Friday, 29 April 2011

‘This national soil, virgin and prolific, fertilised daily by the heroic manure of our national cattle’

There is nothing more ridiculous than the nation – except, of course, when that nation is your own, in which case it is the repository of all that is virtuous and progressive. But when it comes to other nations, it is clear to us that their claims, myths, institutions and practises are absurd, embarrassing and pathetic. If they could see what we can see then they would be ashamed of themselves. Never mind. The absurdity of the nation is the theme of the hilarious excerpt above from the 1963 filmed version of Jean Genet’s play The Balcony, in which Peter Falk is the chief of police plotting from an S&M brothel to put down a rebellion that has broken out and restore ‘authority’. The play has been lauded for recapturing the spirit of Aristophanes and classical Athenian comedy.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Jacqueline de Romilly: defining and defending Hellenism

Jacqueline de Romilly was a renowned French classicist who died last year, though it doesn’t seem much of her work has been translated into English. I’ve only managed to find her Short History of Greek Literature, which covers Greek writing in all its forms from the eighth century BC (Homer) to the fourth century AD, that is, to the early Christian fathers and Julian the Apostate. The book is a little over 200 pages long and so de Romilly is only able to devote just a few pages each to the various authors and literary and philosophical movements that characterise this 1200-year period, and yet I can’t imagine that there are many, if any, better introductions to Greek literature. The book is particularly good when it comes to Thucydides and Plutarch and, in general, is a resounding defence of Hellenism, whose lifeblood de Romilly describes in her conclusion as consisting of: ‘inquiry and debate, political struggles and struggles over ideas, discoveries, effort, criticism and hope – all in search of the best possible life’.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes

After all those degrading and dispiriting stories from the Jewish bible Francesca Stavrakopoulou subjected us to, it was a real relief and pleasure to watch another BBC documentary, Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes, presented by the classicist Robin Lane Fox, based on his book Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer. In the film (above), Lane Fox explores his theory that Greek mythology and Western culture begins with the journeys of Greeks from Evia to the Near East, Cyprus, Crete, Sicily and Italy where they traded and settled and came into contact with beguiling landscapes and exhilarating stories that helped them explain the origins of the Greek gods and advance Greek civilisation.

*For a full review and discussion of Tales of Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer, read this post, where the documentary may also still be available.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Droutsas defends handling of EEZ issue

There’s an interview today in the Cypriot daily Phileleftheros with Greece's foreign minsiter, Dimitris Droutsas, which deals with the latest developments in the Cyprus issue; the recent outburst of Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davoutoglu at an EU foreign ministers meeting; the impact of Greece’s economic crisis on the ability of the country to exercise its foreign policy; and the accusation that Greece is neglecting its national interests by not coming to agreements over the delineation of Exclusive Economic Zones with its neighbours. Below is part of the answer Droutsas gave on the issue of EEZs (my translation). Droutsas says Greece and Cyprus will sort out their EEZs when the two deem it ‘appropriate’, a response that raises more questions than answers.

Q. There's an impression that Athens is being cautious in delineating EEZs with its neighbours, and that this is due to the possible Turkish reaction.

A. Let’s stop with this talk of Greece “fearing” Turkey. Greece is pursuing its interests in the most effective way. We should stop doubting ourselves. The professed aim of Greece is the delineation of all our maritime borders with all our neighbours.

There is no cautiousness. On the contrary, we are moving ahead. With Albania, the discussions ended with the signing of an agreement that fulfils all the provisions of the international law of the sea – it’s another issue now, with Albania having to find a way to overcome the issue that’s been created with the [rejection of the agreement by Albania’s] Constitutional Court.

With Egypt, the discussions had started, but with the recent upheavals, it's better that we wait until the new political scene taking shape there is consolidated before we continue. The same argument applies to Libya.

Regarding Cyprus, given the type of relations we have, it is possible to begin the procedure for the delineation of the EEZ whenever we judge, together, that it is appropriate. With Turkey, you know very well that exploratory contacts are underway for the delineation of the continental shelf – and, to anticipate our detractors, I mean the delineation from one edge to the other, from Evros to Kastellorizo.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Turkey’s real aim in Cyprus

Leading DIKO MP Giorgos Kolokasides has become one of the most vocal critics of President Christofias’ handling of the Cyprus problem, and yesterday I read this article in the Cyprus edition of Kathimerini – which I’ve translated into English below – in which he asserts that Turkey’s intention in invading Cyprus in 1974 was not partition but the establishment of a ‘constitutional monstrosity’ that would allow Ankara to control the island and gradually eradicate Cypriot Hellenism.

Kolokasides touches on an important point, which is that with Turkey’s absorption of northern Cyprus almost complete, any ‘state’ – constituent or otherwise – that emerges there in any future federation/confederation with the Republic of Cyprus will be entirely dependent on Turkey, i.e. Greek Cypriots won’t be entering into a partnership with Turkish Cypriots but with Turkey – and, of course, such a ‘partnership’ won’t be a partnership but a situation of intolerable vassalage, which will ultimately end the Greek presence on the island.

This is what Kolokasides had to say:

‘The object of the negotiations stopped a long time ago being a viable federation. The president of the Republic has become embroiled in an experiment that will produce some form of federation-confederation; and in such a way that will put in danger the physical and national survival of Cypriot Hellenism, and in such a way that negates the result of the 2004 referendum [on the Annan plan].

‘Turkey did not invade Cyprus to impose partition. Turkey’s ultimate aim is the creation of a constitutional monstrosity that would allow it to control the island and act as its guardian. In this way, there will cease to be a strong Greek state on Cyprus and Turkey will have a say over the whole island.

‘It was for this reason in his 2004 address that Tassos Papadopoulos invited Cypriot Hellenism to protect the Republic of Cyprus and that [in the subsequent referendum on the Annan plan] the Greeks of Cyprus chose to carry on with their struggle for a better solution rather than accept becoming enslaved to Turkey.

‘It requires virtue and daring to reject the temptation of a dressed up plan that pretends to solve the problem of occupation when in fact it would have led us into new, more dangerous adventures. Today, seven years after the referendum, the president of the Republic ignores the danger of Cyprus becoming a Turkish satellite state’.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Davoutoglu gets his knickers in a twist, Turks eye up Cyprus’ EEZ. But where is Greece?

According to this report, President Christofias has sent letters to the UN secretary general, the president of the European Council, the president of the European Commission and the president of the European Parliament denouncing Turkey’s ‘arrogant’ stance towards Cyprus as typified by a recent outburst from Ahmet Davoutoglu, in which Turkey’s foreign minister said it was a mistake for the EU to accept Cyprus as a member in 2004; accused Greece of blackmailing the EU to get Cyprus in; demanded the EU make a strategic choice between advancing Turkey’s EU membership talks and backing Cyprus, one of the smallest states in the union; and insisted that Turkey would never lift its veto on Cyprus in matters of defence co-operation between the EU and NATO.

Davoutoglu’s fit of temper is interesting in itself – how satisfying that our little Greek island, half of which is under Turkish occupation, can rile so badly the architect of Turkey’s aspirations to reassert the global influence of the Ottoman empire – and one hopes (but does not expect) that Turkey’s increasingly unhelpful behaviour on the world stage has not gone unnoticed by its ‘partners’ and ‘allies’; but I also want to draw attention to this further statement by Christofias regarding reports that Turkey is about to undertake ‘research’ that will ‘affect’ Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, in response to which the president said: ‘Regarding the EEZ, the situation is being closely monitored by the Republic of Cyprus. And we are also in close touch with the EU and, of course, with Greece, because this is an issue that directly affects Greece, with whom we are co-ordinating our actions so that we can face any potential interventions and threats regarding our EEZ.’

Of course, Cyprus co-ordinating with Greece to face Turkish threats over the EEZ is correct, as is Christofias’ reminder that Turkish attempts to move in on Cyprus’ EEZ is in fact also an attempt to usurp Greece’s rights, since Greece and Cyprus share EEZ borders in the Eastern Mediterranean. But the question is when will Greece and Cyprus get round to delineating their territorial waters? Cyprus already has agreements in place with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon – but not yet with Greece. In fact, it strikes me that one of the most important things George Papandreou could do, even more important than economic reforms, is to assert Greece (and Cyprus’) sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean by agreeing on our maritime borders. It’s not as if there are any disputes to resolve between Cyprus and Greece – we are, after all, the same country. All the international legal arguments are with the Greek side. Turkish belligerence would be exposed for the bluff and bluster that it is. Greek national interests would be boosted, as would the country’s severely wounded ego. I wish someone would explain to me why it has not been done.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Are Greeks the ‘chosen people’?

Pantelis Boukalas was complaining today in an opinion piece for Kathimerini that the crisis affecting Greece has made the country an international byword for economic and moral debasement representing ‘the fall of an entire nation and its people’.

He goes on: ‘We seem to be heading back to the days when some Western dictionaries would cite the words “swindler” and “cheat” as synonyms for “Greek.”

‘All that of course means that we will have to find a cure for our delusions of national supremacy that were instilled in our brains from an early age, when we were taught that we were the chosen people, a nation worthy of respect from the entire universe.’

I’ll just make a quick point on this, which is that Greece fell not because Greeks believed in ‘delusions of national supremacy’ and ‘that we were the chosen people’; but because it ceased to believe these things, and only when Greeks start believing in these things again will the country recover. And this is not a nationalist rant about the superiority of Greek blood and civilisation, but a recognition of the fact that nations only prosper and progress when they are assertive, self-confident and, most importantly, convinced of their uniqueness.

The clip above, which I’ve posted before, is from Robert Rossen’s 1956 film, Alexander the Great, in which Aristotle argues that indeed Greeks are the ‘chosen people’; and we all know what Alexander and the Greeks achieved imbued with this conviction that they were ‘the best’.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Niko on Nico: Papadakis recalls Velvet Underground singer

Here’s an opportunity to see rare footage of Nikos Papatakis, the film-maker I posted on a little while ago, making available two of his films. The clip above is from Susanne Ofteringer’s 1995 documentary Nico Icon, which is about Christa Päffgen, the 1960s German model and singer, better known as Nico, as in The Velvet Underground and Nico. In fact, Nico was a terrible singer and she led a pretty awful life of artistic failure and drug addiction, as the compelling but depressing Nico Icon demonstrates. Papatakis and Päffgen were lovers in the late fifties, before Päffgen – encouraged by Papatakis to take up singing – left for New York, where she eventually became immersed in Andy Warhol’s Factory scene, got to know Lou Reed and so on. Warhol, not an artist I'm interested in, was in fact a practising Greek Catholic, and it's been suggested that the pop art portraits he’s most famous for were inspired by the Byzantine iconography he was exposed to growing up. I’ve left in the interview with Carlos de Maldonado-Bostock, slagging off French actor Alain Delon, calling him a ‘sausage maker’, because it’s funny.

Papatakis died last December and below is his obituary as it appeared in The Guardian.

Nikos Papatakis Obituary
by Ronald Bergan

In the years after the second world war, St-Germain-des-Prés, on the left bank of Paris, was a melting pot of intellectual and artistic life. One of the favourite hangouts for the existential and beatnik crowds was the basement nightclub La Rose Rouge in the Rue de Rennes. It was there that Juliette Gréco made her cabaret debut, and Les Frères Jacques performed their mixture of song, humour, dance and mime.
Among the audiences were André Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Prévert, Boris Vian and Miles Davis. Presiding over them all was the club’s charismatic owner, Nikos Papatakis, who has died aged 92. He was also renowned for his distinctive contribution to the world of film.

Known as Nico to his friends, Papatakis, a self-styled subversive, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Greek parents. Aged 17, he joined Haile Selassie’s army to fight against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. After the defeat by Benito Mussolini’s forces, Papatakis was driven into exile, first in Libya and then Greece, before arriving penniless in Paris in 1939.

A few years later, Papatakis met Jean Genet, who fell for the strikingly handsome, heterosexual Papatakis and dedicated his long homoerotic poem La Galère (The Galley) to “Nico, the Greco-Ethiopian god”. When they were both starving, they did some thieving together, but often fell out over the spoils. On one occasion when Genet received some money for writing, he taunted Nico with a mass of banknotes, then called the police when his friend tried to snatch the money away.

In 1950, when Papatakis was earning a good living from La Rose Rouge, and Genet had published several novels, Genet told him of his desire to direct a film. Papatakis provided the money and allowed Genet to use the restaurant space above the nightclub to construct the sets of the prison cells for Un Chant d’Amour (A Song of Love). This dialogue-free, 26-minute black-and-white cine-poem, which dealt with the mutual sexual longing of two prisoners separated by a wall, and contained masturbation and nudity, was banned in France and thereafter worldwide.

Papatakis, who owned the rights, sold copies of it to wealthy gay intellectuals until, in 1975, it was judged acceptable for public screenings, with a few cuts and added music. When it was awarded a cash prize for the year'’ best new film by the Centre National de la Cinématographie, Genet, who had since disowned it, refused the award and demanded that Papatakis return the money. Papatakis had since become a film director in his own right, and had long ago sold La Rose Rouge.

In 1957, after a three-year marriage to the actor Anouk Aimée, with whom he had a daughter, Manuela, Papatakis left for New York, in disgust at France’s colonial war in Algeria. He had an affair with the German-born model and singer Christa Päffgen, who took the professional name of Nico from her lover, before performing with the Velvet Underground. Papatakis got to know the actor John Cassavetes, who had just completed Shadows (1959), his first film as director. After the initial cold reception given to the film, Cassavetes agreed to reshoot some of it, for which Papatakis put up $5,000.

On his return to Paris, he produced and directed his first feature, Les Abysses (1963), taken from the same factual source as Genet’s 1947 play The Maids, about two alienated sisters who kill their employers. As undisciplined as the servants, the frenetic film, a critique of France’s social and political infrastructure, almost caused a riot at the Cannes film festival.

His second film, Pastures of Disorder (1968), shot clandestinely in Greece, was a tragic love story about a young shepherd and the daughter of a wealthy landowner who dare to question the traditional values of an authority that represents the military junta. It starred his second wife, Olga Karlatos, with whom he was active in campaigning against the regime of the Greek colonels.

Gloria Mundi (1975), was a disturbing drama starring Karlatos as an actor who plays an Algerian terrorist in a film directed by her husband, but who has to face degradation and torture in reality because of her belief in a revolutionary ideal. It was withdrawn when the extreme right threatened to plant bombs in the cinemas where it was showing, and had to wait until 2005 to be screened again in Paris.

The Photograph (1987), in which an emigrant from the military dictatorship in Greece goes to Paris, was a fairly potent political allegory. According to the critic Yannis Kontaxopoulos, Papatakis’s oeuvre “revolves around one single theme: the relations between master and slave, humiliation and revolution, on both a political and personal level”. His last film, Walking a Tightrope (1992), dealt with a famous gay writer who tries to make the young Arab boy he loves into the world’s greatest tightrope walker. The main character, played by Michel Piccoli, was a thinly disguised version of Genet.

Papatakis is survived by Manuela.

• Nikos Papatakis, film director and nightclub owner, born 19 July 1918; died 17 December 2010.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Papazoglou and Rasoulis: songs for Hades

It seems appropriate to make available in Radio Akritas some songs from Manolis Rasoulis and Nikos Papazoglou, who have both recently died. I’ve uploaded nine songs from their most famous collaborations, Τα δήθεν and Η εκδίκηση της γυφτιάς, on which Rasoulis was the lyricist, Papazoglou (along with Dimitris Kontoyiannis and Sophia Diamanti) a vocalist and Nikos Xydakis, the composer. Listening to these albums and songs again, it’s striking how dark some of the Cretan Rasoulis’ lyrics are. Take for instance, Από περιέργεια υπάρχω/I exist out of curiosity, the lyrics to which go something like this (my translation, which may be wrong in places): 

I exist out of curiosity
A porter’s life
whatever I find I drag around
I sing while I work
and the purpose fatal. 

I don’t want pay
not even pocket money
I exist out of curiosity
and stupidity.

Without end and until the end
I’ll take a slow walk
And if it leads me to Hades
it’ll find me willing and prepared

Από περιέργεια υπάρχω
Τη ζωή σαν αχθοφόρος
όπου βρω την κουβαλάω,
στο αγώι τραγουδάω
κι ο σκοπός θανατηφόρος.

Μεροκάματο δε θέλω
ούτε και για χαρτζιλίκι
από περιέργεια υπάρχω
και από καραγκιοζιλίκι.

Δίχως τέλος κι ως το τέλος
θέλω να την σεργιανάω
κι αν στον Άδη πει να πάω,
σύμφωνος κι ετοιμασμένος.

The songs in Radio Akritas are:
1. Του Χάρου το παράπονου
2. Δευτέρα ξημερώματα 
3. Απο τη γυναίκα για τη γυναίκα
4. Οι μάγκες δεν υπάρχουν πιά
5. Τρελή κι αδέσποτη
6. Σαν μιά ταινία
7. Μη μ' αποκαλείς τεμπέλη
8. Κάνε πως μ'αγαπάς
9. Από περιέργεια υπάρχω

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Nikos Papazoglou has died

Terrible news about the singer/songwriter Nikos Papazoglou, who has died of cancer aged 63, especially coming so soon after the death of his collaborator Manolis Rasoulis. Greek popular music for the last 20-30 years has become awful, reflecting the general decline in Greek cultural output; but Papazoglou (and Rasoulis) remained beacons of quality, building on the lyrical traditions of rembetika. I once attended a Papazoglou concert at Lykavittos in Athens. The audience mostly consisted of young women, who went wild with the music, many rushing the stage, on which they danced in some sort of ecstatic frenzy. Very entertaining. A memorable evening.

*Also, go here for more on Papazoglou and Rasoulis, including details of nine songs from Τα δήθεν and Η εκδίκηση της γυφτιάς, uploaded in Radio Akritas in right sidebar.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Why Greece will fail

I really hate to agree with Takis Michas or advertise his opinions – especially now that he’s a fully-fledged member of Dora Bakoyiannis’ new rump grouping – but his analysis of why Greece is far from the path of economic recovery and social and political regeneration is accurate. Greece will fail not because the economic measures demanded of it are too stringent, but because the Greek state cannot enforce its laws and doesn’t know how to govern the country. (Michas’ article on Greece’s descent into anarchy initially appeared yesterday here, in the Wall Street Journal).

Athens Descends Into Anarchy
Greece’s public debt may reach 150% of GDP this year, an alarming possibility that has captivated outside observers. But in the final analysis, the major issue confronting Greece may not be its solvency, but its governance.

The country is at the mercy of militant activists who are inspired by various factions of the hard left. The heaviest hitters are Greece’s Communist Party and the anarcho-Stalinist Coalition of the Radical Left, which is composed of the Ecosocialists of Greece, the “Roza” Radical Left Group, and the Internationalist Workers' Left, to name a few. With total impunity, their followers have taken to harassing citizens and destroying public property – even taking over whole villages.

In one case last year, a group of militants badly beat a former center-right New Democracy minister in front of television cameras. No arrests were made. In another case, a group of thugs accosted a leading Greek journalist while he ate in a restaurant. A similar incident happened last month, the victim that time being a minister of the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement. No arrests were made in those cases, either. In May 2010, three employees of the private bank Marfin suffocated to death when a hard-left mob firebombed their offices during a riot. Again, no arrests.

Then there are the various movements of “civil disobedience” organized by Greece’s hard left. These include the “Den plirono” (“I won't pay”) phenomenon, which amounts to supposedly brave refuseniks lifting barriers at motorway toll-booths and driving through without paying. This, even as their co-ideologues destroy bus and metro-ticket machines.

These acts of theft and vandalism have also gone unpunished, though to combat fare-dodging on public transport, the government has dispatched a new team of inspectors. This week one of them was shot twice in the stomach by a bus passenger, and he remains in critical condition.

Last summer, the Communist Party organized hundreds of union members to block tourists from boarding ferries to Greek islands. Yet even after the courts ruled that the move was illegal, no arrests were made.

Is it any surprise, therefore, that there exist today areas of Greece where the government no longer exercises sovereignty? One such area is the village of Keratea, near Athens International Airport. Keratea's inhabitants, supported by anarchist “freedom fighters” from the greater metropolitan area, have been engaged for two months in near daily pitched battles with the police, using firebombs, stones and rubble. Their complaint is the government’s decision to construct a landfill near the village.

“If the Keratea model becomes accepted as a method of protesting,” writes Alexis Papahelas in the daily Kathimerini newspaper, "then the country will enter a very disquieting phase.”

What stands out in all these incidents is the authorities’ inability or unwillingness to enforce the law.

“Even if we arrest them, they will be out in no time,” a police officer in Athens told me on condition of anonymity. “Their political patrons will see to it.”

Many argue that Greece’s disintegration is the unavoidable consequence of the government’s attempt to enforce fiscal austerity. This seems doubtful. This meltdown can be seen as the product of the totalitarian left’s open attempt to exploit the economic crisis and destroy Greece's existing democratic and economic institutions. What we are witnessing is not a descent into chaos, but a descent into organized lawlessness. Sowing pandemonium and forcing Greece to default will, according to Greek Stalinists’ analysis, bring the revolution nearer.

What makes the situation worrisome is not so much the political strength of this movement. After all, the Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left together claim no more than 13% popular support.

The problem, rather, lies with the political and ideological passivity of the parties that do represent Greece's broader middle classes. The tolerance these democrats have shown toward their totalitarian counterparts has allowed the latter to play a leading role in shaping Greek public discourse. Do they imagine the favor would be returned if the Coalition of the Radical Left were in charge?

Unless Greece’s political elite realizes the seriousness of what’s happening and acts now to re-establish the rule of democratic law, their efforts to deal with Greece's economic problems will have been in vain.

Mr. Michas is the international secretary for Greece's new centrist-liberal party, the Democratic Alliance.

Exposing Kissinger’s Cyprus lies


Above is the 2002 documentary film, The Trials of Henry Kissinger, which is based on articles and a book by Christopher Hitchens, arguing that the former US National Security Adviser and Secretary of State is a war criminal, citing his involvement in massacres, invasions and genocides in Indochina; East Timor; Chile; Cyprus; and Bangladesh. The documentary makes a compelling case against Kissinger and his ‘depraved realpolitik’ but only deals with Hitchens’ claims regarding Indochina, East Timor and Chile. Therefore, I’m printing below the section on Kissinger’s role in the coup against Makarios and the subsequent Turkish invasion of Cyprus from Hitchens’ article as it appeared in Harper’s magazine in November 2001.

In it, Hitchens makes clear that not only did Kissinger know about the impending coup against Makarios, receiving ample warning from American officials intimate with Greece and Cyprus, but was generally sympathetic to the plot to overthrow the Cypriot president. Hitchens also proves that Kissinger was fully aware that such a move against Makarios by the Greek junta would provoke a Turkish invasion of the island and partition, which contradicts Kissinger’s subsequent professions of ignorance regarding Turkish intentions in Cyprus in the summer of 1974.

I should add that a little while ago I posted on a talk by Dr Andreas Constandinos, in which he argued there was no conspiracy, involving the USA, to topple Makarios and partition Cyprus and that US policy towards the island in 1974 was characterised by incompetence and lack of foresight. 

I’ve already stated that I found Constandinos’ views on Kissinger’s role in the partition of Cyprus naive and overly generous; but I’d now like to revise this opinion, because it is overly generous to Constandinos. Thus, having watched the film above and read the article below, I think a better description of Constandinos’ thesis is that it is laughable. 

Cyprus: A Turbulent Priest
In the second volume of his trilogy of memoirs, Years of Upheaval, Henry Kissinger found the subject of the 1974 Cyprus catastrophe so awkward that he decided to postpone consideration of it:

“I must leave a full discussion of the Cyprus episode to another occasion, for it stretched into the Ford Presidency and its legacy exists unresolved today.”

This argued a certain nervousness on his part, if only because the subjects of Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East, Angola, Chile, China, and the SALT negotiations all bear legacies that are “unresolved today” and were unresolved then. (To say that these matters “stretched into the Ford Presidency” is to say, in effect, nothing at all except that this pallid interregnum did, historically speaking, occur).

In most of his writing about himself (and, one presumes, in most of his presentations to his clients) Kissinger projects a strong impression of a man at home in the world and on top of his brief. But there are a number of occasions when it suits him to pose as a sort of Candide, naive and ill prepared and easily unhorsed by events. No doubt this pose costs him something in self-esteem. It is a pose, furthermore, that he often adopts at precisely the time when the record shows him to be knowledgeable and when knowledge or foreknowledge would also confront him with charges of responsibility or complicity.

Cyprus in 1974 is just such a case. Kissinger now argues, in the third volume of his memoirs, Years of Renewal, that he was prevented and distracted, by Watergate and the deliquescence of the Nixon presidency, from taking a timely or informed interest in the crucial triangle of Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus. This is a bizarre disclaimer: the phrase “eastern flank of NATO” was then a geopolitical commonplace of the first importance, and the proximity of Cyprus to the Middle East was a factor never absent from American strategic thinking. There was no reason of domestic policy to prevent the region from engaging his attention. Furthermore, the very implosion of Nixonian authority, cited as a reason for Kissinger’s own absence of mind, in fact bestowed extraordinary powers upon him. To restate the obvious once more: When he became secretary of state in 1973, he took care to retain his post as “special assistant to the president for national security affairs,” or, as we now say, national security adviser. This made him the first and only secretary of state to hold the chairmanship of the 40 Committee, which, of course, considered and approved covert actions by the CIA. Meanwhile, as chairman of the National Security Council, he held a position in which every important intelligence plan passed across his desk. His former NSC aide, Roger Morris, was not exaggerating by much, if at all, when he said that Kissinger’s dual position, plus Nixon’s eroded one, made him “no less than acting chief of state for national security”.

Kissinger gives one hostage to fortune in Years of Upheaval and another in Years of Renewal. In the former volume he says, quite plainly: “I had always taken it for granted that the next communal crisis in Cyprus would provoke Turkish intervention” – i.e. would at least risk the prospect of a war within NATO between Greece and Turkey and would certainly involve the partition of the island. That this was indeed common knowledge may not be doubted by any person even lightly acquainted with Cypriot affairs. In the latter volume, wherein Kissinger finally takes up the challenge implicitly refused in the first volume, he repeatedly asks the reader why anyone (such as himself, so burdened with Watergate) would have sought “a crisis in the eastern Mediterranean between two NATO allies”.

These two disingenuous statements need to be qualified in the light of a third one, which appears on page 199 of Years of Renewal. Here, President Makarios of Cyprus is described without adornment as “the proximate cause of most of Cyprus’s tensions”. Makarios was the democratically elected leader of a virtually unarmed republic, which was at the time in an association agreement with the European Economic Community, as well as a member of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth. His rule was challenged, and the independence of Cyprus threatened, by a military dictatorship in Athens and a highly militarized government in Turkey, both of which sponsored right-wing gangster organizations on the island, and both of which had plans to annex the greater or lesser part of it. In spite of this, “intercommunal” violence had been on the decline in Cyprus throughout the 1970s. Most killings were, in fact, “intramural”: of Greek and Turkish democrats or internationalists by their respective nationalist and authoritarian rivals. Several attempts, by Greek and Greek Cypriot fanatics, had been made on the life of President Makarios himself. To describe his person as the “proximate cause” of most of the tensions is to make a wildly aberrant moral judgment.

This same aberrant judgment, however, supplies the key that unlocks the lie at the heart of Kissinger’s chapter. If the elected civilian authority (and spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox community) is the “proximate cause” of the tensions, then his removal from the scene is self-evidently the cure for them.

If one can demonstrate that there was such a removal plan, and that Kissinger knew about it in advance, then it follows logically and naturally that he was not ostensibly looking for a crisis-as he self-pityingly asks us to disbelieve-but for a solution. The fact that he got a crisis, which was also a hideous calamity for Cyprus and the region, does not change the equation or undo the syllogism. The scheme to remove Makarios, on which the “solution” depended, was in practice a failure. But those who willed the means and wished the ends are not absolved from guilt by the refusal of reality to match their schemes.

It is, from Kissinger’s own record and recollection, as well as the subsequent official inquiry, quite easy to demonstrate that he did have advance knowledge of the plan to depose and kill Makarios. He admits as much himself, by noting that the Greek dictator Dimitrios Ioannides, head of the secret police, was determined to mount a coup in Cyprus and bring the island under the control of Athens. This was one of the better-known facts of the situation, as was the more embarrassing fact that Brigadier Ioannides was dependent on American military aid and political sympathy. His police state had long since been expelled from the Council of Europe and blocked from joining the EEC, and it was largely the advantage conferred by his agreement to “home port” the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and host a string of U.S. air force and intelligence bases, that kept him in power. This lenient policy was highly controversial in Congress and in the American press, and the argument over it was part of Kissinger’s daily bread long before the Watergate drama.

Thus it was understood in general that the Greek dictatorship, an American client, wished to see Makarios overthrown and had already tried to kill him or have him killed. (Overthrow and assassination, incidentally, are effectively coterminous in this account; there was no possibility of leaving such a charismatic leader alive, and those who sought his removal invariably intended his death). This was also understood in particular. The most salient proof is this: In May of 1974, two months before the coup in Cyprus’s capital, Nicosia, which Kissinger later claimed came as a shock to him, he received a memorandum from the head of his State Department Cyprus desk, Thomas Boyatt. Boyatt summarized all the cumulative and persuasive reasons for believing that a Greek junta attack on Cyprus and Makarios was imminent. He further argued that, in the absence of an American demarche to Athens, warning the dictators to desist, it might be assumed that the United States was indifferent to this. And he added what everybody knew: that such a coup, if it went forward, would beyond doubt trigger a Turkish invasion.

Prescient memos are a dime a dozen in Washington after a crisis; they are often then read for the first time, or leaked to the press or to Congress in order to enhance (or protect) some bureaucratic reputation. But Kissinger now admits that he saw this document in real time, while engaged in his shuttle between Syria and Israel (both of them within half an hour’s flying time of Cyprus). Yet no demarche bearing his name or carrying his authority was issued to the Greek junta.

A short while afterward, on June 7, 1974, the National Intelligence Daily, which is the breakfast-table reading of all senior State Department, Pentagon, and national security officials, cited an American field report, dated June 3, that stated the views of the dictator in Athens:

“loannides claimed that Greece is capable of removing Makarios and his key supporters from power in twenty-four hours with little if any blood being shed and without EOKA[B] assistance. [EOKA [B] was a Greek-Cypriot fascist underground, armed and paid by the junta.] The Turks would quietly acquiesce to the removal of Makarios, a key enemy… Ioannides stated that if Makarios decides on some type of extreme provocation against Greece to obtain a tactical advantage, he (loannides) is not sure whether he should merely pull the Greek troops out of Cyprus and let Makarios fend for himself, or remove Makarios once and for all and have Greece deal directly with Turkey over Cyprus’ future.”

This report and its contents were later authenticated before Congress by CIA staff who had served in Athens at the relevant time. The fact that it made Brigadier Ioannides seem bombastic and delusional – both of which he was – should have underlined the obvious and imminent danger.

At about the same time, Kissinger received a call from Senator J. William Fulbright, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Fulbright had been briefed about the impending coup by a senior Greek dissident journalist in Washington named Elias P. Demetracopoulos. According to Demetracopoulos, Fulbright told Kissinger that steps should be taken to avert the planned Greek action, and he gave three reasons. The first was that it would repair some of the moral damage done by America’s indulgence of the junta. The second was that it would head off a confrontation between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean. The third was that it would enhance American prestige on the island. Kissinger declined to take the recommended steps, on the bizarre grounds that he could not intervene in Greek “internal affairs” at a time when the Nixon Administration was resisting pressure from Senator Henry Jackson to link US-Soviet trade to the free emigration of Russian Jewry. However odd this line of argument, it still makes it quite impossible for Kissinger to claim, as he still does, that he had had no warning.

So there was still no American high-level concern registered with Athens. The difficulty is sometimes presented as one of protocol or etiquette, as if Kissinger’s regular custom was to whisper and tread lightly. Ioannides was the de facto head of the regime but technically only its secret police chief. For the U.S. ambassador, Henry Tasca, it was awkward to make diplomatic approaches to a man he described as “a cop.” But again I remind you that Henry Kissinger, in addition to his formal diplomatic eminence, was also head of the 40 Committee, and therefore the supervisor of American covert action, and was dealing in private with an Athens regime that had long-standing ties to the CIA. The 1976 House Committee on Intelligence later phrased the problem rather deftly in its report:

“Tasca, assured by the CIA station chief that loannides would continue to deal only with the CIA, and not sharing the State Department desk officer’s alarm, was content to pass a message to the Greek leader indirectly… It is clear, however, that the Embassy took no steps to underscore for loannides the depth of U.S. concern over a Cyprus coup attempt. This episode, the exclusive CIA access to loannides, Tasca’s indications that he may not have seen all important messages to and from the CIA Station, loannides’ suggestions of U.S. acquiescence, and Washington’s well-known coolness to Makarios have led to public speculation that either U.S. officials were inattentive to the reports of the developing crisis or simply allowed it to happen…”

Thomas Boyatt’s memoranda, warning of precisely what was to happen (and echoing the views of several mid-level officials besides himself), were classified as secret and still have never been released. Asked to testify at the above hearings, he was at first forbidden by Kissinger to appear before Congress and was finally permitted to do so only in order that he might avoid a citation for contempt. His evidence was taken in Executive Session, with the hearing room cleared of staff, reporters, and visitors.

Matters continued to gather pace. On July 1, 1974, three senior officials of the Greek foreign ministry, all of them known for their moderate views on the Cyprus question, publicly tendered their resignations. On July 3, President Makarios made public an open letter to the Greek junta, which made the direct accusation of foreign interference and subversion:

“In order to be absolutely clear, I say that the cadres of the military regime of Greece support and direct the activities of the EOKA-B terrorist organization… I have more than once so far felt, and some cases I have almost touched, a hand invisibly extending from Athens and seeking to liquidate my human existence.”

He called for the withdrawal from Cyprus of the Greek officers responsible.

Some days after the coup, which eventually occurred on July 15, 1974, and when challenged at a press conference about his apparent failure to foresee or avert it, Kissinger replied that “the information was not lying around on the streets.” Actually, it nearly was. It had been available to him round the clock, in both his diplomatic and intelligence capacities. His decision to do nothing was therefore a direct decision to do something, or to let something be done.

To the rest of the world, two things were obvious about the coup. The first was that it had been instigated from Athens and carried out with the help of regular Greek forces, and was thus a direct intervention in the internal affairs of one country by another. The second was that it violated all the existing treaties governing the status of the island. The obvious and unsavory illegality was luridly emphasized by the junta itself, which chose a notorious chauvinist gunman named Nikos Sampson to be its proxy “president”. Sampson must have been well known to the chairman of the 40 Committee as a long-standing recipient of financial support from the CIA; he also received money for his fanatical Nicosia newspaper Makhi (“Combat”) from a pro-junta CIA proxy in Athens, Mr. Savvas Constantopoulos, the publisher of the pro-junta organ Eleftheros Kosmos (“Free World”). No European government treated Sampson as anything but a pariah during the brief nine days in which he held power and launched a campaign of murder against his democratic Greek opponents. But Kissinger told the American envoy in Nicosia to receive Sampson’s “foreign minister” as foreign minister, thus making the United States the first and only government to extend de facto recognition. (At this point, it might be emphasized, the whereabouts of President Makarios were unknown. His palace had been heavily shelled and his death announced on the junta’s radio. He had in fact made his escape, and was able to broadcast the fact a few days afterward-to the enormous irritation of certain well-placed persons).

In Washington, Kissinger’s press spokesman, Robert Anderson, flatly denied that the coup – later described by Makarios from the podium of the United Nations as “an invasion” – constituted foreign intervention. “No,” he replied to a direct question on this point. “In our view there has been no outside intervention.” This surreal position was not contradicted by Kissinger when he met with the Cypriot ambassador and failed to offer the customary condolences on the reported death of his president – the “proximate cause,” we now learn from him, of all the unpleasantness. When asked if he still recognized the elected Makarios government as the legal one, Kissinger doggedly and astonishingly refused to answer. When asked if the United States was moving toward recognition of the Sampson regime, his spokesman declined to deny it. When Senator Fulbright helped facilitate a visit by the escaped Makarios to Washington, the State Department was asked whether he would be received by Kissinger “as a private citizen, as Archbishop, or as President of Cyprus?” The answer? “[Kissinger]’s meeting with Archbishop Makarios on Monday.” Every other government in the world, save the rapidly collapsing Greek dictatorship, recognized Makarios as the legitimate head of the Cyprus republic. Kissinger’s unilateralism on the point is without diplomatic precedent and argues strongly for his collusion and sympathy with the armed handful who felt the same way.

It is worth emphasizing that Makarios was invited to Washington in the first place, as elected and legal president of Cyprus, by Senator J. William Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and by his counterpart, Congressman Thomas Morgan, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Credit for their invitation belongs to the above-mentioned Elias Demetracopoulos, who had long warned of the coup and who was a friend of Fulbright’s. It was he who conveyed the invitation to Makarios, who was by then in London meeting with the British foreign secretary. This initiative crowned a series of anti-junta activities by this guerrilla journalist and one-man band, who had already profoundly irritated Kissinger and become a special object of his spite. At the very last moment, and with a very poor grace, Kissinger was compelled to announce that he was receiving Makarios in his presidential and not his episcopal capacity.

Since Kissinger himself tells us that he had always known or assumed that another outbreak of violence in Cyprus would trigger a Turkish military intervention, we can assume in our turn that he was not surprised when such an intervention came. Nor does he seem to have been very much disconcerted. While the Greek junta remained in power, his efforts were principally directed to shielding it from retaliation. He was opposed to the return of Makarios to the island and strongly opposed to Turkish or British use of force to undo the Greek coup (Britain being a guarantor power with a treaty obligation and troops on Cyprus). This same counsel of inertia or inaction-amply testified to in Kissinger’s own memoirs as well as everyone else’s – translated later into equally strict and repeated admonitions against any measures to block a Turkish invasion. Sir Tom McNally, then the chief political adviser to Britain’s then foreign secretary and future prime minister, James Callaghan, has since disclosed that Kissinger “vetoed” at least one British military action to preempt a Turkish landing.

This may seem paradoxical, but the long-standing sympathy for a partition of Cyprus, repeatedly expressed by the State and Defense departments, make it seem much less so. The demographic composition of the island (82 percent Greek, 18 percent Turkish) made it more logical for the partition to be imposed by Greece. But a second best was to have it imposed by Turkey. And once Turkey had conducted two brutal invasions and occupied almost 40 percent of Cypriot territory, Kissinger exerted himself very strongly indeed to protect Turkey from any congressional reprisal for this outright violation of international law and promiscuous and illegal misuse of American weaponry. He became so pro-Turkish, in fact, that it was if he had never heard of the Greek colonels (though his expressed dislike of the returned Greek democratic leaders supplied an occasional reminder).

Not all the elements of this partitionist policy can be charged to Kissinger personally; he inherited the Greek junta and the official dislike of Makarios. Even in the dank obfuscatory prose of his own memoirs, however, he does admit what can otherwise be concluded from independent sources. Using covert channels, and short-circuiting the democratic process in his own country, he made himself a silent accomplice in a plan of political assassination, and when this plan went awry it led to the deaths of thousands of civilians, the violent uprooting of almost 200,000 refugees, and the creation of an unjust and unstable amputation of Cyprus that constitutes a serious threat to peace a full quarter century later.

On July 10, 1976, the European Commission of Human Rights adopted a report, prepared by eighteen distinguished jurists and chaired by Professor JES Fawcett, resulting from a year’s research into the consequences of the Turkish invasion. It found that the Turkish army had engaged in the deliberate killing of civilians, in the execution of prisoners, in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees, in the arbitrary collective punishment and mass detention of civilians, and in systematic and unpunished acts of rape, torture, and looting. A large number of “disappeared” persons, both prisoners of war and civilians, are still “missing” from this period. This number included a dozen holders of United States passports, which is evidence in itself of an indiscriminate strategy when conducted by an army dependent on American aid and materiel.

Perhaps it was a reluctance to accept his responsibility for these outrages, as well as his responsibility for the original Sampson coup, that led Kissinger to tell a bizarre sequence of lies to his new friends, the Chinese. On October 2, 1974, he held a high-level meeting in New York with Qiao Guanhua, vice foreign minister of the People’s Republic. It was the first substantive Sino-American meeting since the visit of Deng Xiaoping, and the first order of business was Cyprus. The memorandum, which is headed “TOP SECRET/SENSITIVE/EXCLUSIVELY EYES ONLY,” has Kissinger first rejecting China’s public claim that he had helped engineer the removal of Makarios. “We did not. We did not oppose Makarios” (a claim belied by his own memoirs). He says, “When the coup occurred I was in Moscow,” which he was not. He says, “My people did not take these intelligence reports [concerning an impending coup] seriously,” even though they had. He says that neither did Makarios take them seriously, even though Makarios had gone public in a denunciation of the Greek junta for its coup plans. He then makes the amazing claim that “we knew the Soviets had told the Turks to invade,” which would make this the first Soviet-instigated invasion to be conducted by a NATO army and paid for with American aid.

A good liar must have a good memory. Kissinger is a stupendous liar with a remarkable memory. So perhaps some of this hysterical lying is explained by its context: the need to enlist China’s anti-Soviet instincts. But the total of falsity is so impressive that it suggests something additional, something more like denial or delusion, or even a confession by other means.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Alexander the Great still conquering after all these years

Over here, there’s been a bit of a hoo-ha (in circles where these things might create hoo-has) about the Heracles to Alexander the Great exhibition, which has recently opened at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. So, above is a short video on the finds at Vergina and below is a piece on the Ashmolean exhibition by Robin Lane Fox, this country's foremost Alexander the Great scholar, which originally appeared in the Financial Times.

Heracles to Alexander the Great, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The Ashmolean’s new show is the most stunning loan exhibition ever to have come from Greece to Britain. It consists of objects from ancient Aigai, the modern Vergina – the ceremonial centre of the ancient Macedonian kingdom and the cradle of King Philip and his son Alexander. Almost all the 500 items have been excavated since 1977 and one of the most spectacular, a gold wreath, was found only in 2008.

The exhibition is beautifully shown in three big rooms and contains items that will require histories of Greek art to be rewritten. The effect is overwhelming, the most emotional exhibition experience of my lifetime.

For some 500 years Macedon was ruled by kings who traced their ancestry back to the hero Heracles, whose image appears on Alexander’s many coins; from about 330BC Alexander and his heirs ruled an area stretching from Egypt as far as north-west India. Even 150 years after Alexander’s death, kings in Bactria (modern Afghanistan) were showing their Macedonian features and armour on their fine coins and alluding still to Alexander himself. The Ptolemies in Egypt, including Cleopatra, spoke Greek in the Macedonian dialect. In Oxford we can look in for the first time at the previous history of the royal society that produced the most famous conquerors in ancient history.

The exhibition strikes an admirable balance between treasure and scholarship. Nobody could fail to be impressed by the gold myrtle wreath adorned with 112 gold flowers that belonged to one of Philip’s seven wives and was found in the front chamber of his tomb in 1977. It is the most beautiful piece of ancient Greek jewellery known to us. A line of tall modelled clay heads from about 480BC are also star turns. They were found with the earlier female burial of a queen of Macedon: are they heads of the goddess Persephone and some unknown divinities or are some of them portrait heads, even at this unimaginably early date?

A brilliantly staged group of the dresses and jewellery of the ladies of ancient Aigai centres on the incredible gold decorations of the queen herself. For the first time they let us see how women actually wore these bulky precious items. High points of a room devoted to the Macedonian court’s dining and partying are silver cups from the tombs of Philip and of a prince who is almost certainly Alexander’s short-lived son from his wife Roxane. These exquisite items remind us of the elegance among the wilder side of Macedonian nightlife. Roxane surely touched some of these silver pieces, Philip the others.

It pays to look closely at the detailed decoration on so many of the smaller items in this show. The queen’s headband, from perhaps as early as 500BC, is decorated with scenes of Greek myth, including the Minotaur. The handles on the silver vessels are adorned with Dionysiac faces and the samples of carved ivory figures have superb skill: the Greek patronage, taste and language of the Macedonian court-society are plainly visible.

The show includes reproductions of the tomb-paintings found under ancient Aigai’s great mound. These are the high spots of the most spectacular discoveries in Greek archaeology in my lifetime. If only the great Italian Renaissance artists could have seen the Aigai paintings: the history of Western art might have been different if Botticelli or Leonardo had been able to study these breathtaking depictions of human emotion, interrelated action, schematic landscape and rhythmic movement.

The exhibition is right to devote a lot of space to the ground plans and images of Aigai’s huge, 12,500 sq m palace: recent revelations about the site have changed our entire understanding of architecture in and after Alexander’s lifetime. It is the most important classical Greek structure after the Parthenon and shows us the increasing grandeur of the court in which young Alexander grew up. The building was formerly dated to the generation after Alexander, as if it had been the result of his grand conquest in Asia. But it is now known, through renewed excavation since 2007, to be nothing less than Philip’s own palace.

In 2008 I was taken round the new excavations by their presiding genius, Angeliki Kottaridi, to whose generosity this loan exhibition is due. I remember telling her that she must survey the palace in front of us and use technology to work out where Philip’s earlier palace lay beneath it.

“I have done that, Robin,” she replied, “and there is no earlier palace underneath.”

I realised that she knew, as I now did, that we were standing in Philip’s own vast palace, the place where he, Olympias and the young Alexander walked and maybe quarrelled. As the moon came up we sat in the recently found theatre below the palace, only feet away from the very spot where Philip was murdered. It was clear that our understanding of Philip’s vision as king had changed for ever; only now do we realise the scale of his vision and ambition.

Alexander was a Macedonian and the more we know about his homeland the more we know about the context in which to assess his career and the generation he brought to fame. This fabulous show makes us aware of a world whose secrets we have only recently begun to unlock.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Garden of Eden

For the sake of symmetry, above is the third and final episode of the BBC series The Bible’s Buried Secrets, presented by Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou. The first two episodes – on King David and monotheism – can be seen here. The third episode (the least interesting to me) is about the Book of Genesis and the so-called Garden of Eden, a story which Stavrakopoulou argues has its origins not as a parable about original sin and the fall of man, but a very specific historical event, most likely the siege and sacking of Jerusalem and its temple (in which Stavrakopoulou locates the Garden of Eden) in the sixth century BC. In this interpretation, Adam is not the First Man but an Israelite king who invites the wrath of his Babylonian overlord. Not sure I cared that much; and you’d be much better off reading and thinking about the Greeks who, at the same time as Jewish scribes were writing Genesis and the Hebrew Bible, were reading Homer, attending tragic and comic theatre and contemplating the scientific origins of the universe. 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Powell and Pressburger’s ‘Ill Met By Moonlight’

Above is the 1957 British film, Ill Met By Moonlight, based on the book of the same name by W. Stanley Moss, which recounts the kidnap in 1944 of the senior German commander in Nazi-occupied Crete, General Heinrich Kreipe, by British SOE officers and Cretan resistance fighters. Moss was one of the British officers involved in the kidnap, another was Patrick Leigh Fermor, who in the 1930s was part of the Katsimbalis circle and, after the war, wrote extensively about Greece, particularly the Mani, where Leigh Fermor settled and continues to live. The film is disappointing – somewhat flippant and also patronising in its portrayal of the Cretans – even  more so when you consider that it was made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who together were responsible for a series of films in the 1940s and 1950s which are the finest in British cinema. The film does have a good score from Mikis Theodorakis.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

British colonial rule: from Kenya to Cyprus

I read an interesting article today on the BBC webiste regarding the 1950s Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, currently in the news over here because some Kenyans are suing the UK government for compensation claiming they were tortured as the colonial authorities sought to put down the uprising.

The Mau Mau rebellion, of course, took place at about the same time as Cypriots were engaged in their own uprising against British colonial rule in favour of self-determination, which in the Cyprus case meant union with Greece; and it struck me that, although the scale and nature of British repression was much greater in Kenya than it was in Cyprus, the logic and tactics of the colonial authorities were similar.

Apart from the widespread use of hanging and torture in both the Kenyan and Cypriot cases, also notable was the willingness of the British to deploy collaborators from the local population to execute repressive colonial policy. In Kenya, the British created the African Home Guard, a militia that was armed, directed and rewarded by the colonial government; while, in Cyprus, the British recruited Turkish Cypriots to do their dirty work. Regarding Cyprus, the figures speak for themselves: of 1,770 Auxiliary Police and Special Constables recruited during the EOKA period, 1,700 were Turkish Cypriots and only 70 were Greek Cypriots. All 542 recruits in the Mobile Reserve were from the Turkish community; while the regular police consisted of 462 from the UK, 932 Greek Cypriots and 891 from the Turkish minority.

In support of striking Greek journalists

I notice that Greek journalists have started a four-day strike today to protest the government’s austerity measures and demand that journalists recently made redundant as a result of newspapers closing and TV stations making cutbacks be reinstated.

According to this report: ‘Television channels aired pre-recorded material, radio stations played back-to-back music and newspapers will not be published until Tuesday. Even online news sites shut down.’

I’d like to express my support to the journalists and urge them to stay on strike for much longer than four-days; say, four months or even four years – during which time Greeks, instead of being subjected to the garbage being pumped out by the Greek media, might read books instead, or take up exercise, do some voluntary work or discuss among themselves the state of Greece and how to improve matters.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

O Drakos (The Dragon): with English subtitles

Certain readers have been complaining that there's too much politics and not enough film on this blog; so to appease them I’ve managed to upload O Drakos (The Dragon); a strange, surreal Greek film from 1956, which is part film noir, part Kafka, part Ionescu, part Ealing Comedy, part Gogol. The film, which I’ve attached English subtitles to, is directed by Nikos Kountouros, was written by Iakovos Kambanellis, stars Dinos Iliopoulos and has a great soundtrack by Manos Hadjidakis. The Greek Film Critics Association once voted O Drakos the best Greek film of all time.