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AutoMatters & More #419: “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

From Paramount Pictures & 3 Arts Entertainment/Bay Films
From Paramount Pictures & 3 Arts Entertainment/Bay Films

Seeing this film may make you very angry. Superbly directed by Michael Bay and based upon the nonfiction book “13 Hours” by New York Times bestselling author Mitchell Zuckoff and members of the Annex security team, it presents a shocking, disturbing, emotionally charged portrayal of a tragic, extremely controversial and arguably avoidable event in recent U.S. history.

According to an official U.S. government Accountability Review Board for Benghazi, convened by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the four killings (see https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/202446.pdf), “a series of attacks on September 11-12, 2012 involving arson, small-arms and machine-gun fire, and use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), grenades and mortars, focused on two U.S. facilities in Benghazi, as well as U.S. personnel en route between the two facilities. In addition, the attacks severely wounded two U.S. personnel, injured three Libyan contract guards and resulted in the destruction and abandonment of both facilities – the U.S. Special Mission compound (SMC) and Annex.

The author of “13 Hours” is a professor of journalism at Boston University. His website (https://www.mitchellzuckoff.com) describes the story this way: “The harrowing true account from the brave men on the ground who fought back during the battle of Benghazi. 13 HOURS presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya. A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.”

We follow one of its principal characters – a former military operator named Jack Silva – compellingly portrayed by actor John Krasinski – as he arrives in Libya. Soon – and repeatedly – he finds himself in life-threatening situations. It seems impossible to know which of the locals to trust. At tremendous personal risk, against overwhelming numbers of well-armed terrorists and repeatedly in defiance of orders from the CIA Chief onsite who wanted to leave their defense to others who ultimately never showed up – or who left when the attacks were about to begin, Jack and the other U.S. security operators voluntarily chose to put themselves in extremely dangerous situations to try to help those trapped in the Annex, and later to defend the CIA compound.

Repeated warnings about insufficient security for the Annex and the protection of Ambassador Chris Stevens were ignored. As a result, four U.S. government personnel were lost: John Christopher Stevens, U.S. Ambassador to Libya; U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith; and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

It is especially disturbing that, according to the film, those present and under relentless attack repeatedly pleaded for help that did not arrive. Even an urgent request from the defenders for a military jet flyover, as a show of force to discourage the terrorists, was denied. Why was more not done?

Given its timing and the facts that Hillary Clinton was, at that time, U.S. Secretary of State, and that news reports changed materially in conflicting, official accounts, this film could shape or reshape public opinion, and have an impact on the U.S. Presidential election.

Why did our country not do more to intervene to help our fellow Americans who were in imminent mortal danger? Will we ever know for certain what really happened there, and why? Was everything done that could have been done to help?

According to the ARB, “with State Department civilians at the forefront of U.S. efforts to stabilize and build capacity in Iraq, as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan, and with security threats growing in volatile environments where the U.S. military is not present – from Peshawar to Bamako – the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is being stretched to the limit as never before.” Despite budgetary austerity, “it is imperative for the State Department to be mission-driven, rather than resource-constrained – particularly when being present in increasingly risky areas of the world is integral to U.S. national security.”

For more information, and to see a trailer, go to the official website at https://www.thirteenhoursmovie.com.

Please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.

Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #419