Friday, January 22, 2016

A Review Of A Movie I Haven't Seen

I have not seen 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. But, do I really have to see it in order to post something about it? Naw.

Someone who has seen it wrote a very good piece for the military veteran website Task and Purpose refuting the movie's inaccuracies and distortions. Being a former Marine Security Guard, he gets his information from real life rather than Tom Clancy novels and Call of Duty video games, so he knows whereof he speaks. See As A Former Embassy Guard, Here’s What I Know ‘13 Hours’ Got Wrong. Highly recommended if you plan to see the movie.

Something else I highly recommend is background information on the CIA's Global Response Staff, the employer of those protection contractors in Benghazi. See this WaPo article from 2012 for a description of the GRS.

Above all else, read the Vox piece on how Michael Bay's 13 Hours promotes some of the worst Benghazi conspiracy theories. While the movie is a good action flick for teenage boys - which Michael Bay freely admits is what he makes - it ends up feeding fantasies and conspiracy theories. See this quote:
The point is not that this narrative is overly simplistic and wrong — of course it is — but rather that in trying to wedge the real-life story into this box, Bay ends up distorting what happened in ways that could end up misleading millions of American viewers who are still trying to figure out what happened in real-life Benghazi and how to feel about it. It also ends up dovetailing, deliberately or not, with some of the most common and most persistent conspiracy theories about the incident.

That is the heart of the matter. “No one will mistake this movie for a documentary,” a CIA spokesperson told the Washington Post, but he is quite wrong. Dramatization beats disembodied narrative every time. The public - voters - get their information about current and historical events from entertainment media and will indeed think that they watched events in Benghazi happening before their eyes. You could ask Senator Tom Cotton whether or not the movie validated his unfounded beliefs about what happened.

Regarding those most common and persistent conspiracy theories, Vox included links to the main Senate and House investigative reports on the Benghazi incident, which make for good reading on this snowy weekend. The Senate Intelligence Committee report directly contradicts the main dramatic moment in 13 Hours, which is the charge that the protection contractors were ordered by the Benghazi Chief of Base ('Bob') not to respond to the attack on the Special Mission Facility. Did not happen. See pages 4 and 5 of the report.

The House Armed Services Committee report says the same. Furthermore, it explicitly refutes the movie's other big dramatic theme, which is the purported withholding of U.S. military air support during the incident. At least one of the protection contractors says air support was available. On the other hand, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the general who commanded U.S. Africa Command, and other general and flag officers and senior civilian defense offqicials have testified that it was not. You may decide for yourself which is the more reliable account.

This conclusive rebuttal of the air assets myth is on page 19 of the House report:
The Department of Defense had no armed drones or manned aircraft prepared for combat readily available and nearby on September 11. Secretary Panetta told the Senate in February 2013 that armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AC-130 ground attack gunships, or other similar planes “were not in the vicinity.” Mr. Reid echoed this to the House Armed Services Committee in May 2013 when he declared “[g]iven the time and distance factors involved, dispatching an armed aircraft to Benghazi was not an option available to us at the time." As the result of a specific request from the committee, DOD accounted for the location of each of its AC-130 aircraft in the military’s inventory, DOD reported to the committee that no AC-130s were in the region in the days before the Benghazi attack, including for maintenance, crew rest, or merely transiting through the area. However, DOD also reported to the committee that some of these planes were deployed to “southern Europe” on September 14, in order “to support operations in North Africa.” Similarly, the U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters stationed at Aviano, Italy at the time were configured for training flights. None were on combat alert. Furthermore, unlike typical preparations during the Cold War, NATO allies also had no planes on war-fighting status. This meant other nations could not offer combat aircraft to respond on behalf of the United States.

It should not be surprising that no fighters or gunships were available. Tom Clancy aside, the U.S. is not perpetually at war with every country on earth. And that is before you consider the realities of time and space, logistical limits, manpower availability, the need for intelligence preparation, the wisdom of sending flights over a country where there were thousands of loose MANPADS, and other such grown-up things.

But, sadly, none of that outweighs the evidence of video games where airstrikes are always just a mouse click away. The public will not be convinced otherwise after they've personally seen 'Bob' tell our heroes to stand down.


James said...

The biggest problem that the "powers that be" have is that they themselves have lied so much that no one believes them when "they" cry foul. This is part of what I've been blabbing on about in that they are captured by their own ideology and behavior. The "they" is almost every single one of them up there.

TSB said...

I think Congressional reports are credible, at least they are when they have bipartisan support and use testimony under oath and objective facts provided by career gov't and DOD. Such as an inventory of where all AC-130s were located. Cross examination in public with both hostile and friendly interlocutors is as good a method for getting to the truth as we have.