Benghazi, now in film, is continuing to haunt Democratic front-runner Clinton

By Ivan Couronne, AFP

WASHINGTON–The deadly militant attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012 continues to haunt U.S. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, this time in the form of a Hollywood action movie. The thriller about the assaults that left four Americans dead including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens is winning praise from conservatives because of its indirect criticism of Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time. “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” tells the story of the night of Sept. 11-12 through the eyes of six characters — former special ops soldiers hired by the CIA to provide security for its secret facilities in the coastal city of Benghazi.

The film follows their heroic fight over the course of a night amid non-stop explosions that are the trademark of the films of director Michael Bay (such as “Transformers,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon”) to repel the attacks. The first wave comes in the early evening against the U.S. diplomatic mission, where Stevens was present and died quickly as he suffocated in the smoke of a fire set by the attackers. A computer expert named Sean Smith also died. The second assault lasts hours and targets a nearby annex of the CIA. There, six men shooting from the rooftop fight off dozens of heavily armed men until a mortar blast kills one of them, Tyrone Woods, and another operator, Glen Doherty, who arrives from Tripoli at dawn. The film’s thesis is clear cut: despite multiple appeals, these men in Benghazi received no reinforcements from Washington or the Pentagon.

Although Clinton and U.S. President Barack Obama are never mentioned, the film depicts a political and military bureaucracy that is incompetent — unable even to dispatch some F-16 fighter aircraft as a show of force. One sees a character carrying out the role of an ineffectual military commander. In actual fact, congressional probes have shown that no plane or armed drone or ground forces were available and in a position to arrive in time to help the American men fighting in Benghazi. Republicans in Congress have nonetheless accused the administration of negligence for having left the U.S. diplomats and staff in Benghazi without enough protection in a dangerous city. Clinton the candidate survived a day of congressional hearings convened by her Republican adversaries in October. For conservatives, the film is their revenge — a tool to win over millions of viewers who may not know all the details of the tragedy. Ranked Fourth in the Box-office Fox News, which is popular among many Republicans, has devoted much air time to discussing “13 Hours.” Star Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly invited three of the men depicted in the film onto her show Monday. She said the movie captures “the desperate calls for help that went unanswered by President Obama’s administration, including Hillary Clinton’s State Department.” “My view is that they didn’t even try,” said one of the American fighters, former Army Ranger Kris Paronto. A few days ago, Smith’s mother Patricia said in tears on the same show: “Hillary is a liar.” She and Woods’ father say Clinton told them personally the attack was a spontaneous outburst that stemmed from an anti-Islam video that had triggered unrest in much of the Arab world. It later emerged that the attack was premeditated. Conservative figures ranging from radio personality Hugh Hewitt to former House speaker Newt Gingrich contend the film is key to understanding Clinton’s responsibility for the tragedy.