’13 Hours’ born to dispute political ‘hijacking’

“13 Hours” discusses the attack on Sept. 11, 2012. This terrorist assault occurred right in the middle of the 2012 presidential election. Since then both parties are attempting to put their political spin on what happened. Benghazi has also become an issue during the current presidential campaign. After speaking with these brave heroes and talking to the author Mitchell Zuckoff, it is obvious their only agenda is to get at the truth of what happened.

This is the story of an Islamic terrorist attack on the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

Four Americans were killed: U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen “Bub” Doherty, and Tyrone “Rone” Woods. The five operators who provided the account are John “Tig” Tiegen, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist, and two others who are known by the pseudonyms Dave “D.B” Benton and Jack Silva. Both the book and the movie tell the story of true heroism in the face of unbeatable odds.

Oz and Tig directly commented, “Both the right and left hijacked the story for political purposes and seemed to forget about the guys on the ground. We were a small group of people who came together and tried to overcome insurmountable odds. Five working at the Consulate and over two dozen at the CIA Annex was saved.” They have not forgotten their responsibilities to their peers, starting an organization, Shadow Warriors Project.

But could the two who died be attributed to the “stand down order” issued by the CIA base chief at the Benghazi CIA Annex? About a mile away, those in the compound including U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, and others were constantly asking for help. Bob, the CIA base chief in an interview to the Washington Post stated, “There never was a stand-down order. At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.”

Not so, says Oz and Tig.

“We told the truth based on our perception. That is not what we heard. This book has been out for over a year and this is the first time he has said it.” Besides, none of the other CIA people ever came out and said they did not side with the operators. Zuckoff also noted that the American security personnel were frustrated and that they still have guilt that they might have saved lives at the compound had they left right away.

Jose Rodriguez Jr., former Director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, a hero himself who is a straight talker explained that in making the decision several considerations has to be weighed.

“Bob, the base chief, was the leader on the ground and failed to deploy the American security forces. This was not a good outcome. Yet, to get there you have to analyze what he was going through. It is very complex. The bottom line decision comes to waiting for approval or making a split second decision on your own. I have been faced with that dilemma myself. To be perfectly honest I hope I would have said ‘Forget Washington. We have an Ambassador in harms way. I am going to send my troops and hopefully save lives.’ But you had to be there to make that decision.”

What Jose sees as the biggest crime of all is the failure of the Obama Administration to not deploy troops, “leaving those operators to defend for themselves. We don’t do that. That is just crazy that Bob said he took only one call that evening from CIA headquarters. There should have been constant dialogue for immediate feedback and Petraeus, the CIA Director at the time, should have been at the White House jumping up and down to send help. Unlike the military in the CIA decisions can be made at the lower level pretty quickly. The unwillingness to stand up and do what is right is deplorable. The policy makers never gave their approval to send reinforcements.” Zuckoff agrees and recounts how the operators had “deep anger, disappointment and frustration. They needed a gunship and flyovers and the help did not come.”

Rodriguez Jr. strongly believes the “hold order by Bob,” and not sending reinforcements lies at the hands of the Obama Administration. “This has to be taken in the overall context of today’s world where the lawyers are in control. They make it harder to facilitate decisions and force people to rely on getting approval from the chain of command. Throughout the Obama presidency people have been sacrificed, fired, reprimanded or left high and dry. This administration is risk averse, which has people unwilling to make hard decisions on the ground. They never take responsibility and always point fingers when something goes south.”

“13 Hours” is a must see and a must read. It reminds Americans what true heroes are like and how being risk averse can cost lives. Both the movie and the book are stunning eye-opening accounts of what happened on Sept. 11, 2012 in Benghazi Libya.



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.