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"You should have been ready for this," Thea pointed out. "We all should." She got out her cigarettes and offered one to Veronica.

"It's been so carefully worked out. Look: we had our last-minute diplomatic exercises, we had our Congressional debates, all three days of them. We had our steady buildup of 'defensive' forces in the Gulf since about the second week of August. And if you want to go back before that, we had Panama, Grenada, and a couple of airplane fights with the Libyans back in the Reagan days, remember? Bush and his people have dreamed about this war for years."

Veronica watched patterns come and go in the smoke above her face. "Do you really think it was like that -- some kind of plot?" she wondered.

Thea shook her head. "Why in the world not?"

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