“It is the most fateful moment in a movie that purports to present a searingly accurate account of the 2012 attacks that left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya: a scene in which the highest-ranking CIA operative at a secret agency compound orders his security team to “stand down” rather than rush off to rescue U.S. diplomats under siege less than a mile away.
According to the officer in charge of the CIA’s Benghazi base that night, the scene in the movie is entirely untrue.
“There never was a stand-down order,” said the base chief known as Bob, speaking publicly for the first time. “At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart.”
Nor, he said, did he say anything that could be “interpreted as equivalent” to an order to stand down.
The distortions in the movie are not new; they reflect lies or errors — choose your own term — prevalent in the conservative media. However, every report by every agency or committee to investigate what happened at Benghazi has concluded that there was no stand-down order and nothing that could be interpreted as such.
In fact, the distortions do such damage to the truth that the House Intelligence Committee — the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee — issued a fact-sheet more than a year ago to make it clear that “Certain press articles about the House Intelligence Committee’s Report on Benghazi do not accurately represent the Committee’s Report.”
I quote, again from the GOP-led committee:
- Any delay in responding to the attack, the committee found, was “a tactical decision of the leadership on the ground to attempt to gather more information about the attack at the (temporary mission facility) before authorizing the team’s departure. There is no evidence to suggest that, absent the delay, the team could have saved Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.”
- “The Committee did not receive any evidence that individuals in Washington, Tripoli, or elsewhere influenced the decision of the Chief of Base or the CIA Security Chief about when and whether to allow the security team to head to the TMF.”
- “There is no evidence showing that the CIA intimidated or prevented any officer from speaking to the Congress or telling his story. All officers testified to the Committee that they were not intimidated.”
- No close-air support such as drones or gunships was withheld from the mission because none was available, and “The CIA security officers in Benghazi should have known that no close air support was available because that information was widely disseminated via cable traffic.”
Maybe “13 Hours” is a good movie. I don’t know because I haven’t seen it. But it is clearly not good history. And if certain parties nonetheless hope to reap political benefits from the movie’s distortions, well, that’s hardly a surprise. They’ve been trying to squeeze an advantage out of the deaths of these brave Americans from the very beginning through lies and distortion, and nothing can shame them into stopping.