Benghazi Calling—Gregory Hicks And The Desperate Phone Calls He "Missed"

Gregory Hicks prepares to make his case, or the case of the Republicans, against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and maybe also some portions of the truth Hicks would prefer to layer over with a better-sounding recollection.
So, this past week the Republicans, still trying to find some way to impeach Barack Obama—just like they found a way to impeach Bill Clinton—brought out their supposed big gun from the September 11th, 2012 attack on the US diplomatic mission compound in Benghazi, Libya.

In that series of attacks, lasting over several hours, four Americans were killed, including the US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. This week, the Republican House put on display Stevens' Deputy in Libya at the time of the attack, Gregory Hicks.

Hicks had a lot to say, but he mostly didn't say anything that we didn't already know. However, some of what Hicks said has escaped any notice or comment, perhaps because it seemed to be unimportant details. But reading more closely, one is led to asking some questions about what Hicks claims to be the facts.

For example, there are the several communications that occurred, or did not occur, between Hicks and Stevens that day.

Hicks says he texted Stevens earlier on September 11th, to ask him if he was aware of what was happening in Cairo (in other words that the Embassy grounds had been penetrated by demonstrators trying to "tear down our flag"). Hicks says Stevens indicated to him that was not aware of this and then thanked him and that was it. Odd, isn't it, that they would not have discussed at that point what if anything these protests might mean for the situation facing US diplomatic posts right next door in Libya.

But Hicks asserts the day was "routine" and that he simply got back to doing "business". Further, despite the crazy day that was going on in the US diplomatic world, again, right next door in Egypt, when Hicks was done with work, he retired to his villa in Tripoli to watch "a television show that I particularly like." Did he call Ambassador Stevens to see how things were going in Benghazi? Hicks does not indicate he did.

But what he does say, or admit to, is curious in that regard. Because, at some point while Hicks was watching television, Ambassador Stevens called him. At least twice. And Hicks did not answer the calls. Yep, while Hicks was relaxing in Tripoli after a tough day of "business", Stevens and the US contingent at the Benghazi mission were being attacked by a large group of terrorists. And Stevens was trying to call his deputy in Benghazi to beg for help.

But, you know, dude—it was Hicks' favorite television show—come on. Whatever it was it can wait, right?

This is where things get murky. Because, the first time we heard about these telephone calls, the way in which the calling and the eventual picking up by Hicks occurred, the story was different. In the version Representative Jason Chaffetz R-Utah) told to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, back on October 31, 2012, Hicks saw the calls coming in on his phone, but ignored them, because he reportedly did not recognize the numbers. Chaffetz reported:
"[Hicks] said that shortly after 9:40 pm, what happened is his phone rang, and he didn’t recognize the number, so he didn’t answer it. And then it rang again, and he didn’t answer it because he didn’t recognize the number. But then, given the persistence, he did answer it. It was Ambassador Stevens. And Ambassador Stevens was saying we’re under attack, we’re under attack."
However, in Congressional testimony given on May 8, 2013, Hicks had a different version of how the calls came in, and how he handled them:
"At 9:45 pm...the RSO John Martinek, ran into my villa [at the Tripoli US Embassy] yelling 'Greg! Greg! the [Benghazi] consulate’s under attack!' And I stood up and reached for my phone, because I had an inkling or thought that perhaps the Ambassador tried to call me to relay the same message, and I found two missed calls on the phone, one from the Ambassador’s phone, one from a phone number I didn’t recognize. And I punched the phone number I didn’t recognize. And I got the Ambassador on the other end, and he said “Greg, we’re under attack.”
So, let's sift this for a moment:

• Hicks says he "reached" for his phone. It was not therefore in some other room, where he might not have heard the phone calls. Had Hicks turned off the ringer then? Maybe, but wouldn't it have made more sense not to do that, on the night of September 11th, when you already know trouble is brewing in your neighborhood?

• Hicks, saying he was trying to reach Ambassador Stevens, for some reason reports: "I punched the phone number I didn't recognize." What? What the hell for, when Hicks reports he had an unanswered call from the Ambassador's phone? That just doesn't make much sense, does it?

• Unless Chaffetz is misreporting what Hicks told him, then in the Chaffetz version, Hicks actually sees the calls come in, but ignores them until they persist and Hicks, perhaps in some degree of irritation—what with the calls interrupting his television show and all—finally does answer the unknown number and it turns out to be desperate Ambassador Stevens, informing Greg that he needs to get off his lazy ass and try to DO SOMETHING!

• So, if we blend these two tales, what do they suggest? That Hicks actually saw the Ambassador's call come in, on the Ambassador's phone, and just decided to let him leave a message? In fact, why did Ambassador Stevens call a second (or a third) time using a different phone number? Was it because Stevens couldn't get through to Hicks, because Hicks refused to pick up the phone when he saw it was the Ambassador calling? And yes, I know—WHY WOULD HICKS DO THAT? Good question.

• Isn't it odd that Hicks reports he had an "inkling" that the Ambassador had tried to reach him? Hicks might have had more than an inkling if he had in fact seen the Ambassador's phone listed on an incoming call that he had decided to deal with later.

• In the Chaffetz version, Hicks is informed, apparently for the first time, by answering the unknown number and talking to Stevens, that the Benghazi compound is under attack. In Hicks' version, his first thought, after being informed by Martinek that the Benghazi compound is under attack, is not to ask for more details from Martinek, but to grab his phone looking for incoming calls—that he knew were there?—from the Ambassador.

• Lastly, when Hicks finally got on the phone with Stevens that night, he reports the Ambassador was blunt: “Greg, we’re under attack.” Hicks says he replied "OK", and then the line went dead. Hicks says he tried to call back each number once more, and then we hear no more about it. If the line went dead, wouldn't that be a troubling occurrence, prompting you to keep calling both numbers? Maybe that happened, but Hicks does not say so. It is odd, the terse exchanges reported by Hicks between these two men, concerning the most desperately important matters. Was there more to that last call than Hicks is saying? So far, we only have Hicks' word about it.

All this is to suggest something. Most commentators, and Jason Chaffetz also remarked about this in his discussing the demeanor of Hicks, have talked about the great suffering Hicks seems to have undergone in reaction to the Benghazi attack and its aftermath (in fact, Hicks seems quite upset about the aftermath—his demotion).

But maybe the emotion people see in Hicks, his apparent passion to act as an advocate for the fallen, is rooted in the recognition that on the evening of September 11th, 2012, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Libya, was kicking it in front of the boob tube, instead of being careful, watchful, or even responsive to the desperate last minutes of need of his boss in Benghazi.

Maybe Gregory Hicks is feeling guilty about something.

Comments