Friday, January 15, 2016

13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi
by with the Annex Security Team

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Twelve ()
ISBN-13: 978-1455582280
Kindle: 11941 KB
Publisher: Twelve (September 9, 2015)

Available on Amazon

True Life Thriller with Real Heroes

I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book, as I did not want to relive my feelings of shock and outrage at the aftermath of September 11, 2012. I shouldn't have worried.
 Instead of rehashing news coverage and debate, Zuckoff tells the story from the point of view of the five Global Response Staff security contractors (the Annex Security Team), including Tyrone Woods, who were there. 

At the start of the book, Zuckoff lists a cast of characters (including photos) and the Annex Security Team are Dave Benton (D.B)*, Mark Geist ("Oz"), Kris Paronto (Tanto"), Jack Silva*, John Tiegen ("Tig"), Tyrone Woods ("Rone"). We also see events as they happen to State Department Diplomatic Security agents Alec Henderson, David Ubben, and Scott Wickland.
*Names changed and photos anonymized 

The prologue recalls a previous violent siege by a mob on the poorly defended American diplomatic post in Benghazi, in June 5, 1957. Ten Americans were trapped as the mob set fire to the building. They were rescued by British soldiers stationed outside Benghazi.

The narrative then begins in August 2012, when "Jack Silva" arrives at Benghazi to be part of the security team at the CIA Annex. He is met by an old friend, Tyrone "Rone" Woods, who on the way to the Annex brings him up to speed on the local situation. The author then gives us a quick history lesson on how Benghazi came to be the place to it was in 2012. I found this part quite informative and interesting. We then get back to 2012, and we meet the people who will be involved: Ambassador Stevens, of course, and Steve Smith, but also others. We get to know the backgrounds and personalities of each of the Annex security team members. We learn about their bonds with one another, with the greater community of vets-turned-contractors, including Glen Dougherty who is in Tripoli. They become real people to us.

The book reads like a thriller, with an extra layer of dread over it because we know what is coming. We get a sense of the precarious situation of Americans in Benghazi, and of the stiffness of the working relationship between the security team and the CIA staffers. We learn how inadequate the defenses are at both the consulate and the annex. So when the attack comes on September 11th, we see how it all erupts. The CIA staffers are unprepared to act, and this is when we see what true heroes are like. Americans are in danger, calling desperately for help, and so while staffers are in analysis paralysis, they go help. They literally run to the fire. 

I found this book to be well-written, clear, with very helpful diagrams and photos to explain locations and events. The author did an excellent job of letting the personalities of each security team member shine through, and conveying their thoughts and emotions. I did feel like I was right there with them.

The movie is opens this weekend, and if you are wondering whether you should watch it, based on my reading of the book, I think you should watch it. Watch the movie. Read this book. Remember Benghazi 9/11/12.

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  1. Votermom, thanks for reviewing this. I never knew the movie came from a book. I may have to do a write-up for it on the book thread.

    1. I'm glad you like it! I haven't seen the movie yet but from what I've heard it is faithful to the book.