Like hundreds of Americans who have a penchant for C-SPAN and little to do on a Thursday afternoon in October, I watched / listened to parts of Hillary Clinton’s 11+ hours of testimony to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. I’m on the record about what I think of this attack and its aftermath, so I won’t belabor those points here.
But I couldn’t help but link this hearing to what’s coming down the pike for our mass-market consumption in a few months. That’s right: Michael Bay’s latest cinematic blend of explosions, gunfights, and American masculinity will arrive on the silver screen in January 2016, entitled “13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” starring John Krasinski.
It’s the film version of the book by Boston University journalism professor Mitchell Zuckoff, based on the accounts of John “Tig” Tiegen, Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, and two others who use the pen names of Dave “D.B” Benton and Jack Silva.
If you’ve seen the trailer, as have over 3.4 million people on Youtube, you might have heard this snippet of dialogue: After being told “State’s under attack” and “There’s a U.S. Ambassador at risk”, the actor David Costabile, who plays a character called “The Chief” commands his muscle-bound security force, “The Ambassador is in his safe haven. You are not the first responders. You’re the last resort.”
The kicker: “You. Will. Wait.”
Later on, a woman also says to someone, “I called for air support. It never came.”
When the book was released in 2014, The New York Times reported:
The commandos say they protested repeatedly as the base chief ordered them to wait in their vehicles, fully armed, for 20 minutes while the attack on the diplomatic mission was unfolding less than a mile away. “If you guys do not get here, we are going to die!” a diplomatic security agent then shouted to them over the radio, the commandos say in the book, and they left the base in defiance of the chief’s continuing order to “stand down.”
Yet when pressed for a response, a senior intelligence official said “a prudent, fast attempt was made to rally local support for the rescue effort and secure heavier weapons. There was no second-guessing those decisions being made on the ground” and “there were no orders to anybody to stand down in providing support.”
Furthermore, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s 2014 bipartisan report on Benghazi noted (presumably interviewing the same contractors):
The Committee explored claims that there was a “stand down” order given to the security team at the Annex. Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party. (emphasis mine)
I don’t believe the current Select Committee on Benghazi under Rep. Trey Gowdy has taken up this issue either, suggesting it too does not believe it’s a terribly fruitful avenue for research.
Of course this movie is supposed to be entertainment. And Michael Bay has been known for fudging American history before.
But this country has now had seven congressional investigations into the Benghazi attack, surpassing in time and cost the Watergate investigation of the 1970s. This issue should have been put to rest a long time ago, but for one reason or another that hasn’t happened.
If this trailer is any indication, it will further muddy the historic waters and confuse Americans about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Libya in 2012. Ultimately, it will lessen the heroics of the brave men and women who survived to tell the tale.
Also: as one New York Post commentator slyly opined, ““13 Hours” means Benghazi isn’t going to go away.”
photo: Michael Bay on the set of “Transformers.” (U.S. Air Force)