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Anatomy of the Clinton visit to Athens (Part 1)


Nikos Raptis

Can

a rather routine visit of a US President to a small country be so important to

deserve an "anatomy"? I think that an analysis of the events and the

behaviors of the participants in these events before, during, and after the

Clinton visit to Athens, on November 19, 1999, could be very instructive

(especially for the ordinary Americans). I ask the readers of this Commentary to

have the patience to read it in its entirety.

[Sysop

Note: The commentary was much too long to send and thus this is only the first

20% of it, or so. For the rest...go to http://www.zmag.org/raptisclinton.htm

]

In

the twentieth century the Greek people have experienced the

"influence" of various foreign powers. A fascist dictatorship by a

British-supported king (1936-41) was followed by Nazi occupation (1941-44). A

few weeks after the Nazis left, the British occupied the country until 1947.That

year the US snatched the baton and American "influence" in Greece

began and continues to this day. From 1967 to 1974 the American

"influence" took the form of a brutal dictatorship, carried out for

the sake of the US by a colonel’s junta. Inevitably, this long experience of

(mainly Anglo-Saxon) foreign domination enabled the Greek population (of 10

million) to understand quite well how the world operates under the US

domination. For example, the Greek population could not accept Nato’s (US’s)

"humanitarian" justification for bombing Yugoslavia. Two surveys

conducted 25 days into the air attack showed that Greeks were 96% to 98.6%

against the bombing and 1.3% in favor. In fact, the bombing of Yugoslavia pushed

to new heights the deeply rooted anti-Americanism of the Greek population. (Of

course, for the Greeks ‘Americanism’ refers to the America of the

economic-political elites not the American population.)

Only

three US Presidents have ever visited Greece; Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1959

(among cheering crowds in the streets of Athens), George Bush, in 1991 (with the

streets of Athens deserted, as no demonstrations were allowed), and Bill

Clinton, in 1999.

The

participants in the events that surrounded the Clinton visit were: Clinton (as

the titular head of the dominant world power), the Greek governing elite with

Prime Minister Costas Simitis in the lead (as the local caretakers of the US),

and the Greek population. For the US and Simitis the Greek population was (and

is) the enemy.

 The

Events Before the Visit

The

announcement of the planned two days long (November 13 -15,1999) Clinton visit

to Athens brought about the first reactions by the Greek population early in

October, almost a month and a half before the visit.

On

October 4, "an obscure group named ‘Filiki Etairia’ (Friendly Society)

claimed responsibility for a fire bomb attack on a McDonald’s fast-food outlet

in the western Athenian suburb of Egaleo. Nobody was hurt and the restaurant

sustained only minor damage" (Kathimerini, English Edition, Oct. 5, ’99).

A

few days later, 32 organizations of the Left propose the creation of the LEFT

INITIATIVE AGAINST THE CLINTON VISIT. Among the organizations there are five

organizations of the Turkish (!) and Kurdish (!) Left (not quite a surprise at

this level of rationality of the radical sectors of the Greeks, the Turks, and

the Kurds). On October 11 the creation of a country-wide INITIATIVE is

announced.

The

Clinton people, sensing the coming "troublesome" reaction of the

Greeks to the Clinton visit (or better, knowing that there was going to be such

a reaction on the basis of the inevitable CIA-compiled ‘psychological profile’

of the Greeks) invited Michalis Chrisohoidis, the Greek Public Order Minister

(the civilian head of the police), to visit Washington. Chrisohoidis, a young

Greek politician with a slight JFK resemblance, met with the director of the

FBI, Louis Freeh, the director of the CIA, George Tenet (a Greek-American!),

Janet Reno, Thomas Pickering, and Michael Sheehan of the State Department. The

assessment of Chrisohoidis by the Clinton people, as expressed by Sheehan, was:

"We have faith in Mr. Chrisohoidis…" The events that followed and

the "work" of Chrisohoidis (see below) proved that the faith of the

Clinton People in him was well-founded.

For

the Clinton people and for Simitis the date and the duration of the visit was of

great importance. The journalist Tom Ellis on October 20 reported from

Washington, D.C.: Hillary Clinton’s "previous engagements did not permit

her to be in Greece on November 22-24" (hence the date November 13-15 for

the visit). "In her campaign for the New York Senate race, Mrs. Clinton has

her own political agenda for the trip to Greece. She would like to travel with

the influential Greek-Americans accompanying Clinton on his Flight from

Washington, and believes that the visit will help her campaign". (Kathim.Engl.Edi.,

Oct. 20, ’99, p.3) Also, for the Clinton people prohibitive was the date of

November 17, the date of the 1973 student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic and

the massacre that followed it during the colonel’s junta. Because of the annual

November 17 commemoration of the uprising, through a huge demonstration and a

march of tens of thousands in front of the US Embassy, Clinton could not risk to

be in Athens on that day. This march has been taking place for 26 years. The

basic slogan shouted during these marches is the "Foniades"

("Murderers") slogan.

(Note:

The colloquial Greek word "fonias"-rhymes with "ninjas",plural:

"foniades"- means "murderer", and "specifically implies

stealth and motive and premeditation and therefore full moral

responsibility" (according to Webster’s 10th). The slogan "FONIADES

TON LAON AMERIKANOI" means "The Murderers of Peoples (are) the

Americans", the uncomfortable syntax being necessary to attain the proper

(musical) rhythm when the slogan is shouted. (Again, the Americans refers to the

American elites.) This slogan has been heard with remarkable frequency on Greek

streets since the early 60s.

As

we shall see, later on, the date of the visit had a new importance for Clinton

and for Simitis. For Bill Clinton the duration of the visit was meant to be

adequate enough to allow him to speak at the Pnyx, the site where Pericles, et

al used to orate in classical Athens. (See Commentary of November 7, ’99.)

Finally, for Simitis the longer the stay of Clinton (the ruler) in Athens, the

greater the prestige of Simitis as a Prime Minister of Greece.

Yet,

Simitis and the rest of the Greek elites found themselves in a very difficult

situation. On the one hand they had to be "agreeable" (or better, to

be obedient) to Clinton and on the other hand they had to deal with the Greek

population who in their overwhelming majority were against the Clinton visit and

were preparing to resist it by any (peaceful) means; demonstrations, e.t.c. One

should not forget that Clinton’s "humanitarian" bombing of Yugoslavia

was still fresh in the collective memory of the Greek population. Also, Simitis

had an additional burden; the national Parliamentary elections were only a few

months away (possibly in March, of 2000) and he was obliged to not ignore the

traditional anti-Americanism of the Greek population and their resistance to the

Clinton visit and keep a democratic facade by not prohibiting demonstrations,

marches, e.t.c., if he wanted to be reelected as Prime Minister.

Already,

the organizing of the resistance had spread to most of the cities and towns of

the country. Even in the mainstream press one could read headlines and text such

as: While "waiting for Clinton" (read Godot) "we invite the

Greeks to let their imagination unrestrained" to resist the Clinton visit.

(One proposal was to decorate all the lamp posts along the route of the Clinton

motorcade from the airport to his hotel with inflated condoms). Or phrases such

as: "For reasons of personal dignity give (Clinton) hell while he is in

Athens…" and "let us greet Clinton not as vassals but as humans with

self-respect".

Also,

it was announced that on November 8, ’99 a "trial" was to be held at

Syntagma Square (the historic center of Athens) to try Clinton (and his gang)

for "crimes against humanity" (Kosovo,e.t.c.) which was to be followed

by a march to the US Embassy to hand the verdict of the court. The text of the

indictment had already been composed by a team of distinguished lawyers and

jurists.

Meanwhile,

Chrisohoidis’ boys, the top dogs of the Greek Police, stayed awake for many

nights trying to plan the actions of the Police in order to contain the angry

resistance of the Greeks against the Clinton visit. The policy was to keep any

demonstrators one kilometer (0.62 miles) away from Clinton. It was estimated

that more than 10,000 (ten thousand) policemen were to be deployed to contain

the Greeks during the Clinton visit. Also, it was reported that after November

1st the US security personnel would start arriving in Greece to

"collaborate" with their Greek counterparts in this containment.

 

 

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