Books Behind the Coup

207 pages. $1.45

THE COLONELS coup of April 21, 1967 and the film Z have inspired sympathy and anguish for a country about which so little is commonly known. The reason for this unfortunate but understandable ignorance of Modern Greece is partly to be found in its anomalies and enigmatic position between East and West. Although Greece's ancient past provided a large part of the philosophical frame-work of the Western world its spiritual source is Byzantium that inscrutable synthesis of Rome, Christianity, and the East, with its center in Constantinople. It is the search for a national identity from a confused and tortuous past that has been a major problem in Greece since its independence in 1832.

This quest for a national identity has been further confused and corrupted by foreign powers-Russia, Britain, and France in the nineteenth century, Britain since World War I, and the United States since 1947. These countries and most recently the U. S., have used Greece for their own economic and military benefit.

This sad process has been most accurately described in a new little Penguin paperback called The Greek Tragedy, by Constantine Tsoucalas. This book is not a straight historical narrative of Greece, but adopts a meaningful perspective by selecting and emphasizing certain periods and events since 1821 with a view to explaining the military coup of April 21, 1967. After reading this book the coup in retrospect is not at all surprising, but is rather the inevitable outcome of the mutual interests of the Army, the Palace, big business, and the United States.

TSOUCALAS has shown U. S. complicity in the coup with such clear reasoning and documentation that the burden of proof is now upon those who could disprove it. Colonel Papadopoulos, the Premier of Greece and leading figure of the junta, was the chief liaison officer between the American CIA and its Greek sibling and counterpart, KYP. Other junta luminaries, including Mal?arezos, Minister of Coordination were also members of KYP, which is totally financed and controlled by the CIA. Richard Barniun a CIA agent instrumental in ousting the late Premier George Papadopoulos in July, 1965, returned to Athens in 1967. His front was the Esso-Pappas concern, a Greek-American gas and oil corporation. Pappas himself had professed that Greece needs a military dictatorship. The Boston Pappas Foundation, headed by Tom Pappas (a friend and leading financial backer of Spiro Agnew, formerly Anagnostopoulos, another junta enthusiast) channels CIA money into Greece. Pappas has openly avowed his connection with the CIA. Pavlos Totomis, a Pappas employee, was made Minister of Public Order by the grateful colonels. Greek contracts with Esso were improved after the coup.


Tsoucalas does not rely only on these details to prove U. S. complicity, but shows how the coup was an implementation of U. S. policy in Greece. The reason for the coup was to prevent the elections which were to take place the following month. The probable winner of these elections was Andreas Papandreou, son of George Papandreou, the former Premier. Andreas platform was decidedly inimical to U. S. interests: neutrality in the Cold War, separation from NATO, elimination of foreign infiltration of the Greek secret services. The CIA especially had every reason to want to get rid of him. Moreover, Andreas and George were both fervently in favor of ENOSIS or union with Cyprus. The U. S. opposed ENOSIS because it would damage relations with Turkey and threaten the southern flank of NATO. Thus, the U. S. had good reason to prefer a military dictatorship to a Papandreou regime.

Tsoucalas says that the coup was made possible because the Army had become a parallel state. This was especially true during World War II when the British officially tolerated and condoned the para-military activities of right-wing extremist groups (General Grivas' "X" organization, for example) which put down the National Liberation Front (EAM), the Communist-dominated coalition against the Germans. While these right-wing groups, many of them former collaborationists, carried out British policy, Churchill set up a parliament under George Papandreou. Tsoucalas argues that this "double structure of power, democratic in the political facade but Royalist-fascist in the forces of coercion, which was gradually built up from 1943, was to be a crucial factor in the future." This policy began a tradition of total independence of the Army from the political sphere.

THE GREEK TRAGEDY shows how the coup in Greece was the most recent and severe example of U. S. intervention there. With the intensification of the Cold War in 1950, the U. S. sent John Peurifoy as ambassador to set up an intransigently anti-Communist regime. He was successful. He managed to reorganize the Right under Field-Marshal Papagos, military leader of the Royalist faction during the thirties, leading supporter of dictator Metaxas (1936-40), and Commander-in-Chief of the national Greek Amry in the last winning phase of the civil war. He began a party called "The Greek Rally," with full instigation and backing from the U. S. A controversy over the electoral process emerged in March, 1952 between proportional representation, which would favor the Center politicians, and the majority system, favoring the Right under Papagos. With characteristic frankness and lack of subtlety, Peurifoy publicly announced: "The U. S. Government believes that the re-establishment of the simple proportional system, with its unavoidable consequences of the continuation of the governmental instability, would have destructive results upon the effective utilization of U. S. aid to Greece." In the elections of November, Papagos won 49.2 per cent of the votes and through the majority system, 82.3 per cent of the seats in Parliament, inaugurating an eleven-year phase of conservatism. In 1953, Peurifoy was sent to organize the coup d??tat in Guatemala which brought in Castillio Armas.

Tsoucalas does not blame the U. S. alone for the fascist regime which Greece is cursed with. He contends that "if it were possible to isolate the significant element in the abolition of democracy in Greece, there is no doubt that it is the uncompromising attitude of the circle of vested interests towards any change in the antiquated and irrational souci-economic structures." These circles found U. S. interests conveniently consistent with their own.

The Greek Tragedy shows how disturbingly accurate Costa-Gavras was in portraying Greek political forces in Z. It should be a bitter pill for those who believe that Vietnam is an isolated error in U. S. foreign policy.