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Op-Ed by AHI President Published in The National Herald and the Greek News
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
December 9, 2005—No. 102 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed by AHI President Published in The National Herald and the Greek News

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed article by AHI President Gene Rossides appeared in the December 3, 2005 issue of The National Herald, page 11 and the December 5, 2005 issue of the Greek News, page 36.

The Community Needs to Get Active With The Executive Branch

By Gene Rossides

In my last two articles I stressed that the future of the Greek American community is at risk because we are not consulted as a community by our own government before decisions are made regarding U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

We have been marginalized by the pro-Turkish forces in the Executive Branch, in the media, in academia and major think tanks, by Turkey’s paid lobbyists and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

In the interests of the United States, the challenge for the Greek American community is to become an “integral part” of the foreign policy process in the interests of the U.S.

By integral part I mean that the Greek American community as a whole is consulted on issues concerning U.S. relations with Greece and Cyprus before decisions are made by the administration. It means the opportunity to be heard, to discuss the options and to have an input on the choices facing our government in these relationships.

It does not mean that our views will necessarily be accepted. But it does mean a good faith discussion of the issues with the only test being:What is in the best interests of the U.S.?

In those articles I stressed the need to be an integral part of the foreign policy process by being active on a daily basis with the four primary centers of power in the development and implementation of U.S. foreign policy:

  • the Congress;
  • the media; and
  • the academic community and think tanks; and
  • the Executive Branch;

In the previous two articles I discussed the need and importance of getting active with the Congress, the media and the academic community and think tanks. The rest of this article will deal with the need to get active with the Executive Branch of our government.

For our purposes, what do I mean by the Executive Branch? I mean the White House, the National Security Council (NSC) which is in the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department and on economic issues, the Treasury Department.

The Executive Branch has the responsibility for handling the day-to-day operations in the foreign policy arena and also tries to dominate the policy formulation side as against the Congress.

The Executive Branch is the main problem for the Greek American community and its ability to advance issues of Hellenic concern.

On secondary issues, such as U.S. relations with Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, President Bush has relied on his advisors in the State and Defense Departments and the NSC. It is these agencies that have been the main proponent of a pro-Turkish policy at the expense of Greece and Cyprus and to the detriment of U.S. interests in the region.

We have had meetings with Executive Branch officials and have submitted numerous memoranda and letters on the facts and issues, all to little avail.

The State Department has been the worst of the Executive Branch agencies in its pro-Turkey and anti-Greece and anti-Cyprus positions, first under Colin Powell and now under Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Marc Grossman who retired earlier this year from his position as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, was the key pro-Turkish person in the State Department for the past decade. The Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs is the number 3 official in the Department (after the Secretary and Deputy Secretary), and the highest career position.

Prior to his position as Under Secretary, Grossman served as head of the career foreign service in charge of personnel, as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and as Ambassador to Turkey. It was Mr. Grossman who developed the pro-Turkish group in State for the past decade.

Mr. Nick Burns succeeded Grossman as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in early 2005. Prior to his elevation to the top career spot, Burns was U.S. Ambassador to NATO and before that was U.S. Ambassador to Greece and State Department spokesman.

In the several months that Burns has been number 3 in the State Department, however, there has been no noticeable change in State’s pro-Turkish bias.

When Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary and Douglas Feith was Under Secretary of Defense, the Defense Department rivaled the State Department in its pro-Turkey and anti-Greece and anti-Cyprus positions. After Turkey’s failure on March 1, 2003 to allow U.S. troops to use bases in Turkey against Iraq, and its attempt to extort 32 billion dollars from the U.S. for its cooperation, the military leadership in Defense soured on and lost confidence in Turkey and its military as a reliable ally. Also with Wolfowitz and Feith out of the Defense Department, there is hope of a more responsible policy towards Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

The National Security Council (NSC) has consistently favored Turkey over Greece and Cyprus under Condoleezza Rice and now under Stephen Hadley who was her deputy.

Why do we have such a pro-Turkish bias in the Executive branch and by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)?

The Executive Branch and AIPAC officials take the position that Turkey is more important to U.S. interests than Greece and Cyprus; that Turkey is more important to Israel than Greece and Cyprus; and (among a number of them) that what is best for Israel is best for the U.S. Moreover, AIPAC has played a major role in influencing the Executive Branch positions. I disagree strongly with these positions. The facts and arguments are on our side (to be discussed in a future article).

What the Greek American community must do in the interests of the U.S. to counter the pro-Turkish bias in the Executive Branch is to be active with each of the components—the White House and the NSC, the State Department and the Defense Department.

Being active means being in contact with each of the four agencies of the Executive Branch on a regular basis by letter, e-mail, telephone and fax, with the facts and arguments why supporting Turkey regarding Cyprus, the Aegean, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Armenia and the Kurds is not in the best interests of the U.S.

For those members of the community who can obtain appointments with Executive Branch officials, they must be prepared with the facts and arguments to counter the pro-Turkey bias. The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) can provide this service.

Several years ago the AHI initiated the annual Greek American Policy Statements in order to achieve policy unity. The major Greek American membership organizations, the Order of AHEPA, the Hellenic American National Council, the American Hellenic Institute, the Cyprus Federation of America, the Pan-Macedonian Association of America, the Evrytanian Association of America and others have endorsed these policy statements.

These policy statements are on the AHI website at www.ahiworld.org. The grass roots element or our community should become fully familiar with them.

The grass roots effort regarding the Executive Branch is different from the grass roots effort with the Congress, for which AHI is presently developing a Congressional Contact Leadership Team of at least three Greek Americans for each representative and senator.

With the Executive Branch it is particularly important to have as many telephone calls, e-mails, letters and faxes as possible. The White House, for example, tallies all messages and calls.

The AHI periodically issues Action Alerts which set forth the issue and the facts and arguments. It goes to our members and also to the internet via our website. We do not know how many respond but we need thousands to do so. We must work to achieve that.

In the meantime, AHI is initiating a program to build an Executive Branch Contact Team of 100 persons that we can count on to respond to our Action Alerts and contact key people in each of the four Executive Branch agencies:

  1. the White House—President Bush; Chief of Staff Andrew Card; Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove;
  2. NSC- National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley; and staff assigned to Greece, Cyprus and Turkey;
  3. State Department—Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick; Under Secretary Nicholas Burns; Assistant Secretary for Europe Dan Fried; Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza and the Greece, Cyprus and Turkey desk officers;
  4. Defense Department—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his staff.

Any reader interested in becoming part of the Executive Branch Contact Team should contact AHI by e-mail (info@ahiworld.org), by telephone (202-785-8430) or fax (202-785-5178) or by letter (1220 16th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036), and give us your particulars: name, address, phone, e-mail, your congressional district and representative if you know them, and a brief bio.

AHI will supply each member of the team with the contact information for the White House, NSC and State and Defense, as well as the facts and arguments on relevant issues.

The other key ways to influence the Executive Branch are through the Congress, the media and academic community and think tanks. AHI’s Congressional Contact Leadership Teams and its media and academic/think tank teams will work in cooperation with the Executive Branch Contact Teams.

I firmly believe that we can change the Executive Branch’s views but we need action at the grass roots level. Act today. Contact AHI and get involved in the interests of our country.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.

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For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or georgia@ahiworld.org. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.