You can’t fight a successful war unless the commander-in-chief is fully committed to it. So President Obama’s chief task in his speech Tuesday night on Afghanistan is to make it absolutely clear that he is.
This won’t be easy. Obama comes from the antiwar wing of the Democratic party that opposes the use of force in almost all instances. If he were still a senator and a Republican president were proposing a troop buildup in Afghanistan, Obama would probably be against it.
Obama has spent most of his political career comfortably inside the cocoon of his party’s left wing. And he brought that faction’s culture to the White House. It has created the unusual situation of a president and his advisers who are normally, even reflexively, antiwar but who now have a war on their hands, on their watch, and as their responsibility.
It’s true that Obama championed Afghanistan as the “good war” in his presidential campaign last year. And as recently as August, he called it “a war of necessity.” But his painful, three-month deliberation on what to do in Afghanistan severely undermined his prior statements.
The point is legitimate doubts about Obama’s tenacity in Afghanistan — his level of commitment — abound in the military, among allies whom Obama wants to deploy more troops, and with the American public. More than anything else, he needs to lay those doubts to rest in his address.
He won’t succeed if he dwells on how quickly he hopes to begin winding down America’s intervention in Afghanistan. Emphasizing an exit strategy would be counterproductive. He needs to concentrate on what’s required and what he’s ordering to prevail in Afghanistan.
Much ado over how difficult and emotionally wrenching his decision making process has been won’t help either. All decisions on war are tough for presidents. That’s a given. That’s part of the job.
Nor should Obama attempt the impossible by trying to persuade antiwar Democrats to sign on to his plan for Afghanistan. They’re a lost cause. If his plan is one they can support, it’s a sure loser as a war strategy. Besides, appealing to the hard-core left would only weaken his case for beefing up the effort in Afghanistan.
Obama talks about himself to a fault. No matter what the issue, he tends to treat it as essentially all about him. Well, for once, it is all about him and his commitment to defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
How committed is he? That’s what the world wants to know. NATO allies won’t be inclined to send more troops if Obama sounds half-hearted. The downward drift of public support for the war here at home won’t be halted either. The military’s qualms about Obama won’t dissolve.
Obama ought to use the word “victory,” but he doesn’t have to. That is, so long as he backs most or all of General Stanley McChrystal’s call for more troops and a more rigorous counterinsurgency strategy. He must publicly close any gap that exists between his thinking and McChrystal’s.
Without equivocation, he should stress the goal of winning in Afghanistan and wiping out the threat to American security that the Taliban and al Qaeda pose. As Vince Lombardi said, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
The president needs to leave one strong impression: that it’s his war and he intends to win it. That would not only allay the fears of the doubters but gain their support.
During the Thanksgiving season especially, Americans should give thanks to our brave men in uniform, and women, too, fighting in hostile lands under atrocious conditions.
But there’s another duty upon us as Americans with a debt of gratitude to our armed forces.
We must recognize and protest the travesties of military justice that have tried, convicted, jailed and denied clemency to all too many brave Americans, the same brave Americans who have fought our wars only to be unfairly charged with "murder" in the war zone.
Readers of this column will recall the crushing conviction of Sgt. Evan Vela, a young Ranger-trained sniper and father of two from Idaho, for executing his superior’s 2006 order to kill an Iraqi man then compromising his squad’s hiding place in the pre-"surge" Sunni triangle. Ten years in Fort Leavenworth, ordered not-so-blind justice. (There is evidence that Evan’s harsh sentence was a blatant political offering to Iraq’s government.)
One reason behind my intense distaste for George W. Bush — my own personal Bush derangement syndrome — is the former president’s callousness toward such Americans as Sgt. Vela, who served their commander in chief well in these difficult times of war. As the Bush administration came to an end, talk of a presidential pardon for Vela leaked to the media, no doubt elating the Vela family, but, cruelly, nothing came of it.
It never does. Evan Vela now has all too many brothers in arms at Fort Leavenworth prison where they form what is increasingly known as the Leavenworth Ten: Vela (10 years), Corey Claggett (18 years), William Hunsaker (18 years), Raymond Girouard (10 years), Michael Williams (25 years), Larry Hutchins (11 years), Michael Behenna (20 years), John Hatley (40 years), Joseph Mayo (20 years), Michael Leahy (20 years).
Google their names, read their cases and, before recoiling in politically correct shudders into the deeper recesses of the La-Z-Boy, try to imagine the particular hell of this war as they and others like them experienced it on our behalf.
If this exercise elicits any pangs amid the general sense of holiday well-being, good. Maybe it will help Americans see the urgent need for clemency in these cases.
And particularly given the mind-boggling fact that the United States has been granting clemency in Iraq to the most murderous detainees our soldiers were sent to fight in the first place.
I’m not even referring to the thousands of "lower-level" detainees released over the past year or more from U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. (A senior Iraq interior ministry official told Agence France-Presse that the two suicide bombers and a majority of suspects in the Aug. 19 Baghdad bombings had recently been released from U.S.-run Camp Bucca.)
I’m talking about high-level, known killers of Americans in Iraq, such as Laith al-Khazali, who, along with four fellow Iranian-backed operatives, was released in July.
As Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen noted, al-Khazali is a leader of Asaib al-Haq, an Iranian-backed "special group" that in 2007 kidnapped and killed five American soldiers. Later, the group kidnapped five British contractors, three of whom are known dead.
Ghazali’s release, a U.S. military spokesman told the New York Times, came as "part of a reconciliation effort between the government of Iraq and Asaib al-Haq." How sweet.
But, Cullen wondered, if the United States can forgive al-Khazali, why can’t the United States forgive Larry Hutchins? "So Larry Hutchins, killer of a single Iraqi, sits in prison while Laith al-Khazli, killer of many Americans, enjoys his freedom and his family."
I’m not sure how much "family" such a jihadi "enjoys." But it’s courtesy of the U.S. government most merciful — at least toward Shiite terrorists with American blood on their hands.
In September, more than 100 more Iraqi Shiites belonging to al-Ghazali’s group were released. Also released this year was Mahmud Farhadi, whom Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal describes as a key Iranian leader in the Ramazan Corps, which, Roggio writes, "is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. soldiers in Iraq."
I don’t mean to equate Iraqi and Iranian terrorists with U.S. soldiers. But I do mean to question a government that frees its enemies in a sham of "reconciliation" and leaves its soldiers to rot in a sham of "justice." And I challenge readers to do the same.
‘He talks too much," a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America’s 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory.
He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.
He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not "unclenched their fist," nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.
There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled "Arab street" that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.
It was the norm for American liberalism during the Bush years to brandish the Pew Global Attitudes survey that told of America’s decline in the eyes of foreign nations. Foreigners were saying what the liberals wanted said.
Now those surveys of 2009 bring findings from the world of Islam that confirm that the animus toward America has not been radically changed by the ascendancy of Mr. Obama. In the Palestinian territories, 15% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 82% have an unfavorable view. The Obama speech in Ankara didn’t seem to help in Turkey, where the favorables are 14% and those unreconciled, 69%. In Egypt, a country that’s reaped nearly 40 years of American aid, things stayed roughly the same: 27% have a favorable view of the U.S. while 70% do not. In Pakistan, a place of great consequence for American power, our standing has deteriorated: The unfavorables rose from 63% in 2008 to 68% this year.
Mr. Obama’s election has not drained the swamps of anti-Americanism. That anti-Americanism is endemic to this region, an alibi and a scapegoat for nations, and their rulers, unwilling to break out of the grip of political autocracy and economic failure. It predated the presidency of George W. Bush and rages on during the Obama presidency.
We had once taken to the foreign world that quintessential American difference—the belief in liberty, a needed innocence to play off against the settled and complacent ways of older nations. The Obama approach is different.
Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.
The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. "My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger," goes one of the Arab world’s most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.
Mr. Obama could not make up his mind: He was at one with "the people" and with the rulers who held them in subjugation. The people of Iran who took to the streets this past summer were betrayed by this hapless diplomacy—Mr. Obama was out to "engage" the terrible rulers that millions of Iranians were determined to be rid of.
On Nov. 4, on the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, the embattled reformers, again in the streets, posed an embarrassing dilemma for American diplomacy: "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them," they chanted. By not responding to these cries and continuing to "engage" Tehran’s murderous regime, his choice was made clear. It wasn’t one of American diplomacy’s finest moments.
Mr. Obama has himself to blame for the disarray of his foreign policy. American arms had won a decent outcome in Iraq, but Mr. Obama would not claim it—it was his predecessor’s war. Vigilance had kept the American homeland safe from terrorist attacks for seven long years under his predecessors, but he could never grant Bush policies the honor and credit they deserved. He had declared Afghanistan a war of necessity, but he seems to have his eye on the road out even as he is set to announce a troop increase in an address to be delivered tomorrow.
He was quick to assert, in the course of his exuberant campaign for president last year, that his diplomacy in South Asia would start with the standoff in Kashmir. In truth India had no interest in an international adjudication of Kashmir. What was settled during the partition in 1947 was there to stay. In recent days, Mr. Obama walked away from earlier ambitions. "Obviously, there are historic conflicts between India and Pakistan," he said. "It’s not the place of the United States to try to, from the outside, resolve those conflicts."
Nor was he swayed by the fate of so many "peace plans" that have been floated over so many decades to resolve the fight between Arab and Jew over the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Where George W. Bush offered the Palestinians the gift of clarity—statehood but only after the renunciation of terror and the break with maximalism—Mr. Obama signaled a return to the dead ways of the past: a peace process where America itself is broker and arbiter.
The Obama diplomacy had made a settlement freeze its starting point, when this was precisely the wrong place to begin. Israel has given up settlements before at the altar of peace—recall the historical accommodation with Egypt a quarter century ago. The right course would have set the question of settlements aside as it took up the broader challenge of radicalism in the region—the menace and swagger of Iran, the arsenal of Hamas and Hezbollah, the refusal of the Arab order of power to embrace in broad daylight the cause of peace with Israel.
The laws of gravity, the weight of history and of precedent, have caught up with the Obama presidency. We are beyond stirring speeches. The novelty of the Obama approach, and the Obama persona, has worn off. There is a whole American diplomatic tradition to draw upon—engagements made, wisdom acquired in the course of decades, and, yes, accounts to be settled with rogues and tyrannies. They might yet help this administration find its way out of a labyrinth of its own making.
Tomorrow night, President Obama will tell the world how he will — in his own words — “finish the job” in Afghanistan. And he will propose to do this, by whatever means, in less than eight or nine years which is the period his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, declared the limit of our commitment.
Obama will get it entirely wrong. We know this now, a day before the speech, because the president has resolutely committed himself to the wrong theory, asking the wrong questions in search of his new strategy. Three points suffice.
It’s not possible to “finish the job” in Afghanistan any more than it was possible to do in Iraq. There, we were fighting the enemy’s proxies — al Queda, Hizballah and the rest — not the principal enemy, the nations that sponsor Islamic terrorism against civilization. In Afghanistan, this is less so because there the Taliban are both an enemy unto themselves, capable of sponsoring the terrorism that has already taken American lives on 9-11, and a proxy for those, such as Iran, which enable them to threaten national governments.
Unless the president revises his thinking and defines the enemy correctly, all we can do in Afghanistan is to engage in another fruitless adventure in nation-building. Moreover, the Taliban itself isn’t just in Afghanistan. The so-called Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban operate under the loose control of one commander: Mullah Omar.
Pakistan is a nation on the brink. The government of Asif Zardari is enormously unpopular, and its military, under General Ashfaq Kayani, is infused with sympathy to the Taliban and only moderately effective against it. The population is distrustful of its government and opposed to any American intervention. Pakistan’s population is also steadily more radicalized, Saudi-funded madrassas operating all over the country.
If the Pakistani government falls — and no troop surge for an Afghanistan counter-insurgency can prevent that — its nuclear arsenal will be the Taliban’s. Only a regional solution which removes the outside sponsorship of terrorism by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia can succeed in Southwest Asia or the Middle East.
Both Pakistan and Obama are looking for a “solution” that brings the Taliban into the Afghan government. But to do so is to surrender to the eventual — and not long in coming — Taliban domination of Afghanistan and Pakistan as well.
We have embraced Pakistan to our great disadvantage. Any regional solution in Southwest Asia — and globally against Islamic terrorism — must include the protection of India’s interests. But India is drifting closer to Russia. In October, the two nations signed an agreement to develop jointly a fifth-generation fighter.
We could have — and should have — signed such an agreement with India and embraced the world’s largest democracy. It is by such cooperation — and military alliances that lead to joint training and operations — that our nations can grow to be close allies. But by killing the F-22, President Obama made a joint development agreement impossible. Nothing must stand in the way of a closer alliance, on military terms, with India.
The second reason President Obama’s new strategy will be wrong is that it will be time and commitment-limited. Though Obama presumably won’t be foolish enough to announce a timetable for withdrawal, war is by definition the open-ended commitment liberals shun.
Like every liberal, Obama thinks of war in terms that do not define it. Liberals believe every war is a “war of choice” that does not require total commitment. He thinks of war in terms of its financial cost, delaying and reducing his domestic spending spree. War is not a question of “should we,” but “must we.”
The issue isn’t whether a war is popular: either it has to be fought or it doesn’t. It is a president’s duty to define the war and lead the nation to victory. And if a war is worth one American life, it is — by definition — worth however many dollars it takes to win. Domestic spending must be curtailed to fund a war, not the other way around.
In this war, we have to defeat not only the terrorists but their sponsors. And as important as the kinetic war is, the ideological war is more so. Both al Queda and the Taliban are creatures of ideology. They cannot be defeated just by killing their leaders. We must prove to the world that their ideology is a failure, just as communism and Nazism were. We have abandoned the ideological war to the enemy. As long as that remains true, we cannot win the kinetic war, only battles and skirmishes that defined it for the Bush administration and now for the Obama administration as well.
“Clear, build and hold” is a counterinsurgency strategy that might have worked in Malaya in the 1950s, but there it didn’t face the religiously-based relentless and implacable enemy that is radical Islam. In this war, the battle of ideas and communication is global. And we aren’t fighting it.
The third reason Obama’s strategy will fail is the way our forces are limited in this fight. We have an Army chief of staff who believes that if diversity were “damaged” it would be worse than the Fort Hood massacre. And we demand of our best warriors behavior that is irrational in war.
In 2004, security operators from Blackwater were ambushed and murdered in Fallujah, their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge. The terrorist who organized and conducted that attack — Ahmed Hashim Abed — was one of the most-wanted terrorists in Iraq.
Abed is typical of the enemy: ruthless, implacable and above all barbaric.
As HUMAN EVENTS’ Rowan Scarborough reported last week, Navy SEALs captured Abed in a nighttime raid on September 3. And sometime after he was captured, one of the SEALs apparently punched the guy in the mouth and he suffered a split lip. He complained he’d been abused, and now instead of the medals they undoubtedly earned by bravery and skill in the raid, three SEALs — Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas — are facing a January court-martial for prisoner abuse.
Discipline is essential to any fighting force. The SEALs are known for it. And they operate under stresses we cannot understand. One ex-SEAL friend of mine was part of the platoon that was parachute-dropped in a poorly-planned 1989 operation to destroy Gen. Manuel Noriega’s Learjet to prevent his escape from invading American forces. My pal — normally a voluble guy — could barely speak as he told me how he had to crawl from dead friend to dead friend grabbing magazines off their bodies to keep firing at the huge Panamanian force they faced across the airfield.
Maybe McCabe, Keefe and Huertas deserve a tough scolding. But punishing them with more than confining them to quarters for a day is too much. They deserve better from the Navy and the president.
We must let loose the dogs of war, not muzzle their teeth. Mr. Obama wants to fight a penny-pinching politically-correct war in accordance with liberal theory. Which can only bring defeat.
Republicans must be very wary of whatever the president proposes. They must demand victory, not another self-imposed nation-building quagmire.
Free the SEAL Three and restore them to duty forthwith with the honors they deserve. And get on to a strategy for winning the war.
Switzerland’s vote to ban minarets is a disaster for its image, write German commentators. The vote doesn’t just reflect a fear of "Islamization" but also shows that setbacks in recent years have shaken its national self-confidence. But Germans would probably vote the same way, warn some observers.
Switzerland’s decision to ban the construction of minarets in a referendum on Sunday has drawn condemnation from politicians across Europe and from Muslim leaders, but far-right politicians have welcomed it as a courageous step that should be copied by other countries.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country’s top cleric, called the ban an "insult" to Muslims across the world but called on Muslims not to be provoked by the move. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was shocked by the decision which showed "intolerance."
However right-wing and far-right parties such as Italy’s Northern League in Italy and France’s National Front were quick to welcome the decision. The right-wing populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is famous for his anti-Islam views, called the result "great" and said he would push for a similar referendum in the Netherlands.
More than 57.5 percent of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons voted in favor of the ban on Sunday. The initiative was brought by supporters of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party and a smaller party. The campaign’s organizers had argued that minarets are a symbol of a Muslim quest to dominate others and to introduce Shariah law, and that banning them would help stop an "Islamization" of Switzerland. Muslims make up around 5 percent of the Swiss population.
In Germany, Wolfgang Bosbach, the spokesman on domestic security for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, said the vote expressed a fear of Islamization that also exists in Germany. "One has to take this concern seriously," Bosbach told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
German media commentators writing in the Monday editions of Germany’s main newspapers said the decision reflects more than a fear of Islamization. The vote, they write, is a sign of how unsettled Switzerland has become in the last two decades that have seen its self-confidence shaken by the collapse of national economic symbols such as the airline Swissair, international criticism of its secretive banking system and setbacks in its foreign policy.
But mass circulation Bild, which can claim to have its finger on the nation’s pulse more than other newspapers, said Germans would probably vote the same way if they were allowed a referendum on the issue:
"The minaret isn’t just the symbol of a religion but of a totally different culture. Large parts of the Islamic world don’t share our basic European values: the legacy of the Enlightenment, the equality of man and woman, the separation of church and state, a justice system independent of the Bible or the Koran and the refusal to impose one’s own beliefs on others with ‘fire and the sword.’ Another factor is likely to have influenced the Swiss vote: Nowhere is life made harder for Christians than in Islamic countries. Those who are intolerant themselves cannot expect unlimited tolerance from others."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The referendum is a disaster for Switzerland. There is no such construction ban anywhere else in Europe. When those six words ‘the construction of minarets is prohibited’ are written into the Swiss constitution, they will breach that constitution in several ways, as they violate its guarantee of freedom of religion and the ban on discrimination.
"The ban also constitutes a flagrant breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. It won’t take long before someone affected by this ban takes the case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which will result in an embarrassing condemnation and possibly Switzerland’s expulsion from the Council of Europe.
"There will be a storm of outrage, especially in the Muslim world. The worst mistake now would be for Switzerland to react by stiffening its stance. Because in its heart, this country is cosmopolitan and liberal."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"The Swiss decision gives the wrong answer to the right question. The question concerning all European societies is how to find the right way to deal with a growing Muslim minority, and where the limits of tolerance should be regarding the practice of traditions that are in some cases backward.
"The referendum has provided an excessively simplistic answer. It condemns the minaret which it interprets as a symbol of Islamic power — as if the traditional architectural feature so closely related to the Christian church steeple were more important than what is preached inside the mosques.
"It throws Switzerland back behind the level of enlightenment and tolerance that Europe has toiled to attain in the past — and which turned multi-ethnic Switzerland into such a successful model.
"The referendum shows how deep the fear of Islam runs in Europe and that the issue isn’t being taken seriously enough by the political elite — and not just in Switzerland. But it doesn’t provide a solution to Europe’s pressing integration problems."
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Fundamentally democratic, cosmopolitan, tolerant — that’s how the Swiss always liked to see themselves. But with the vote to ban further minarets, the country has also shown other traits that smack of narrow-mindedness, fear and the desire to wall themselves in.
"Many Muslims in Switzerland have integrated themselves well. The problems that do exist can’t be solved with a ban on minarets. But the Swiss People’s Party has succeeded in broadening the issue to Islamization. Existing problems with immigrants from Kosovo, for example, were simply combined with the religion issue."
The left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The campaign was targeted at a Swiss population that has felt increasingly unsettled since the end of the Cold War. Switzerland, which according to official myth is ‘neutral’ but which is de facto aligned with NATO, hasn’t come to terms with the loss of the communist bogeyman as well as the members of the Western alliance have. From compensation claims for the theft of the assets of Jewish refugees by Swiss banks, to the recent softening of banking secrecy for foreign tax evaders — all corrections of obvious historical lies and foreign policy mistakes since 1989 took place not through a realization of wrongdoing on the part of Switzerland itself, but through pressure from outside."
"In addition, the collapse of Swissair and other objects of Swiss national pride was also painful, as was the humiliating treatment by Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi who has been holding two Swiss nationals as hostages for more than a year. The global economic crisis has also left clear marks on Switzerland.
"The perfectly devised campaign for a ban on minarets provided a suitable bogeyman for those who were unsettled by this general uncertainty and whose self-confidence has been shattered. Encouraged by their victory on Sunday, the initiators will next call for a ban on mosques and Islamic cultural centers. It is also to be feared that there will be more frequent acts of violence against such institutions."
On Sunday, Huckabee deflected blame with a statement on his Web site:
"Should he (Clemmons) be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State," he wrote. Source
The criminal justice system put Clemmons away for 95 years. It was Huckabee that commuted that sentence and any failure in this matter clearly falls on Huckabee. Fact is, if Clemmons is responsible for the murders of the four police officers, they’d still be alive had he not been released from prison by Huckabee.
LAKEWOOD, Wash. – The four officers who were shot and killed at a Lakewood coffee shop Sunday morning were all members of the original Lakewood police force, said Lakewood Mayor Douglas Richardson.
They were identified as:
• Sergeant Mark Renninger, 39, with thirteen years of law enforcement experience. He is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son.
In a statement issued Sunday, the family said: "Mark was a professional, dedicated police officer who made the ultimate sacrifice. More importantly, he was a loving and devoted father, husband and family member who will be missed by many."
Renninger grew up in Bethlehem, Pa., and came to Washington state after he joined the military, family members said.
• Officer Ronald Owens, age 37 with twelve years of law enforcement experience. He is survived by a former wife and a daughter.
• Officer Tina Griswold, age 40 with fourteen years of law enforcement experience. She is survived by her husband and two children.
• Officer Greg Richards, age 42 with eight years of law enforcement experience. He is survived by a wife and three children.
Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar publicly identified the four slain police officers after an extensive and very difficult notification process.
"All four of our slain officers had been with this department since it started five years ago. Sergeant Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards were police veterans when they started and all have been outstanding professionals.
"This is a very difficult time for our families and our officers. The families will have many challenges ahead of them and we ask that their privacy be respected. Please keep our families and Lakewood Police in your prayers."
Richardson and Neiditz said all four transferred to Lakewood as commissioned law enforcement officers from other jurisdictions when the police force was formed.
"Their dedication and selfless service contributed immensely toward the successful creation of the Lakewood Police Department," the statement said.
"Today we have four fewer officers from our force of one hundred commissioned officers. They will be sorely missed. Support from other law enforcement agencies has been very responsive and deeply appreciated."
Across the country, thousands of people have joined a Facebook page dedicated to the four slain officers. By 9 p.m. Sunday, the page had nearly 20,000 followers.
The four officers were shot and killed as they were preparing for their shifts at the Forza Coffee Co. shop at 11401 Steele St. South.
A lone gunman shot the four uniformed officers as they were working on their laptop computers, then fled the scene. A motive has not been determined.
Richardson and Neiditz called it the "most tragic event in Lakewood’s fourteen years as a city."
"We lost four of our finest in a shocking, heartbreaking, and senseless murder. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with the families and colleagues of these innocent victims during this extraordinarily difficult time."
Richards’ sister-in-law, Melanie Burwell, called the shooting "senseless."
"He didn’t have a mean bone in his body," she said. "If there were more people in the world like Greg, things like this wouldn’t happen.
Those interested in supporting the families of the slain officers are welcome to make a donation through the Lakewood Police Independent Guild (LPIG) Benevolent Fund at PO Box 99579, Lakewood, WA 98499. Please visit the Web site for more information.
It’s a fair bet that few around the Thanksgiving dinner table talked much about Dubai last week, even as that Emirate quietly rocked world financial markets with the surprise prospect of the biggest government debt default since Argentina’s back in 2001.
Unfortunately, by the time Americans break out the holiday eggnog, we may all be a lot more familiar with the tiny city-state on the Persian Gulf.
For if ever there was a poster-child for commercial real estate excess, it is Dubai — land of indoor ski slopes, man-made islands and home to what will soon be the tallest skyscraper in the world, a building set to stand one kilometer high.
By one estimate, the postage-stamp sized Emirate was home to 20 percent of the world’s building cranes last year. As Dubai’s debt soared to more than 100 percent of its GDP, or $400,000 for each resident, it became a favored playground destination for the Gulfstream crowd. Indeed, about the worst thing to happen in the tiny Emirate in recent years was Rihanna‘s decision to cancel her half-million dollar concert appearance last spring.
Now, in a familiar repeat of the early days of the residential real estate crisis in the US, Dubai’s debts are coming due and its excessive leverage is coming home to roost. The Gulf State’s decision to demand a six-month standstill on the debt of its Dubai World is a wake-up call no less alarming than the Bear Stearns hedge fund collapse in the summer of 2007.
Back then, as is now the case with Dubai, it was easy for the glass-half-full crowd to brush Bear Stearns off as a one-off. Two years later, the hedge fund collapse is seen as the first of many financial dominoes to fall.
The Dubai debacle also comes at a time when many of the smartest investors in New York, from Wilbur Ross to Mort Zuckerman, have been warning that a commercial real estate collapse in this country is on the horizon. Earlier this month, Ross cautioned that the US is in the beginning of a "huge crash in commercial real estate," as office vacancies hit a five-year high.
How will this all play out for Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler? No one knows for sure, of course, but the Dubai sandstorm is already being felt around the globe — raising concerns about other highly fragile economies including Vietnam, Greece and Ireland.
As Bank of America warned on Friday — "One cannot rule out … a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign-default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets. Think Russia in 1998 or Argentina a few years later."
Indeed, Mark Mobius, the dean of emerging market investing who overseas $25 billion in assets for the Templeton Funds, is warning that a 20 percent drop in stock prices is possible.
And as with the popping of any real estate bubble, there’s also the likelihood of a real estate fire sale as Dubai looks to lighten its debt load. Although Dubai World, the Emirate’s investment vehicle, likes to boast that, "The sun never sets on Dubai World," it’s certainly looking like dusk.
To that end, investors are also bracing for a possible sale of Dubai-owned properties around the globe, especially in London and New York, and there are lots of them from the Grand Buildings in London’s Trafalgar Square to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle.
Of course there’s always a chance that Dubai can restructure its debt (perhaps not so easy under Islamic law) and get a helping hand from its rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi.
But others point to a nation built on tourism, finance, real estate and leverage and see a familiar crisis in the making. Dubai has drawn a line in the sand in an attempt to postpone paying its debts well into 2010.
Has it also just set off the next wave in the global credit crisis? By lots of measures, it sure looks that way.