NOVEMBER 14, 2010
American’s dirty laundry out in public
The diary of Diplomat Robert Keely shows the chaos prevalent in the diplomatic service of the United States in Athens before and after the 1967 coup and why the White House supported the colonels
By Stathis Efstathiadis, Athens, Sunday November 14, 2010
The title of this book does not do it justice, as it is entirely uninteresting. I believe it should have been called “The chaos at the USA Embassy before, during and after the coup” or “Washington’s awkwardness, indifference and mistakes in dealing with the coup”, etc. Because this is the essence of the 435 pages written in 1972 by Robert Keely, based on his experience as secretary at the American Embassy, where he served during the dictatorship until 1967. This American diplomat, who returned to Greece in 1985 as ambassador, has not written your typical memoir. He expresses views and evaluations about situations and individuals, setting forth relevant documentation which he would send to “deaf ears”, his supervisors in Athens and Washington. He is revealing about many events of that time, of which we were ignorant or had incomplete knowledge and often emotionally charged.
Ο στρατός και ο Ανδρέας
Keeley is caustic in his assessment of diplomats such as Talbot, Anschutz, Bracken, etc., who were his supervisors at the Embassy. He is sarcastic about the military and CIA agents, which, he tells us, numbered to about 30 times more than the political section of the Embassy. He becomes exasperated when he learns after the fact that Embassy leadership was not interested in the messages it received regarding an “extra-parliamentary solution” to political issues in the pre-junta era.
Just as he is puzzled by the fact that “it was impossible to convince Greeks that things have changed since Peurifoy’s time”
Αλλά και η αμερικανική πλευρά ήταν εξωπραγματική. But the American side was just as unrealistic. It appeared ready to accept the “solution” of a dictatorship so as to intercept Greece’s course towards communism, with Andreas Papandreou at the helm. The State Department’s Steward Rockwell warned Talbot that “Andreas as a martyr, with the support of the Lambrakis machine fully supporting him, would be a difficult rival” for the U.S. The Embassy was convinced that only “the army would be able “to limit” Andreas. Months later, Keeley will conclude that “blindness had afflicted all high level American military officers and diplomats in Athens.» The Embassy had drafted policy towards Greece and was defensive about the prospect of its been subverted by Andreas, writes Keeley.
Keeley affirms that the Embassy and Washington had signals about an imminent coup at least two months earlier. Charilaos Lagoudakis, high level CIA official, is watching for a while the curious activities of a “group of officers, in which some Papadopoulos is participating” and is puzzled when all of a sudden surveillance is interrupted, a fact that causes him to notify his supervisors on February 6 and “something is going on here”.
Keeley believes that the “entire CIA hierarchy in Athens was clueless about the movement of these officers” (“it had turned its attention to the generals”). In Athens, Nikos Farmakis, the Embassy’s perpetual informant, who had stated in Parliament “I am a fascist”, warns counselor Norbert Anchutz at the beginning of March that it’s not the generals, but rather “his friends the colonels” who are preparing a coup. It’s a given that Ambassador Philip Talbot himself was aware that a “generals coup” was in the making. Constantine himself repeatedly hinted, and on March 29, he specifically wanted to learn “what was America’s position” regarding such a coup. The Ambassador “left Constantine hanging”. America would react “after the fact and accordingly”, Washington said.
There were, however, diplomats in Athens and Washington, who recommended a strong American condemnation of the junta, even after April 21. Malcolm Thompson, former political counselor at the Embassy, finds out that “the silent acceptance of the current (junta) government commits the U.S. to a lost cause, since all dictatorships, inevitably, fall” and suggests its overthrow “even by military action, if necessary”. Talbot, obviously at the urging of, or at least with the tolerance of, Washington, pursues another path. Five days after the cup, he visits Prime Minister Constantine Kollias -- “his hands trembled when he talked to us”, writes Keeley who accompanied Talbot – and assures him that the U.S. will not interference in Greece’s internal affairs. Also interesting is what he writes about the royal counter-coup. He finds it naively planned, the junta knowing beforehand, he wonders why the Embassy or the CIA – “closely connected with KYP” – did not take some measures and he underlines the “lack of cohesion and coordination” of American actions, which reveal that the Embassy could not be informed about Constantine’s moves in Northern Greece because the American General Consul in Thessaloniki – Bill Hamilton – without permission and without informing anyone – had gone hunting in Yugoslavia.
Making a more general assessment, Keeley, having left Greece, insists that the U.S. should have intervened against the junta, silencing those who would view such an intervention as a vindication of the “Brezhnev Doctrine,” emphasizing that the U.S. would intervene in favor of the people, while Brezhnev intervened in Czechoslovakia against the people. And lastly, he deems that the protagonists of the (Greek) melodrama were Andreas and Constantine”.
“Let’s lift a finger”
Few are the Americans who concerned themselves with the junta and the American policy in Greece before and after the colonels’ coup – most of them superficially and apologetically. None of them, none that I know of, brought out in public the dirty laundry of the diplomatic corps that served in Athens at the time.
Keeley writes on the basis of documents, notes and presentations he made to his superiors, with documents where he stressed during the first days after the coup, and while Washington kept silent, that “if we just move a finger”, the junta will collapse. It’s not so much that he cares about the Greek people, and is even less impressed with its politicians. He figures out, however, and informs his Ambassador in a timely manner that “if there is a dictatorship, we will take the blame” and what’s more, Andreas will . . . . reach the top”. The U.S. “will find itself out of Greece the institution of the Monarchy would disappear”.
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