"Fuck your Parliament
and your Constitution,"
said the President of the United States
excerpted from the book
by William Blum
"It's the best damn Government since
Pericles," the American two-star General declared. (The news
report did not mention whether he was chewing on a big fat cigar.)
The government, about which the good General
was so ebullient, was that of the Colonels' junta which came to
power in a military coup in April 1967, followed immediately by
the traditional martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, torture,
and killings, the victims totaling some 8,000 in the first month.
This was accompanied by the equally traditional declaration that
this was all being done to save the nation from a "communist
takeover". Corrupting and subversive influences in Greek
life were to be removed. Among these were miniskirts, long hair,
and foreign newspapers; church attendance for the young would
So brutal and so swift was the repression,
that by September, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands
were before the European Commission of Human Rights to accuse
Greece of violating most of the Commission's conventions. Before
the year was over Amnesty International had sent representatives
to Greece to investigate the situation. From this came a report
which asserted that "Torture as a deliberate practice is
carried out by both Security Police and the Military Police."
The coup had taken place two days before
the campaign for national elections was to begin, elections which
appeared certain to bring the veteran liberal leader George Papandreou
back as prime minister. Papandreou had been elected in February
1964 with the only outright majority in the history of modern
Greek elections. The successful machinations to unseat him had
begun immediately, a joint effort of the Royal Court, the Greek
Military, and the American military and CIA stationed in Greece.
Philip Deane (the pen name of Gerassimos
Gigantes) is a Greek, a former UN official, who worked during
this period both for King Constantine and as an envoy to Washington
for the Papandreou government. He has written an intimate account
of the subtleties and the grossness of this conspiracy to undermine
the government and enhance the position of the military plotters,
and of the raw power exercised by the CIA in his country. ...
Greece was looked upon much as a piece of property to be developed
according to Washington's needs. A story related by Deane illustrates
how this attitude was little changed, and thus the precariousness
of Papandreou's position: During one of the perennial disputes
between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, which was now spilling
over onto NATO, President Johnson summoned the Greek ambassador
to tell him of Washington's "solution". The ambassador
protested that it would be unacceptable to the Greek parliament
and contrary to the Greek constitution. "Then listen to me,
Mr. Ambassador," said the President of the United States,
"fuck your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an
elephant. Cyprus is a flea. If these two fleas continue itching
the elephant, they may just get whacked by the elephant's trunk,
whacked good.... We pay a lot of good American dollars to the
Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about
Democracy, Parliament and Constitutions, he, his Parliament and
his Constitution may not last very long."
In July 1965, George Papandreou was finally
maneuvered out of office by royal prerogative. The king had a
coalition of breakaway Center Union Deputies (Papandreou's party)
and rightists waiting in the wings to form a new government. It
was later revealed by a State Department official that the CIA
Chief-of-Station in Athens, John Maury, had "worked in behalf
of the palace in 1965. He helped King Constantine buy Center Union
Deputies so that the George Papandreou Government was toppled.
For nearly two years thereafter, various short-lived cabinets
ruled until it was no longer possible to avoid holding the elections
prescribed by the constitution.
What concerned the opponents of George
Papandreou most about him was his son Andreas Papandreou, who
had been head of the economics department at the University of
California at Berkeley and a minister in his father's cabinet,
was destined for a leading role m the new government. But he was
by no means the wide-eyed radical. In the United States Andreas
had been an active supporter of such quintessential moderate liberals
as Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey. His economic views, wrote
Washington Post columnist Marquis Childs, were "those of
the American New Deal".
But Andreas Papandreou did not disguise
his wish to take Greece out of the cold war. He publicly questioned
the wisdom of the country remaining in NATO, or at least remaining
in It as a satellite of the United States. He leaned toward opening
relations with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries
on Greece's border. He argued that the swollen American military
and intelligence teams in Greece compromised the nation's freedom
of action. And he viewed the Greek Army as a threat to democracy,
wishing to purge it if its most dictatorial- and royalist-minded
Andreas Papandreou's bark was worse than
his bite, as his later presidency was to amply demonstrate. (He
did not, for example, pull Greece out of NATO or US bases out
of Greece.) But in Lyndon Johnson's Washington, if you were not
totally and unquestionably with us, you were agin' us. Johnson
felt that Andreas, who had become a naturalized US citizen, had
"betrayed America". Said LBJ:
"We gave the son of a bitch American
citizenship, didn't we? He was an American, with all the rights
and privileges. And he had sworn allegiance to the flag. And then
he gave up his American citizenship. He went back to just being
a Greek. You can't trust a man who breaks his oath of allegiance
to the flag of these United States.
What, then, are we to make of the fact
that Andreas Papandreou was later reported to have worked with
the CIA in the early 1960s? (He criticized publication of the
report, but did not deny the charge.) If true, it would not have
been incompatible with being a liberal, particularly at that time.
It was incompatible, as he subsequently learned, only with his
commitment to a Greece independent from US foreign policy.
As for the elder Papandreou, his anti-communist
credentials were impeccable, dating back to his role as a British-installed
prime minister during the civil war against the left in 1944-45.
But he, too, showed stirrings of independence from the Western
superpower. He refused to buckle under Johnson's pressure to compromise
with Turkey over Cyprus. He l accepted an invitation to visit
Moscow, and when his government said that it would accept Soviet
aid in preparation for a possible war with Turkey, the US Embassy
demanded an explanation. Moreover, in an attempt to heal the old
wounds of the civil war, Papandreou began to reintroduce certain
civil liberties and to readmit into Greece some of those who had
fought against the government in the civil war period.
When Andreas Papandreou assumed his ministerial
duties in 1964 he was shocked to discover what was becoming a
fact of life for every techno-industrial state in the world: an
intelligence service gone wild, a shadow government with powers
beyond the control of the nation's nominal leaders. This, thought
Papandreou, unaccounted for many of the obstacles the government
was encountering in trying to carry out its policies.
A CIA report dated 23 January 1967 had
specifically named the Papadopoulos group as one plotting a coup,
and was apparently one of the reports discussed at the February
Of the cabal of five officers which took
power in April, four, reportedly, were intimately connected to
the American military or to the CIA in Greece. The fifth man had
been brought in because of the armored units he commanded. George
Papadopoulos emerged as the defacto leader, taking the title prime
minister later in the year.
The catchword amongst old hands at the
US military mission in Greece was that Papadopoulos was "
the first CIA agent to become Premier of a European country".
It was torture ... which most indelibly
marked the seven-year Greek nightmare [under Papadopoulos]. James
Becket, an American attorney sent to Greece by Amnesty International,
wrote In December 1969 that "a conservative estimate would
place at not less than two thousand" the number of people
tortured. It was an odious task for Becket to talk to some of
"People had been mercilessly tortured
simply for being in possession of a leaflet criticizing the regime.
Brutality and cruelty on one side, frustration and helplessness
on the other. They were being tortured and there was nothing to
be done. It was like listening to a friend who has cancer. What
comfort, what wise reflection can someone who is comfortable give.
Torture might last a short time, but the person will never be
Becket reported that some torturers had
told prisoners that some of their equipment had come as US military
aid: a special "thick white double cable" whip was one
Item; another was the headscrew, known as an "iron wreath",
which was progressively tightened around the head or ears.
The Amnesty delegation described a number
of the other torture methods commonly employed. Among these were:
a) Beating the soles of the feet with
a stick or pipe. After four months of this, the soles of one prisoner
were covered with thick scar tissue. Another was crippled by broken
b) Serious incidents of sexually-oriented
torture: shoving or an object into the vagina and twisting and
tearing brutally; also done with a tube inserted into the anus;
or a tube is inserted into the anus and water driven in under
very high pressure.
c) Techniques of gagging: the throat is
grasped in such a way that the windpipe is cut off, or a filthy
rag, often soaked in urine, and sometimes
excrement, is shoved down the throat.
d) Tearing out the hair from the head
and the pubic region.
e) Jumping on the stomach.
f) Pulling out toe nails and finger nails.
The United States ... provided the junta
with ample military hardware despite an official congressional
embargo, as well as the police equipment required by the Greek
authorities to maintain their rigid control.
In an attempt to formally end the embargo,
the Nixon administration asked Papadopoulos to make some gesture
towards constitutional government which the White House could
then point to. The Greek prime minister was to be assured, said
a secret White House document, that the administration would take
"at face value and accept without reservation" any such
US Vice-president Spiro Agnew, on a visit
to the land of his ancestors, was moved to exalt the "achievements"
of the Greek government and its "constant co-operation with
US needs and wishes". One of the satisfied needs Agnew may
have had in mind was the contribution of $549,000 made by the
junta to the 1968 Nixon-Agnew election campaign. Apart from any
other consideration, it was suspected that this was money given
to the junta by the CIA finding its way back to Washington. A
Senate investigation of this question was abruptly canceled at
the direct request of Henry Kissinger.
Perhaps nothing better captures the mystique
of the bond felt by the Greeks to their American guardians than
the story related about Chief Inspector Basil Lambrou, one of
Athens well-known torturers:
"Hundreds of prisoners have listened
to the little speech given by Inspector Basil Lambrou, who sits
behind his desk which displays the red, white, and blue clasped-hand
symbol of American aid. He tries to show the prisoner the absolute
futility of resistance 'You make yourself ridiculous by thinking
you can do anything. The world is divided in two. There are the
communists on that side and on this side the free world. The Russians
and the Americans, no one else. What are we. Americans. Behind
me there is the government, behind the government is NATO, behind
NATO is the U.S You can't fight us, we are Americans."
Amnesty International adds that some torturers
would tell their victims things like "The Human Rights Commission
can't help you now ... The Red Cross can do nothing for you. Tell
them all, it will do no good, you are helpless." "The
torturers from the start," said Amnesty, "had said that
the United States supported them and that was what counted."
In November 1973, a falling-out within
the Greek inner circle culminated in the ousting of Papadopoulos
and his replacement by Col. Demetrios loannidis, Commander of
the Military Police, torturer, graduate of American training in
anti-subversive techniques, confidant of the CIA. loannidis named
as prime minister a Greek-American, A. Androutsopoulos, who came
to Greece after the Second World War as an official employee of
the CIA, a fact of which Mr. Androutsopoulos had often boasted.
Eight months later, the loannidis regime
overthrew the government of Cyprus. It was a fatal miscalculation.
Turkey invaded Cyprus and the reverberations in Athens resulted
in the military giving way to a civilian government. The Greek
nightmare had come to an end.
Much of the story of American complicity
in the 1967 coup and its aftermath may never be known. At the
trials held in 1975 of junta members and torturers, many witnesses
made reference to the American role. This may have been the reason
a separate investigation of this aspect was scheduled to be undertaken
by the Greek Court of Appeals. But it appears that no information
resulting from this inquiry, if it actually took place, was ever
announced. Philip Deane, upon returning to Greece several months
after the civilian government took over, was told by leading politicians
that "for the sake of preserving good relations with the
US, the evidence of US complicity will not be made fully public".
Andreas Papandreou had been arrested at
the time of the coup and held in prison for eight months. Shortly
after his release, he and his wife Margaret visited the American
ambassador, Phillips Talbot, in Athens. Papandreou related the
"I asked Talbot whether America could
have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of
democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything
about lt. Then Margaret asked a critical question What if the
coup had been a Communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without
hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they
would have crushed the coup."