13 Hours – A Book Review.

13 hoursEven though we have continue to read almost anything that is put in front of us, we realized we haven’t done a book review in awhile. (After all, how many people are really interested in Stephen Sears’ Chancellorsville like we are?)

After seeing the movie trailer for the film 13 Hours, (trailer is below) we decided to take the time to read the book upon which the movie is based.

Before we get to the review, we want to make it clear that for any book we review, we aren’t getting compensation from anyone. We have no dog in the fight of whether the book is good or bad.

13 Hours” is the story of the men and women who fought to defend the US Consulate and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya from attacks on September 11 – 12, 2012 from terrorists. In the attacks, four US citizens – Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods – were killed. The book is told from the point of view of the men who were part of security teams at the Consulate and the Annex.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that what happened at Benghazi has been “political fodder.” Hearings were held on the incident. What was known by whom and what was said has tried to be determined. Whether the attack could have been prevented has been discussed. All of these topics are worthy of discussion and should see the light of day.

However, the book doesn’t discuss at length any of those issues. The book mentions the controversy because it is a controversy, but the authors stay away from it because the book is the story of what happened to them, and not what was happening in Washington, DC or even after the attacks. The only real controversy the book delves into is the so called “stand down” order which kept the men at the Annex rather than rushing to the aid of the Consulate. The men all say they were told to stand down and not try to render aid to the people in the Consulate by a CIA station chief named “Bob.” The CIA has denied they ever told the men to “stand down.” The men dispute that claim. It seems to us that the truth rests with the men. After all, if you have gotten your gear and your weapons and are sitting in vehicles ready to go to the Consulate, why didn’t the men leave immediately? The only thing that makes sense is that they were told to stand down and wait by someone.

Eventually the men tell “Bob” to take a long walk off a short pier (using far more colorful language) and they head off into the night to rescue and support the fighting at the Consulate.

To say the book is compelling is an understatement. It is one of the better first person accounts of anything we have read in a long time. The authors describe the gambit of the emotions of the men as they appear to be hopelessly outnumbered and without support. Will they ever see their wives and families again? Will they ever sit in a peaceful setting and drink a beer with the men fighting with them and for whom there is a deep abiding love and respect? There is anger at the support or rather the lack of support from the militia in the area who are supposed to be protecting the Consulate as well as serving as backup in case there was an incident. There is anger and frustration at the lack of military support from the US government as the men receive no air support from anything. Even a drone that flies overhead sends pictures back to Washington rather than supply support in the way of missiles or even real time intelligence as to where the attackers are and where the next attack is coming from.

There is the heartbreak and solemn understanding at the way Doherty and Woods’ bodies are taken from the rooftop of the Annex were they died. A team of US Army Rangers retrieve the bodies from the rooftop by throwing them over the parapet to the ground below. There was a real fear that the Annex was about to be attacked again when this occurred, so the fastest way was to get the bodies was to throw them over the building. The men with whom Woods and Doherty understand the practicality of what happened, but seeing the lifeless bodies of your friends and comrades must have been heartbreaking.

That heartbreak comes across in the book.

Too often first person account books are dry or overly emotional. “13 Hours” strikes a compelling and ultimately satisfying mixture of the two which allows for real depth of the men and their actions.

Frankly, if you are looking for a book on Benghazi which discusses all the political shenanigans, 13 Hours is not for you. If you want a book that tells the story of the men who were there and their actions during the attack on the Consulate and the Annex, we highly recommend 13 Hours.

13 Hours” is available from many sources including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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