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Last Updated: Friday, 12 January 2007, 12:11 GMT
Analysis: Greek anti-Americanism
By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens

Police search the scene after rocket attack
Police said a rocket was fired at the US eagle emblem
Many Greeks will have reacted with satisfaction to the dawn rocket attack on the US embassy in Athens.

There is an undercurrent of anti-Americanism in Greece, which began after the Great Powers carved up Europe at Yalta towards the end of World War II. It has been perpetuated every generation since, by some aspect of US foreign policy.

Revolutionary Struggle, the left-wing guerrilla group which claims to have fired the Russian-made rocket, is continuing the tradition of its predecessor November 17, of attacking targets which have - in its view - populist appeal.

Iron fist

November 17 began its long terror campaign in December 1975 by murdering Richard Welch, the CIA station chief, outside his Athens home.

It went on to murder three other American diplomats.

Welch's assassination was part of an attempt to avenge American support of the right-wing military dictatorship which ruled Greece with an iron fist from 1967 to 1974.

The colonels' regime began to falter after a student uprising in 1973.

The rebellion was centred on Athens Polytechnic, and on November 17 that year the colonels sent in tanks to crush the revolt.

The true casualty figure has never been confirmed, but it is thought as many as two dozen people were killed.

Greece has never forgotten nor forgiven.

Ritual battle

That day in November is regarded as a defining anniversary of Greece's modern democracy and, because of its backing of the colonels, the United States is inextricably connected in a very poor light.

The playstation generation's disdain of America has been fuelled not just by stories told on the knees of parents and grandparents, but also by President Bush's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan

Each year, on that date, tens of thousands of trade unionists, left-wingers and ordinary people march from the Polytechnic to the heavily fortified US embassy.

Invariably the demonstration disintegrates into a ritual battle between riot police and anarchists.

The march is also an opportunity for Greece's grandparents to vent their anger over US interference in their domestic politics.

After Stalin, Truman and Churchill divided Europe at the Yalta summit, Greece slid into civil war, fought between communists and nationalists.

During the five-year conflict, America supported the nationalists, because they were desperate to make sure that the Soviet bloc did not have an outlet to the Mediterranean.

It took a full 25 years after the end of the civil war for communists and their supporters to be fully rehabilitated into Greek society.

Resentment over their treatment has continued to this day.

Unpopular US moves

The playstation generation's disdain of America has been fuelled not just by stories told on the knees of parents and grandparents, but also by President George Bush's invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Police outside the US embassy in Athens
The US embassy is a focal point for dissent in Athens

The wars in both countries are widely opposed in Greece and are regarded as despicable acts of folly.

America's reputation in Greece is also not helped by the perception that it usually takes Turkey's side during disputes between Athens and Ankara.

Disdain for American values is, however, not universal in Greece.

There is a large expatriate Greek community living in the US and many people here admire and imitate the American entrepreneurial spirit.

But most Greeks believe American foreign policy is both malevolent and disastrous. So there will not be much sympathy for Ambassador Charles Ries, as he surveys the damage done to his fortress on Vassilis Sofias Avenue.




SEE ALSO
Greek militants jailed for life
17 Dec 03 |  Europe
Profile: November 17 mastermind
08 Dec 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Greece
30 Nov 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Greece
30 Nov 06 |  Country profiles

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