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Op-Ed: State Department Web Info on Greece Needs Improvement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: GEORGIA ECONOMOU
March 25, 2008—No. 18 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: State Department Web Info on Greece Needs Improvement

Washington, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the National Herald, the Greek News and in the Hellenic News.

Op-Ed

State Department Web Info on Greece Needs Improvement

By Gene Rossides

March 4, 2008

Although the State Department’s “Background Note: Greece” on its website is more accurate than the false and misleading “Background Notes” on Cyprus and Turkey, it still needs substantial improvement.

People and History

Surprisingly, in the sections on “People” and “History” there is no mention of Greece’s Golden Age under Pericles and the birth of democracy and the origins of Western Civilization. I suggest the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs which issued the Background Note in November 2007 read the proclamation of the Congress and White House on the occasion of Greek Independence Day which details the origins of democracy and western civilization in Greece.

Regarding Greece’s actions in World War II, the “Background Note” fails to state that Greece said NO (OXI) to Mussolini’s demand to surrender on October 28, 1940 when Britain was fighting the Axis Powers alone.

It does state that “Despite Italian superiority in numbers and equipment, determined Greek defenders drove the invaders back into Albania” and that “Hitler was forced to divert German troops to protect his southern flank and overran Greece in 1941” and that “Following a very severe German occupation in which many Greeks died (including 90 percent of Greece’s Jewish community) German forces withdrew in October 1944, and the government-in-exile returned to Athens.”

The reference to “many Greeks died’ fails to state that 600,000 Greeks died, a staggering 9 percent of the then seven million population.

The Background Note also fails to state that Greece’s defeat of Mussolini’s forces was the first defeat of the Axis Powers and that Hitler’s decision to invade Greece delayed by several weeks the start of Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, and that military analysts have stated that the delay caused the Germans to lose the battle for Moscow because of the Russian winter. A New York Times editorial note by Karl E. Meyer stated that Hitler believed that the several weeks it took Germany to subdue Greece was responsible for his losing the war against the Soviet Union. (See New York Times, April 16, 1994, A20; col.1.)

The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs should also give consideration to including a quote from the late General Andrew J. Goodpaster, former Supreme Commander of NATO and military attaché to President Dwight D.Eisenhower, who called Greece’s actions against the Axis Powers a turning point in World War II.

The Background Note fails to mention the Truman Doctrine of March 12, 1947 of aid to Greece and Turkey after the United Kingdom told the U.S. it could no longer afford to give such aid to Greece in its struggle against the communist insurgents. Nor does it mention that Greece with U.S. military aid under the Truman Doctrine and military advisors under General James A. Van Fleet, but no U.S. combat soldiers, defeated the communist insurgency which ended in 1949.

The State Department should also consider adding to its “Background Note” that General Goodpaster called Greece’s defeat of the communist insurgents under the Truman Doctrine a turning point in world history.

State’s website omits to detail Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s failure to stop the Greek dictator Gen. Dimitrios Ioannides coup against the elected government of President Makarios of Cyprus and the attempt to assassinate Makarios.

The Aegean maritime boundary

The statement that “Greece and Turkey have unresolved disagreements regarding the Aegean maritime boundary” is highly misleading and amounts to a cover-up of the U.S. failure to adhere to the rule of law. Greece stands by the treaty-defined maritime boundary between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean. It is Turkey who has made an outrageous claim to one half of the Aegean Sea and refuses to take its maritime boundary claim to the International Court of Justice at the Hague for a binding ruling.

The U.S. should publicly state that it accepts as final the treaty-defined demarcation of the maritime border between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean Sea. The relevant agreements are the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, the Italy-Turkey Convention of January 4, 1932, the Italy-Turkey protocol of December 28, 1932 and the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, under which the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets were ceded by Italy to Greece.

The U.S. is a signatory to the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty and is obligated by U.S. law to carry out its provisions. Yet the State Department has refused to declare publicly what the law is and should do so now. The U.S. should also vigorously repudiate any challenge to the treaty-defined boundary and should urge Turkey to submit its claim to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for binding arbitration.

The State Department has failed to support H.Con Res 199, which is the legislation regarding the Aegean Sea boundary. This legislation was introduced by Congressman Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ) on August 2, 2007 with five co-sponsors : Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); Carolyn B.Maloney (D-NY); James P.McGovern (D-MA) Frank Pallone (D-NJ); and Diane E. Watson (D-CA). It was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe.

How can the State Department have a Background Note on Greece which does not mention the above treaties and what the law is?

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

A sad chapter in U.S. diplomacy is the decision by a handful of advisors to President Bush, including NSC advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Rice, to recommend that the U.S. recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fyrom) as Macedonia, a few days after the November 2004 election. It was done unilaterally without consultation with the Congress or the Greek American community or with Greece, whom they knew strongly opposed such a move. How can a Background Note on Greece not mention this diplomatic blunder which is coming to the forefront again because fyrom refuses to negotiate the name issue in good faith with Greece and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, particularly since the U.S. action in November 2004?

The issue of FYROM’s admission to NATO will be discussed shortly and Greece has stated it will veto FYROM’s admission if the name issue is not satisfactorily resolved. The U.S. should publicly state in the interests of the U.S. that it supports Greece’s position.

Greece’s Strategic Importance to the U.S.

A glaring omission in the Background Note on Greece is the failure to discuss the overall strategic importance of Greece to U.S. interests in the region—Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.

The last paragraph under the heading U.S.–Greece Relations states: “In 1953, the first defense cooperation agreement between Greece and the United States was signed, providing for the establishment and operation of American military installations on Greek territory. The United States closed three of its four main bases in the 1990’s. The current mutual defense cooperation agreement provides for the operation by the United States of a naval support facility that exploits the strategically located deep-water port and airfield at Souda Bay in Crete.”

The Background Note fails to state that Souda Bay, Crete was central to the U.S. Sixth Fleet’s projection of power in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first Iraq war in 1990-1991 and is central today for the U.S. in the second Iraq war.

There are substitutes for the Incirlik airfield in Turkey. There is no substitute for the Souda Bay naval base and adjacent airfield. Mr. Nick Larigakis, Executive Director of the American Hellenic Institute was given a tour of our facilities at Souda Bay and reported on its importance to the U.S.

The first paragraph of the section on U.S.–Greece Relations fails to mention that the U.S. and Greece were also allies in World War I, and with Britain and France the only U.S. allies in every major conflict in the twentieth century.

The Greek merchant marine

Another important omission in the Background Note is its failure to mention the important role of the Greek merchant marine. It is officially tied to NATO in times of war. In the first Iraq war it was a major player in the transport of logistical supplies to the area and has also been important in the present Iraq war.

The United States should stop taking Greece for granted and should recognize that Greece is the strategic, political, economic and diplomatic key for the U.S. in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Write to and call Secretary Rice and request that she correct State’s Background Note on Greece.

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For additional information, please contact Nick Larigakis at (202) 785-8430 or [email protected]. For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at http://www.ahiworld.org.