For anyone who thought that American Sniper was a sickening, nationalistic rewriting of history, you haven’t seen anything yet. For next January’s patriotic blockbuster that will highlight the heroic courage of that one indispensable nation is Michael Bay’s – yes, Michael Bay’s – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Is this the new normal, where the CIA and Pentagon attempt to whitewash their war crimes via the medium of Hollywood?
Obviously this is nothing new – during the Cold War the US government harnessed the film industry in order to churn out anti-communist propaganda; producing such ‘classics’ as I was a Communist for the FBI, which portrayed the Communist Party of the USA as being behind 1943’s race riots in Harlem and Detroit – therefore drawing a connection between the African American struggle for civil rights and political subversion.
The Cold War films were used to shape public opinion, to ‘win hearts and minds’ in the battle against communism and the USSR, however 13 Hours is a much more sinister operation. As with American Sniper, it is presenting itself as a story based on true events, but the events are in reality merely those which the US government wants the viewer to believe are true. Eastwood’s film implied that al Qaeda and 9/11 were responsible for the invasion of Iraq; this was what Chris Kyle himself believed, however in presenting this false narrative Eastwood undoubtedly reinforced the idea in the minds of uneducated viewers. At a preview screening Kyle’s widow told interviewers that Chris was ‘fighting terrorists’, despite Iraq not having an al Qaeda presence prior to the war.
13 Hours is based on the book of the same name by Mitchell Zuckoff, who co-wrote the text with one of the contractors involved in the operation at the US embassy in Libya to rescue Ambassador Stevens. Zuckoff’s Wikipedia page says of the book:
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi (2014) was co-written with the security team members who were involved in the 2012 Benghazi attack. It tells the story of the 13-hour Benghazi incident from the perspective of the security team who were involved in the fighting, without discussing later political controversies.
Thus it is highly likely that the film will not delve into the real purpose of the Benghazi embassy, why the CIA were stationed there; the history of the militia who killed Stevens and Libya’s political climate. What is guaranteed is a high dose of American exceptionalism, and the dehumanisation of Arabs – or as they were referred to in American Sniper: Ragheads.
Writing at The Intercept, Peter Maass writes:
The early reviews—I mean the early tweets—are highlyfavorable. If the trailer is an accurate indicator, or the director’s filmography (Bay also brought us Pearl Harbor and Transformers), the star-spangled hype is probably on the money, and we will be the poorer for it.
The main hints are the attention-getting trailer (please take a look) and the cast of characters on the IMDB site. There is apparently no Libyan character who merits a last name—there is just a “Fareed” and “Fareed’s wife.” The other apparently Libyan characters have no names at all; one of them is described as “Bandolier Militiaman” and another is “Camo Headwrap.” Who knows, perhaps 13 Hours will be loaded with rich historical context, but Bay, whose films have grossed $6.4 billion, according to his Twitter bio, is known for other things.
The film is also likely to increase popular support for American militarism and the ever-expanding ‘War on Terror’.
What’s next? The story of how the US military came to the rescue of 60 ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels, who heroically made their way towards Raqqa in order to battle the Islamic State, but on the way were unmercifully hit by barrel bombs stuffed with chlorine, thus leaving General Martin Dempsey with little choice but to crush the regime of Bashar al Assad in response? Directed by Gore Verbinski?
Ultimately, 13 Hours is an insult to the 50,000+ Libyans who died in 2011, and to the millions who continue to suffer today as a result of US, British and French imperialism.
To learn more about what really happened in Benghazi, Libya, and the consequences for the rest of Africa and indeed the world, I recommend the following resources:
Seymour M. Hersh: The Red Line and the Rat Line
Washington Times Exclusive: Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war
Cynthia McKinney: The Illegal War on Libya