June 15, 2000

Thursday, Final Edition

NEWS; Pg. 14A

Greece hardly a 'terrorist state'

Findings by the State Department and a congressional commission on terrorism asked Americans to suspend disbelief by portraying Greece as among the world's most dangerous anti-American terrorist countries, ("Foreign officials decry U.S. terrorism report," News, June 6).

Yet an examination of the facts reveals what is in effect a low-grade urban-terrorist problem common to most Western countries, rather than the terrorist Mecca misleadingly portrayed in the reports.

British commentator Colin Smith of the London newspaper The Independent noted on Sunday that terrorists in Greece "have a very low strike rate. In 25 years, its members have killed just 23 people. The IRA has been known to kill that many in a week."

Incredibly, the breaking of window panes and numerous other incidents of petty vandalism were included among the 146 acts of "terrorism" cited in the congressional report, and the State Department report mischaracterized a mentally disturbed woman's attempt to set off a mug-sized propane cooking canister at the entrance of the U.S. Consulate as an "attempt to firebomb the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki."

British Brigadier Stephen Saunders' murder in Athens, Greece, on June 8 and the deaths of four American officials during the past quarter-century are tragic exceptions to this undistinguished record of terrorism in Greece ("Assassins ambush British diplomat: Terrorist group is blamed for Greece killing," News, Friday).

Many have voiced concerns that the State Department may be using this highly implausible portrayal of Greece as a dangerous terrorist state to reprimand Greece for its outspoken opposition to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Politically motivated charges of terrorism undermine U.S. credibility worldwide and depreciate sincere U.S. concerns regarding terrorism. If our policymakers cry wolf too often, or try to exert untoward pressure on democratic allies through irresponsible accusations, our capacity to counter genuine terrorist threats will be compromised, and our foreign policy will sustain further damage.

Theodore G. Karakostas, associate

American Hellenic Media Project
New York, N.Y.

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