Thursday, November 14, 2013

UNDER FIRE

I recently finished reading UNDER FIRE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE ATTACK IN BENGHAZI by Fred Burton and Samuel M. Katz.

 Full disclosure: Fred Burton is a friend of mine. I've had the honor and privilege of working with Fred numerous times over the last 3-4 years. I've been there at his public speaking engagements to sell copies of GHOST (his first book) and CHASING SHADOWS (his second). I've already done three book selling gigs for UNDER FIRE and we've got another already lined up for next year.

Fred Burton, who spent several years as a counter-terrorism agent with the U.S. State Department, now lives and works right here in Austin. He's employed with Stratfor, a private global intelligence and security company. During his career, Fred has traveled the globe from one hot spot to another. He's investigated numerous acts of terrorism and has played a part in the arrest and conviction of several major players in the world of terror including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing.

Fred has seen a lot of bad stuff in his career. He has written about his experiences in his first two books and his public talks are always engaging, compelling and thought provoking. But, as I've often said to him, it's the stuff that he doesn't talk and write about that scares the hell out of me.

Fred is also one of the kindest, most unassuming and gracious people I've ever had the pleasure to know and work with. He is a straight shooter, a man who tells it like it is. His honesty, integrity and character is beyond reproach. He truly is one of the good guys.

UNDER FIRE is a riveting page turner of a book, a harrowing minute-by-minute account of the attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11th, 2012. Fred and his co-author Samuel Katz, faced an almost impossible deadline in getting this book written and published to coincide with the first anniversary of that attack which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

If you think you know what really happened that night you're wrong. For instance, there was never a protest in front of the compound over an alleged anti-Muslim video, a protest that got out of hand and became an attack on the villa. The attack, as shown in the book, was planned and executed as an act of terrorism from the get go. If you think there was an order to "stand down" to prevent American forces from attempting a rescue operation, you're wrong. Help did come from at least two in-country sources. They just got there too late in one instance and were held up at the Benghazi airport until a bribe was paid in the other.

Burton and Katz do an excellent job of sticking to the facts of the incident. They do not play politics here and do not affix blame to anyone in Washington. They present the facts and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions. They also do an outstanding job of setting the scene in Benghazi prior to the attack. Libya, after the fall of Qaddafi, was a lawless, wide-open country, much like the wild west of American history. There were various factions and warlords vying for power and control and the black market for drugs, weapons and who knows what else was flourishing. In short, it was a powder keg of a country in which something like the attack was not a matter of "if" but "when".

UNDER FIRE puts you side-by-side with American agents and soldiers fighting for their very lives against an almost unstoppable enemy force. Comparisons to the battle of the Alamo are not too far off. Burton and Katz give us a peek behind the scenes of U.S. Embassy security details and how things are supposed to function in the best of circumstances. There were no "best" circumstances in Benghazi and these brave young men knew it. The book is a tribute to the heroism, valor and courage under fire that these extraordinary men showed during a long night of terror.

I cannot recommend UNDER FIRE highly enough. This book should be required reading for every thinking adult American. Yes, I'm prejudiced. Yes, Fred Burton is my friend. But all that aside, UNDER FIRE is one helluva book.

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