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Weissman writes: "Whatever the Greek people decide in Sunday's off-again, on-again referendum, the story won't end there. The IMF, most Eurocrats, and the mass media here will continue to vilify Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris for fighting against austerity, while many on the left will accuse him of selling out far too much on his anti-austerity, pro-growth promises."

A protester waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece on June 21, 2015. (photo: AP)
A protester waves a Greek flag during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece on June 21, 2015. (photo: AP)

Greece: When Will NATO Call In the Troops?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

02 July 15


hatever the Greek people decide in Sunday’s off-again, on-again referendum, the story won’t end there. The IMF, most Eurocrats, and the mass media here will continue to vilify Prime Minister Alexis Tsipris for fighting against austerity, while many on the left will accuse him of selling out far too much on his anti-austerity, pro-growth promises. But if he and his Syriza-led government manage to retain the confidence of Greek voters and become a viable model for others in Europe, how long will Washington and its NATO allies let them be? History offers a nasty warning – and a glimmer of hope.

On April 21, 1967, high-ranking Greek military, intelligence, and secret police officers took power in a well-executed coup. They relied on NATO’s Prometheus Plan, which Washington and its allies had designed ostensibly to prevent local Communists from coming to power anywhere in Western Europe, even by way of democratic elections.

The Greek officers claimed they were acting to prevent an imminent Communist plot, and some of them may have believed it. In reality, at least in the short term, they were blocking the expected election the following month of the moderate, anti-monarchical Center Union, headed by Georgios Papandreou Sr. But the colonels, as they became known, had grander ambitions.

“These colonels had been plotting for years and years,” explained Robert Keeley, a US foreign service officer in the country at the time and later ambassador to Greece. “They were fascists. They fitted the classic definition of fascism, as represented by Mussolini in the 1920s: a corporate state, uniting industry and unions, no parliament, trains running on time, heavy discipline and censorship … almost a classic fascist ideal.”

The coup organizers quickly rounded up as many as 10,000 people, including politicians, artists, academics, students, and priests. Military and security police tortured many of them, both to gather information about possible opposition and – more important – to terrify the Greek people into submission. They pulled out their prisoners’ toenails and fingernails, beat the bottom of their feet, breaking bones and peeling off the skin. They shoved filthy rags often soaked with urine or even excrement down their throats, pumped high-pressure water up their anuses, inserted sharp objects into women’s vaginas and men’s anuses, and applied electric shocks to heads, nipples, and genitals.

For seven years in the land that invented democracy, the colonels pursued their fascist agenda, keeping themselves in power with continued arrests, torture, exile to desolate prison islands, and denial of basic human rights. Their behavior so outraged European public opinion that the Council of Europe voted to exclude Greece from its ranks, a symbolic victory that served as a stepping stone to the restoration of civilian rule.

Lest we lose all hope, two people did much of the work to make the colonels official pariahs. Maria Becket, a wealthy Greek aristocrat then in her thirties, worked with the underground resistance to smuggle torture victims out of the country to testify before European authorities. Her husband James Becket, an American lawyer, did Amnesty International’s first report on torture, documenting its use by the Greek junta. Even after Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, his 1970 book Barbarism in Greece still offers useful insights.

I came to know the Beckets in the early 1970s, when Jim was working as Director of Public Information for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. Anna and I happened to be there, and when Maria learned that we were about to fly on to Istanbul, she asked if we would stop over in Athens. She wanted us to deliver a series of secret messages to members of the resistance. We agreed, and the horrors in Greece suddenly appeared far more personal than writing an article, signing a petition, or applauding the iconic Costa Gavras film Z.

Our fear focused not just on the colonels, but also on agencies of our own governments, British and American, who had built up a long, symbiotic relationship with the fascists of Greece.

Back in the closing days of World War II, the British government of Winston Churchill moved brutally against the Greek Communists, who had led the resistance to German and Italian occupation. To oppose them, the Brits created Greek special forces, the Mountain Raiders Companies (LOK), which pointedly recruited fascists who had dominated the Greek military and police ever since the 1930s. Many of the recruits had created “security battalions” during the occupation to hunt down anti-Nazi partisans and slaughter Greek Jews. After liberation, the Greek government purged them as Nazi collaborators, but their brothers-in-arms worked to rehabilitate them through a group called the Holy Bond of Greek Officers.

The award-winning historian and journalist Christopher Simpson sums up the story in his book Blowback. When the US declared its Truman Doctrine in 1947, Washington took on London’s imperial role in Greece and gave military backing to these same fascists, along with monarchists and other ultra-right-wing nationalists, in a civil war to eradicate the Communists. In this effort, the Pentagon poured millions of dollars into the pro-fascist Holy Bond to create a “Secret Army Reserve,” which became central to Washington’s longterm intervention in Greece. Hold in mind that one of the Holy Bond’s founders – Col. George Papadopoulos – became the recognized leader of the military junta after the 1967 coup.

A cadre of Greek-American officials added to this initial intimacy, none more so than Thomas Hercules Karamessines, who headed US intelligence in Greece during the civil war and then became CIA station chief in Athens. He played a leading role in creating Greece’s national intelligence service, the KYP, which Papadopoulos came to head. The KYP then worked with the CIA to control Greece’s largely fascist special forces, the LOK, and groom them for their part in NATO’s secret stay-behind armies that operated throughout Western Europe.

Called “Operation Gladio” in Italy and “Red Sheepskin” in Greece, these shadowy groups trained for guerrilla resistance should the Soviet Union invade. They also prepared for “domestic emergencies,” which is how the special forces came to play such a prominent role in the 1967 coup and how the Greek colonels came to rely on NATO’s Prometheus Plan. “It was,” said Col. Yannis Ladas of the military police, “a very simple, diabolical plan.”

And what of Tom Karamessines? In the years before the coup, he had become deputy chief of all CIA covert action worldwide, and not just in Greece. His work included the very similar Piano Solo coup attempt in Italy in 1964 and – first as deputy and then as operations chief – a string of military coups in Latin America, culminating in the death of president Salvador Allende in Chile in 1972. Karamessines was a very busy man.

More to the point, his career serves as metaphor. America’s historic intervention in Greece shaped the first Cold War. It emboldened policy makers who wanted to work with fascists elsewhere, from the followers of Stepan Bandera in Ukraine to the military regimes in Chile and Argentina. And it defined how succeeding US presidents would expand a generally unacknowledged American empire under the guise of defending “the free world” from some overhyped Soviet – or Russian – expansion.

History is unlikely to repeat itself in the same way. But with the buildup of the new Cold War and the overhyped flirtation between Tsipris and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, we should remember the sadly-forgotten heroism of Maria and James Becket as we keep our eye on NATO’s current relationship with the Greek military. Stay tuned.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold."

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+40 # Activista 2015-07-02 20:42
excellent reminder of Greek history and path to the future -
Think that obsolete/useles s NATO will NOT "liberate" Greece as they did Libya.
We need more articles like this - to contradict US mass media propaganda about Greece -
+17 # wrknight 2015-07-03 10:15
Quoting Activista:
excellent reminder of Greek history and path to the future -
Think that obsolete/useless NATO will NOT "liberate" Greece as they did Libya.
We need more articles like this - to contradict US mass media propaganda about Greece -

What we really need is for voters in the U.S. to wake up and get rid of the damned fools that we mistakenly call "leaders" who are going to lead us straight into hell.
+14 # rhgreen 2015-07-03 10:50
Excellent reminder, to be sure. Good article. Some of us older folk remember that time. Lots of younger folk never knew it. Everyone should read, or re-read, Noam Chomsky's early stuff - for example "How the World Works" (low price and 5 & 1/2 stars on Amazon based on 72 reviews). He covers this period very well. I lived through the post-WWII period (in my teens mostly) and I didn't know what was going on, and I don't think my parents or their friends did either. It is really eye-opening.
+32 # munza1 2015-07-03 00:38
Maria Becket died October 29, 2012. She played a determining role in two historic events with echoes today. The European Commission of Human Rights condemned the junta notably for its use of torture. The first such case. The Scandinavian jurists who fought the case relied totally on Maria not only for her knowledge of Greece but her organizing the escape of torture victims to testify to the Commission. When Foreign Minister Pipinelis walked out of the Council of Europe, Maria was at the head of the stairs. He cursed her saying it was all her fault. At least he spoke one truth that day.
Later in her life she organized eight extraordinary shipborne symposia bringing together religious leaders and scientists, to dialogue about the environment and seek solutions. The titular head of these high level symposia was the Ecumenical Patriarch who thus became known as 'the Green Patriarch'. Without Maria this would not have happened. The Pope's Encyclical prominently acknowledges the Patriarch on the first page. The lists of participants and what came out of the symposia contributed to those drafting the Encyclical. Maria devoted her life to Greece, to human rights, to social justice, and the environment. Hers was a life of service, with no interest in fame or fortune. As someone who had an historic impact but resolutely avoided any publicity, she never received the recognition she deserved from her countrymen.
+14 # munza1 2015-07-03 00:40
Thanks Steve!
+28 # geraldom 2015-07-03 00:54
Why is it wrong for the voting public who voted the Syriza Party into power to run the Greek government with Alexis Tsipris as the prime minister and with Yanis Varoufakis as minister of finance to vilify it for not acting on the promises they made and have not yet carried out? And why isn’t anyone even talking about the hypocrisy and the double-standard s being used by the IMF, the EU and the ECB in how they are treating Ukraine vs. how they are treating Greece, that all of this is purely political. The United States is behind all of this. It is the conductor of what’s happening.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, specifically western Ukraine, unlike Greece, it has become a vassal state of the United States just like all of the other nations that make up western Europe and the Baltic states in eastern Europe, and, if the United States wasn’t pushing it, wasn’t controlling the IMF, the EU, and the ECB, Ukraine would have already collapsed by now, would have become a failed state. Ukraine, which is much worse off than Greece financially speaking, will receive as much money from the west to stay afloat without any obligation to pay any of it back, whereas Greece is no longer a vassal state of the United State and has regained its independence and sovereignty, is being treaty like shit. I apologize for my French here.

+18 # geraldom 2015-07-03 00:54

I hate labels such as right wing and left wing. When labels like these are used it takes away from who’s right and who’s wrong. What is right is what helps out the majority of the people in any given nation, and what’s wrong is what hurts the majority of the people in any given nation.

The people who voted the Syriza Party into power did not want compromise with their loan-shark masters, the IMF and the ECB. They wanted PM Alexis Tsipris and their finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, to fulfill their promise for anti-austerity and pro-growth, and to break away from the EU if necessary in order to be able to achieve that and to fully control their own fate, and this has not happened and the Greek people continue to suffer. So, yes, I can vilify PM Alexis Tsipris for betraying, to a large degree, the people who voted him into power. If the Syriza Party is acting this way, then how will this effect what would happen in Spain if the Podemos party was voted into power. Would they act the same way?
+6 # John Whiting 2015-07-03 00:58
Edmund Wilson told the first part of this obscene story in "Europe Without Baedecker".

Steve, I remember you well from the FSM half a century ago when I was Production Director at KPFA.
+28 # Texas Aggie 2015-07-03 03:45
Things like this don't really make you proud to be an American, especially when so many "Americans" can't see this at all even when it's shoved in their faces. Someone once said a patriot condemns the acts of their country's enemies, but can't even see it when their country does exactly the same or worse.
+20 # cymricmorty 2015-07-03 08:52
At the risk of sounding like I just fell off the turnip truck, even as a little kid growing up in the '60s, my parents saw communists lurking everywhere in broad daylight, long past McCarthyism's public shelf life. Even as a youngster, I knew that so many people couldn't possibly be communists, and those "communists" that I knew were simply not evil people. Now that I'm much older and have gone beyond the MSM to find out what horrible, oppressive coups and regimes have been carried out, and continue to be carried out by this country, I can say that I'm ashamed to be an American. (None of the US's communism-busti ng has ever made my life better, nor most American citizens', as the US democracy itself has segued into fascism.) The US's cherished brand of fascism is not superior to communism, and is what happens when the extreme right swings around the circle to meet the extreme left.
+15 # wrknight 2015-07-03 10:26
Quoting Texas Aggie:
Someone once said a patriot condemns the acts of their country's enemies, but can't even see it when their country does exactly the same or worse.

The enemies within our country are far more dangerous than those outside, and a true patriot will condemn them with even greater vigor.
+28 # Anonymot 2015-07-03 04:35
Aside from being a good article with little known details there' a crucial subtext: our CIA (and its offspring) are part of America's neofascist nature and have controlled our foreign policy for a long time. Presidents, without exception, Clinton included and Kennedy, also, either knew or found out that this is the case.

The Republican Presidents found that situation a good fit with their beliefs. The Democrats like both Kennedys were eliminated, those who found out and caved, like Obama were left alone, and those who knew and went along without objection, such as Clinton, shifted to the right and proceeded to go for the money. Clinton's occasional wife, who obviously knows, just mouths whatever is appropriate , but reurns to her Goldwater days.

So what is left of our illusions of democracy? And where is there to go?
+9 # economagic 2015-07-03 09:57
"So what is left of our illusions of democracy? And where is there to go?"

"Think globally, act locally" (Rene Dubos).

For the most part the machinations of the tyrants and wannabes are beyond our control, although influence works in unforeseeable ways. It seems certain (see, for example, the latest post from Michael Klare at TomDispatch) that they will keep the waters roiled for the foreseeable future, and will likely be stopped only when exhaustion of resources make it impossible for them to continue.

That means that our daily lives will be increasingly disrupted, largely by the corporations that serve as the conduit, both of wealth (upward, to the tyrants) and of control (downward, by the tyrants).

It would be wise to begin re-creating the local communities and economies that sustained us all and met local needs and wants historically and well into the 20th century. See, for example, the Transition Towns movement, and the "New Economy" or "New Economics" movement, both participants in a global "movement of movements" to make it possible for humankind to survive and to some extent thrive in an age of chaos.
+4 # Radscal 2015-07-03 14:52
One of the best sources for inside information on CIA was Colonel Prouty. This fascinating interview describes everything from the Tehran Conference near the end of WW II, through covert intervention FOR Ho Chi Min, then against him, to the JFK assassination and beyond - all placed in historical context of the machinations of the power elite:

This Prouty interview also explains "the whole Bay of Pigs thing.
+2 # dquandle 2015-07-03 17:12
Obama went in with the intention of doing the bidding of the war criminals and Wall Street plutocrats, to maintain and expand empire, happily applying mass murder and repression where needed. He didn't "cave". He simply lied to a stunningly gullible American people and carried out his orders in fulfillment of his own personal beliefs.
+2 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2015-07-05 08:38
@dquandle - If you are correct, then Bernie Sanders is in mortal danger NOW because he has, presumably, not been co-opted. However, if Obama “caved,” then the PowerS, as is true of all tyrannies, in its arrogance will assume he can’t win and even if he does, they can buy him. Failing that, they can intimidate him. Failing that, they can crush, possibly impeach him. Failing that, they can just kill him as they have killed so many true patriots before him.
+10 # Bruce Gruber 2015-07-03 07:31
And ... just WHO are the bondholder/hedg e-funders whose breadth and depth of cash accumulations drive such inhuman priorities as 'debt' enslavement?
+3 # dquandle 2015-07-03 17:17
ummm ...Goldman Sachs and the whole sick crew. ...

here is a very clear, specific and informative interview on precisely this subject.
+15 # Edwina 2015-07-03 09:08
Thanks, especially, for the history of the Beckets. It seems we still rely on courageous individuals to save us from the organized crime of governments. The reason Syriza was elected -- and that Podemos in Spain is gaining influence -- is that the current economic system is not working for most people. But change is hard, and it is not clear that most of the Greek people will vote against austerity. You'd think economic/politi cal leaders would give a little, in order to save their system, but they never seem to. I guess their privilege insulates them from the reality that the rest of us experience.
+11 # economagic 2015-07-03 09:43
"You'd think economic/politi cal leaders would give a little, in order to save their system, but they never seem to. I guess their privilege insulates them from the reality that the rest of us experience."

(a) They want it all, as have nearly all tyrants since before the Pharaohs. (I would like to see an assertive revival that word, "tyrant," to help connect the present situation with the historical context.)

(b) To some extent it does, but they seem to believe that it does so completely, which could be their greatest vulnerability.
+4 # jwb110 2015-07-03 12:10
Sometimes it is necessary to take a lesson from your enemy. Start rounding up the known Fascist opposition and put them in the same jails that they themselves used. Torture isn't necessary but hostages are always a good bargaining chip.
0 # Polisage 2015-07-03 12:49
What nonsense! Greece is a sovereign country, with as much right to default as Argentina. The banks may not like it, but NATO is a military alliance, not a collection agency. NATO was formed to oppose Soviet expansion in Europe. The Cold War ended in 1991, and Germany was reunified in 1990. So if Greece wants to withdraw rom NATO, what is to stop them? NATO is not the Warsaw Pact where you can get Russian tanks in your streets if you get out of line. Now that we have the EU, NATO is a relic--true, we have made use of it since 1991, but the US might consider withdrawing before the Eurocrats drag us into a war. Greece's debt is a financial problem, not a military one.
+4 # dquandle 2015-07-03 17:19
It can be turned military at the drop of US/NATO's hat, as has the horrendous, initially economic crisis in Ukraine.
+2 # Helen Marshall 2015-07-04 08:24
The Eurocrats will not drag us into a war...if there is dirty business to be done, we won't have to be dragged. Have you paid any attention to what has been done to Ukraine?
+4 # Polisage 2015-07-04 14:18
We served under NATO in the Fulda Gap. Our "enemies" at the time were the East Germans and Russians. We never contemplated invading Greece--nor should any member state of NATO. Under Article 5, we are committed to protect Greece. So are all other NATO members.

Only nations can be NATO members, not banks.
+10 # banichi 2015-07-03 14:25
This is such an excellent article about the history of Greece and other areas! I traveled around Europe from mid-1972-1975 and went 3 times to Greece, meeting students and other Greeks. On several nights while staying in a room on the hill of the Plaka (around the Parthenon) we heard people running by our room, being chased by others. It was well known that while tourists were very safe, Greeks were not, from the secret police who could pick up a Greek national and make them disappear. Maybe they would be seen again, maybe not. One did not ask openly about this.

With the passage of the Patriot Act, and the increasing surveillance by the FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. we are getting closer and closer to the same state of affairs here in the U.S. What will it take to wake up enough people to it happening, to reverse this trend? It is not just Greece.
+4 # dquandle 2015-07-03 17:33
The Obama regime just made Chelsea Manning and Jeffrey Sterling disappear, and did the same with John Kiriakou, and attempted it with William Binney and Thomas Drake, and Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and others.
+4 # BKnowswhitt2 2015-07-03 22:29
I believe it was Peru and correct me if i have the wrong country that got into the mess that Greece is in today. Now politically it's the West's desire to sqaush any form of what they perceive to be 'Communist' Socialist Red element as the reason. The IMF and Globalization is directly the cause for this problem. The USA is a core 'believer' of that in foreign and more importantly economic policy backed up by the barrel of a gun. Greece should 'stick it to them all' and refuse to pay the debt. Then go to a bartering system to operate. Unless the powers to be agree to forgive the debt. That is what should occur and not austerity.
0 # Buddha 2015-07-06 15:43
"History is unlikely to repeat itself in the same way"

Yeah, this time it is the ECB and IMF who are really the corpo-fascists, and they themselves have already led a neo-colonial coup against Greece, this time using banks and loansharking as the foot soldiers.

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