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"I HAD the same feeling when I was in jail. I asked myself that question many times. If a coup is well planned, it will go just like that. Your trade union leaders, your political leaders, your student leaders are picked up the first night on the basis of computer tapes that make no mistakes..."
Andreas Papandreou, the leading figure of the Greek political left, has posed one question ceaselessly ever since his exile by the military junta which now rules his country: Why is it that the Greek people did not rise in large numbers to crush the dictatorship and restore democratic rule?
By early 1967, Andreas had emerged as the most forceful, dynamic figure in a political party which seemed destined to sweep the upcoming national elections-the Center Union Party headed by his father, George Papandreou. The elder Papandreou had been removed as Prime Minister in July 1965 by King Constantine-who fabricated a "constitutional crisis" especially for the occasion-and the country had since been ruled by a series of puppet "caretaker" governments. But when constitutional law impelled Constantine to grant an election for May 1967, the showdown between left and right became only a matter of time.
At dawn on April 21, a small group of junior-level officers executed "Plan Prometheus" -a NATO contingency plan designed to prevent a Communist takeover of Greece-and placed the country under military rule. All communications except the army's wireless were immediately shut down, thousands of leftists were rounded up and jailed, and gatherings of all kinds were indefinitely outlawed.
Today, of course, the country remains in the grip of the regime. But, as Andreas Papandreou suggested in a recent interview, the survival of the dictatorship cannot be laid to the apathy or disinterestedness of the people whom it rules. The junta persists because the traditional strength of the right in Greece had been buttressed by American support.
The current situation, in fact, can be traced to the years immediately following World War II. After the war, the British-to whom Greece had fallen as a "sphere of influence" -disarmed the Communist-dominated resistance movement which had fought against the Nazi occupation and reinstated the royalist government under King Paul. As a bloody civil war raged throughout the country, the U.S. supplanted the British and formulated the Truman Doctrine as its policy line. Effectively undercutting a U.N. investigation of the Greek conflict, the Truman Doctrine placed the United States and its allies firmly behind any scheme-however dictatorial or repressive-which might forestall a left-wing government.
AFTER the defeat of the Communists in the civil war, a broad-based liberal coalition gained power, but torn by factional strife, it was unable to reduce the country's political and economic misery, and a conservative party- "The Rally of the Greek People" -was elected to succeed it in 1952. This party had been inspired and launched in large measure by John Peurifoy, the newly-arrived U.S. ambassador-the same man who, as ambassador to Guatemala, engineered the 1954 coup there in cooperation with the CIA.
Behind all this activity loomed the imposing figure of the Greek king. Firmly in control of the army and the civil service, the king was far more than a figurehead; he was the ruling force. It is true that the Palace tolerated minor shifts in the political colorations of successive regimes, but with the power to move troops and call elections Paul dominated the political scene. This would still be the case today with Constantine if the colonels had not pre-empted the royal junta with a coup of their own.
The baby coup, of course, was largely an American design. As Papandreou points out, the U.S. mission achieved its goals not by subverting the Palace but infiltrating the military through the intelligence services. The Greek secret police was created and directly funded by the CIA. During the eleven years of conservative rule from 1952 to 1963, the U.S. had vast opportunities to build up its contacts in the army's control structure.
When the Center Union under George Papandreou was elected to power in 1963, it undertook an ambitious program of reform. In particular, it democratized the trade union structure and moved against the electoral corruption and police terror which had characterized the conservative regimes. That in itself would have been enough to antagonize the Palace and the American embassy, committed as they were to their own political and economic constituencies. But when the elder Papandreou began to clean up the army, the Palace decided that he had gone a step too far.
In the months before the May 1967 election, Andreas Papandreou stumped the country and was heralded as his father's successor. He had been a minister and then a Parliamentary deputy in the Center Union government, but Greek politics was almost new to him-having been exiled as a student for activity against a pre-war government, he had been a professor of Economics in the United States for 15 years before his return to Greece in 1960. Yet his increasingly independent stand on the NATO alliance and the U.S. infiltration of the Greek secret police-combined with his immense popularity-made him the principal target of right-wing agitation and scorn. The coup of April 21 tells the rest of the story.
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