Op/Ed - Benghazi: What really matters.

by Pete Scobell, Fmr Navy Seal Officer

When the initial reports of the Benghazi attacks began to surface along with reports detailing attacks on the Embassies in Cairo and Sanaa on September 11th, I wasn't surprised. Like many other Americans, I assumed that those in the Embassies were prepared for this contingency given their locations and the symbolic date. I was saddened to hear of Ambassador Chris Steven's death as well as the "other Americans," and my sadness was deepened when I learned that two of the Americans killed in the attack along with the Ambassador were former Navy SEALs, one of whom was a friend and former teammate. Little did I know that this would develop into the debacle it has since become. All political drama aside, the piece of this story I choose to hang onto has nothing to do with the finger pointing or political side stepping aimed at preserving the integrity of the current administration long enough to get reelected. Men sacrificed themselves for one another and for their country. What kind of a man, in the face of overwhelming odds, knowingly and freely lays down his life for the man next to him? Glen Doherty and Ty Woods did just that. At that moment it didn't matter that they had been Navy SEALs or that they were now contractors operating under different laws and rules of engagement. History doesn't remember "Golgatha Gate" and the political fallout of crucifying Jesus. An entire religion was born from that simple act of suffering and sacrifice, not the reelection of Pontius Pilate. I'm not implying that Glen and Ty were the sons of God and that President Obama is the fifth Perfect of the Judaea Providence. What I'm saying is that politics and bureaucracy trend towards failure and that individuals have the capacity to instantaneously realize divine greatness despite being captives of a flawed and broken system led by individuals who do not possess comparable character.

Take their past and future out of the convoluted story and focus on the cold hard truths people face when in combat. You either fight or you run. What makes a person stand and fight to the death? Is it an oath to a piece of paper or a paycheck? No. People fight to the death for the respect and love of the individuals next to them. It's their common lives , shared suffering, and love for one another's unlimited futures that keeps them in the fight. The actions of two Americans in battle and the character they displayed in the face of overwhelming odds should be what guilts this administration into letting the truth be told. When I learned that Glen and Ty engaged the enemy until the very last breath of air left their lungs, my sadness turned to pride, and my pride to envy. They were blessed with warrior's deaths and they died fighting alongside one another. Their actions should make all of us ask ourselves hard questions. For those who understand what I'm talking about, no explanation is required, and for those who don't, these are the only words I can find in a feeble attempt to describe it. My heart goes out to Glen and Ty's families. The confusion and grief that follows the loss is unbearable at times. However, I hope eventually the families can put aside the politics and the hate for those who should have and most likely could have acted in the aid of their loved ones. When this all settles, I believe what will remain is the towering example of character these two men displayed. When this is all said and done, this event should not be remembered for the failure and lack of character displayed by the political leadership, but rather by the simple and powerful act of selfless sacrifice by individuals for one another.

The truth will come out, it always does. I know the truth is sitting in someone's gut somewhere and it's eating them up inside. The moral dilemma they are wrestling with will only continue to grow and consume them until they are compelled to act in order to preserve their own character and soul. I just hope it is not too late...

Even without hearing a formal explanation from the Obama Administration or the State Department , it seemed fairly apparent from the onset that given the location and the significance of the date (9/11), these attacks had to have been preplanned and coordinated. I was shocked to hear the "cause" identified by the Obama Administration was a video on YouTube. I actually laughed out loud when I heard that... it's 9/11, we've been at war with Islamic Extremists for over a decade. The attacks came on the heels of the Arab Spring. Muslim Brotherhood influence is rapidly expanding along with anti-American rhetoric from the newly elected President of Egypt....nope, it was the result of a YouTube video. I was insulted. Does the Administration really believe the American people are that ignorant?

This mess was created by the administration in an attempt to minimize failures in leadership by their appointees. In truth, with all that is going on in the world, the American people may have just forgotten about the incident and written it off as an unfortunate result of American insensitivity. However, in an interesting twist of fate, it seems that the monster the administration created in the wake of the Bin Laden raid came back to bite them.

What the administration failed to take into consideration is that right now (good or bad) America is obsessed with Navy SEALs. I'm sure that none of the official intel briefings contained that information, because prior to the Bin Laden raid it held little or no weight. Glen and Ty were working as civilian contractors and contractors have been sufficiently demonized by the press throughout the Iraq war to the point that the administration probably assumed they could brush this off without much of a backlash. Who cares about a couple mercenaries who murder women and children getting killed?

Glen and Ty were members of the SEAL community which has received much more press than it should have gotten in the past few months. They fought and died just as they would have when they were on active duty. They were civilians on a contract, but somehow the SEAL ethos has taken precedence over the mercenary label previously given. The fact of the matter is that they were not on active duty serving as Navy SEALs. They were civilians working on a 1099. What's the difference? Ask a lawyer...it's a big difference. I'm betting the administration was hoping to minimize this event and their plans were foiled by America's love affair with the SEAL Teams. They fought and died by the SEAL ethos in defense of their beloved country. They did what every warrior would have done. They stood between the sheep and the wolves. It was the right thing to do. The situation they found themselves in is one that many former SOF operators turned contractors have found themselves in...high and dry. In this case their past didn't come back to haunt them. Instead, Glenn and Ty's past is coming back to haunt those in the administration who wished for their own leadership failures to pass under the American public's radar.

When you take the spin out of the equation, remove the election, and look at this from an objective standpoint, you see a slow bureaucracy,a lack of contingency planning constrained by a complex legal justification for overt military action in a sovereign nation on a compressed timeline with less than optimal real time intelligence. In short, a recipe for disaster. This complex mixture of politics, inner agency struggle, lawyering and failure to act will eventually be pinpointed somewhere within the middle of The State Department where politics and nuance trumps action , where management is trying to save their own asses in order to get ahead. Secretary Clinton's blanket acceptance of responsibility is evidence of this failure.

Could this have happened under anybody's watch? Of course. What is telling is how the administration handled the incident. There was a blatant failure in leadership somewhere in the chain and instead of admitting it, identifying it, and taking steps toward fixing it, they instantaneously moved to deflect the entire event. Since that didn't work , they are attempting to use any and all events as a platform to move past the event.

It is not the failure and the loss of life that bothers me. That's a cold thing to say, but anyone who has spent time working within our Government bureaucracy understands how poorly it operates and that these events will happen regardless of who is at the helm. What's extremely troublesome is that the character and valor being displayed at the lowest levels consistantly and without exception outshines the "leaders" at the top of the chain. This is not a recipe for success. Transparency is what we need as a nation right now and we need to face some painful truths. Glen and Ty were just two Americans trying to do the right thing and in the pursuit of what they believed to be right they sacrificed their lives without concern for their own fate. Isn't that the kind of character we should demand of our elected leaders? Glen and Ty died for one another in the defense of their country and they didn't even have an election right around the corner. I would hope that someone in middle management at the State Department sees the example these two men set and choses to tell the truth and shed some light on the graveyard of integrity that is their leadership.

The themes of healing and redemption appear throughout the Bible.

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. — 1 Corinthians 15:43
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. — Mark 2:17.

So, for many Christians, it's no surprise to hear that people of faith live longer lives.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. — Jeremiah 17:14.

But it is certainly lovely to hear, and a recent study by a doctoral student at Ohio State University is just one more example of empirical evidence confirming the healing benefits of faith and religious belief.

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Moreover, the study finds that religious belief can lengthen a person's life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. — Proverbs 17:22
Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! — Isaiah 38:16

The study analyzed over 1,000 obituaries nationwide and found that people of faith lived longer than people who were not religious. Laura Wallace, lead author of the study, noted that "religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life."

The study notes that, "people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not, which shrunk to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered."

And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. — Matthew 10:1

"The researchers found that part of the reason for the boost in longevity came from the fact that many religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organizations, which previous research has linked to living longer. The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives," said Baldwin Way, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

In addition, the study showed how the effects of religion on longevity might depend in part on the personality and average religiosity of the cities where people live, Way said.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. — Luke 5:17
Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you. — Luke 10:9

In early June, the Social Security and Medicare trustees released their annual report on the fiscal health of these programs, and the situation looks dire. Medicare is scheduled to run out of money in 2026 (three years sooner than anticipated), while Social Security is expected to run out in 2034. The rising national debt is only one of the well-known financial struggles the millennial generation faces. The burdens of student loan debt, high housing prices (thanks to zoning restrictions), stagnant wage growth, the rising cost of healthcare and lingering aftershocks of the Great Recession are among the biggest sources of economic anxiety millennials feel.

Progressive politicians have been very successful at courting the youth vote, partly because they actually promote policy ideas that address many of these concerns. As unrealistic or counterproductive as Senator Bernie Sanders' proposals for single-payer health care or a $15 an hour minimum wage might be, they feel in theory like they would provide the economic stability and prosperity millennials want.

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Republicans, on the other hand, have struggled to craft a message to address these concerns. Fiscal conservatives recognize, correctly, that the burden of the $20 trillion national debt and over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities will fall on millennials. Some conservatives have even written books about that fact. But the need to reform entitlements hasn't exactly caught millennials' attention. Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, in her book The Selfie Vote, notes that millennials generally view protecting the safety net as more important than reducing the deficit.

Clearly, Republicans have a problem. They need to craft solutions that address the millennial generation's struggles, but they can't seem to sell entitlement reform, their biggest policy preference that addresses those problems. The Republican approach to wooing millennials on policy is failing because talking about stopping the debt from reaching an unsustainable level is long-term and abstract, and offers few immediate tangible benefits. A new approach to both pave the way for entitlement reform and give millennials an immediate financial boost is to first reform not entitlement spending, but the payroll tax: specifically, by partially (or wholly) replacing it with a value-added tax.

Under the current Social Security model, workers pay for the benefits of current retirees through the payroll tax. This system creates the illusion of a pension program, in which what you put in is what you get out, but in reality Social Security is a universal safety net program for the elderly paid for by taxes. The payroll tax falls on workers and is a tax on labor, while the value-added tax (VAT) is a tax on consumption imposed at every part of the production process. Assuming that this policy change is revenue-neutral, switching to a VAT will shift the responsibility for funding Social Security and Medicare away from workers, disproportionately poorer and younger, and onto everyone participating in the economy as a whole. Furthermore, uncoupling Social Security funding from payroll taxes would pave the way for fiscal reforms to transform the program from a universal benefit program to one geared specifically to eliminating old-age poverty, such as means-testing benefits for high-income beneficiaries, indexing benefits to prices rather than wages or changing the retirement age.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences. As the Tax Policy Center notes, the change would actually make the tax system more progressive. The current payroll tax is regressive, meaning that people with lower incomes tend to pay a higher effective tax rate than people with higher incomes. On the other hand, the value-added tax is much closer to proportional than the payroll tax, meaning that each income group pays closer to the same effective tax rate.

For Republicans, such a change would fit conservative economic ideas about the long-run causes of economic growth. A value-added tax has a much broader base than the payroll tax, and therefore would allow for much lower marginal tax rates, and lower marginal tax rates mean smaller disincentives to economic activity. According to the Tax Foundation's analysis of a value-added tax, the VAT would be a more economically efficient revenue source than most other taxes currently in the tax code.

Not only would replacing part or all of the payroll tax provide an immediate benefit to millennial taxpayers, it would also open the door for the much-needed entitlement reforms that have been so politically elusive. Furthermore, it would make the tax code both more pro-growth and less regressive. In order to even begin to address the entitlement crisis, win millennial support and stimulate the economy in a fiscally responsible manner, Republicans must propose moving from the payroll tax to the VAT.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate. His writing has appeared in Townhall and The Federalist. He is a federal policy intern at the Tax Foundation. Opinions expressed here are his only and not the views of the Tax Foundation. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Glenn was joined by Alanna Sarabia from "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios on Thursday for an exclusive look at Mercury Museum's new "Rights & Responsibilities" exhibit. Open through Father's Day, the temporary museum features artifacts from pop culture, America's founding, World Ward II and more, focusing on the rights and responsibilities America's citizens.

Get tickets and more information here.

Watch as Glenn gives a sneak peek at some of the unique artifacts on display below.

History at the Mercury Museum

Alanna Sarabia interviews Glenn Beck for "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios.

Several months ago, at the Miss Universe competition, two women took a selfie, then posted it on Instagram. The caption read, "Peace and love." As a result of that selfie, both women faced death threats, and one of the women, along with her entire family, had to flee her home country. The occasion was the 2017 Miss Universe competition, and the women were Miss Iraq and Miss Israel. Miss Iraq is no longer welcome in her own country. The government threatened to strip her of her crown. Of course, she was also badgered for wearing a bikini during the competition.

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In an interview, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, said:

When I posted the picture I didn't think for a second there would be blowback. I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary. The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they're getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.

Yesterday, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, posted another selfie with Miss Israel, during a visit to Jerusalem.

In an interview, she said that:

I don't think Iraq and Israel are enemies; I think maybe the governments are enemies with each other. There's a lot of Iraqi people that don't have a problem with Israelis.

This is, of course, quite an understatement: Iraq, home to roughly 15,000 Palestinians, refuses to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate country, as it is technically at war with Israel. The adages says that a picture is worth a thousand words. What are we to do when many of those words are hateful or deadly? And how can we find the goodness in such bad situations?