13 HOURS – The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

11, as in the 11th September. 13, the number of hours during which the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was committed, claiming the life of American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other men. The night of September 11th 2012. 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is the latest movie by Michael Bay (director of blockbuster Transformers), based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book.

“13 HOURS is a non-political film” declared Bay. “I wanted to tell the heroism of six American soldiers in that terrible night when they risked their own lives in a desperate attempt to save Ambassador Stevens and other Americans.”

Nevertheless, 13 HOURS soon became what Americans call a ‘hot-button political movie’, a movie raising disturbing issues. From as cinematography perspective 13 HOURS is a “medium weight American movie” without great finesse. It is half way between an action and war movie, full of caricatures & mannerisms and deafening from start to finish. It is fast pace with a generous dose of shootings and roaring explosions.

From the first scene onwards it is clear from the bullet-ridden planes on the airport runways where Jack, an American agent is waiting for his old buddy Ron, that Benghazi does not hold anything good. ”Hired help” they are called, former soldiers, former policemen… men trained for the most extreme situations, men willing to do the dirty work, which are now increasingly hired by the CIA to carry out high-risk missions.

In 2012, Benghazi is a city from where all nations have fled. Even the Iranians have left.

But not the Americans. They have too many political and economic interests in the new Libya and Benghazi born from the onset of the Libyan revolution.

As American representative, Ambassador Stevens is in town on a week’s visit because “America is here for you, for friendship between our peoples.” Officially Stevens is in Benghazi as a mediator between the fighting militias attempting to carve up Libya and its oil wells after the elimination of Gaddafi.

Stevens is not the only one in Benghazi in September 2012. The CIA is also there on a secret mission, a very secret mission in ‘Zoolandia’, as Ron names the intelligence compound, probably because it is located next to a sheep farm.

Is there a link between the two? And if so, what is it? A clue connecting CIA and Stevens’ presence in Benghazi is in the words “Stand down” the command that Bob, the highly secretive CIA chief gives the contractors who are ready to intervene in the rescue of the ambassador.

September 11th 2012, 22:00 hours. Four pick-up trucks break through the consulate main gate where Ambassador Stevens is. Within minutes dozens of fighters armed with machine guns and the worst intentions sweep across the entire the consulate complex. Diesel rapidly is shed everywhere.

Some of the fighters film the attack, Jihadist flags unfurl. All hell breaks loose. There is no escape for Stevens, Smith and another official of the regional security guard, the only ones in the compound at the time. Thick clouds of smoke can be seen from Zoolandia, just over a mile away from the American consulate.

Stand down“. Why can’t Ron, Jack and the others act? Aren’t they in Benghazi to ensure the safety of Americans, starting with the representative of Obama? Twenty minutes go by from that original “Stand down” a new (Rambo-esc) command is heard from Ron “Today, it’s me who gives orders” he said leading his men out.

The head of the CIA secret mission, the real one, identified only as ‘Bob’, denies having ever said something like that. According to him, the movie is not meant to be a true reconstruction of the events of that night. That may be the case, but it is difficult to understand why the CIA was covertly in Benghazi. Similarly, why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi, unless we want believe the story of ”friendship among peoples … “

Not only was Christopher Stevens a very experienced and travelled diplomat. He was the United States’ man in the post-Gaddafi Libya, the one who had managed cleverly to forge important personal ties with the most powerful (and dangerous) representatives of the galaxy of assorted fighters against Gaddafi’s men. Stevens deftly infiltrated himself among the most influential militias leaders.

Certainly Stevens had asked them for help that night of September 11th. That night four men died. Chris Stevens, Sean Smith and two American agents, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The latter two fall victims at the attack on Zoolandia, which was no longer a secret place. All through the night Jack, Don and the others, back at base without Stevens, faced never-ending attacks from the militias. A sense of looming tragedy oozes from the screen accompanied by noise of rockets and mortars.

At dawn on September 12th 37 American agents made it to the airport safely.

From investigations it is clear that on the night of September 11th 2012 a well-thought-out terrorist attack was perpetrated against the American position; it was, probably a counter offensive for the killing of Abu al-Libi, al Qaeda’s number two, a few months before. The Congressional Committee on Intelligence (with Republican majority) cleared the CIA from any liability.  It would be the fault of the State Department and their leader at the time, Hillary Clinton.

We are on the eve of the presidential elections.

Stevens’ case is a bonus for Republicans, and the evidence of Obama’s disastrous disengagement in the Middle East.

According to the allegations of Republicans, Obama would have been aware of the repeated requests by Stevens to strengthen the security of Americans in Libya but would have ignored them for political opportunism. The fall of Gaddafi – to which the United States had decisively contributed albeit from behind, would have improved the situation in Libya. Accepting Steven’s requests would have meant admitting that Al-Qaeda & C was far from defeated.

End of the story of September 11th.

Unless one might not give credit to the “theory” of the Wall Street Journal that suggests, on the basis of reconstructions and rumors  (in reality, more than a hypothesis) that the presence of Stevens in Benghazi  “was in essence a CIA operation” engaged in substantial arms trafficking of 400 tons of ground-to-air missiles (MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades.

It’s not new for the CIA to be involved in weapons trafficking on behalf of American interests.  But if they are destined for Syrian rebels, the matter becomes rather embarrassing. Embarrassing not for CIA but for Obama who has always claimed that he never intended to arm the Syrian rebels.

The CIA’s role in Benghazi would have been to seize weapons that disappeared from Gaddafi’s impressive arsenal, and gone in the chaos following his overturn in the hands of dangerous Libyan extremists. Allegedly it was a certain Abdul Hakem Belhadj, the new representative of the Military Council of Tripoli, who had met Stevens in 2011 during the ‘Lybian Spring’, who arranged shipments to Syria via Turkey.

At the time, Mr. Belhadj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group linked to Al Qaeda. The State Department and Hillary Clinton rejected any US involvement in real or alleged arms shipments to Syria or elsewhere. If such a massive cargo of weapons was about to leave from Benghazi to support the war against Bashar al-Assad, Stevens could not have been unaware. It seems that his last meeting, on September 11th was with the Turkish consul to arrange the transit of weapons.

This theory would explain why the force of rapid intervention in the Sigonella field, in Sicily, never took off for Libya. A one-hour flight, “like jumping a puddle,” Ron joked.  So, the theory would explain why ‘Predator’, the drone that was also in the air over consulate of Bengazi when the attack took place, did not enter into action.

With the movie 13 HOURS Michael Bay wanted to let everyone know of the courage of these six contractors, he wanted to honor them and to prevent them from falling into obscurity. We know how it ended that night of September 2012. We will never know exactly how the chain of events leading to Stevens’ death started. After years of war between various Islamist militias on Lybian stage, the secular forces of General Haftar have regained Benghazi almost completely, forcing out the Muslim Brotherhood from Tripoli. The Haftar operation, Karama,  the fight without quarter to the jihadists of the Sharia and ISIS, has cost more than two thousand death in two years.

Brother, your country has to clean up this mess,” Ron’s voice echoed in the skies of Benghazi.

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