I am a former Army Ranger, military contractor, and survivor of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
For 13 hours that night, my teammates and I did everything in our power to save American lives. Two of us didn’t make it home. Neither did Ambassador Christopher Stevens or Sean Smith. For some reason that I’ll never understand, I did.
But several months after being home, I hit rock bottom and started to have serious thoughts about taking my own life.
We were left behind, plain and simple, and I had lost complete faith in our leaders.
But I had also lost faith in my fellow Americans. What they were being told about that night, they seemed to believe, and it was killing me inside. I was doing everything I could to share the truth, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Flying home for what may have been my last night, I was approached by a random stranger at the airport. She recognized me from a television interview and said three words that literally saved my life: “I believe you.”
It may seem overly simple, but a light switched on, and I knew my next mission. It made me realize there were millions of people out there who knew they were being lied to – not just about Benghazi but about the severity of the threat that we are facing as a nation.
Radical Islam is at war with America. It’s the defining national security challenge of our time, and we are slowly losing. When I look into my kids’ eyes, it scares me because I know what kind of world they’ll be facing if we don’t get our act together.
That night in Benghazi, we stood up and led because we knew what would happen if we waited for our leaders to save us.
It’s time for the American people to do the same thing when it comes to defeating radical Islamic terrorism.
We’ve become accustomed to an administration and a justice system that seem more concerned with politics and protecting their own interests than protecting this great nation.
The only way that we will see the real leadership necessary to defeat this threat is if we demand it. That’s how our system works.
We need to be as specific as we can about what we want, and then light the fire under the politicians to get it done. That’s why we elect them in the first place.
I’ve fought this enemy for most of my adult life. I understand what they want, and I’ve experienced first-hand how they try to achieve it. With that in mind, I have five straightforward ideas about what we can do, starting now.
One, Congress should immediately establish a National Commission on defeating radical Islam.
The American people deserve the truth about the scope of this threat, and a bipartisan attempt to develop a new national strategy for victory. A series of Congressional hearings and a new 9/11 Commission-style report can help us to move forward with clarity and unity. At least one leadership position must be reserved for a member of Congress who has served in the Global War on Terror.
Two, we must overhaul our entire vetting system for immigrants and refugees.
America can be an open society without being stupid. To prevent radical Islamists from infiltrating our borders, we must abandon political correctness and implement a new, relentless vetting system that, in part, screens for loyalty to Shariah law over American laws and values. This should apply to all potential migrants and refugees, not just those from the Middle East.
Three, we must accept that we are at war and different rules apply.
Non-citizen terrorists trying to destroy the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law should not be able to hide behind them. Those who attack and injure or kill U.S. personnel, whether overseas or on American soil, should be treated and tried as military combatants, not as criminals in our civilian system.
Four, we must empower pro-American Muslims.
While there’s no substitute for victory on the battlefield, we must also isolate and destroy an evil ideology. We cannot do this alone. Former Middle Eastern linguists, interpreters, and military/police/security commanders who’ve been vetted, have served alongside U.S. forces, and have shown dedication to America and our values should be utilized heavily in the fight against radical Islam. They are patriots, and they deserve our support.
And five, we must demand that American companies help America.
Companies, such as Apple, should not be required to assist the U.S. government if their products were used in a terrorist attack. However, if they refuse to provide technical information that could help save American lives, they should be charged as accomplices, or as obstructing a military investigation in a military court.
These proposals are just a start, but I believe they can help to foster a robust, bottom-up conversation about what is required not only to be safe, but to win.
As I’ve spoken to countless audiences around the country in the years since Benghazi, faith in my fellow citizens has been renewed tenfold.
They give me energy, hope and purpose. They love this country and what it stands for, and have a much firmer grasp on the realities of the world than what they’re given credit for.
Politicians in Washington often act like they have all the answers, but at the end of the day, their job security is dependent upon their ability to understand what we want, and whether they can deliver.
Let’s do them a favor and make what we want crystal clear. Republican, Democrat or independent, we’re all in this together, and it’s time to demonstrate the power of the American citizen.