The True Story Behind the Benghazi Movie '13 Hours' (2024)

In Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a gang of shouting, masked men storm the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, fire holes through an American flag and burn the ambassador’s opulent lodging to the ground. Ambassador Chris Stevens is breathing in dangerous amounts of smoke. Our American heroes are just a mile away, armed to the teeth and ready to come to the rescue.

But that’s against orders, according to Bay’s telling. “You will wait,” the pudgy CIA commander tells the armed operatives at the nearby base who are desperate to go help. “Stand down!”

Reports show that the chief CIA commander at the nearby annex in Benghazi did tell the team of American security personnel to wait before rushing to the diplomatic compound. Operatives had “tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart,” according to a House accounting of the incident. But there is no evidence of a “stand down” order that would have stopped American help from reaching the compound. And it’s unclear that any different decisions on the night of September 11, 2012—from the top brass in Washington to the CIA at the annex next door—could have saved the ambassador.

But that’s not really the point. Benghazi, which has become a byword for disaster, was an avoidable tragedy, in Bay’s telling. As the movie shows, security at the diplomatic compound was fatally thin and warning signs went unheeded. While Hillary Clinton’s name is never mentioned in 13 Hours, Bay’s argument is clear enough, and familiar: Clinton’s world of government technocrats and sheltered professionals failed to protect American lives.

The movie debuts at a politically charged moment. Screened first to the public on Tuesday in Dallas, Texas, at the AT&T Stadium, the film anticipates the Iowa caucuses and a contentious 2016 election when Clinton and President Obama’s legacy will be in the hot seat. Indeed, conservatives are already praising the movie for exposing Uncle Sam’s failures to protect his own. Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt said the movie was “an indictment” that “will leave those who will open their eyes and ears to see and hear seething about Hillary’s massive fail that night in 2012.”

13 Hours falls into a tradition of political films that offer an indictment proved by tragedy. Black Hawk Down (2001) showed the deaths of 18 Americans due to a failed 1993 military operation in Somalia during President Bill Clinton’s tenure, while Fahrenheit 9/11 sought to reveal the f*cklessness of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy through the debacle of the Iraq War. This year’s Michael Bay movie is the logical endpoint of the trend: it’s a political movie disguised as a drama, and timed to the start of a presidential election.

Criticism of Clinton’s Washington world is implicit in 13 Hours. Our ersatz Hillary Clinton, the CIA officer in charge of the Benghazi intelligence annex on the night of the attack, is clammy and immediately repellant. “We hired the brightest minds from Harvard and Yale to do their work,” the chief tells the contractors on duty. “The best thing you can do is stay out of their way.” Next door, the rough-hewn, non-Ivy League soldiers spend their days lifting weights, drinking beer and video chatting with their kids and wives back home. Their advice is repeatedly ignored. “If you’ve got useful intel, put it in a memo,” says the CIA’s Hillary stand-in. Despite the apparent dangers in Libya, there is little protection.

Once the action begins, the Americans are left high and dry. “The gunship is out of fueling range—that’s what they’re telling me,” says one of the Americans after communicating with headquarters at home. “I called for air support. It never came,” says another. “We don’t have any f–king support!” says one of our American operatives. Flashed images of top brass at home show us just who didn’t send help—even though little top-down wrongdoing is claimed in the film.

Hillary Clinton has accepted responsibility for not arranging for better security in Libya, though she and the rest of the Obama administration have denied intentionally misleading the public in the days after the attack. In the years since, conservatives’ accusations about her mishandling of the crisis have followed her and damaged her standing. Though she was largely considered to have vindicated herself in a hearing in a House hearing in October, Republicans may very well try to use Benghazi again in the coming months.

Read More: How Hillary Clinton Won the Benghazi Hearing

And if there’s any question that the Bay movie is being used as a political stunt, two Republican groups will host a screening of the movie on Friday in Washington, D.C., and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton will speak at the event. Republicans are talking about the potential impact of the movie, which could again help to redefine Benghazi attacks as a moment of failure for Obama and Clinton. “The release of ’13 Hours’ will re-start the conversation over Benghazi and introduce a whole new audience to the events of that night,” Brian O. Walsh, President of Future45, told CNN. “Coming just weeks before the first votes are cast and in the form of a major motion picture from Hollywood, the timing couldn’t be worse for Secretary Clinton.”

13 Hours is likely to be much more popular among conservatives than among the audiences Clinton is trying to woo in the Democratic primary. Whether the movie arouses a latent distrust for Clinton among the voters who matter—that’s a question for Election Day.

The True Story Behind the Benghazi Movie '13 Hours' (2024)


The True Story Behind the Benghazi Movie '13 Hours'? ›

Written by Chuck Hogan, it is based on Mitchell Zuckoff's 2014 book. The film follows six members of the Annex Security Team who fought to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya after waves of attacks by militants on September 11, 2012.

What is the true story behind the movie 13 Hours? ›

In 2016, Michael Bay directed the biographical action film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which tells the true story of a terrorist attack on the US Ambassador to Libya, and the six soldiers that fought back against the militants.

How accurate is the Benghazi movie? ›

Michael Bay's Benghazi movie 13 Hours is 'inaccurate', according to CIA officer.

Was Jack Silva a real person? ›


Jack Silva is a former US Navy SEAL appearing in the 2016 film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, from which he serves as the protagonist. He is portrayed by John Krasinski.

What is the true story of Benghazi? ›

On September 11, 2012, at 9:40 p.m. local time, members of Ansar al-Sharia attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi resulting in the deaths of both United States Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.

How many Americans died in Benghazi? ›

A decade has passed since terrorists led a mob that attacked American diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya. This senseless attack killed four Americans who were defending the United States' consulate. U.S. Ambassador J.

How historically accurate was the movie Thirteen Days? ›

Thirteen Days is widely regarded as a page-to-screen depiction of the Cuban Missile Crisis events. The filmmakers went to great lengths to ensure historical accuracy, consulting with historians and former Kennedy administration officials to recreate the political and military strategies involved.

How many soldiers died in 13 Hours in Benghazi? ›

Four Americans died in the 2012 Benghazi attack: Ambassador Chris Stevens, Information Officer Sean Smith, and two CIA operatives, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs. Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador killed in an attack since Adolph Dubs was killed in 1979.

What is the hand signal in 13 Hours? ›

The shaka sign is similar to the letter Y in the American manual alphabet in American Sign Language. The shaka sign should not be confused with the sign of the horns, where the index and pinky finger are extended and the thumb holds down the middle two fingers.

What happened to Oz from 13 Hours? ›

Geist finished his career as a security contractor in Benghazi, Libya, where he was credited with helping to save the lives of more than 25 Americans. Mr. Geist is still recovering from the injuries he sustained in the battle.

What does 17 Feb mean in 13 hours? ›

17 Martyrs Brigade militia, referred to as “Feb 17” in the film, whom the U.S. called on for assistance during the attacks). The film rightly honors them.

Who was Tig in 13 hours? ›

Dominic Fumusa: John 'Tig' Tiegen

Jump to: Photos (13)

Who was Glen in 13 hours? ›

Toby Stephens: Glen 'Bub' Doherty

Photos (6) Quotes (2)

Who went to jail for Benghazi? ›

Mustafa Al-Imam Sentenced to More than 19 Years in Prison for September 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Is Libya a safe country or not? ›

Do not travel to Libya due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and armed conflict. Country Summary: Crime levels in Libya remain high, including the threat of kidnapping for ransom.

How many survivors of Benghazi? ›

More than 20 lives were saved, though, thanks to Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist, John “Tig” Tiegen, and the rest of the CIA annex security team who fought off the attackers for over 13 hours.

What is the true story behind the movie 13? ›

Based on the real-life experiences of actress Nikki Reed, who was like a daughter to Hardwicke, Thirteen showcased a brand-new era of girlhood. As cell phones and the internet became more common, teens were exposed to more facets of the world than ever before.

What happened to the secret soldiers of Benghazi? ›

By dawn, Stevens was pronounced dead from smoke inhalation. Former Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods and former Marine Glenn Dougherty were both killed in action. But the team managed to rescue about 30 other workers. The State Department later admitted the Benghazi outpost was "woefully" under secured.

Who is the real Oz from 13 Hours? ›

Mark “Oz” Geist shares powerful life and leadership lessons utilizing the facts portrayed in the NYT's best-selling book and movie, “13 Hours”.

What does grs stand for in 13 Hours? ›

The Annex base scene in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Ta' Qali, Attard, Malta. At the Annex, the Global Response Staff (GRS) team is eager to rush to the compound's aid, but their chief hesitates, concerned that leaving would compromise the Annex's security.


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