Sunday, December 5, 1999

Perspective Section


Last week's Perspective article "Whose side are Greeks on, anyway?" by R.C. Longworth provoked a considerable reaction from readers and from figures in the Greek-American community. Here is a selection of responses. They have been edited for space.


U.S. press coverage has largely misconstrued the nature of Greek protests that contributed to President Clinton's decision to shorten his visit to Greece. Characterizations of the protests as anti-American or as stemming from nationalist sentiments are founded upon outdated notions of a country that has in fact matured into among the most progressive, stabilizing and globally oriented members of the European Union.

Although caricatured by some as reflexively pro-Serb and anti-Albanian during the war in Yugoslavia, Greece took in more Albanian refugees from Kosovo than any other EU country. While the Greeks were among the most vocal in opposing NATO's use of force against civilian targets in Yugoslavia, they were also among the most outspoken in demanding the return of all Albanian refugees to their homes in Kosovo. In fact, the same humanitarian concerns that underlay Greece's opposition to the NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia resulted in the outpouring of support by Greeks for the victims of Turkey's devastating August earthquake, resulting in a much-heralded thaw in Greco-Turkish relations. This is an example of forward-thinking globalism on the part of Greece, not chauvinistic nationalism.

A stalwart NATO and EU member, Greece has served as a valuable bridge between the West and Eastern Europe and has taken a leadership role in both stabilizing and democratizing its region using a sophisticated mix of economic and diplomatic incentives.

Our government's acquiescence to Turkey's military adventurism in the Aegean Sea, Cyprus and Iraq--while pooh-poohing Turkey's severe human-rights abuses against its Kurdish, Orthodox Christian and other minorities as well as against its own dissenting citizens --registers strong disapproval with most Greeks, who see a discrediting double-standard being applied in our foreign policy.

Despite their fiery demonstrations, Greeks continue to share a deeply held allegiance to America and its democratic vision for our world, as evidenced by Greece's fighting side-by-side with the U.S. in every major conflict since 1821. Current Greek frustration with the U.S. stems from the fact that our foreign policy has increasingly served to undermine this vision for the sake of shortsighted, parochial and decidedly un-American agendas.

-- George J. Dariotis, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Assoc.

-- P.D. Spyropoulos, American Hellenic Media Project

Click here to view the results of the Chicago Tribune protest that resulted in this commentary's publication

Click here to view the original Chicago Tribune protest material

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