13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi tells a story you have not heard, told by men you do not know, but they are not strangers. Any American who has been in combat has seen these men. In very good units, they are plentiful. This is a story about a few amazing guys who disobeyed a few orders and saved a bunch of lives. Every American should read this book and I hope our enemies study it.
Reading this book is a Rorschach Test. You will have one of two reactions that reveal your soul. You will think, “How terrible, thank God I was not there,” or you will think, “If I had been there, I could have made a difference.” You probably already know the answer and it defines your life.
This is not a story about the White House or the Pentagon or the State Department. They all played their roles. They all helped set the deadly stage, but there is no blame in this passion play, only the dead and the survivors. The reader is left to do his own research. Ambassador Stevens left his own comments from the grave.
Through a chain of denial and indecision at the State Department, American Ambassador Christopher Stevens was forced to chose between his duty and his fears. He chose duty, but when his worst fears came to pass, the minimal resources allocated for his safety were grossly inadequate. His only hope was a Global Response Staff team whose mission had nothing to do with his security.
The worst thing in the world is to know exactly what needs to be done, have all the resources at hand, to be blessed by almighty God with the exact skills needed, and to be told “no” by a frightened bureaucrat. The Global Response Staff team faced that very situation the night of September 11th.
They could have stayed safe in the annex and hidden behind direct orders from the chief of base. Hell, it was their mission to protect the annex. They knew when they disobeyed orders and rolled out the possible outcomes included being beheaded on video, years of imprisonment, dismemberment, and being fired by the agency—banned from future contracts. If they succeeded, they would probably have nothing more than another classified story they could not tell their families.
These guys came from different military backgrounds and they were a bit older than your average SEAL, Marine, or Ranger. They had decades of experience and training. They had all been shot at and seen body bags. They had families and children. Young recruits often take incredible risks and perform acts of great heroism without understanding the danger. These men all knew exactly what was coming, yet they went anyway.
As contractors, I bet these guys didn’t take an oath when they took this job. They were carefully selected by the agency as men still bound by values like the SEAL Creed and the Ranger Creed. They embodied these warrior values in a way few are privileged to do. They were placed in a position to perform the most righteous acts of heroism in a moment of great peril, and they did not flinch.
They felt the burden of duty to rescue the Americans in the diplomatic compound no matter the odds or their orders. They could not imagine the possibility of failing that duty. They formed a team and did everything they could, to the point of death to honor that duty, even after relief. As a Japanese emperor once told his soldiers, “Duty is heavier than a mountain; death is lighter than a feather.”
The military loves to praise moral courage. According to the U.S. Army, “Moral courage is the willingness to stand firm on your values, principles, and convictions—even when threatened. It enables leaders to stand up for what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences. Leaders who take responsibility for their decisions and actions, even when things go wrong, display moral courage.” In practice, disobeying your commander’s orders on moral grounds is never well received. These guys are the gold standard of moral courage.
In a very complex fight in the middle of town, they were scrupulously careful not to shoot non-combatants. Over and over again, they placed themselves at risk to ascertain the intentions of the Libyans they encountered, even if armed. This is a hallmark of calm, disciplined soldiers, and it brings even more credit to their actions.
In the end, they saved the diplomats and intelligence officers in two separate compounds, except the ambassador and Sean Smith, his computer specialist. In the mortar attack at the annex, they lost Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Mark Geist and Dave Ubben were seriously wounded. Las Vegas would have given that outcome million-to-one odds, but they bet their lives anyway. They did their duty and spared America another public defeat at the hands of savages.
You may kill men like this, but you cannot defeat them. America still produces them in numbers to fill armies. I hope our enemies read this book. They will see our hearts. It will scare the hell out of them.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Ppenlettersmonthly.com)