13 HOURS: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

3 Stars – Troubling

The news media and the political pundits of today repeat the name “Benghazi” so often you would think it was the name of a great “war story” or pivotal historic event.  In reality, it was a brutal, relatively minor postscript event following the collapse of the regime in Libya.  Depending on your political position in the 2016 Presidential race, it can be a “hot-button” issue that is used to beat up on one of the candidates, regardless of the facts in the case.  Unfortunately, no matter how you tell the story, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens lost his life in the attack on the American Compound on September 11, 2012.

Much has been written about the U.S. Government’s policies towards Libya and its former strongman Muammar Gaddafi who ruled the country for almost 40 years.  When the country erupted in civil war in 2011, Gaddafi’s empire collapsed and he was torn to pieces by a mob in the streets.  During the following months, chaos and mob rule controlled the cities, and most foreign countries abandoned their official Embassy’s in the capital city.  The U.S. maintained a small presence in the country that included a mixture of State Department personnel as well as CIA operatives and private contractors.

When Ambassador Stevens chose to go to the American outpost in Benghazi, it wasn’t a good idea to do so on the anniversary of 9/11.  Benghazi was a territory of rebels and the U.S. outpost there only had contract security at their disposal.  What happened over that 24 hour period, which is the basis of this story, is told by some of those contract soldiers that were there that night.

13 Hours director, Michael Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan bring to the screen a harrowing tale of bravery.  Nevertheless, this is not a documentary, and some of the people and events are told more for effect than for the truth.  Much of what is here in fact did happen, but according to the full Senate Investigative Report, some of the elements that are used for effect are made up, such as the availability and nearness of the U.S. military to respond and rescue them.  The film makes it sounds as if they could be there in less than 30 minutes, but the Senate Report says that they were as far away as Los Angeles is to Washington DC.

What is shown is that in the midst of chaos and multiple terrorist attacks, six brave men who did not need to be there, risked their lives to save the Americans who were trapped.  What is also shown is that in the midst of chaos, there isn’t always a clear picture of what should be done, nor is there a clear chain of command to give out orders.  Even though the movie might have taken liberties with what actually happened, the film does give you a pretty strong picture of what a scary situation it is to be in the midst of this kind of chaos.  One almost gets “post-traumatic stress” just watching the film!

The tragedy shown in 13 Hours is not just what happens to the Americans.  Regardless of the motives of the various rebels that night, death came to a lot of people, and the brutality had to effect all of the powerless men, women, and children who had to live in the midst of it.  Gaddafi may have been toppled, but it was the people whose lives and livelihoods were being destroyed day by day that were suffering the consequences.

The end of the story is a long way from over.  Only time will tell what comes out of the Benghazi crisis.  It would be an even greater tragedy if the only result was that it was used as fodder in the U.S. Presidential election of 2016.  The true test of our greatness will lie in the power of transforming and life-giving support that we share in the years to come.


  1. How do you handle the emotions of seeing the brutality of a situation such as this?  How do you keep from having Post Traumatic Stress?
  2. Regardless of the cause or attempt to place blame, the inability to protect an ambassador of our nation is disturbing.  What do you think we can learn from this tragedy?
  3. The intervention of the United States in Libya has not produced good fruit.  What do you think we should do with nations such as this?



Posted on January 21, 2016 and filed under 3 STARS, TROUBLING.