Monday, 17 January 2022

9. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Chapter 6: Conclusion

In the final chapter (Conclusion) of his Cyprus: Hostage to History, Christopher Hitchens asserts again that whatever the shortcomings of the way Greek Cypriots sought to achieve independence and self-determination, these deficiencies weren’t what brought devastation to the island in 1974. Rather, guilt for Cyprus’s tragedy lies with a group of malign external actors who, in pursuit of their own interests or shared interests, colluded to stoke ethnic violence on Cyprus and, ultimately, partition the island, regardless of the consequences of such a policy on Cypriot lives and culture.

9. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Chapter 6: Conclusion

‘On the third day – and final morning – the Archbishop and I had a quiet talk alone in his study. Rather whimsically, he said, “I like you, Mr Secretary, you speak candidly and I respect that. It’s too bad we couldn’t have met under happier circumstances. Then, I’m sure, we could have been friends.” A brief pause and then he said, “We’ve talked about many things and we’ve been frank with one another. I think it right to say that we’ve developed a considerable rapport. Yet there’s one thing I haven’t asked you and I don’t know whether I should or not, but I shall anyway. Do you think I should be killed by the Turks or the Greeks? Better by the Greeks, wouldn’t you think?”
“Well,”  I replied, “I agree that we’ve talked frankly to one another about many things and that we have established a rapport. But as to the matter you’ve just raised with me, Your Beatitude, that’s your problem!”’
George Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern

‘Afterwards, Ball made no secret of his unforgiving resentment of Makarios’s role in 1964. During a Brookings Institution conference in 1969, Ball said in the presence of State Department colleagues, “That son of a bitch Makarios will have to be killed before anything happens in Cyprus.”’
Laurence Stern, The Wrong Horse

The owl of Minerva, said Hegel, takes wing only at dusk. Students of his difficult and idealistic theory of history take this to mean that only when an epoch is closed can it be properly understood. Hegel, of course, thought that the only thing to be learned from history was that nobody did learn from history. The Cyprus problem is rich in support for his view. But a certain dusk, not yet night, has fallen across the island, and it might not be impertinent to try and deduce some lessons.

The Cyprus problem consists of not one, but four, related questions. The most important of these is the relationship between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, which sets the difficult conundrum: can two widely separated national groups find a peaceful coexistence involving two languages, two religions and two interpretations of history?

The second, which is related but by no means identical, makes Cyprus the site of a longstanding difference between two great states: Greece and Turkey, both inheritors of vast, bygone empires. It is unlikely that the future of the island can be divorced from the wider settlement of differences between these larger rivals.

The third element is one of time rather than place. Cyprus came to independence during the Cold War, which has made every country in the world a place of conflict between the superpowers. Ideological commitments are strong in the island, but have not proved strong enough to transcend the first two tensions.

Finally, there is an element involving place rather than time. Cyprus occupies a strategic position in the Levant, and outside powers have never scrupled to employ local and regional rivalries in order to get their own way there. It is this, last, factor combined with the second one which has promoted Cyprus, like Lebanon, from a local dispute to an actual and potential international confrontation. It is this aspect, also, which has made it possible to give the wishes of its inhabitants such a lowly place on the order of priorities, and often impossible to ‘synchronize’ better inter-communal relations with better Greek-Turkish mainland relations.

Now that the debris of the 1974 explosion has settled, and now that some of those responsible have either stood trial or published their memoirs, it has become possible to attempt some conclusions. Mine are that Cyprus was plunged into war by the operations of the fourth element on the first and second –- with the third element acting as an occasional incitement or justification. The Greek Cypriots would be mistaken in blaming all the disasters that have overtaken them on outside meddling. But they have considerable warrant for doing so. Turkish Cypriot propagandists, who hasten to blame everything on Greek ambition, ignore the fact that they, too, have been used and exploited by powers larger than themselves.

Many outsiders have accused the Greek Cypriots of hubris; the sin of pride which tempts fate to take retribution. By behaving as if Turkey was four hundred miles away instead of forty they asked for trouble and (the outsider usually adds with satisfaction) they got it. In our day, as in classical antiquity, hubris is defined by the consequent nemesis. The trouble with this argument or method is that those who encounter nemesis are presumed to have done something to deserve it. Cyprus is the victim of a miserable fate, ergo there must have been a crime or an error which beckoned it on. This opinion, like the belief in original sin, is hard to rebut.

At almost every stage in the drama, however, the weaknesses or errors of Cypriots were exploited and compounded by external intervention. This was true when the British fomented intercommunal distrust, first to consolidate their rule and then to maintain it. It was true when the Turkish government organized an anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul to bring pressure to bear on the Cyprus negotiations with London, and was rewarded with concessions. It was true when the Greek and Turkish governments put local extremists into commanding positions by giving them money and weapons. It was true when the Greek junta, itself the product of foreign intervention, decided to eliminate President Makarios. Perhaps most of all it was true when the United States government, in the words of George Ball, ‘established an underground contact’ with the terrorists of General Grivas, and did so in the name of protecting the Turks! In that incident, both ends were played against the middle and the manipulation of internal tensions was dovetailed with a great-power calculation designed to abolish the island’s independence. From that incident, also, stems the foreign involvement with Greek-sponsored subversion in Cyprus, which led to the coup and to the Turkish invasion. When Makarios put his question to George Ball, asking mischievously whether it would be Greeks or Turks who would be set on to kill him, he was being shrewd and not, as the unironic and literal Ball supposes, offensive. Mr Ball obviously thinks that he comes well out of the exchange, or he would not have published it. But his rejoinder is thunderously inept. It was not Makarios’s ‘problem’ whether he lived or died. It was the responsibility of those who wished him ill, and Ball is at least honest enough to make it plain that he was one of those. His successors, especially in the Nixon administration, behaved in such a way as to justify the Cypriot belief that foreign meddling has been the chief problem at both the local and the international levels. At the risk of overstressing the point, let me just point out again that by helping General Grivas, Mr Ball and his colleagues more or less ensured the animosity of the Turkish Cypriots, who felt menaced by Grivas far more than they felt threatened by Makarios. By helping further to poison an ethnic conflict, the United States deliberately created the very conditions which it was later to cite, hypocritically, as the justification for partition. Where the British had made an opportunistic use of Greek-Turkish rivalry and distrust, the United States and its proxies made an instrument out of it.

Or I’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublie bien des choses.
Ernest Renan, Qu’est-ce qu’une nation
(With acknowledgements to Benedict Anderson)

Obviously, things could have been different. The navies of the Catholic powers, later bombastically celebrated by G.K. Chesterton, inflicted a shattering defeat on the Turks at Lepanto in October 1571. If the victory had come three months earlier, it might have raised the siege of Famagusta and redeemed its commander Marcantonio Bragadin from the necessity of being flayed alive, for the glory of Venice, by the Turkish invader Lala Mustafa. Cyprus would never have become Turkish. Alternatively, if the late Sultan had not been so gullible, the island might never have passed from Turkey to Britain. Again, if Britain had been more sincere, or Greece more determined, then Cyprus might have achieved enosis long enough since for it to be uncontroversial today. Like Rhodes, it might even have got it without a fight. These are not the real ‘ifs’ in the present situation, though speculation about the latter ones can fill Greek Cypriots with alternating moods of sobriety and anger. 
The real ‘if is the one which inquires of the Greek Cypriots, since they are the majority, whether they could have averted the frightful events of 1974. I have argued, I hope persuasively, that there were forces at work which would have victimized the Greek Cypriots whatever they did. This does not and should not free them from the obligation to consider their missed opportunities. These seem to cluster under four headings:

1. Economics. The Turkish Cypriots, despite their history of political and national privilege as an organized group, were most often economically underprivileged in the mass. During the period 1960-74, when the Greeks were morally and legally responsible, as the majority, for all citizens on the island, they gave this problem a low priority. Greek trade unionists made admirable efforts to enlist Turkish Cypriots as fellow-workers. But at central-government level there was a perceptible stinginess in allocating economic aid or in sharing resources for education, development and housing. This reproduced, in social terms, a version of the wider and deeper national problem. The Turks, who were a minority but whose leaders talked as a majority, were economic inferiors. While the Greeks, who were a majority in Cyprus but a minority in the region, were economic and entrepreneurial superiors. This jealousy only reinforced the ‘double minority’ problem of Cyprus, where each side felt itself the aggrieved party.

2. Culture. The Turks are a minority in Cyprus, but they are a Turkish minority. This makes them the heirs of a very strong and distinct national identity. Throughout the years of inde­pendence, the Makarios government failed to set up any institution specifically designed to meet Turkish needs. As Kyriakos Markides puts it in his book The Rise and Fall of the Cyprus Republic, ‘Not a single committee of experts was established for the rational and systematic study and analysis of data relating to internal Turkish Cypriot and Turkish politics.’

And as Costa P. Kyrris of the Cyprus Research Centre put it in his estimable book Peaceful Coexistence in Cyprus (1977):

‘The very fact that the present book, whatever its value, has been written only in 1976-77 instead of some sixty or eighty or at least thirty years ago, points to our belated realization of the crucial importance of systematic knowledge of our Turkish neighbours, their problems, mentality, origins and relations with us. This delay has been fatal for the inter­ ethnic developments in the island.’

Since 1974 there has been an upsurge of interest and feeling on this point among Greek Cypriots, but it is difficult not to agree with Mr Kyrris that it came rather late. Minerva’s owl took wing only when the dusk was thickening.

Greek Cypriots are fond of quoting those British figures from the past, notably Sir Ronald Storrs, who were sensible enough to realize that if they felt themselves to be Greek, they were Greek. The same must be held to apply to the Turks. It is true that Cyprus has a long history of symbiosis, typical of Ottoman Asia Minor. There was for some time a local sect known as the Linobambakoi or in English linen-cottons’ who, as their nickname implies, were dualists. They practised both Christian and Muslim rites, and each took both a Christian and a Muslim name. Perhaps as a partial result of this and other symbiotic elements, Turkish Cypriots had adopted the practice of giving themselves surnames long before Kemal Ataturk’s reforms made the adoption of a surname obligatory on the mainland. Many Christian Cypriots converted to Islam under Ottoman rule, if only to escape the special taxes from which ‘believers’ were exempt. Several Turkish Cypriot villages bore the names of Christian saints as a result – or did until the enforced Turkification of place names by the Denktash regime.

All of this deserves to be remembered, as do the dozens of mixed villages that existed before the 1974 apartheid system was imposed. But the Turks, if only in response to the nationalist revolt among the Greeks, have taken to a more assertive definition of their Turkishness, and it is idle to pretend otherwise. You cannot make a child grow smaller, and the Turkish Cypriots will not, whatever their disillusionment with Anatolian rule, voluntarily revert to the position they occupied before 1974. A future solution will depend largely on the intelligence of the Greeks (who also have little nostalgia for that period of junta menace) in recognizing this. It goes without saying that a Turkish occupation which prevents Greek and Turkish Cypriots from even meeting one another is the chief obstacle even to a consideration of this point.

3. Religion. There is every reason why the Orthodox Church should occupy a special place in Greek Cypriot life, since it has been one of the guardians and repositories of national feeling for centuries past. Yet the presence of a Greek ethnarch as simultaneous head of state made it that much more difficult for Turkish Cypriots to identify with the new order inaugurated by independence. With the accession of President Kyprianou, Church and state have become more separated. In retrospect, it would have been politic for Archbishop Makarios to have made more efforts in the same direction. A future unified Cyprus would have no choice but to be secular in politics and law.

4. Military forces. It was clearly a mistake ever to permit the stationing of foreign military forces on Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios once told me, when I asked him what he considered to have been his greatest error, that he most regretted allowing the Greek contingent to settle permanently on the island. We have seen how the Turks used a small, initial military presence to expand their army from a few enclaves across one-third of Cyprus. And the British bases have been used to assist in partitioning rather than securing the island. The bases have also acted as a constant temptation to outsiders to treat Cyprus as a tactical or strategic pawn rather than as a country with a complex individuality. They serve no purpose that cannot be discharged in another way, and the original reason for their presence – the safeguarding of British control over Suez, Jordan and Iraq – has long since evaporated. A unified Cyprus would require international guarantees of demilitarization, which would have to be complete if it was to have any point.

Having started with Milan Kundera’s warning about amnesia, it may seem perverse to end with Renan’s advice about forget­ting. But, if Cyprus is to recover from the blows it has been dealt, it will have to acquire a common memory and this will mean less stress on individual or sectarian grievances. If people remember everything, they go mad. What needs to be remembered, set down and memorized, is the injury done to all Cypriots, to the common home, by distant, uncaring enemies.

One can write the word ‘solution’ glibly, at a time when such a term seems more Utopian than ever. The enemies of an independent Cyprus still seem overwhelmingly strong. Even if the neglected steps towards intercommunal composure had been taken in the brief and arduous years of independence, it is impossible to doubt that these enemies would have been just as assiduous. And one chauvinist or Fascist can destroy in one day (a rumour of rape, a fire in the church or mosque) what the inhabitants of a peaceful, integrated village have spent gener­ations building.

Those who believe that the Cypriots ‘brought it on them­selves’ have a duty to explain away the known facts of British colonial policy; the intrusion of the Greek junta and its backers; the creation by Ankara of an armed movement in favour of partition; and the declared desire of the United States government to ‘remove’ Makarios. These pressures, exerted on a small people with almost no defences of their own, were the major determining causes of the present misery.

This is not to say that the present misery is, in all its aspects, the intended result of outside interference. The Acheson-Ball partition might, if implemented to the strict letter, have been less outrageously inconsistent with demography than the status quo. But the policy and its implementation, both formulated without the consent of the Cypriots, cannot be so easily distinguished. The groups and parties who were chosen to bring about partition were violent, unstable and selfish. The responsi­bility for what occurred, then, rests with those who equipped and encouraged them. The apple did not fall very far from the tree.

I am confident that I will be accused of putting forward a ‘conspiracy theory’. Actually, what I have argued is that there was collusion between unevenly matched and differently motivated forces, who for varying reasons feared or disliked an independent Cyprus. Ten years after the disaster, we know more than the victims did at the time. Nothing that has been published or uncovered since, however, contradicts the terrible suspicions that the victims had then. Those who deny the collusion theory; those who interpret events as a mere chapter of accidents, have a great deal more to explain away than those who accept it.

My dear friend, do you value the counsels of dead men?
I should say this. Fear defeat. Keep it before your minds
As much as victory. Defeat at the hands of friends,
Defeat in the plans of your confident generals.
Fear the kerchiefed captain who does not think he can die.

New prisoners bring news. The evening air unravels

The friendly scents from fruit trees, creepers and trellised vines.

In airless rooms, conversations are gently renewed.
An optimist licking his finger detects a breeze

And I begin to ignore the insidious voice

Which insists in whispers: The chance once lost is life lost
For the idea, for the losers and their dead

Whose memorials will never be honoured or built

Until they and those they have betrayed are forgotten –
Not this year, not next year, not in your time. 
From ‘Prison Island’ by James Fenton (The Memory of War: Poems 1968-1982)

These lines, from the best English poet of his time, have a certain ache to them. They have all the melancholy of remembered bravado and betrayal, as well as all the agony of loss and defeat. Yet they are, just, redeemed from utter despair. ‘The insidious voice’, which argues that an opportunity missed is the knell of finality, has to be heeded but answered – even, perhaps, resisted.

We are all prisoners of knowledge. To know how Cyprus was betrayed, and to have studied the record of that betrayal, is to make oneself unhappy and to spoil, perhaps for ever, one’s pleasure in visiting one of the world’s most enchanting islands. Nothing will ever restore the looted treasures, the bereaved families, the plundered villages and the groves and hillsides scalded with napalm. Nor will anything mitigate the record of the callous and crude politicians who regarded Cyprus as something on which to scribble their inane and conceited designs. But fatalism would be the worst betrayal of all. The acceptance, the legitimization of what was done – those things must be repudiated. Such a refusal has a value beyond Cyprus, in showing that acquiescence in injustice is not ‘realism’. Once the injustice has been set down and described, and called by its right name, acquiescence in it becomes impossible. That is why one writes about Cyprus in sorrow but more – much more – in anger.
Read all parts of the serialisation here:
1. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Preface to the Second Edition.
2. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Preface to the First Edition.
3. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Introduction. 

Monday, 10 January 2022

8. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Chapter 5: Consequences

In Chapter 5 (Consequences) of his Cyprus: Hostage to History, Christopher Hitchens describes the political fallout of events in Cyprus of July and August 1974 for the external instigators of Cyprus’s undoing. In Britain and the USA, there were serious parliamentary investigations into the conduct of foreign policy that revealed incompetence, malice and corruption. In Greece, US support for the junta and Washington’s iniquitous role in Cyprus led to a dramatic swing to the left and upsurge in anti-American feeling. In Turkey, the occupation of northern Cyprus and the lack of international repercussions emboldened the military to take a greater and more nefarious role in politics, and also whetted Turkish nationalist appetites for repudiating the Lausanne Treaty and further expanding at Greek expense in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean.

 8. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Chapter 5: Consequences

Cyprus provided the occasion for a battle between the United States Congress and the Executive which continues to this day. If, now, an American President feels constrained in what he may do overseas without congressional consent, then it is the unfortunate Cypriots who can take a large share of the credit.

One says a large share because although Cyprus was the ostensible occasion for the conflict, it was one which had too long been postponed. By the summer of 1974, many senior senators and Congressmen were fed up with learning, after the fact, that the United States had been responsible for some discreditable foreign imbroglio. There had been the secret bombing of Cambodia, and the endless manifestations of Richard Nixon’s double-dealing over Vietnam. There had been the awful massacre, with American weapons, of insurgent Bangladesh. There had been the engineering of a military coup in Chile. Now there was a near-war in NATO and the other bitter consequences of an obviously rank intimacy with the Greek junta. Congress was, quite simply, tired of being kept in the dark. And the new favourite policy – backing of Turkey – did not look any more appetizing.
On 15 August, as the Turkish army was planting its flag on the partition line and driving tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots into exile in their own country, a delegation of Congressmen called on Kissinger to demand an embargo on arms to Turkey; arms which had been supplied on the strict understanding that they were to be used to defend Turkey against the Soviet Union. The delegation was led by Congress­ man John Brademas, a Greek American from Indiana. Brademas was not impressed by Kissinger’s argument that the United States was pursuing ‘very active diplomacy’ with the Turkish government. Assurances, so easily offered and so quickly forgotten, and so glibly packaged with a plea that Congress should not ‘tie the hands’ of the Executive, were no longer enough. Laurence Stern of the Washington Post, in his excellent book The Wrong Horse, describes the substance of the meeting at the State Department:

‘The Indiana Democrat [Brademas] pronounced Kissinger’s efforts at private diplomacy a failure. He asked why there had been no public protest from the State Department when Makarios was overthrown and nearly murdered, or when the Turks had invaded Cyprus. Why, he went on, were there no public statements of support for Callaghan in his efforts to keep the Turks from leaving the bargaining table at Geneva? Why was the State Department virtually silent during the ensuing military blitz by Turkish troops?’

These were all, except the third, which was too philanthropic towards Callaghan, good questions. And to none of them did Kissinger have a convincing answer. His strategy, in the coming weeks and months, was to refer disparagingly to his critics as ‘the Greek lobby’ – as if they were motivated by purely ethnic concerns and were somehow diminished thereby. This approach had two weaknesses. The first was that the description did not cover Senator Claiborne Pell, Senator Vance Hartke, Congressman Don Fraser or Congressman Benjamin Rosenthal, to name only some of the prominent politicians who supported Brademas’s effort. The second was that Dr Kissinger himself had been a political ally of Spiro Agnew and Thomas Pappas, both of whom had formed a ‘Greek lobby’ on behalf of the junta.

The lack of understanding on this point went as far as the White House. When Congressman Brademas called on Presi­dent Ford shortly after he took office, and again patiently explained his objections to the use of American arms for Turkish expansionism, he was met by the astounding presiden­tial interjection that, ‘After all, it was the Greeks who started this thing.’ It had, indeed, been ‘the Greeks’ who started ‘this thing’. But the Greeks in question were a minority enjoying the support of Nixon, Kissinger and Ford. Brademas, who had opposed the junta, did not feel bound by its legacy. It was becoming apparent that there had been a ‘double tilt’, first in favour of Greece for as long as it was a dictatorship, and then away from Greece and Cyprus and towards Turkey when the Athens government returned to democracy. A democratic regime was now to be punished for the not wholly involuntary crimes of an authoritarian one. This rather crude policy was a counterpart abroad to the administration’s distrust of democ­racy in foreign policy-making at home. It had the effect of enhancing congressional determination to recover at least some control over America’s overseas commitments. There was almost nothing that Kissinger would not do to prevent this outcome. His implied view, that democracy and an effective foreign policy were somehow incompatible, became less im­plied and more explicit as the debate gathered momentum. Cyprus may have looked like ‘a flea' to him as it had to his predecessors. But there must have been times, in the ensuing months, when he regretted swatting at it so callously.

Kissinger has, throughout his career, regarded the law as a rough guide. His irritation at its exactitude or its codification is notorious. Cyprus was, for him, an unwelcome test case of a precisely worded law – the Foreign Assistance Act. Under the terms of the FAA, which was promulgated in 1961, a nation became 'immediately ineligible for further assistance’ if it used American weapons in ‘substantial violation’ of the act’s restrictions. The FAA also enjoined the President to deny aid to ‘any country which is engaging in or preparing for aggressive military efforts directed against any country receiving assistance under this or any other act’. Cyprus, as the recipient of several American aid programmes, qualified for that protection, just as Turkey qualified for that denial.

The high ground of the Foreign Assistance Act was not undermined by either of the two other relevant diplomatic agreements. These were the bilateral agreements of 1947 between the United States and Turkey, which forbade the diversion of American weapons to any other country without the prior consent of the President, and the 1960 London-Zurich agreements which excluded partition in name and in fact. It would be understating the legal position to say that the United States had little choice but to place an embargo on further arms shipments to Turkey. Its own laws required that it do so.

For this reason, Kissinger did not enter any legal challenge to his critics. He preferred to shroud himself in the same discredited ‘executive privilege’ which had postponed the resignation of his patron Richard Nixon. He professed ignor­ance of the law from the first, as on the famous occasion when he was asked, on 19 August 1974, whether the Foreign Assistance Act did not necessitate the termination of aid to Turkey. His reply was: ‘Well, I will have to get a legal opinion on that, which I have not done.’

Turkish troops had been taking village after village in Cyprus for over a month when the self-anointed king of foreign policy gave that reply. Meanwhile, State Department legal officers were set to work, but by September had concluded that there was no lawful basis for continued military aid to Turkey. The finding of the law officers was, however, not acted upon. Instead, Congress was asked to consider Turkey’s special position as a NATO ally with 1,000 miles of border with the Soviet Union. Gone was the insistence on the importance of (junta) Greece as a ‘home port’ for the Sixth Fleet. Now, Turkey was the prize and the most favoured nation. So transparent was the opportunism of this argument that many important Republican votes went to make up the Senate’s resolution, by sixty-four votes to twenty-seven, for an embargo. The administration’s logic was circular. It alleged that Turkey might default on its NATO obligations if it was threatened with Congressional pressure, but it omitted to say that by directing troops, planes and weapons to Cyprus, Turkey had already weakened its NATO commitment. The administration further alleged that political isolation of Turkey was ‘counter­ productive’, an exhausted neologism and one that, given the stand of Ford and Kissinger, was self-fulfilling. If the Turks knew that the White House and the Defense Department were opposed to congressional sanctions, they had only to wait, as the Greek junta had done, for a change in policy. By the logic of Dr Kissinger, Turkey’s refusal to make any concessions on Cyprus was a vindication of his policy and a rebuke to congressional resolve. His own position in the argument was, however, very far from neutral. And his hypocritical view that Turkey would respond to generosity rather than an embargo was soon disproved. In late 1975 the embargo was partially lifted after a very narrow vote in Congress, and after a series of public and private ‘assurances’ from Ankara about concessions. No concession has been made since. It is fair to conclude, then, that the pride of Turkey was affronted by the embargo experiment, but that its real determination was not tested. Divided between administration ‘realism’ and congressional ‘idealism’, American policy once again achieved the worst of both worlds.

Cyprus was to American foreign policy the counterpart, in timing and in character, of Watergate in domestic policy. Like Watergate, it ended in a stalemate, with the principal villains discredited but unpunished. Like Watergate, it gave Congress and the press a brief opportunity to subject policy-making to critical scrutiny. But the sense of outrage generated by the scrutiny was, as in the case of Watergate, not to prove durable. By the time that Presidents Nixon and Ford, and their executor Dr Kissinger, had been replaced, the United States was back to business as usual with Turkey.

I do not make the Watergate comparison solely for effect. There was a strong, continuous relationship between the upper reaches of the Nixon team and the Greek junta. Much of this relationship remained uninvestigated, or partially investigated, when the various Watergate committees had completed their formal tasks. The number of unresolved questions was skilfully defined by Senator George McGovern, Nixon’s defrauded opponent in the 1972 presidential election, and chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. On 29 October 1976 he wrote a letter to Senator Daniel Inouye, the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The letter, which has lost none of its relevance, came into my possession in 1983. I reproduce it here in full:

Dear Mr Chairman,

As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, and as a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, I have closely followed American foreign policy interests in Greece during the military dictatorship there, during the restoration of democracy after the 1974 Cyprus coup, and in connection with the involve­ment of our intelligence agencies with Greece during both periods. I write to bring to your attention information concerning Greece and our intelligence agencies which merit, I am convinced, a careful investigation by your committee. Because this information covers events over the past eight years both in Greece and this country, and because many individuals, both Greek and American, are involved, I have summarized the data below:

I. Unresolved Questions from Senate Intelligence Investigation
The Church Committee’s case study of covert action in Greece, as long as it remains secret, cannot be assessed for its consideration of the involvement of intelligence agencies in the 1967 coup against the democratic government in Greece, in the 1974 coup against President Makarios of Cyprus or in efforts to use CIA facilities or funds for domestic political purposes. Secretary of State Kissinger, former CIA director William Colby and former special CIA counsel Mitchell Rogovin are all quoted by responsible journalists as stating that our covert involvement in Greece was substantial enough to endanger our present (i.e., post-Watergate and post-1974) relations with the democratic government of Greece.

II. The Role of Former Vice President Agnew in the 1968 Presidential Campaign Concerning Greece
Mr Agnew offered to testify in summer 1975 before the Church Committee on charges that he changed his position from one of ‘neutrality’ toward the Greek military dictator­ship in 1968 to support for the junta. The reason for this change in Agnew’s view has never been investigated. The Greek government ended plans for its own study of whether the military junta’s intelligence arm, KYP, which was closely associated with and financed by the CIA, funneled secret funds back to the United States for use in the 1968 presidential campaign. The Greek government’s decision not to pursue this investigation came at the request of the CIA station chief in Athens. The present suspicion that CIA funds and ‘fronts’ were involved in either the 1968 American election or in the Watergate cover-up should be dispelled by a thorough investigation.

III. Efforts Directed Against Elias Demetracopoulos
Demetracopoulos came to the United States in late 1967 in self-imposed exile from the military dictatorship which had taken over in Athens earlier that year. During the 1967-74 period he waged a continuous battle against the Greek junta and against US policies supporting the dictators. He incurred the animosity of both the Greek and the American govern­ments. In Washington, he was threatened with deportation by Attorney-General John Mitchell, denounced in an anony­mous State Department memorandum, his Wall Street employers were visited by FBI agents, the congressional committee before which he testified was visited by a Justice Department agent, and slanderous raw material and disin­formation from CIA operatives about Demetracopoulos was given to reporters and freelance writers like Russell Howe and Sarah Trott. In Greece, Demetracopoulos was deprived of his citizenship and refused entry to the country even for a brief visit to attend his father’s funeral. There are also reports that the KYP, aided by CIA, planned to kidnap Demetracopoulos and return him to Greece to end his Washington anti-junta efforts and to interrogate him. These efforts, in so far as they originated in or were aided by US government agencies, deserve a full and careful examination.

IV. The Role of Thomas Pappas
Pappas, who commutes between Boston and Athens, is a prosperous Greek-American businessman with dual nationality who has been a major fund-raiser for both President Nixon and President Ford. Pappas also maintained close ties with the Greek junta during its seven-year reign. Both his Athens and his Washington connections were based on a skilful combination of business and political connections which served Pappas’s considerable investments in Greece as well as his role as a conduit between the two governments. Pappas was the subject of a memorandum presented to a House subcommittee investigating US policies toward the Greek junta. Shortly after this memorandum was submitted by its author, Elias Demetracopoulos, he was threatened with deportation (see III above) by Attorney-General John Mitchell and by President Nixon’s close associate, Murray Chotiner. Pappas was the first person named by President Nixon in the White House tapes as the man to be approached for money to satisfy the demands of Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt. Pappas is involved as both a fund-raiser and contributor to the Ford campaign, and he is a member of President Ford’s Finance Committee. He served President Nixon in similar roles. The extensive and longstanding ties of Pappas to the Greek junta, to domestic US policies and the intelligence community, and the use of Greek and US intelligence agencies (which worked together on many matters) to question in turn those who questioned these Pappas roles indicates a need for a thorough investigation of his activities by your committee to the extent it can be established that these activities involved our intelligence agencies.

The above summaries outline some of the major areas involving Greece and the intelligence community which deserve a more complete and public examination than was provided in the limited time available to your predecessor committee.

Attached you will find material relating to the above points which you may find of interest.
I will be happy to furnish additional details on the matters outlined above which I trust are presented in sufficient detail to indicate both the complexity and serious nature of the charges involved.

George McGovern
Subsequent correspondence between the two senators, in­cluding a letter also in my possession dated 7 June 1977, shows that Senator McGovern was invited to view the Intelligence Committee’s report on Greece and related subjects, but in confidence and without the presence of aides or of aides-memoires. He quite properly declined, preferring to request that the report be made public. The argument against this was, once again, that it would damage and compromise relations with conservative forces in Greece.

Later evidence shows that McGovern was asking the right questions. In 1976 the House Intelligence Committee took sworn but off-the-record evidence from Henry Tasca, Nixon’s ambassador to Greece. Tasca confirmed that the Greek junta had indeed made campaign contributions to the Nixon-Agnew election fund. As Seymour Hersh relates in his book, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House:

‘In 1972, Pappas served as a principal Nixon fund-raiser and as a vice president of the finance committee of the Committee to Re-Elect the President. It was not until 1976, however, that the House Intelligence Committee was able to confirm Demetracopoulos’s allegations against Pappas. It received sworn evidence from Henry J. Tasca, a career Foreign Service officer who had been Nixon’s ambassador to Greece, that in 1968 Pappas had served as a conduit for campaign funds from the Greek government to the Nixon campaign. Tasca’s statement was made off the record – at his insistence, according to a committee investigator – and was not published…
‘Tasca’s information about the junta’s campaign contribu­tions to the 1968 Nixon election campaign raises the question whether the CIA, which was financing the Greek intelligence operations at the same time, was aware that some of its funds were being returned to the United States for use in the presidential election. This question was not looked into by the Senate Intelligence Committee during its CIA inquiries in 1975 and 1976. Sources close to the committee have said that its investigation was abruptly cancelled at Kissinger’s direct request. He urged the committee to drop the investigation, one official said, on the ground that relations between the United States and Greece would be “severely harmed”.’

Kissinger’s motives were, of course, quite different. ‘Severe harm’ would have been done, rather, to relations between him­self and his political masters, as well as to relations between himself and a generally sycophantic press. The fact that Thomas Pappas was the link between the junta and the Nixon camp, the fact that Laurence O’Brien, chairman of the Democratic Party, had called for a public investigation of those links, the fact that it was Laurence O’Brien’s office that the Watergate burglars had ‘targeted’, and the fact that it was Thomas Pappas who was approached by the Nixon White House to pay the burglars’ ‘hush money’ (Pappas having been vice chairman of the finance committee of the Committee to Re-Elect the President) may all be quite unconnected. But those facts are authenticated, and they show how the same gangster principles were at work in the foreign policy of the Nixon White House as were unearthed in its domestic policy. Cyprus was the victim of those who behaved as if the American administration was their private property.

Dr Kissinger was right about one thing. Disclosures about Cyprus and the junta did continue to jeopardize the restoration of conservative democracy in Athens.

The new government of Constantine Karamanlis was anxious to retain and rebuild good relations with the United States, along the lines of the cold-war consensus that had existed in the 1950s and 1960s. But it had also to deal with an aroused public opinion, which was furious at American collusion with the junta and American favouritism towards Turkey. In this rather testing situation, where identification with United States interests had become a heavy political liability, the issue of Cyprus became crucial.

In modern Greek history, there is a close relationship between national humiliation and political radicalization. The defeat of Greek armies by Kemal Ataturk in Asia Minor in 1922 led to a purge of the officer corps, widespread distrust of the Establishment, the enforced exile of the royal family, and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees who formed a new proletariat and contributed to the rise of Marxist and workers’ parties throughout the 1930s. The subjugation of Greece by the Axis powers in 1941, which had been preceded by a local Fascist dictatorship under General Metaxas, led not just to a national resistance but to an internal class war and a serious attempt by the Greek Communist Party to convert the war of liberation into a victory for Josef Stalin. (Stalin turned out not to be interested, having privately ‘swapped’ Greece for Rumania and Bulgaria at pre-Yalta discussions with Winston Churchill.) Throughout the conservative decades that followed, it was on the issue of Cyprus that the semi-legal Leftist parties were able to have an impact beyond their own constituency. Here were Greek-speaking people being sacrificed to British interests and to NATO, and what did the ‘patriotic’ governments propose to do about it? It was this criticism, and others like it, which put Greek conservative politicians like Karamanlis and Averoff on the spot before the London-Zurich agreements of 1960. After the terrible events of 1974 this rhetoric acquired renewed force. The junta had draped itself in the Greek flag, in Greek Orthodoxy, in so-called ‘Hellenic’ values, and yet had sold out Cyprus to the dictates of Henry Kissinger – thereby in effect abandoning it to the Turks. So ran a large current of demotic opinion.

After Constantine Karamanlis returned to Athens and even before he had won a decisive victory with his hurriedly formed New Democracy party, Greece withdrew from the military, but not the political, wing of NATO. This was in protest at the Turkish occupation of Cyprus which was tolerated, to say the least, by Dr Joseph Luns, NATO’s then Secretary-General, and by most of the members of the alliance. The withdrawal was also intended to appease anti-NATO sentiment among the Greek voters. For Karamanlis, the great anti-Communist statesman of the 1950s and 1960s, this was no small step. But the other half of his balancing act was just as important if rather less public. It consisted of a strenuous effort to restore friendly relations with Washington. The ‘two-track’ policy might well have succeeded if the United States had shown any interest in disciplining Turkey or in reunifying Cyprus. Instead, the Ford-Kissinger administration continued its romance with Ankara. It made an inept attempt, using the primate of the Greek American community. Archbishop Iakovos, to placate Greek-American feeling. But this effort was fruitless except in demonstrating to a wide public that Karamanlis was desperate for concessions.

At a meeting in the White House on 7 October 1974, Archbishop Iakovos met Ford and Kissinger and asked them for some sign of Turkish concessions to help, ‘in pacifying my flock’. According to Iakovos, Kissinger replied that the Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, ‘Messrs Mavros and Karamanlis, do not want us to make any announcement before the elections… obviously, they are afraid of being accused as friends of America and then there is fear of losing the elections. I do repeat,’ said Kissinger, ‘that we want to help Greece and particularly Mr Karamanlis because the movement around [Andreas] Papandreou is strong and disturbing. We do not wish at all to see Papandreou governing Greece.’ Archbishop Iakovos, a theological and political conservative, recorded in his memorandum of the meeting that, 'the President was sincere and cordial. I am sorry but I cannot say the same for Mr Kissinger’. The leaking of that memorandum, in Greece and in the USA, came too late to forestall Karamanlis’s election victory in November of that year. But it did give point to the criticisms levelled by Andreas Papandreou that the Greek Right was lukewarm about Cyprus and hypocritical in its criticisms of Kissinger.

In a fierce debate on foreign policy in the Greek Parliament on 16 October 1975, George Mavros denounced the Iakovos memorandum, from the Right, as a piece of CIA disinforma­tion. He accused Andreas Papandreou of profiting by the spreading of such falsehoods. Once the document had been confirmed as authentic by the Archbishop and by congressional sources, Mavros was forced to withdraw these accusations against Papandreou and against the man who had furnished the document, Elias Demetracopoulos. He went so far as to say, in an interview with the newspaper Athinaiki, that the Iakovos memorandum was ‘the most important political event in Greece in the last twenty years’. Again, he was guilty of an exaggera­tion. But the controversy over the memorandum was decisive in making Papandreou, rather than Mavros, the leader of the main opposition in Greece and the axiomatic challenger for the post of Prime Minister.

In March 1976 the Ford administration rewarded the patience of its Greek allies by signing a new base agreement with Turkey. The Greek reaction was to insist unsuccessfully on equal treatment with Turkey in matters military – a nervous response which made it clear that Athens cared more about good relations with Washington than it did about Cyprus, but could achieve progress with neither. The arms embargo, meanwhile, was being diluted to the point where it would obviously be repealed soon. In these circumstances, Turkey felt offended rather than hampered. And the Greek government opted to cut its losses, by ceasing to press for the embargo’s continuation. From one perspective, it is hard to blame Karamanlis for doing this. But the obvious realpolitik of his approach only lent weight to Andreas Papandreou’s increasing­ly successful opposition movement PASOK. The initials stood for Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement, and they symbolized the energetic way in which Papandreou, accused of unpatriotic Leftism in the sixties, had synthesized national feeling with radical political ideas. This, given Papandreou’s long associa­tion with Cyprus, was no coincidence. His new party had as one of its chief slogans the demand to ‘open the Cyprus file’. The demand expressed the popular view that there should be a public trial for those responsible for the 1974 disaster, just as there had been of the junta’s torturers. There was probably no actual ‘Cyprus file’, but the responsibility for the coup against Makarios went inconveniently high, and was a continual source of embarrassment to a centre-Right government anxious for the loyalty of its officer corps.

Hopes were briefly aroused by the election of Jimmy Carter as President of the United States. The government of Cyprus declared a public holiday (as much for the departure of Henry Kissinger as for the accession of the Georgian). The new President swiftly disappointed his Greek allies – as he was to disappoint all those who reposed their confidence in him. In spite of a campaign promise to the contrary, he asked Congress to repeal the arms embargo on Turkey completely, and by September 1978 he had succeeded in convincing them. The policy worked as smoothly as it did because Carter’s congres­sional allies attached a $35 million grant aid provision for Greece. They were greatly assisted by a letter from Karamanlis to Carter, which set out in advance what Greece’s conditions were. They were three: no linkage between aid to Greece and progress on Cyprus; a preservation of the military balance in the eastern Mediterranean; peace in the region after repeal of the embargo. As the indefatigable Elias Demetracopoulos wrote to former Senator Frank Moss, ‘these priorities of Karamanlis were thus known to the White House before the crucial House vote. The White House lobbyists used that knowledge of Karamanlis’s real interests in helping to persuade House members that Greece did not really oppose repeal.’

The end of the embargo saw the end of any Turkish pretence at concessions on Cyprus. It also put Greece in a somewhat false position vis-a-vis NATO and the United States. The Turkish government, ungrateful for its tacit support for repeal, continued to oppose the readmission of Greece to the NATO command. And this, in turn, made Karamanlis (and his successor George Rallis) more openly dependent on American support. This, too, gave ammunition to Andreas Papandreou. It was all very well to be close to Washington if it led to results. But Cyprus had been abandoned and the military and economic alliance between the United States and Turkey was getting stronger all the time. In November 1981, Papandreou and his party gained an unexpectedly large victory in the Greek elections, putting an end to almost half a century of uninter­rupted conservative rule. There can be little doubt that it was the Cyprus issue, in its various dimensions, which made this outcome possible. It was ambitions over Cyprus which helped the junta to power. It was Cyprus which helped to sustain it in power and to guarantee it American support. It was Cyprus which brought the junta down. And it was Cyprus which, by discrediting the Greek Establishment so widely, created the decisive opening to the Left. By 1981 George Mavros, who had been Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister in the first Karamanlis government of 1974, was calling on his centrist supporters to vote for PASOK, which many of them did.

Andreas Papandreou, immediately upon taking office, set a more forward position on the Cyprus question. He became the first Greek Prime Minister to pay a visit to the island. He defined its problem as one of invasion and occupation rather than as one of intercommunal relations. He offered Greek financing for a larger United Nations peacekeeping force on condition that the Turkish army left. He virtually declared that Greece would regard any further attack on Cyprus as an attack on itself. These initiatives, combined with greater tension in the Aegean, a rapidly mounting regional arms race, and the unilateral Turkish ‘declaration of independence’ of 15 Novem­ber 1983, combined to put Cyprus much higher on the international register of concern than it had been since 1974.

Many mainland Greeks are now exhausted by the Cyprus issue. It has gone on for too long, and has provided too many occasions for domestic destabilization and external danger. It could yet be the site of another Graeco-Turkish war. It absorbs a great deal of Greek aid. Yet, in spite of all these unwelcome considerations, it is impossible for Greece to ‘’drop’ Cyprus. The island represents the past: Turkish domination: Turkish domination of the Greek world. It represents the present: the worst of the many bad hangovers from the junta period. ln a fashion, also, it represents the future. Cyprus is emblematic of all the difficulties faced by an emerging modern Greece, which seeks to escape from being a Balkan country dependent on America, and to become a respected member of the European community. The greatest obstacle to that evolution is the costly and ancient rivalry with Turkey. The greatest impediment to resolution of that conflict is Cyprus.

The aftermath of the Cyprus crisis had an unexpected result in the United Kingdom as well. It led to a brief but glorious moment of open government. For the first time, a Select Committee of the House of Commons acted like an American Congressional Committee and questioned senior members of the Executive and the Legislative branches in public. The Cyprus Select Committee carried out as thorough an investiga­tion as any House of Commons Committee ever had, despite being refused access to the occupied north of the island.

The Foreign Secretary, James Callaghan, grudgingly appeared before the all-party group on 19 February 1976, and made a spectacular fool of himself. Under questioning from both Conservative and Labour MPs, Mr Callaghan decided on the stonewall tactic of pleading ignorance, a tactic to which his general demeanour lent tone but not credibility. It was, perhaps, less costly to appear stupid than it would have been to admit to knowledge. Still, the Foreign Secretary took his doggedness a little far. I watched, fascinated, his ‘know-nothing’ performance. Flanked by three advisers, Messrs Goodison, Burden and Freeland, Mr Callaghan took up position. 

Questioned on whether he still recognized the original Treaty of Guarantee: ‘I do not know the law as clearly as some.’

On whether he had made preparations with the Ministry of Defence before the Turkish invasion: ‘I do not know what you are referring to.’

On anticipating the invasion: ‘Nobody knew where the invasion was likely to come from, whether from Greece or Turkey.’

On reports of Turkish troop movements which he had received at the Geneva talks: ‘Was that right?’ (turning to his aide Mr Goodison).

On whether the British forces in the north of Cyprus could have been deployed in a different way: ‘I suppose so. I do not know.’

On whether there were enough British forces to have secured the northern coast: ‘I am not able to comment on that because I just do not know at this stage.’

On whether there had been direct discussions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on bi-zonal federation: ‘I do not remember.’ (Mr Goodison took over.)

On whether Archbishop Makarios had accepted the three-point settlement or not: ‘I think you are going beyond my knowledge.’ (Mr Goodison took over.)

On whether British citizens had been assured of British government protection in the event of war, and if he under­stood the relevant clause in the treaty: ‘I am sorry, where is that… I can only repeat this parrot-wise, but I am told this has nothing to do with the Treaty of Guarantee.’

On whether the Turkish government had changed its mind on compensation: (Mr Burden had to answer for him).

On whether the Foreign Office in 1974 had advised British residents not to return to their homes: ‘When was this advice given, could you tell me?’ Told that it was in October 1974, by the Consular Emergency Unit of the Foreign Office: ‘What did it say?’

On the status of the refugees within the British ‘sovereign base’ areas: ‘I doubt if I can answer that. Mr Goodison had better try.’

On whether the High Commissioner had a hardship fund: ‘I am afraid I am not aware of that.’

The chairman of the Select Committee asked Callaghan whether he could say if he had any advance intelligence of the 15 July Sampson coup. He replied, ‘No.’ He was then asked, ‘You mean you cannot say?’ He replied, ‘No, there was no advance intelligence.’ Pressed on this point, he gave it as his considered opinion that nobody knew of the impending coup except the Greek junta and its Cypriot mercenaries. This, as we now know, was not the truth.

After Callaghan’s appalling performance, the committee’s report to the House of Commons only just managed to remain within the confines of parliamentary language. It concluded drily that, ‘the Foreign Secretary’s evidence was confusing… Your committee find it difficult to accept that all three stages of the crisis came as a surprise to the Government.’ This laconic understatement encapsulated one of the deadliest works of criticism ever published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. Only by the casting vote of the Labour chairman, Mr Arthur Bottomley, did the members excise the sentence, ‘The Foreign Secretary’s policies are totally negative. His pessimism and lack of ideas or initiatives is profoundly depressing.’

The committee’s conclusion was that: ‘Britain had a legal right to intervene, she had a moral obligation to intervene, she had the military capacity to intervene. She did not intervene for reasons which the Government refuses to give.’

To do nothing is a policy. As Lord Caradon, former Governor of Cyprus and the former British ambassador to the United Nations, put it, ‘All the evil subsequently flowed from that decision, taken under United States influence, to let it run.’

James Callaghan was not as ignorant as he chose to appear. But an affectation of ignorance was a necessity for anyone who had taken Dr Kissinger’s assurances at face value.

After the 1960 London-Zurich agreements, which permitted both Greece and Turkey to station military forces on the island, the Turkish liaison officer in Cyprus was Colonel Turgut Sunalp. In this capacity he was involved in designing contin­gency plans for a Turkish military intervention and in helping the Turkish Cypriot leadership to develop an armed wing.

In November 1983 Turgut Sunalp was the leader of the inaptly named ‘National Democracy Party’, one of the three tightly controlled political formations which were allowed by the military junta to contest a carefully organized ‘election’. His party enjoyed the open support and patronage of the real rulers of Turkey, the junta which had vetted the contending parties (disqualifying most of them), extended martial law, written a press code forbidding any criticism of military rule, and subjected dissidents to torture, exile and execution. A leading member of this five-man junta was General Necmettin Ersin, who had commanded the Turkish invasion forces in Cyprus in 1974.

Shortly before the ‘election’ took place, a letter was smuggled out of a detention camp near Istanbul and published in the Western press. It had been signed by almost all the leaders of the legitimate pre-junta political parties. (Bulent Ecevit, who did not sign it, had already been imprisoned separately for his criticism of military rule.) Among the signatories were Suley­man Demirel, leader of the conservative Justice Party and six times Prime Minister of Turkey since 1965, Denyz Baykal, a leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party and a former Finance Minister, and Ihsan Caglayangil, a former Justice Party Foreign Minister. Thirteen other former ministers of both parties added their names to the letter.

The elections, wrote these veterans, would be a sham. ‘The Turkish people will vote only for the candidates selected by the junta… an insult to the country, to the nation and to the Turkish armed forces.’ The country, they added, ‘has been pushed into a heavier crisis than it was before 12 September 1980’ – the date of the military coup. A telling phrase came towards the end of the letter, when Demirel, Baykal, Caglayangil and their confreres wrote: ‘Turkey is not Pakistan. We are not looking for a Zia ul-Haq.’

A few days after the elections took place (and after the muzzled electorate had taken its revenge on Mr Sunalp’s pro-junta party by relegating it to third place) the junta joined with Mr Rauf Denktash in proclaiming a Turkish separatist state in northern Cyprus. The nominal ‘winner’ of the election, Mr Turgut Ozal, was not informed of the move. The only foreign government to welcome it – even though it stopped short of outright recognition – was the dictatorial regime of General Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan.
This little bouquet of ironies is intended to give some idea of the relationship between the Cyprus imbroglio and the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey. When I first visited Turkish- occupied Cyprus, every public office and official building had a photograph of Bulent Ecevit – hero of the 1974 ‘peace operation’ – on the wall. The day after his arrest and imprisonment – for criticizing the political arrogance of the very generals he had uncaged – every picture of Ecevit disappeared. The average, honest Turkish citizen may regard Cyprus as a straightforward case of defending an embattled Turkish minority. But it has always been rather more than that, and Turkey is now suffering the consequences of allowing Cyprus to help incubate an ambitious and chauvinistic military caste.

Since Turkey in a sense ‘won’ the 1974 military round, there was no national inquest of the kind that took place in a humiliated Greece, a devastated Cyprus, an embarrassed Britain or a compromised America. It is possible to describe only relatively piecemeal the way in which Cyprus brought the army and the Right back to power.

In 1970 the Turkish army mounted a coup in Ankara. It did so ostensibly in response to growing discontent in the Kurdish provinces of the country (which do not exist as officially Kurdish, since the Turkish Establishment has a rather callous attitude to non-Cypriot and non-Turkish minorities). The military regime also set itself to halt the Leftward drift among the urban poor, the trade unions and the large number of unemployed and discontented students (many of whom had resorted to ugly Baader-Meinhof types of extremism). The army has had an unusual place in Turkish politics since the time of Ataturk. It has not infrequently acted as a force in favour of democratic rule, replacing and disciplining oligarchs or incom­petents who have misused their trust. One such occasion was its move against Adnan Menderes and Fatin Zorlu, hard-liners on Cyprus in the 1950s, who were overthrown and hanged in 1960 for their numerous depredations.

During the subsequent two decades, however, the army began to lose the image of the ‘people’s militia’ and to become more technological, more stratified and more corrupt. It even set up a holding company named OYAK; a unit trust for officers, financed by a percentage of each officer’s salary. OYAK took shares in Turkish and foreign enterprises, issuing a dividend to each officer and binding the army, in an almost feudal and guild sense, to Turkey’s protection-minded and conservative possessing class. Milo Minderbinder could have done no better.

In these circumstances, then, the military regime of 1970-72 was not a success. It was very narrowly based, and resorted increasingly to torture and repression in order to get its way. Failing even in this, it decided rather grudgingly to relinquish power to the political parties. Bulent Ecevit, who had been the most outspoken critic of the ruling junta, won a large following for his courage in doing so and became almost the natural leader of subsequent coalition politics. The army seemed discredited as a power above society and faction.

It was Cyprus which restored the military to a point where it could pose, once again, as a champion of Turkey and the nation. The written record of 1974 shows that it was the armed forces which pushed, at every stage, for a policy of force and conquest. It was the Turkish Security Council (Guvenlik Kurulu) and not the cabinet or the parliament, which took the major decisions and which issued the crucial orders.

On 15 July, the date of the loannides-Sampson coup in Cyprus, Denyz Baykal and Bulent Ecevit talked with the General Staff at a Security Council meeting. Baykal (today under house arrest on the orders of these same generals) made a speech which canvassed the possibility of intervention. As Mehmet Ali Birand records the occasion: ‘Ecevit posed the key question to the Generals – In how many days would you be ready? The answer was definite – We can begin the operation on Saturday morning.’ The cabinet, meeting on the floor below, was informed of this decision at one o’clock in the morning. There were protests. ‘You are taking decisions upstairs and then announcing them to us. Is this appropriate?’

In subsequent meetings of political and party leaders, even the conservative Demirel was dubious about a full-scale invasion, which he thought might brand Turkey internationally as a bully and an aggressor. He was supported, in this misgiving, by Nihat Erim, another ex-Prime Minister and head of the presidential group appointed to the Turkish Senate. Erim, a venerable jurist who had served in 1960 as a member of the Cyprus Joint Constitutional Committee, saw a trap: ‘The United States might be behind this coup. Even if it is not certain yet, I sense that Washington has a positive attitude towards Sampson.’

Erim spoke, perhaps, more truly than he knew. Turkey was to become the executor for a policy it had not designed. Still, the combined weight of the chauvinist parties, especially Mr Necmettin Erbakan’s National Salvation Party, and the armed forces, was enough to silence or confuse the doubters. Admiral Karacan warned Ecevit that neither of them would survive a failure to act. Mr Muftuoglu of the National Salvation Party went one better when, as a member of the Turkish delegation at the Geneva talks, he threatened to kill himself if withdrawal from the first invasion beach-heads was agreed.

His zeal was supererogatory. The Turkish documents show that the first invasion led ineluctably to the second, and that the generals knew it. For a while, Ecevit and Baykal stressed ‘the independence of Cyprus’ as their goal, and talked of ‘geo­graphical federation’. They tried to hold back the Salvationists and the ‘Grey Wolves’ who insisted on immediate taksim (partition) or even on outright conquest of Cyprus. The die was probably cast by General Sancar, Chief of the General Staff, who in a message to the troops on 2 August, while negotiations on the first landing were still in progress, said: ‘The duty of the army in Cyprus is not over yet.’

The rest is history. Ecevit became the victim of the forces he had set in motion. Despite his temporary and hysterical popularity, he was replaced within a few months by a coalition of the Rightist parties which had, in different ways, supported him over Cyprus. They had supported him, it turns out, as the rope supports a hanging man.

Restored to the centre of Turkish politics, and garlanded by their easy triumph in Cyprus, the generals began to take a more activist role. Long before they took formal control of the country in 1980, they had begun to administer martial law in several provinces – especially the Kurdish ones – and several cities. They had also placed limits on the ability of civilian politicians to negotiate even a partial Cyprus settlement. Time and again, members of the General Staff announced in ringing tones that the flag of Turkey, once planted, would not be withdrawn one inch. On more than one occasion, this rhetoric destroyed discussions about limited and palliative measures such as the return of Famagusta to its Greek Cypriot inhabi­tants.

Throughout the remainder of the 1970s, Turkey continued to be rent apart by religious and factional warfare, in which all kinds of dubious external influences could be guessed at. The figure of Mehmet Ali Agca, would-be assassin of Pope John Paul II, has become symbolic of this period. He was a Fascist, and a gunslinging member of Colonel Turkes’s ‘Grey Wolf paramilitary youth. He was also available for ‘contract’ work in the demi-monde of extortion, narcotics and gun-running. He is the likely culprit in the murder of Adi Ipecki, editor of the distinguished liberal Establishment newspaper Milliyet. He also seems to have had connections with the colder world of Bulgarian intelligence services.

This impression, of a collusion between the extreme Right and the extreme Left against the democratic centre, led many people to welcome or at least to excuse the Turkish Military coup of 12 September 1980. Unlike the coup in Greece of 21 April 1967, this was not obviously the work of a clique of greedy and fanatical officers. Rather, it appeared to be the Turkish army exerting itself in defence of ‘national unity’. There was, undoubtedly, a strong initial popular support for such a move. This took some time to wear off, as it became apparent that the army was planning to institute permanent authoritarian rule in a quasi-civilian guise.

It became clear early on that the junta was not impartial between the terrorists of Right and Left. The parties of the Left, and their affiliated trade unions and institutes, were simply abolished. Manifestations of Kurdish nationalism were mercilessly suppressed. The first daily newspaper to be closed entirely was Aydinlik, which had been temporarily shut down in 1974 because of its opposition to the invasion of Cyprus, and which had published a series of articles on the links between the extreme Right in Turkey, their counterparts among the Cypriot Turks, and certain groups within the Turkish army. The Turkish Peace Association, a group of veteran diplomats and political figures, attracted international sympathy during its show trial and the subsequent arbitrary imprisonment of its leaders. Among its ‘crimes’ had been attendance at a meeting in Athens where it voted for a resolution concerning the ‘integrity’ of Cyprus. This counted as ‘slandering the Turkish nation’.

The Right were dealt with more leniently. Their terror activities ceased. These had, after all, achieved their objective of bringing about a military government, and their cessation allowed the junta to claim credit for the reduction in violence. Turkes’s party ideologue. Dr Oktay Agah Guner, is out on bail despite the fact that he faces capital charges. He has appeared at a number of public seminars designed to justify junta policies. An example had to be made of Colonel Turkes himself, because his involvement in violence had been so notorious. While awaiting his trial (still inconclusive at the time of writing, and in any case more than many of his opponents have had) the colonel wrote to General Kenan Evren, head of the junta, asking plaintively, ‘Why am I in detention while my ideas are in power?’ Turkes might have studied the history of the German SA with some profit, as Ecevit might have studied the history of German Social Democracy. Thugs are dispens­able once they have facilitated the seizure of power, and so are ‘reformers’ who vote for war credits.

Shortly after the Turkish junta took power, a document from the Turkish General Staff was given to me by a senior military source. It is headed, ‘Turkish Republic. Official’. It is issued by ‘The Directorate of War History of the General Staff’. It is printed by the General Staff and is entitled, ‘Greek-Turkish Relations and the Megali Idea’. It was written before the coup, and gives an unusually revealing insight into the ideas that animated those who carried it out. Its concluding section, which sets out Turkish ambitions in the Aegean, would certainly lend weight to Colonel Turkes’s question. Designed for the instruc­tion of Turkish officers, and classified as highly confidential, its conclusion (here published for the first time) is:

‘If a state outside NATO was to attack the Dodecanese, including Samothrace, Mytilene, Chios and Samos, it would be difficult or impossible for Greece to defend these islands. The following facts show that any Greek resistance would be impossible: these islands are situated very far from Greece and the despatch of forces from the mother country for their defence would be very difficult – even more so because one of the conditions of the Treaty of Lausanne is that they remain unfortified.

'An intervention by a country outside NATO or the occupation of these islands, which are very near Turkey, by another country, may not result in a crisis in so far as Greece is concerned. But from the point of view of a Turkish defence of Anatolia this would create a strategic and tactical diversion and would also cause our economic isolation.

‘The Aegean, since it affects the interests and the security of many countries, may become an area of friction. Greece does not have the power or the potential to secure peace in the Aegean. This situation does not accord with the plans and the defensive objectives of NATO, which aims to preserve international peace. It endangers its defence.

‘For this reason, NATO should pay attention to the rights and memoranda of Turkey, which is more reliable and not unstable like Greece (which changes its position to promote its own interests). From the point of view of Turkish security, apart from the existing borders, there is need to establish an area of security which would include the nearby islands. [italics mine]

‘There is an older example. When the Dodecanese were under Italian occupation, during Mussolini’s aggressive policy towards Turkey, military camps and hospitals were set up in Rhodes and Leros. The most important parts of the islands were fortified and Turkey was being threatened, from very nearby, over many years.

‘Turkey today, with a population of 40 million and a large and strong army, faced with the creation of a military iron ring extending from the Aegean to the south and including Cyprus, and faced with the cutting off of the Aegean and the Mediterranean nautical routes, cannot tolerate such a situation. Nor could any other state in a similar position.

‘The examination of this obviously harmful Greek position; harmful because of its recent behaviour; and the strong affirmation of Turkish rights in the Aegean, on a solid basis, would solve the strategic problems of the region.’
The Turkish authorities here make it clear that they regard Cyprus and the Aegean as possible if not actual Turkish possessions. They suit their actions to their words by building and maintaining an ‘Army of the Aegean’, heavily equipped and well accoutred with landing craft, in their southern ports. This army and fleet is outside the formal command of NATO.

Since 1974, when American military aid to Turkey was $196 million, it has climbed to over $760 million and next year will touch the billion mark. This aid, which helps to confirm the army in power and which spurs Greece into an economically beggaring regional arms race, is helping to aggrandize the Turkish military, helping to consolidate its presence in Cyprus, outweighing the stated wishes of Congress about a Cyprus settlement, and enhancing the risk of an Aegean war. It is also postponing the day when Turks will once again be freely allowed to vote. As was once said of Prussia, Turkey is not a country that has an army, but an army that has a country. The 1974 invasion of Cyprus uncorked the genie, and helped to raise the curtain on this dismal scene. Most Turks remain confident that their government did the right thing in Cyprus. It has taken time to make it clear that a nation oppressing others cannot itself be free.

Coda: the Kissinger Version
Throughout the second half of this account, the figure of Henry Kissinger has been decisive. It was Kissinger who decided to let the coup against Makarios go ahead, Kissinger who tried to screen the Greek junta from the fatal consequences of that policy, Kissinger who engineered and led the switch to Turkey when both of these expedients failed, and Kissinger who persuaded the British government to renege on its treaty obligations. This may seem to pile too much responsibility on one man. But, in an oblique way, Dr Kissinger himself confirms the analysis. Normally, in his published writings and memoirs, he places himself at the centre of the stage. This is especially so, as Seymour Hersh notes, when there is anything like a success to be claimed. But in his narrative of the Cyprus crisis, Kissinger almost effaces himself. This may well be because, as President Kennedy put it ruefully after the Bay of Pigs, ‘Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.’

We are privileged in having Dr Kissinger’s own affidavit about Cyprus. It appears in his book Years of Upheaval, a work dealing with the years 1972 to 1976. Kissinger begins his passage on the 1974 crisis with one apology and one evasion. The apology comes when he mentions, ‘the vulnerabilities of a divided administration with a President in no position to impose coherence’, as if Cyprus was something that happened to him rather than he to Cyprus. He does not mention the pre-existing support of that administration for the Greek junta, and he treats Watergate, too, as if it was something that befell Nixon rather than something which he originated. Then comes the evasion: ‘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 is unusually coy. Dr Kissinger discusses Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East, Angola, Chile and the SALT treaty with great brio and inventiveness in the very same book. Of all these topics it might be said that their ‘legacies’ existed ‘unresolved today’, and of all of them it is superfluous to the point of fatuity to say that they ‘stretched’ into the exiguous Ford presidency.

There follows a congested and ignorant summary of Graeco-Turkish relations since the Byzantine epoch. It fails to mention the Greek war of independence but it does say, in a moment of racialist condescension that, after 1920: 'The two nations continued to coexist (if that is the word), the Greeks remember­ing Turkey’s military predominance, the Turks obsessed by their fear of Greek intellectual subtlety… the Greek-Turkish conflict has belonged to the blood feuds of history.’

This trite and tiring style has its counterpart in Kissinger’s superficial analysis. He blames the entirety of intercommunal strife in Cyprus on Makarios (who is never in this chapter dignified with the title of President) and ends that insultingly brief passage by saying that: I had always taken it for granted that the next intercommunal crisis in Cyprus would provoke Turkish intervention.’

To the extent that this breezy, omniscient statement is true (which it is not, because the 1974 events were not ‘intercommunal’) it is fair to ask what Kissinger thought he was doing when he encouraged a Greek junta policy that was designed to bring about such a crisis. He is not good enough to tell us – the chapter is full of ellipses – but even his omissions are illuminating, as are his flagrant misrepresentations of July 1974:

‘Greece was a military dictatorship; hence, all groups critical of our approach to human rights urged us to turn on it as the instigator of the upheaval; failure in Cyprus would, it was hoped, produce the overthrow of the hated Greek Colonels. This view was held passionately not only among traditional opponents of Nixon; it was the dominant conviction in the State Department; the Secretary of Defense moved toward it increasingly as the week progressed.

‘To me, the issue was more complicated. I thought it most unlikely that Turkey would tolerate the union of Cyprus with Greece. That Turkey was driving toward a showdown was obvious – at least to me.’
Here we find an almost classic distillation of the Kissinger method. First, there is a daring and tremendous non-sequitur. It was the Greek junta which wanted, or said it wanted, ‘the union of Cyprus with Greece’. Its opponents, in the United States and everywhere else, wanted Cyprus to be independent. Kissinger cannot possibly have been unaware of this. Second, there is the suggestion that Kissinger’s was the only cool head among these ‘passionate’ folk; the only one to appreciate how ‘complicated’ everything was. Third, there is the usual attempt to shift responsibility elsewhere in the bureaucracy (if the Defense and State Departments really did want to be rid of the Greek Colonels, by the way, they had a strange way of showing it). Finally comes the hindsight dressed up as prediction; the Turkish drive ‘toward a showdown’. If Kissinger was so sure about this impending ‘drive’, and he may have been, then it remains to be explained why he worked so hard to allay the fear of it at the time. All that he accomplishes by this passage is the counterfeiting of the intended as the inevitable.

Kissinger unintentionally validates this criticism one para­graph later, when he writes, absurdly in view of the foregoing, that: ‘Turkey’s demands left little doubt that it was planning to intervene. Explicit condemnation of the Greek junta by the United States would have turned a likelihood into a certainty.’ This is an abject denial of responsibility, as well as an astounding denial of the facts. It was the refusal of the British and American governments to isolate the junta that freed Turkey, both militarily and some might say morally, to intervene alone. It was not until he had failed to secure such joint condemnation and co-ordination that the crafty Bulent Ecevit gave his generals the signal to invade.
Kissinger, having put both hands on the tar-baby, now uses both feet to try to prise them off. He goes on to recount:

‘My view, as I was to explain to a WSAG meeting of July 21 [Washington Special Action Group; a Nixon-inspired com­mittee set up in 1969 to by-pass the cabinet in foreign-policy making] was that the Greek government was unlikely to survive its follies. That made it all the more necessary that the United States not be seen in Greece as the agent of its humiliation. At the same time, we could not without cost resist a Turkish invasion because that would be considered as objectively supporting the Greek junta.’
No great foresight was required to predict an event (the fall of the junta) which in fact took place the following day. Again, one notices the circular Kissinger version appearing as a sort of pedagogic obverse of the truth. The United States was already considered, by 21 July, to be ‘the agent of Greece’s humilia­tion’. It had been considered as such, by many Greek democrats, for the preceding seven years. What Kissinger does not know, or else cannot admit, is that it was precisely the Cyprus disaster – the coup against Makarios – which most Greeks felt as the humiliation. Having either wilfully or accidentally misunder­stood this, but having in any case ignored it, Dr Kissinger’s second falsification is only symmetrical with the first. It was the Greek democrats, not the Greek junta, who implored help to oppose the Turkish landing. By a sleight of hand which uses ‘Greece’ to mean ‘all Greeks’ or, according to taste, ‘the Greek junta’, Dr Kissinger abolishes an important distinction which, in real life, he understood only too well.

The same absence of discrimination can be observed in the way Kissinger dodges the issue of the Turkish invasion. By the time of the WSAG meeting which he cites, the first wave of Turks was already ashore. There was almost a full month to go before that army launched its second invasion and occupied the north. The Greek junta fell the day after the WSAG meeting. Even if one admits the doubtful hypothesis that American opposition to the first invasion (academic by 21 July) could be construed as ‘objectively supporting the Greek junta’, how is it possible to argue this in the case of the second invasion? The final touch is added to this reasoning by the fact that Dr Kissinger was already seen, quite correctly, as an ‘objective’ (as well as subjective) supporter of the junta.

On the next page, Kissinger remarks with clumsy sarcasm that: ‘On July 22, the junta in Athens was overthrown and replaced by a democratic government under the distinguished conservative leader Constantine Karamanlis. Within days the mood in America changed. The very groups that had castigated us for our reluctance to assault Greece now wanted us to go into all-out opposition to Turkey.’

This is a revealing paragraph, with another self-evident non-sequitur. Had Kissinger mentioned the fact that there were pro-junta and anti-Turkish organizations in the United States, he would have been on safer ground. He does not do so, arguably because such groups had been loyal Nixon allies in the Greek-American community. He implies instead that there was some inconsistency in those Democrats who first opposed the junta and then opposed the Turkish army. Any irony involved here is at Dr Kissinger’s expense, since he himself changed from supporting the Greek junta to supporting the Turkish army and changed, on his own account, during the one night between the WSAG meeting and the final collapse of the Ioannides dictatorship.

A close scrutiny of Kissinger’s memoirs confirms what a careful study of the actual events has already shown. There was, indeed, a ‘double tilt’ in United States policy that summer. It was a ‘tilt’ against democracy, against international law and against the principle of non-aggression. It is to the credit of those who opposed it that their chief antagonist has to resort to such lies and half-truths in order to counter their objections. There were many suspicions about Dr Kissinger’s role at the time, and there have been many since. There is unusual importance, therefore, in his giving a testimonial to his own duplicity.

Alternatives: Crete and the Hatay
In one respect, Dr Kissinger and others do have a point. There is a nationalistic element in the Cyprus equation. It is not as strong or as essential as it is represented to be, by those who wish to blame only the victims for their misfortunes. But it is present. Both Turks and Greeks have vivid national memories, and in both cases one national memory contains dire reflections about the other. Even though there were no serious conflicts between Greek and Turkish Cypriots until the present gener­ation, the competing ideas of Hellenism and Turkism are rooted in the events of the past.

Very roughly speaking, the Turks fear another Crete and the Greeks fear another Alexandretta. To understand this, it is necessary to remember that most Greek and Turkish triumphs have been at the expense of the other. Even Greece’s finest hour – her wartime resistance in the years when Turkey was neutral – led ultimately to a post-war acquisition of islands which Turkey regarded as her own, or at least as non-Greek.

Crete: The long struggle to unite Crete with Greece was considered morally and politically justifiable by the major European powers of the day, which is why in the end it was successful. During the lengthy period of Turkish occupation, many Cretans, like their Cypriot counterparts, had undergone either coercive or submission conversion to Islam. And many Turks had been settled in Crete by the Ottoman authorities. The battle for enosis waged by the Greek majority was very protracted and bitter. The Cretans joined the Greek revolution of 1821, but were brutally put down by Ibrahim Pasha and briefly ceded to Egyptian rule by way of Turkish compensation to Mohammed Ali for his help. Having reverted to Turkish control, the island remained in a state of unrest which culminated in the famous rising of 1866. (It was during this revolt that Abbot Mareses of Arkadion blew up his monastery rather than surrender it, and thus gave the island its motto of ‘Freedom or Death’.) The revolt was one of those, like Ireland in 1916 or Paris in 1871, which fail militarily but succeed in kindling a political idea. Turkey began to talk of ‘modifications’ to its rule, and to waver in the application of force. A later rebellion, in May 1896, led to a brief war between Greece and Turkey and to the end of formal Turkish rule over the island. The European powers intervened with two objectives: to conclude the unstable and unjustifiable Turkish satrapy, and to forestall the union of Crete with Greece. Like Cyprus, Crete became nominally independent, with a predominantly Greek population and a Turkish Muslim minority of about one-ninth. Like Cyprus, its status was officially guaranteed by foreign troops. As in the case of Cyprus, both communities regarded the settlement, in different ways, as provisional. The Turkish Muslims rebelled in 1898, firing on the British contingent at Candia and launching a pogrom against the local Christians. This achieved the opposite effect of the one intended (which was a renewed Turkish intervention), in that it goaded the European powers to demand the final withdrawal of all Turkish troops. This duly took place, and was shortly afterwards followed by an exodus of Muslim Turks to Asia Minor. It would be euphemistic in the extreme to describe this exodus as voluntary. Many Cretans took the opportunity to revenge themselves on their former superiors and conquerors. It was only a matter of time before full enosis with Greece was accomplished, and Crete became Greek in 1913. To this day it remains a stronghold of radical, republican politics and a consistent source of support for Greek leaders who take a tough line with Turkey.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership often cites Crete as precisely the precedent it seeks to avoid. It uses Cretan history to give depth and force to its claim that the Greeks want not just the union of Cyprus with ‘Hellenism’ but the removal or destruc­tion of the Turkish minority. It also, privately, invokes the Cretan example in its opposition to the ‘internationalization’ of the Cyprus question. Efforts by the United Nations or any other concert of powers are viewed with suspicion, because they may provide ‘cover’ for a Greek fait accompli. British colonial rule was supported by the Turks because they considered it an insurance against precisely this outcome. The Turkish army’s presence, and the virtual absorption of northern Cyprus by Turkey, is considered an even more durable guarantee. In giving what I think is a fair précis of this attitude, I aim to do no more than explain it.

The Hatay: Greeks have many racial and national memories of Turkish rule and Turkish force, but the example that is most pertinent to Cyprus does not directly involve the modern Greek world. Just across the water from Cyprus, in the top right corner of the Mediterranean, lies the port of Alexandretta, known in Turkish as Iskenderun. It is the capital of the province of the Hatay. It was in this port among others that the Turkish invasion force was prepared in 1960, and finally despatched to Cyprus in 1974.

Until 1939 Alexandretta and the Hatay were part of Syria. But there was a significant Turkish minority both in the city and in the province, with sixty per cent of the population being either Arabs or Armenians. Under the Franco-Turkish accords of 1921, the Hatay was part of the French mandate in Syria. In one of his very rare flirtations with irredentism, Kemal Ataturk demanded that the province be ceded to Turkey. The Syrians were utterly opposed to such a demand, first because the Turks were a minority and second because Alexandretta was the chief lifeline port for northern Syria and the important city of Aleppo. The Syrians, however, did not enjoy self-government.

France was inclined to conciliate Ataturk. It wanted to conclude a military alliance with Turkey against Germany. In 1937, one year after the French announced plans for a qualified independence for Syria, they also proclaimed ‘autonomy’ for the Hatay. The province was to have internal self-government. Turkish would be an official language along with Arabic. Syria would be responsible for its foreign affairs and would be linked with it by a customs and monetary union. Like Cyprus in 1960, the Hatay was to award both sides their second-best aspirations. Like Cyprus, the Hatay did not remain at rest for very long. When the League of Nations sent an election commission to the province, and found that the Turkish voters were in a minority, Ataturk moved troops up to the border in protest. He also organized angry rioting by the minority. The French, still anxious to appease Turkey and having no fellow-feeling for Arab nationalist sentiment, agreed to let Turkish soldiers share in the policing of the Hatay, and made them joint guarantors of its autonomy in July 1938. That was enough. New electoral registers were drawn up in haste and in the following month of August, with Turkish soldiers looking on, an election produced a wafer-thin Turkish majority. Exercising their right of self- determination, the Turks then announced that the Hatay was a fully independent republic. Within a year, on 29 June 1939, they proclaimed its union with Turkey. (Ataturk, who had died on 10 November 1938, might or might not have thought this haste a little blatant.) The Armenians of the Hatay needed little encouragement to leave. Many Arabs did likewise. Syria has never forgiven this sleight of hand by the Turks and the French. Turkey did sign an entente with France in October 1939, but then prudently stayed neutral throughout the Second World War.

Many Greek Cypriots see this episode as the classic use by Turkey of a ‘strategic minority’ to advance its own claims and expand its own territory, much as the Germans used the Sudeten minority in Czechoslovakia. They note the progression of demands from ‘autonomy’ to ‘partnership’ to ‘independence’ and finally to annexation. They also note the way in which the international community acquiesced in the process out of a desire to appease Turkey. In the present circumstances, with the Turkish mainland population expanding at an extraordinary rate, and with its strategic position in the Cold War giving Turkey a strong leverage on the West, the Greek Cypriots wonder if they, too, are not marked down for the Alexandretta treatment. It has already happened in the north. Is it intended to stop there?

Of these two ‘worst-case’ alternatives (to borrow a handy but inelegant phrase from American political science) it is clear that the Hatay example is the one nearest to contemporary reality. The Turks may justify what they have done by reference to any number of real or exaggerated past fears. Yet the proclamation of a separate Turkish Cypriot state in November 1983 was clearly a move towards full absorption by Turkey. That would be enough in itself to create alarm. But the political groups which, in Turkey and in Turkish Cyprus, had agitated for a declaration of ‘independence’ by Mr Denktash were the same forces which have been pressing for the Turkish army to ‘finish the job’ and take the whole island.

The London Financial Times reported from Ankara, on 6 December 1983, that,

‘in choosing to allow the declaration of independence by Mr Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, to go ahead, Turkey’s leaders are pointing to a radically new view, not only of the Cyprus dispute but of Turkey’s overall quarrel with Greece… Turkey now sees southern Cyprus and the Aegean Dodecanese islands as post-Ottoman areas inhabited by Greeks but with unresolved status to some degree, because they continue to generate military and political problems for the Turkish republic’.
The writer of this report (which electrified Athens when it was published) made it clear that the Treaty of Lausanne, which established the existing balance of forces between Greece and Turkey in the eastern Aegean, was considered by the Turkish leadership to be a ‘disappointment’. This means that, semi­ officially at least, Turkey is not satisfied with its gains in Cyprus.

What of the Cretan model? Whereas the Turkish Cypriot authorities maintain that ‘Greeks and Turks cannot live together’ and excludes even people of Greek descent, or Greek Cypriots with British or other passports from its territory, the Republic of Cyprus has made no move to abolish Turkish Cypriot rights. Whatever may have been the mistakes and crimes of the past, the government holds the abandoned property of Turkish Cypriots in trust for them. All Cypriots, according to law, have the right to return to their homes. Even the fact that Greek refugees have been settled provisionally on Turkish property does not alter this legal position.

The Turks maintain that the Greeks have never abandoned the Megali Idea, the dream of a reborn Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople. It is logically impossible to refute a suspicion. The fact that there is no political party or movement in Greece which advocates such a policy, and the fact that even Brigadier Ioannides was unable to convince his fellow-dictators to act upon it, does not convince the Turkish critic.

Many Greeks believe that Turkey not only covets the Aegean islands closest to its coast, but actually plans to take them by force. The evidence here is suggestive rather than conclusive. Before the abolition of independent political parties in Turkey, there was at least one, the National Action Party, which called for a Greater Turkey extended in all directions, including Cyprus and the Aegean. There have been, as above, many unguarded statements from generals and politicians to the same effect. Documents and books used in the training of Turkish officers make out the Greek claim to the islands to be spurious. It may be that in some remote garrison there is a young Turkish lieutenant who broods on one day becoming the saviour of his country – a Turkish Ioannides.

All this tends outside the scope of this book. But Cyprus remains as the symbol of unresolved Greek and Turkish conflict. It symbolizes, for the Greeks, what Andreas Papan­dreou has called the ‘shrinkage of Hellenism’ – the pushing of Greeks and Greek life out of Asia Minor and Constantinople that took place in living memory. The Greek Cypriots who were evicted from the north of Cyprus, and their fellows who are now forbidden even to visit it, will continue to call their old villages and towns by their original names. They will have a memory more recent than Smyrna in 1922 and more vivid and bitter even than Istanbul in 1955. They will not acknowledge the legitimacy of the occupation, and nor will their children. If there was a time when the Greeks were insensitive to the susceptibilities of the Turks, now the Turks behave as if Greek feelings do not count. Those who have encouraged this development from outside can now glibly refer to it as ‘a lethal cocktail’ (Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval).  

Read all parts of the serialisation here:
1. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Preface to the Second Edition.
2. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Preface to the First Edition.
3. Cyprus: Hostage to History, by Christopher Hitchens. Introduction.