“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”
An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge, David Denman, Dominic Fumosa, Max Martini, David Costabile, Alexia Barlier
Unlike the incredible American Sniper from last year, 13 Hours is a movie with a different focus. Whereas Clint Eastwood’s film told the true tale of how prolonged war can affect a good man, in Michael Bay’s movie, we are presented with a different, but no less harrowing, look into combat.
If American Sniper‘s Chris Kyle (portrayed so well by Bradley Cooper) was the locus of that film’s emotional balance, Michael Bay spreads the load across his cast. The six contractors charged with the protection of the not-so-secret CIA Annex in Benghazi are all there for one purpose: they are warriors, charged with protecting those under their care.
By now, the story of the attacks on the American diplomatic post in Benghazi is well-known. On the 11th anniversary of the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, the American diplomatic post was attacked in an organized assault by Islamic Militants. The result was a dead US Ambassador (Chris Stevens), a State Department information management person (Sean Smith), and two of the contractors (Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty).
Whatever your political leaning, I have found that, in cases like this, if you want to know what happened on the ground, ask someone on the ground, not someone who is sitting in an office half a world away. 13 Hours does this, presenting us with the contractors testimony as to the timeline and interaction of various support functions as they responded, or failed to respond, to repeated calls for assistance from both the diplomatic post and the CIA annex. As wave after wave of coordinated attacks took place, the contractors again and again used every weapon in their arsenal–bullets, grenades, and hard-won experience and wisdom–to defend those they were responsible for.
And for those they weren’t. Ambassador Stevens wasn’t even the responsibility of those contractors, as evidenced by the Stand Down order they were given by the annex chief prior to simply riding out to attempt a rescue of the ambassador a mile away, in a facility by then completely engulfed in flames.
I’m going to try to end this here, because, while the film does a remarkable job of trying to remain politically neutral, I believe the Special Operators on the ground.
I believe that “chain of command,” “jurisdiction,” and CIA secrecy led to the delay of the response to the distress call from the ambassador.
I believe that the military units from AFRICOM, and Sigonella, and Aviano, and Croatia, were ready and willing to depart as soon as the calls came in from Libya.
I believe that the civilian leadership either willingly or through sheer indecisiveness or fear of backlash did not authorize those units to move.
I believe all of this, not because of my particular feelings about the administration in control at the time of the incident, but because, while civilian control of the military is absolutely the correct way for this country to organize itself, it is not the way to respond to a crisis of this type. Just as the President can claim (rightly or wrongly) that he can send “some troops” into “some place” for “some time” without Congress, so, too, must military leadership be able to make decision that are time-critical. Senior leadership has years of experience in evaluating threats and responses, but are hamstrung by political entanglements at the higher ranks (General, Admiral, etc), as well as by Rules of Engagement that more often than not restrict any action that might be taken to the level of ineffectiveness.
Anyway, I’m out. This is too much for me. I haven’t been retired long enough to stop giving a shit about my guys (and they’re all my guys: Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines. No matter the uniform, we were/are all in this together).
Go see this film and then decide for yourself.