A new movie that touches upon the election prospects of one female candidate for president debuts this week. Will 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, provoke thousands of angry viewers to march on Hillary Clinton’s home with torchlights and pitchforks? Doubtful. The film is somewhat oblique. Hillary Clinton’s name is not mentioned. The infamous Susan Rice clips blaming the attack on a video do not appear (though the film does mention, slightly mordantly, that “press reports” are citing a video). Yet even for those coming to the question for the first time, the film very clearly conveys filmmaker Michael Bay’s outrage that a tiny band of unbelievably brave Americans was left to fight off a company of al-Qaeda-linked terrorists for, yes, 13 hours, while the vast land, sea, and air resources of the U.S. military were not sent to their rescue.
Recent history would suggest that 13 Hours will be a commercial success. Hollywood’s anti-war and anti-American films (there have been many) have had lukewarm (Body of Lies) to dismal (War, Inc.) receptions. But films portraying American courage and fortitude, especially Lone Survivor and American Sniper, have been huge hits.
That they risked and in some cases lost their lives was a matter of heroism, not duty. The CIA officer in charge countermanded their effort to leave the CIA annex and head to the consulate, a mile away, when it first came under attack. Twenty-five minutes later, half a dozen men disobeyed and headed to the consulate anyway. The scene there was harrowing. Smoke inhalation is a terrible death.
The administration issued bland denials that any rescue was possible. Yet recently released e-mails, such as that from Jeremy Bash, aide to then–secretary of defense Leon Panetta, to Clinton aides on 9/11/12 revealed the opposite: “After consulting with General Dempsey, General Ham and the Joint Staff, we have identified the forces that could move to Benghazi. They are spinning up as we speak.”
There were F-18s at the Sigonella Naval Air Station in Italy, about a one-hour flight from Benghazi. As Popular Mechanics explained: “Jet warplanes can do more than fight and frighten. They can look at the conditions below. Air Force and Navy warplanes are equipped with targeting systems that pilots use to launch precision strikes and assess the damage after they attack . . . F-18s have LITENING pods . . . that can pick out individuals on the ground, day or night, and through clouds. The system can also see laser designators used by troops on the ground, and some reports . . . claim the team at Benghazi had such a designator on the roof of the CIA safe house.”
For whatever reason, President Obama was not moved enough by the plight of besieged Americans to send in the cavalry. That, more than the post-hoc confection about an anti-Islam Internet video, was the crime, and that is what 13 Hours depicts unflinchingly.