiety. And the fact that he was bringing masses of Nazi war criminals to justice was the happy ending to the success story, the kind peopled wanted to hear; but as Walters demonstrates in Hunting Evil, at least one of Wiesenthal’s accounts of last-minute escapes from the Nazis can be shown to be a fabrication, and others are questionable.

After the war, Wiesenthal founded two organizations that sought to collect and centralize information on Nazi war criminals at large. Sometimes these war criminals were “hiding in plain sight,” in the sense that governments knew where they were but lacked the political will to arrest them. The main function of Wiesenthal’s organizations, then, was to keep the issue current in the public eye—and he had the kind of personality, and the public relations skills, to do just that. This is the real reason for Wiesenthal’s notoriety. The organizations set up by Wiesenthal were research organizations, and had no real investigative functions, such as law enforcement might have, and no power to arrest people. Guy Walters concludes (correctly, in my opinion) that the disinterestedness of western governments in hunting down Nazi criminals was far more repugnant morally than Wiesenthal’s experiments with the truth. That said, the fact that Wiesenthal told so many unnecessary lies, and that people who might have suspected this said nothing to challenge them, is one more example of the Holocaust’s ability to corrupt.

Although Wiesenthal claimed to have brought over a thousand Nazi criminals to justice, he generated information leading to the arrest of less than a hundred at most. His most outrageous claim was that he participated in the tracking down of Adolf Eichmann. This was, and remains, a falsehood—the tracking and kidnapping of Eichmann was the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, and Wiesenthal’s involvement was limited to passing on whatever information he had to them. This inconvenient reality was widely known—certainly it was known to Mossad, which despised and resented Wiesenthal’s self-serving stories—but apparently few people were willing to question Wiesenthal’s many claims.

Except in Austria, that is, where Wiesenthal was for a long time a controversial figure. It the 1970s, Wiesenthal publicly berated Austrian Prime Minister Bruno Kreisky for having so many ex-Nazis in his cabinet—and in this, Wiesenthal was undoubtedly right. The controversy he stirred up was especially important because Austrians had, up to that time, generally avoided much public discussion about their own responsibility for Nazi crimes; and Wiesenthal may have welcomed the opportunity to open up this issue when he made his sensational—but accurate—accusations about Kreisky’s cabinet choices. Kreisky, a Jewish Social Democrat, hinted that Wiesenthal had survived the war only because he collaborated with the Gestapo; but Wiesenthal sued for libel and won. Wiesenthal also drew fire for emphasizing that others besides Jews died in the gas chambers, which brought him into conflict with Elie Wiesel, who took the view that the Holocaust should be seen as an exclusively Jewish event. Some of Wiesenthal’s ideas were good ones—how ironic, then, that his ideas were given serious consideration only because of the rough-and-tumble public persona that Wiesenthal had invented for himself as part of his entrepreneurial and overly-imaginative self-promotion as a swashbuckling Nazi-hunter.

Wiesenthal received practically every honor known to the 20th century, over 100 of them. Mainly because of his own self-promotion, Wiesenthal became much more than an author with some dubious and not particularly well-written books—he became a secular saint. But of what secular religion was Saint Wiesenthal the exemplar? The trouble with Wiesenthal was not his extraordinary efforts to focus public attention on Nazi criminals—the problem was, and is, that his accounts of his own experiences were never challenged by people who professed to have an interest in historical truth. His addiction to confabulation made him a prisoner of what Norman Finkelstein has called The Holocaust Industry, which we may describe as the systematic use of the Holocaust for personal and organizational gain.

We are left with the sense that perhaps some who noticed discrepancies in Wiesenthal’s books said nothing because they were afraid of being denounced as anti-Semites. Author Guy Walters refers to this in his July 2009 article in the Sunday Times. “Some may feel I am too harsh on [Wiesenthal] and that I run a professional danger in seemingly allying myself with a vile host of neo-Nazis, revisionists, Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. I belong firmly outside any of these squalid camps and it is my intention to wrestle criticism of Wiesenthal away from their clutches. His figure is a complex and important one. If there was a motive for his duplicity, it may well have been rooted in good intentions.” Guy Walters made this caveat a month after his book came out last summer; the fact that he made it at all indicates the sensitivity with which a professional historian must approach anything having to do with the Holocaust.

In fact, the appearance of Walters’ book has some of the characteristics of a literary campaign, although not necessarily of pre-arrangement. Walters’ Hunting Evil was published in Britain on June 18, 2009, at the beginning of last summer. A month later, in July, an article by Walters appeared in the Sunday Times, which set forth his reasons for revealing Wiesenthal’s duplicities. (One might think that because something is true might be reason enough for a historian to reveal it.) In August, 2009, a month later, Daniel Finkelstein’s supportive review appears in the Jewish Chronicle, validating Walters’ research. Finkelstein’s review was pivotal, since—as the grandson of the founder of the world’s oldest library on Holocaust history—he is assumed to speak with an authority that others lack, including perhaps Guy Walters himself.

That is not to say that the above was part of a coordinated campaign. Walters wrote on his website that he does not know Finkelstein, and based on internal evidence this writer believes that to be true. It simply indicates how complicated telling the truth can become when one writes about the Holocaust, and how important it is for many historians to carefully consider the public-relations angle before revealing things that might make people uncomfortable. In Guy Walters’ case, he received support for his findings from a man whose credentials in Holocaust Studies cannot be challenged. (There is at least one new book about Wiesenthal coming out soon, which after the Walters’ revelations will almost surely be forced to deal with obvious discrepancies in Wiesenthal’s narrative.)

There is ongoing fallout to the Walters’ book in other areas. On November 26, 2009, there appeared a sensational Associated Press report (carried on Walters’ website) that 12 members of the 15 member international advisory board of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies have resigned, apparently after a hysterical uproar about the availability of research material to scholars. (The AP report gives as the reason for the international hullabaloo certain objections by scholars “that restrictions on access to files made independent research impossible.”) Inevitably, one of those involved in the AP report warned that unrestricted access to the Institute’s files might encourage “holocaust deniers.” The opposite seems much more likely. The longer people are denied access to primary sources, the more doubts it will create about how objectively historians are able to write about the Holocaust.

Beginning with the publication in 1961 of Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews, people on the Left, political and cultural progressives, and some psychologists sought to deconstruct the Holocaust so that they could learn how systemic evil operates. If the Shoah was history’s greatest crime, why not try to understand how it happened, so such crimes could be thwarted in the future? That was the right approach to take, but it quickly led to a kind of truth that many people did not want to accept—that there is a Nazi in every person, and that any tribe, national group or country in the world could experience the same moral collapse as Germany experienced, given the right conditions. That was too threatening for many people, because they did not want to acknowledge how deep evil ran in human nature.

And it was, also, the ultimate threat to the neo-cons that were beginning to gain power in the US. If the same moral collapse that happened in Germany could happen elsewhere, such an analysis could be applied anywhere, which meant that the big neo-conservative foundations could not control discourse about the Holocaust. An objective deconstruction of the development of evil in Germany could even serve as a guide to what is happening in Israel. The neo-cons could not allow that to happen, because of their position that Israel’s government could never be criticized; and because the neo-conservatives did not want a truly objective deconstruction of the Holocaust that could teach people how to defeat systemic evil. On the contrary—they sought to create their own systemic evil in the US and in the Middle East, by using the Holocaust to arouse fear, anger, guilt and aggression, as well as religious nationalism generally.

Invoking the Holocaust in social and political discourse became a way for the powerful neo-cons and the Israel Lobby to use the unresolved trauma of the Holocaust, in some cases to generate ideas and in other cases to suppress them. The use of the Holocaust to manipulate people and societies to uncritically support Israel depends on a particularization of the Holocaust—it insists, in other words, that Nazi evil cannot be compared to any other form of systemic evil. It insists that the causes of German moral collapse (violent nationalism, fanatical identification with victim status, deep feelings of inferiority, a longing for apocalyptic solutions) cannot be applied anywhere else. That is despicable nonsense.

Not only can the causes of German moral collapse be seen in other nations and situations; such an analysis must be applied to other nations and situations, if we are to learn anything about how systemic evil works. Neo-cons generally dislike that, because they wish to discuss the Holocaust only within a context of Jewish exceptionalism. But sadly, there’s a Nazi in everybody—in fact, that’s the most important thing that the Holocaust teachers us. As Avraham Burg writes, today’s Israel feels a lot like Weimer, not because Israeli culture is so similar to central Europe’s culture, but because the decline into evil is always similar wherever it occurs. How could Israel not look like Weimer, when so much of what passes for a national consciousness in Israel is simply trauma from the Holocaust, which people do not attempt to deconstruct along universal lines but to which they cling as personal as well as national identities?

It was not until after Simon Wiesenthal died in 2005 that a British historian was able to write frankly about the duplicity in Simon Wiesenthal’s stories. Again I must ask, why did not the people who may have known about Wiesenthal’s casual relationship with the truth speak up about it? Predictably, the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles, California, is in no hurry to accept this new historical appraisal of their namesake—their website, in fact, faithfully replicates many of Wiesenthal’s lies and inaccuracies. But that should not surprise us, because the Simon Wiesenthal Center, like Simon Wiesenthal himself, is not interested in historical truth, nor is it committed to teaching about the history of the Holocaust in all its complexity. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is, rather, committed to using the Holocaust to raise money, and using the trauma associated with it to promote the Center’s extremist political perspectives.

'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2019 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why I believe the king of the Nazi hunters, Simon Wiesenthal, was a fraud
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1310725/Why-I-believe-king-Na zi-hunters-Simon-Wiesenthal-fraud.html

By Guy Walters 21:04 EST 09 Sep 2010

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For millions around the world, Simon Wiesenthal is seen as a hero.

Often credited with bringing to justice some 1,100 war criminals, the Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor is regarded almost as a saint, a man who did more than any government to lock up the perpetrators of some of the worst crimes the world has witnessed.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the recipient of a knighthood and more than 50 other honours, Wiesenthal is particularly remembered for his role in tracking down the notorious architect of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann.

Revered: But did the Nazi hunter build his reputation on fantasy?
Revered: But did the Nazi hunter build his reputation on fantasy?
After he died at the age of 96 in September 2005, the eulogies poured in from around the world.

Wiesenthal was lauded as the ‘permanent representative of the victims’, a man who had not only sought justice, but prided himself on never forgetting his six million ‘clients’, as he called those who died in the Holocaust.

Those who read his memoirs could only marvel at his wartime heroism and incredible escapes from death at the hands of the Nazis.

It seemed as if Wiesenthal’s mission was almost divinely given, the gods sparing his life for some higher purpose.

The accounts of his hunts for fugitives were no less sensational, as Wiesenthal told how he engaged in a battle of wits against the sinister postwar Nazi networks and their sympathisers.

It was the ultimate feelgood story of revenge, and the world lapped it up.

Rewriting history: Wiesenthal is shown attending a trial of suspected Nazi war criminals in Vienna, Austria in 1958
Rewriting history: Wiesenthal is shown attending a trial of suspected Nazi war criminals in Vienna, Austria in 1958
TV programmes and movies were made, and soon Wiesenthal became a household name, a symbol for the triumph of hope over evil.

Those who thrilled at his life story can now do so once more, thanks to a new biography written by the Israeli historian Tom Segev.

The figure who emerges in the book is far more complex than one might expect.

Dr Segev shows that so much of Wiesenthal’s account of his life was the product of exaggeration and self-mythologising.

Appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme this week, the author said Wiesenthal was ‘a storyteller, a man who lived between reality and fantasy’.

He excused Wiesenthal’s inclination to fabricate stories about his past,saying it was his way of making it easier to deal with the real atrocities he had experienced in the concentration camps.

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I’m sorry, but this compassionate approach simply does not wash with me. For the truth is that the great Nazi hunter is far, far worse than Dr Segev makes out.

In my view, Simon Wiesenthal was a liar and a fraud. In fact, I’d go so far as to say he was one of the biggest conmen of the 20th century.

I spent four years working on a history of Nazi-hunting that was published last year, and the material I gathered on Wiesenthal was enough to make me scream out loud.

When I started my book, I too believed that the great man was just that — great.

But when I looked at all his memoirs, biographies and original archive material, I realised that, like so many others, the image I had built up of Simon Wiesenthal was hopelessly incorrect.

The Lvov State Archives have no record of Simon Wiesenthal having studied at Lvov Technical University

There were too many distortions and inconsistencies, too many outright lies — none of which could be explained away by sympathetic psycho-babble offered by the likes of Dr Segev.

The fact is that Wiesenthal lied about nearly everything in his life.

Let us, for example, start at the beginning and look at his educational record.

If you visit the website of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, you’ll learn that he ‘applied for admission to the Polytechnic Institute in Lvov’, but was turned down ‘because of quota restrictions on Jewish students’.

The website then claims that he went to the Technical University of Prague, ‘from which he received his degree in architectural engineering in 1932’.

Other biographies — published during Wiesenthal’s lifetime — state that he did in fact go to Lvov, in either 1934 or 1935, and gained a diploma as an architectural engineer in 1939.

All of these accounts are rubbish.

The Lvov State Archives have no record of Simon Wiesenthal having studied at Lvov Technical University.

The archives have records for other students from that period, but not for Wiesenthal — and there were no quota restrictions on Jewish students at that time.

Neither did he graduate from Prague. Although he matriculated on February 21, 1929, Wiesenthal never completed his degree. He passed his first state examination on February 15, 1932, and then he left that same year.

Despite a lack of academic credentials, he would fraudulently use his supposed engineering diploma on his letter paper for the rest of his life.

During the war, Wiesenthal claimed to have spent years in and out of a succession of concentration camps.

Although he certainly spent time in camps such as Mauthausen, he also said he had been in Auschwitz — a claim for which there is no record.

Then there is his supposed career as a brave partisan. In two of his memoirs, he claims to have joined a group of partisans after escaping from a camp in October 1943.

According to an interview he gave the American army in 1948, he claimed he was immediately made a lieutenant ‘on the basis of my intellect’.

Since there exist at least four wildly differing accounts of Wiesenthal’s activities, serious questions about what he actually did should surely be raised

He was soon promoted to major, and he was instrumental in ‘building bunkers and fortification lines’.

‘We had fabulous bunker constructions,’ he said.

‘My rank was not so much as a strategic expert as a technical expert.’

One only needs a basic grasp of World War II military history to know that Wiesenthal’s claims are highly dubious.

Partisan groups do not build ‘ fabulous bunker constructions’, they instead rely on mobility to outwit the enemy.

As a Jew, it is also highly unlikely that he would have been made an officer in such a group, which was usually anti-semitic.

Wiesenthal would also give another account of his experience in the partisans, in which he joined a more ad hoc and smaller band — hardly one to build bunkers and fortifications or have a formalised promotion structure.

Since there exist at least four wildly differing accounts of Wiesenthal’s activities between October 1943 and the middle of 1944, serious questions about what he actually did should surely be raised.

Some of those who doubted his version of events — such as the lateformer Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky — went so far as to accuse Wiesenthal repeatedly in the 1970s and the 1980s of being a collaborator with the Gestapo.

Kreisky’s claims were supported by unsubstantiated evidence provided by the Polish and Soviet governments, and when Wiesenthal took Kreisky to court, it was Wiesenthal who won.

Two affidavits made by former members of the German army also asserted that the Nazi hunter was a collaborator, but such claims must be treated with extreme caution.

Smearing Wiesenthal is a popular pastime for anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, so-called ‘Revisionists’ and other such cranks.

But the multiplicity of conflicting accounts demands that questions about the authenticity of his story must be raised by those who, like me, have no agenda.

However, I have no compunction in stating that the biggest lie he spun was over his involvement in the hunt and eventual capture of Adolf Eichmann, a supposed coup with which he will always be associated — and quite unjustifiably.

According to the myth, Simon Wiesenthal star ted hunting Eichmann almost as soon as the war was over.

By the early 1950s, he had all but given up, until he had a supposedly chance meeting with an Austrian nobleman called Baron Mast in the late autumn of 1953.

Unfortunately, Wiesenthal’s intelligence was useless

Baron Mast showed Wiesenthal a letter he had received in May that year from a former army comrade now living in Argentina, in which the writer had come across the ‘pig Eichmann’, who was living in Buenos Aires and working nearby.

In his first published memoirs, I Hunted Eichmann, Wiesenthal recalls how he was terribly excited by the news, but realised that he was out of his depth.

A few months later, on March 30, 1954, Wiesenthal finally sent a dossier on Eichmann to the World Jewish Congress and the Israeli consul in Vienna, in which he shared the contents of the Baron’s letter and revealed that the criminal was working at the construction site of a power station 65 miles from Buenos Aires.

Unfortunately, Wiesenthal’s intelligence was useless. Not only was he unable to supply Eichmann’s alias — Riccardo Klement — but at the time of the Baron’s letter, Eichmann was in fact working more than 800 miles from Buenos Aires, and by March 1954 he was living in the Argentine capital trying to establish his own business.

However, there was worse to come.

In 1959, when the hunt for Eichmann was heating up, the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, asked Wiesenthal if he had any more information on the criminal.

On September 23, he wrote to the Israelis and told them that he suspected Eichmann was in ‘northern Germany’ and that he ‘does visit Austria from time to time’.

Once again, he was supplying useless information.

From other sources, the Israelis had established that the fugitive was in fact in Buenos Aires, and the Wiesenthal lead was another dead end.

After Eichmann was kidnapped the following year by Mossad agents, Wiesenthal at least had the grace to deny that he ‘personally had something to do with Eichmann’s arrest’, and that he had deposited all his files in Jerusalem.

However, with the Israelis remaining tight-lipped about his involvement,he decided to fill the information vacuum and started placing himself right at the heart of the hunt.

He would write that although he said he had sent all his files to Israel, he had actually always kept the Eichmann file. This was completely untrue.

Perhaps Wiesenthal’s most shocking lie concerning the Eichmann affair was to claim that he told the Israelis in his letter of September 1959 that the Nazi was actually in Argentina.

As we have seen, he told them that Eichmann was likely to be in Germany — a minor difference of several thousand miles.

Curiously, Dr Segev has seen both the September 1959 letter and the later claim, yet he chooses to ignore the differences in his book.

The plain facts are that Wiesenthal lied about his degree, his wartime experiences and his ‘hunt’ for Adolf Eichmann.

Any man who utters so many untruths does not deserve to be revered. Although some excuse Wiesenthal’s ‘story-telling’, there are simply too many other lies to take him seriously.

Furthermore, by stating that Wiesenthal ‘lived between reality and fantasy’ to deal with his wartime experiences is an insult to all those Holocaust survivors who merely told the truth.

• Guy Walters is the author of Hunting Evil (Bantam)

'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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