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March 22, 2004


Brennan Stout

Isn't this a more simplistic obersvation of the Yassin assassination?

What is difference between taking out Yassin and taking out Bin Laden? Are they not cut from the same cloth? So Bin Laden was a wheel chair short of the "spiritual leader" designation of the Western media?

If there was a Bin Laden openly threatening Spain from Portugal, France from Monaco, Germany from Denmark would the press be defending this Bin Laden and decrying his death as an injustice or an obstacle towards peace?

Oliver: One must read the response of the suspected delagation for Hamas, The Council on American-Islamic Relations, and ask themselves what would CAIR say to the confirmation of a Bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri death? Would CAIR respond differently if Pakistanis had killed Yassin?


Peace Process!! What peace process? Give me a break now. Induldging these facist terrorists by calling this a "peace process" is moronic. The process has just been several small pauses between facist palestinians blowing up Jews on busses and restuarants because Israeli state didn't give up allow themselves to be slaughtered wholesale.


Yassin was described by the BBC as the "spiritual leader" of Hamas, perhaps in the belief that he deserved the same respect as an Archbishop...given the quality of Archbishops today, perhaps he deserved more respect.
Even the BBC felt bound to admit that Yassin regarded the whole of Israel as "muslim land", allowing us to deduce that he favoured ethnic cleansing or genocide as the final outcome of the "peace process".


Excellent analysis, Oliver. I would eschew the use of the term 'peace process' though, since even the pretense of it being a process (as defined by order and procedural action taken in systematic ways), much less about peace (as defined by, say, not suicide bombing buses and markets), is laughable to the point of nausea.

I would recommend using the phrase 'unmarketable initiative for changing hearts and minds, while failing to overcome ideological differences via traditional Western methology'

David Gillies

Bravo, Oliver. I have to admit that I experienced a much more atavistic and much less nuanced response than this when I first read of Yassin's death (i.e. I danced around the romm, laughing).

Julie Cleeveley

Woke up at 3.30 a.m. Switched on News 24.Heard reports of Yassin's death. Grinned. Said nothing. Boyfriend Foreign Office Arabist type. Got in car. Drove to London. Radio on for news bulletin. We listen in silence. He says, 'Pretty worrying news.' I say,' I enjoyed it actually.'Arrive at flat 6am. He throws complete fit at state of kitchen.I close door and grin some more.


The "suicide terrorists" themselves are hardly unstoppable either. The IDF stops well over 95% of the suicide bombers sent out by the Palestinians. You won't hear a word about the failed bombings, outside of the Israeli media, because the international media is too caught up in the romantic belief that the terrorists' willingness to die somehow makes them invincible.

Meryl Yourish

Yeah, but Gush Shalom is just a tiny bunch of misguided fools.

Hamas was attempting suicide attacks before Yassin was killed. Hamas is going to attempt suicide attacks now that Yassin was killed. Where's the difference in Hamas' behavior?

Leon Klinghoffer was "an old man in a wheelchair." Ahmed Yassin was a terrorist.


How can one defend an assassination with such contempt for human life?

In an earlier post by Jeremiah he states he “danced around the romm, laughing” upon hearing the news.

David Gillies simply “Grinned. Said nothing.”

I presume he is still grinning somewhere.

As an outside observer, an American, far from the conflict, I can only learn of it though what I read, and the people I talk to.

From people like you, I have learned very little today, save you are no different than those that cheer for the death of Israelis.

I expect a lot more from you. And you should expect more of yourselves.



You say that you can't discern the difference between:

a. Positive reactions to the killing of one of the worst terrorist murderers on earth, and;
b. Positive reactions to the murder of innocent men, women and children.

Wow. YOU are giving speeches about moral expectations?


As an American, far from the conflict, your lack of morality astounds me. If Yassin was an innocent deliberately targeted I would understand and sympathize with your perspective. But Yassin was culpable for the murder of hundreds and injury of thousands. I too smiled and was happy. One less psychopath in the world for the innocent to worry about. I have no sympathy for those that wish death on people as they go about their daily lives in a law abiding manner. Yassin did not just wish the death of these, he actively participated in bringing about their deaths. Good riddance.
The people posting here are vastly different from the Palestinians who praise the deaths of Israeli civilians. I, and I assume they, do not revel in the deaths of innocent Palestinians. Yassin was not innocent and he was not a civilian in any honest usage of that term.


I agree with Jon. If, as many of you say, the assassination of Shaykh Yassin was of a military combatant, and justified, then the suicide bombers are the same, military combatants, whose innocent civilians are collateral damage, just as the civilian casualties of the many Israeli gunship attacks are claimed to be. It is plainly fatuous to make the distinctions you make of innocence and cynicism when the "war" you refer to is between the 4th or fifth largest armed force in the world and an all but weaponless occupied people. The implication of your view is that the Palestinians should just lay down if they can't afford jets and helicopters, which apparently sanitize their missions of death and the deaths of children are cynically excused as "unavoidable." Excuse me, but I don't see the distinction. The Israeli view that they can dictate terms through force had led instead to the pretty much indisputable fact that force only begets force and in this case will again prove that violence will only beget more of the same.


barry: only one side, sheik yassin's side, deliberately targets the innocent and deliberately tries to maximize civilian damage.
as for the occupation under which the palestinian people have, acknowledgedly, suffered so much, it never had to happen; it never would have happened if the arab leaders had accepted the partition of palestine. if they had done that, the jews would have been left with a couple of enclaves where the turks had let them buy land, and not one arab would have lost a thing.
what did the arab leaders do instead? they started a war with genocidal intentions in 1948; clamored for a new war in 1967; and refused to settle the controversy for generations on any terms but the disappearance of the jewish state. every time yasser arafat has appeared, when speaking in a western language, to back away from the arab demand for everything from the jordan to the sea, he's followed with a speech in arabic saying he didn't mean it.
bumper-sticker bromides about violence begetting violence do no good and may actually do harm. the 'root cause' of the arab-israeli violence isn't israeli occupation, it's arab irredentism. we can look for an end to the violence, and progress toward a 'viable' palestinian state, when the israelis have reason to believe the arabs see the peace process as something other than war by other means.


What do you have against Bin Laden?
He's a SPIRITUAL leader. He doesn't kill people himself! Duh!

I celebrate Yassin's death because I find it morally despicable that his death be mourned only. If moral incompetents like Solana and Straw didn't care, I would simply say "Oh well, such is war".
Israel gave him a good 15 years to change his mind about trying to destroy Israel, the peace process and hundreds of innocent lives. I do think that's a very respectful attitude towards human life, or at least Yassin's life.

John F

You say "suicide bombers are ... military combatants ... civilians are collateral damage, just as the civilian casualties of ... Israeli ... attacks"

"Collateral damage" is often denounced by anti-war polemicists as a odious euphemism or a means of "legitimising killing civilians".

It is not. It originated as a military term of art, meaning 'unintentional damage to civil property and civilian casualties, caused by military operations' (which might be a good or a bad thing - from the military point of view).

As the bombers intent is to cause these casualties, they are, by definition, not collateral damage but the primary target.
Whereas the civilian casualties of Israeli air attacks are collateral damage, unless the Israeli operations were intended to produce them. If that is their intent, then the Israelis would clearly be culpable. If not, not.

The morality of actions does not vary in accordance with ones strength in a situation of war. When confronting an enemy of less strength in men, tanks, or whatever, a general who pauses to enquire if attacking them remains legitimate is known, technically, as a 'blithering idiot'.

The Palestinian organisations that have decided to engage in bombing aimed almost exclusively at undefended civilians, and intended to produce terror in the hope of achieving their goals, have thereby placed themselves in an ethically untenable position.
All appeals to their military inferiority, poverty, loss of territory, alienation, their sanctified victimhood as the 'Third World' and 'wretched of the earth' struggling against 'fascist zionist capitalist imperialist apartheid racist colonialism' cannot conceal that fact: they have chosen murder as a stratagem.

You say the "implication of your view is that the Palestinians should just lay down".
Yes. Exactly.

If their choice is between random, pointless murder and surrender, then surrender is their only morally justifiable course of action.
It is also, incidentally, the only practical one, as terror is never going to acheive their objectives. In the case of Hamas, these goals are themselves inherently objectionable and unrealisable, adding utter futility to the charges against them.

You say it is "pretty much indisputable fact that force only begets force ... violence will only beget more of the same".
I do dispute it.
Firstly, the moral equivalence between deliberate murder and unintentional killing blurs a crucial distinction in determining the ethical use of lethal force. The difference between the two is not just cynicism, or a matter of the technologies employed.
Secondly, on an entirely pragmatic basis, it is historically incorrect. See Japan and Germany for just two cases. (Reduced to the ultimate, the Carthaginian peace, if your enemies are all dead, they will never attack you again. Immoral, but true.)

Brennan Stout

maor: As I not shed a tear for the death of Yassin I will not shed a tear for the death of Bin Laden. However, I do weep for the young men and women that have blown themselves up to kill civilians, especially women and children, to please two of the most wicked men this planet has born.

But you in essence make my point. Bin Laden differs from Shiekh Yassin as flat front khakis differ from pleated front khakis.

GW Crawford

Yassin is dead...
This is a dark day for the Peace Process
The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian...snicker...People are faced with...he he he...this affront to their national dignity...HAW HAW HAW...I am sorry, I cannot keep a straight face
We tried the Oslo Way to peace, now it is time to try the Chicago way.
We tried being nice; it cost us 3000 dead.
We tried being reasonable; buses in Tel Aviv are scenes of terror
We negotiated for peace with evil; WWII resulted
We are not dealing with an opposing ideology, this is not about which end of the egg we open first: This is Good vs. Evil


This reminds me of the discussions we had as kids (in Catholic school)... "If you could kill Hitler (or Stalin, or Lenin, or other totalitatian mass murderer or Lee Harvey Oswald (we were Catholic kids, after all)) would you? Would it be moral?" These got to be pretty lively discussions and the debate usually boiled down to when it would be OK? Was it OK to kill the guy BEFORE or DURING his rampage? Before - unacceptable... you didn't know what he was going to do.. During - no problem... you had a duty to defend the unknown innocents that he would kill...
This seems to me to be the heart of Israel's justification for killing of Yassin.. The guy is a murderer, hundreds of times over... if this is war (and both sides say it is) he is one of the most heinous war criminals in history... and sought to continue his murderous spree..
Why should we not celebrate the death of monsters? NOT celebrate the death of Hitler? Stalin? Why not?
David Ignatius (whom I generally applaud) writes in the WaPo today that Israel should seek to be loved rather than feared! It stuns me that any breathing sentient human being with any knowledge of the facts could take such a position... It is one the Palestinians and other Arabs have wholly and repeatedly rejected... in English, Arabic, French and in the language of actions as well...
I say Good Riddence to Yassin and I would not get a twist in my panties if Israel had laid a few bombs on his funeral cortege of aspiring murderers...

Slim Whitman

I've been doing a lot of thinking about this, and while I'm absolutely no friend of terrorists - and this guy was a terrorist - no one should ever celebrate the destruction of another human being. It should be mourned, like mourning a family pet gone rabid. The assassination may have been necessary, but that doesn't mean people should sink to his level.

Andrew Ian Dodge

The wheels of the peace process were blown off by all the suicide bombings perpetuated by Hamas and the other terrorist organisations. This is merely a targeted killing of an enemy combatant, no more no less. I was glad to hear they got the bastard, very glad to hear it. One less judenhass genocidial mullah is a good thing not just for Israel, but the whole world. It is quite frankly a damn good start. Jack Straw's comments were an absolute disgrace, the comments of the Euro-appeasers were merely predictable.


Sorry Slim I disagree... To describe Islamist terrorists as "a family pet gone rabid" is to deny the evil of their acts and their status as moral agents, capable of good and evil...
Terrorism is not a public health issue, but a moral, military and political one...
I believe that rejoicing in the right, feeling good about having chosen good over evil and feeling satisfaction at destroying evil... is not only natural, but moral in itself... It is good to feel good about doing good... At the same time, one also cherishes feelings of wistfulness, sorrow and regret at a life gone wrong...
The unalloyed joy of Palestinians celebrating death, repeated over and over, from 9/11 to 3/11 to the many many murders inbetween... THAT is immoral... the satisfaction of destroying the murderers of innocents is wholly different...


I was only kidding....


The distinction of who is moral in killing and who is not seems to me a rationalization that could only be espoused by a partisan to one side of the conflict. I certainly grant you the evil of suicide bombing, but when, as is the case, Israel in its policy of targeting the leadership of its opponents, has through extrajudicial assassinations killed 304 persons, of whom more than 150 were bystanders, 35 women and 25 children, the distinctions you make about morality are countered by the cynicism of the acts. In the course of the intefada, over 2800 people have died as a result of Israeli raids in the Gaza and the West Bank, of whom over 80% have been civilians. I do not believe that their friends and relatives can see Israel’s moral high ground at all. With the kind of carnage deemed appropriate by both sides in order to posture to the other side, the only fact is that both sides are killing civilians in large numbers.
As to the conceit that it is the Arabs fault that they did not jump at the chance to be partitioned sometime between 1930 and 1967, it remains to be seen if the romantic notion of an ethno-religious homeland will end up as anything like what may have been envisioned. Looking for successful parallels, it took the Turks from about 1100 until 1925 to establish a national “ethnic” state. And even if one only looks back to the demise of the Ottoman Empire, memories are long in the general area, with no love being lost toward the Turks among the Croatians, the Serbs, the Greeks and the Armenians over the events of long past centuries. The prognosis for Israel, if this is any example, is not for a peaceful existence. Yet I do not believe it has to be this way. Having followed events closely for many years, I have seen no evidence that Israel has ever negotiated in good faith since the assassination of Rabin - that they have done so is a well propogandized bit of myth-making. 200,000 plus settlers in the West Bank indicate the real reasons the occupation and the conflict continues. It’s all about stealing land while pretending victimhood, and for the innocents, it is perpetrated by the government they elected. See Juan Cole’s comments today for incisive comments on the effect of the murder of Yassin.


Hamas is bent on the destruction of Israel and the elimination of the Jewish presence in the "land between the river and the sea"; Israel allows one million Arabs to live peacefully within its borders, where they can even form political parties to oppose the existence of Israel.
If you can't see any moral difference, ask yourself if you would rather be an Arab in Tel Aviv or a Jew in Jenin.

John F

I don’t consider myself a partisan of Israel, certainly not an uncritical one. For instance, I think the settlement policy, in general, is wrong in principle, and a mistake in practice.
Some might consider me a partisan because I believe two main points are unavoidable:

Firstly, Israel exists; and the desire of a significant proportion of Palestinians, including, but not limited too, the supporters of Hamas, for it to cease to exist are fatuously unrealistic in practice, and therefore objectionable as an obstacle to peace. They would, implicitly but inevitably, entail the mass killing or expulsion of Israelis. I am inclined to think that the past hundred years has seen enough dead Jews to be going on with.

Secondly, the methods of Hamas, emulated by others, are deliberate, targeted murder of civilians to cause terror. I am, without reservation, a partisan against such means, even if the goals were laudable.

If Israelis have killed civilians as a consequence of attacks targeted at terrorists, the different intent is crucial, and numbers involved do not alter that, nor does their being ‘extrajudicial’; I cannot concur that this is "cynicism"; rather it is the heart of the matter, and if I believed that Israel was deliberately targeting civilians to induce terror, my reaction would be different..
If the Palestinians were to engage in non-violent resistance, or even to restrict their use of violence (yes, even including suicide bombers) to military targets, my contrast of methods might not stand (though the goals of Hamas would remain both odious in nature and culpably futile in practice.)

You state that Palestinians cannot "see Israel’s moral high ground at all."
Perhaps they cannot - everyone likes to believe they are in the right; however, they might consider what Israel could do, with conventional weapons alone, if they abandoned all restraint. For example, instead of sending ground units into Jenin Camp, they could have levelled it with artillery at no risk to their own soldiers.

Perhaps the Arabs cannot be faulted for not intially accepting partition between 1930 and 1967. On the other hand, since 1948 it may cast doubt upon their sincerity with regard to accepting Israel’s existence, certainly upon their judgement, and give good reason for many Israelis to be reluctant to predicate their security on Arab goodwill.
I am not entirely sure what you are arguing here, but if it is that a multi-ethnic state would have been more stable, I can only say that this is doubtful for the past, and wholly irrelevant, because unattainable, for the future.

You assert "no evidence that Israel has ever negotiated in good faith since the assassination of Rabin… It’s all about stealing land… perpetrated by the government they elected"; I can only say that the behaviour of Ehud Barak seems otherwise to me, and many others.

Undoubtedly there are disagreements within Israel on this, and as a democracy, some of whose people believe (mistakenly in my view) that they are entitled and prudent to settle the occupied areas, it is difficult for Israelis who think otherwise (including their government) to overrule them if meaningful negotiations are not proceeding, or to grant what would effectively be concessions in advance.

Such negotiations cannot proceed while terrorism does; or, for that matter while the Palestinians demand conditions that would effectively destroy the Israeli state i.e. the ‘right of return’.
It matters not at all, objectively, whether this situation is morally justifiable - though I believe it is - but it is a reality of the nature of Israeli democracy, and their understandable desire not to sign their own death warrant.

That this refusal of their desires is objectionable to Palestinians, or that certain Israeli policies are ill-founded, does not make the means or ends many Palestinians have opted to pursue acceptable.
The best, the ONLY, way for Palestinians to have any hope for a removal of settlements and statehood is to abandon, if necessary supress, terrorism, and engage in realistic negotiation.


thank you, john e., for making the point better and more patiently than i probably would have done.
barry sez he finds no evidence the israelis have negotiated in good faith since the assassination of rabin. not only, as john says, is that questionable regarding barak, but what about before rabin? where were the arab 'peace' partners before the terrorist begin was elected? when the west bank and gaza were still controlled by arabs?
there's a strong case for israel getting out of as much of the territories as possible, since trying to hold onto them would mean apartheid, ethnic cleansing or national suicide. but continued negotiations assume an honest partner, which israel doesn't have; the choice has been arafat, a hopeless liar and cheat, or the genocidal fanatics of hamas. until that changes, the 'apartheid wall' is the least of all evils.



I cannot understand why the separation fence is called an "apartheid wall" despite the fact that israel will continue to provide jobs and social services to Palestinians while the wall in Northern Ireland (to name but one example) is not called "apartheid" anything despite the fact that the UK does not provide jobs or social services to the Irish!


well, i guess because the people who invented and circulate that name _ possibly up to and including the 'leaders' of the european union _ will say up is down, black is white, 2 and 2 make 17 3/4 and the moon is a cube of green cheese if the arabs tell 'em to.

Golden Boy

Does anyone know if Ariel Sharon gets paid when he goes on these recruitment drives for Hamas, or if he's doing them for free?

Steve Kingston

Slim Whitman does raise a significant point and it's wrong to 'celebrate' Yassin's death. To clarify: he deserved what he got and it will probably help defeat terrorism in the long run. (I suspect that this is an Osirak moment: every politician and diplomat, cf. Jack Straw, says one thing while privately thinking another.)
That said, one should not celebrate these things. It's doubtful if the men who have to do our necessary but dirty work for us celebrate them.
On the other hand, it's difficult to mourn someone who has done little with his life but spread spiritual poison. What a waste.


Golden Boy,
If Hamas recruitment is doing so well, why have they suddenly started using little kids as bombers?



Others have answered you more than admirably on a historical level, so I'm going to concentrate on the philisophical. The practice I use: take a reasonable-sounding statement, and cast it into sharp relief with an example that directly tests it.

So, lets take your statement:

The distinction of who is moral in killing and who is not seems to me a rationalization that could only be espoused by a partisan to one side of the conflict.

Lets say that Joe is a peaceful citizen who also happens to carry a handgun which he has never used) for personal defense. He is walking down the avenue when he spots Frank. He and Frank have never met, and there is no past between them; but Frank has had a long day at the office. In his crankyness, Frank pulls out hunting knife and runs towards Joe, screaming "AUUGUGUGH!", with the intention of killing him. Before Frank completes his act, Joe shoots him, and he dies instantly.

Here, two things have happened: Frank made a decision to create death, and Joe decided whose death it was to be.

"Ah!", you might say, "but who is to say that Joe's decision was a more moral one than Frank's?" To this question, another example.

Lets say I was a depraved killer, and I decided to shoot the nearest person wearing turqoise. Would this decision have been more moral if I just shot the first person I saw, instead of choosing? I think it would be hard to argue that the latter is any more (or less) senseless than the former. The conclusion: the moral error was in deciding on death. Those choosing of which senseless death I would cause was irrelevant.

So, if you put this back into the original example, Frank is responsible for the fact that there is now a corpse on the ground, not Joe. Frank bears the entire moral responsibility.

Well, Barry, Israel is Joe and Hamas, in this example, is Frank. Hamas has declared total and unremitting war on Israel, declaring openly their intention to wipe out the Jewish state and to kill as many Jews, regardless of whether they are combatant, as possible. No serious observer doubts for a moment that, if they were to win their war, they would immediately attempt to slaughter every Jew within their power.

In doing this, they have chosen death. Once Hamas made this decision, the corpses that follow from it become their own responsibility, as surely as Frank's death was his own. Israel's only role here was to choose whose death it would be.

But lets go further, to address the civilians that have been killed by Israeli repraisals. Lets now say that Frank, being a slightly more canny maniac, first grabbed a nearby old lady. She's light, he's physically very strong, and he can still run towards Joe, but he holds her in front of himself as a shield. And for whatever reason, lets say that escape is not an option for Joe.

So, Joe picks up his gun and shoots Frank, instantly killing him. However, in doing so, he also mortally wounded old Grandma. Now how does the ethical calculus go? It was still Frank who chose that the situation must lead to death, and it was still Joe who decided on whose death. But now, that death involves an innocent person. The key to this puzzle is, Joe is the proximal cause of Granny's death, but Frank is the reason. It not only was his choice to create a deadly situation, but it was his choice to use a human shield. To give the moral blame for her death to Joe would lead to the situation were Frank, by strapping a Granny to the front and back of his body, can now kill as many people as strikes his fancy, and no one can EVER, EVER bring him down. In a long life, lets say he personally shoots two or three million people before he finally dies of old age. Does this make any sense?

The point here is that it is Joe's right to defend his life, period. Joe may later decide to give his life for some cause, which might be his right, but its not anyone else's right to unilaterally take Joe's life against his will. If Joe had to kill a million Grannies to save his life, the fault would still be with the person who put him in that position.

Of course, the parallels I'm making here are obvious; but it gets worse. In reality, you'd have to subsitute for Granny, a complete innocent, someone who is actually supporting Frank and wants to protect him in his murderous spree. That would make the moral case even more stark, but it doesn't even end there. Behind Joe is Joan and Lisa, and Frank intends to kill all of them. Joe's act will also save the innocent lives of Joan and Lisa, none of whom contributed to Frank's decision to create this deadly situation. The IDF is defending the Israeli civilians. No one who can be said to possess a brain could imagine that Hamas, if left unchecked, would suddenly grow peacable and compliant, and change their mind about killing all of the Jews.

Now, given all of this, explain again why every killing is exactly equivilant. Tell Joe that, if only he had been reasonable and allowed Frank to kill him, as well as Joan and Lisa, then at least it wouldn't have been him doing the killing. Tell Joe that this is now his fault.

What if the Palestinian resistance had been led by Ghandi? They'd now have their own nation, and most probably enjoy full trade and open borders with Israel, if they so desired it! Am I being delusional? No honest observer who has seen the desperation with which various Israeli governments have tried to accomodate and make peace with the Palestinians; a people they could wipe out tommorrow if they so chose; could think that the Israeli intentions were ever genocidal.

Israel did not start this war, and could not unilaterally end it without committing national suicide. This is not a war of choice for Israel. The Arabs did. If you need to understand the history, read "From Time Immamorial" by Joan Peters, a Christian historian who set out to write a pro-Palestinian history. What she learned about the real situation shocked her, and it will shock you too.

At least, I'd like to hope it would. Because if you know what you're talking about, and still spouting this nonsense, then it is because you do not think of Jews as people. Or maybe its just 'Zionists' who are not people, but those Arabs who are killing them are.

In conclusion, think to a hundred years from now. Imagine a schoolteacher in a Palestinian state, telling the children that their country was founded due to a culmination of terrorist strikes against a civilian population. Imagine the glow of pride she will feel as she explains how Israel finally folded and the usurper Jews vanquished.

Ask yourself, does this vision make you happy?


Typo: "From Time Immemorial" was the title of the book.


There was some kind of breakdown in PhilosopherStone's philosophy. Kill a million grannies to save Joe's callow life? Why not just reduce the planet Earth to a charcoal briquet to save Joe? Injustice is not to be distinguished from evil, according to Socrates. What will become of two adversaries who go on exchanging evil for evil?

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