13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff

13 Hours presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya.

A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. 

This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.


"It [13 Hours] is not about what officials in the Unites States government knew, said, or did after the attack, or about the ongoing controversy over talking points, electoral politics, and alleged conspiracies and cover-ups. It is not about what happened in hearing rooms of the Capitol, anterooms of the White House, meeting rooms of the State Department, or green rooms of TV talk shows. It is about what happened on the ground, in the streets, and on the rooftops of Benghazi, when bullets flew, building burned, and mortars rained. When lives were saved, lost, and forever changed."
I think that thing that I most appreciate about this book is what it's not. It is not just another political diatribe about the events surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack. While it is certainly not entirely free of bias and does have an agenda, it is clear from the beginning what that agenda is and the narrative doesn't deviate from it. In other words, this book doesn't say it's one thing when it's really something else.

My purpose in reading the book was to get a better understanding of the events that occurred over the thirteen hours when terrorists attack US safe holds in Benghazi. Now I realize that as a civilian, there are parts of this story that I will never know. I am a firm believer in government transparency, but I am also aware that there is a delicate balance between transparency and national security. In the days, weeks, months, and years since the 2012 Benghazi attacks much has been said on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., but what appealed to me about this book was that it was written in conjunction with the brave men who were on the ground and lived these events.

Overall, I found the book to be well written. It's narrative style made the text accessible and easy to follow. The downside to this is that it is easy to forget that this isn't some work of fiction. Yes, the narrative was as exciting, intense, and dramatic as an action movie, but I had to stop a few times and remind myself that this was not just another series of plot events and characters, but real-life events that actually happened and people who exist. This seems to be an ongoing challenge between civilians and the military. We are so bombarded with images of war in movies, video games, TV shows, and in news media that we forget that there are real people behind those images. Technology has further widened the gap between soldier and civilian, making it possible for the average American to go through their entire day without once pausing to think about the men and women who serve in the military and make our way of life possible.

For me, the brave men of the Annex security team, their fellow operatives, and our government officials serving in Benghazi are the heart of this story. It takes a special type of person to not only see danger and not run from it, but willingly chose to put yourself in harm's way to save the lives of others. My respect and awe for these men and women are deepened each time I read or hear about events like Benghazi, or meet a veteran in person. It saddens me to know that their life of service and sacrifice does not get the respect it deserves. It's so hard to understand how people can continue to use religion to justify violent actions and a lust for power. While this narrative did make some things clearer, it in no way even attempts to answer some of the bigger questions posed by the conflicts in the Middle East.

In the end, what remained with me the most were the stories of the security team operatives. I am in awe of them and their fellow service men and women and feel nothing but profound pride and gratitude for their service. I pray every night that God would bless and keep them and their families wherever they are.

2016 Reading Challenge: A New York Times bestseller

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