Thirteen Hours In Benghazi, The Inside Account of What Really Happened,

by Mitchell Zuckoff

Journalism has been expanding it reach, particularly since 9-11, when the U.S.’s invincibility began being called into question, and the world stage became a much more complicated place. In times of political transition world-wide, nothing is certain; there are no rules, no theories for such transition and a subsequent world stability. The world must reinvent itself. The most fertile region for such confounding change in this century has been the Middle East (with Africa not far behind), with its Arab Spring, and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has proven to be an Achilles heel for the U.S.’s belief in American exceptionalism and its foreign policies wrapped up in nation building.
Against this backdrop, Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, set up shop in Tripoli’s “bad sister” twin city, Benghazi, hoping to reach out to the various militia groups there, as well as to ordinary Libyans, to say that America was there not only to bring stability, but to be Libya’s friend.
Such idealistic forays always seem to go awry, though. The compound where Stevens set up his headquarters was, at Stevens’ request, given minimal security protection, both to show Libyans that the U.S. wasn’t afraid to be there, and to open doors to average Libyans. From this book, three reasons for the attack on Stevens’ compound appear: Eastern Libya is and was a lawless, violent place. Then al-Qaida militias roamed there, fighting with others, and the sparsely guarded compound must have seemed an easy target. Also, an anti-Muslim film appeared in the U.S., and it set off demonstrations and, possibly the attack on the diplomatic compound.

Less than a mile away stood a CIA station. When the attack on Stevens’ compound began, the CIA’s operator-guards sought to help defend the compound, but were delayed while a timid Team Leader there sought approval from Washington to attack the insurgents. Meanwhile, the operators took off for the compound and a thirteen hour series of battles occurred in which Stevens, a computer jock, and two of the operators were killed.

Zuckoff’s writing is detailed, minute-by-minute, and based on fact-laden reports, while scrupulously avoiding political commentary. The author has a flair for the dramatic present in this event, and in how to write it, and the book is very human, very compelling.

My rating: 18 of 20 stars


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