Benghazi Film ’13 Hours’: A Family Member’s Visceral Revelation
“I’m interested in film because to me it’s the closest approximation in art that we have to the actual flow of consciousness, in both dream life and in the everyday perception of the world.”-James Douglas Morrison
I heartily agree with Mr. Morrison. A great film can move the soul like a great song, a great poem, or a great painting. The language of film is part of the language of America. Whether a thought provoking documentary or a drama that cuts like a knife, movies are part of my DNA. I have seen thousands of films in 58 years. But few film experiences have equaled my viewing of the Michael Bay film, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” for a myriad of reasons.
The heart and focus of the Michael Bay film “13 Hours” is the story of a true band of brothers. A brotherhood few have experienced. The film is based on the book 13 Hours written by Mitchell Zuckoff with the Annex Security Team. The Annex Security Team which included such true spartans as Dave “D.B.” Benton, Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris ‘Tanto” Paronto, Jack Silva, John “Tig” Tiegen, and Tyrone “Rone” Woods. In addition, we have to acknowledge the heroic efforts Diplomatic Security Agents, David Ubben and Scott Wickland those of Glen “Bub” Doherty and the rescue team from Tripoli.
Both the book and the film detail the terrorist attacks on the Benghazi, Libya Diplomatic Outpost and the CIA Annex in a 13 hour period between the evening of September 11, 2012 and the morning hours of September 12th. These attacks lead to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department Information Officer Sean Smith, Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Glen “Bub” Doherty of the Tripoli seven man GRS team.
As in the book, you will not hear the names of President Obama or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mentioned in the context of the movie. This is not a film about politics, lies, or obfuscation. 13 Hours, is a film about true American heroes. The best America has to offer.
There are many hard truths to face within the context of this movie. One truth to consider is how many military assets were available and not called upon when the diplomatic outpost and CIA annex came under attack in Benghazi. It was especially chilling to see military assets sitting cold in the context of the film and know that the real representations of military aid were available that awful night.
Equally difficult to consider is how the CIA Station Chief ”Bob” gave a stand down order to the GRS operators which was eventually, and appropriately, disobeyed. 31 people owe their lives to that disobeyed order. Another chilling moment was when the CIA Annex came under attack and slow motion fall of the mortars. A consideration of the facts behind this film, that this was a well organized, paramilitary terrorist attack.
But the hardest truth was seeing an actor portray my nephew Sean Smith.
There was no training or blueprint that prepared my wife and I for the death of Sean in life. So you can imagine how bizarre it was to experience it in a dramatic context in a film. It provoked a visceral reaction in me that is still difficult to fully absorb.
In a finer point, it made me angry all over again. The tears also began again. It made me reconsider a few things. Sean Smith was a dedicated servant of this government. He worked out and was well trained to respond in a crisis situation. Benghazi was not Sean’s first rodeo. He served with honor in the Air Force and had served in the State Department for 10 years before Benghazi. The major difference with the Benghazi assignment was the previous administration always made sure Sean Smith was well protected. The lack of security at the Diplomatic Outpost in Benghazi was ultimately, inexcusable. The film articulates that the majority of the Libyan based February 17th Militia were largely ineffectual.
I respect the courage it took Director Michael Bay to make this film. It is a masterful work and historically accurate. It is not the film that one normally expects to come out of Hollywood, but perhaps it is time for that to change. I saw the film over three weeks ago and the film still acts as a reminder as to what continues to cause me despair about what happened in Benghazi. It also serves as a catalyst for my anger. For a continued need to speak out about what happened in Benghazi. As in the actual Benghazi attack itself the film 13 Hours faces the same lack of factual and unbiased analysis and commentary in the reviews I have seen in the main stream media. This is another reason why I decided to give my thoughts about the film after taking a chance to reflect and absorb the distortions.
It is inspiring that many friends that supported Hillary Clinton and the continuance of the Obama Administration after seeing the film left the theater changed and no longer support more of the same. Their perception of the everyday reality altered. They now have reconsidered their choice for who they will support in the 2016 election.
As a Benghazi family member, I still want to see some accountability established and I believe that the film 13 Hours aids in that process. I do have to ask myself the following question: Would it not be ironic for a film to be able to rust the iron clad ambitions of a presidential candidate who lied about a film? But more importantly, I want to thank the brave warriors who put it on the line on September 11th and 12th, 2012. Some people are born to be warriors and some are born to be politicians. I trust the warrior over the politician every time.