The scandals of Hillary Clinton are well known, but perhaps none have had a bigger impact and seized the popular imagination more than the 2012 raid on the American consulate at Benghazi in which four Americans lost their lives, including the former Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, the first American ambassador to be killed while serving in the role since 1979.
Since the raid occurred, Hillary Clinton has been grilled by multiple Congressional committees for her incompetence and slipshod leadership, particularly regarding the inexcusable lack of security for the ambassador and the consulate compound. However, the details of what really happened on the night of September 11, 2012 might have been shielded from the minds of most Americans were it not for a new film about the events, entitled “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” directed by action picture veteran Michael Bay.
This mainstream, mass-market release spares no punches in its depiction of the gripping 13-hour period in which twin attacks on the American outposts in Benghazi shattered our sense of international diplomatic security — first at the consulate compound itself and second at a CIA annex building a mile away.
In the film, intelligence operatives Jack Silva and Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods are portrayed by actors John Krasinski (Jim from television’s “The Office”) and James Badge Dale as gung-ho, patriotic ex-military personnel who are not afraid to shrink from a fight, unlike their pencil-pushing superiors, one of whom is Benghazi CIA station chief “Bob,” played by David Costabile (Gale Boetticher from “Breaking Bad”).
Although Hillary Clinton is neither depicted nor discussed in the movie, the lack of security for the facilities and for personnel such as the idealistic ambassador, played by Matt Letscher, are realistically detailed. This clearly brought about grim consequences, as the local population and paramilitary elements are shown practically itching for their chance to cause harm and/or death for the Americans.
Though most people know of the attack on the consulate, the second battle, which took place in the early morning hours of the following day, is less discussed, despite it being much more violent and hair-raising, as some 32 CIA personnel and contractors had to escape and abandon their annex building, which was designed as a protective garrison for the lightly-reinforced consulate facility nearby.
In the film, as in real life, the CIA defensive forces were told to stand down by their superiors, despite the attack on the consulate occurring nearby. Although the ambassador and information management officer Sean Smith both died in the aftermath of the first attack, they were not killed by enemy fire; both men succumbed to smoke inhalation after retreating to a fortified “safe room” when the first signs of an attack were heard. Unfortunately, the safe room was not adequately ventilated, and the militia force that attacked the building lit diesel fuel, resulting in heavy smoke that entered the room.
Smith was found unconscious less than an hour later and passed away shortly thereafter. Stevens’ body was not recovered until close to 1 a.m. when friendly Libyan forces found him unconscious and moved him to the compound’s courtyard, before taking him to a local hospital, where he died 90 minutes later.
In the film, Benghazi is shown as one of the 12 “most dangerous” hotspots in the world for American diplomatic personnel, owing to its lack of adequate protection and light defensive infrastructure. Both of these conditions were purposely implemented by staff under Hillary Clinton so as to make the outpost “less intimidating” to the local population in the wake of the revolution that overthrew former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi earlier that year.
The problem was, this light protection and defense made both the consulate and the annex buildings easy targets for local militia groups, who investigators later discovered had been fully infiltrated by members of al-Qaeda. In fact, on the same night of the attack, a member of the local police force patrolling near the compound was spotted taking photos of the facility, which worried Sean Smith enough for him to post on the Internet about the incident to higher-ups later that day.
Although Michael Bay is known for the Disney Transformers franchise and fantastic action and sci-fi pictures such as “The Rock” and “Armageddon,” “13 Hours” is a more nuanced, mature and serious film, dealing with real events that actually occurred as they’re shown in the movie.
Although Bay tries to be apolitical with the film, the questions raised about the poor decisions made by American bureau chiefs at the State Department and the CIA clearly show that leadership at the highest levels (ie, Clinton, CIA Chief Leon Panetta, Obama) are undeniably responsible for the carnage and destruction that ensued. In fact, as the film shows, it’s a miracle, considering the chaos and vehemence of the second attack, that more American lives were not lost.
The fact that the attacks at Benghazi have not tarnished Hillary Clinton more may be due to Americans’ poor understanding of what really happened in that brief stretch of time in September of 2012. Fortunately, this film looks ready to correct that injustice. Hopefully, Americans will take the time to consider it not just as entertainment but as political information when voting in the 2016 elections.