The Central Intelligence Agency has a long history of fighting against progressive movements and supporting the most reactionary regimes ever seen. This can be seen by the CIA-backed coups against the democratically elected governments of Mohammad Mosaddeg in Iran, Salvador Allende in Chile, and Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala, among dozens of others.
It also spent billions of dollars supporting leaders who massacred teachers, trade unionists, socialists, communists, and others. Well-known examples include Sukarno in Indonesia, Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan, and numerous other leaders who murdered millions.
The reason behind this approach was simple: these leaders were “tough on communism,” and they wholeheartedly supported private capital even if it led to massive poverty in their own countries.
The most deplorable dictatorship in Europe since the Nazis, the Greek Junta, was fully supported by the CIA. This was headed by Geórgios Papadópoulos, the type of leader much favoured by the CIA. He was fiercely anti-communist, so much so that when the Nazis took over Greece in 1941 Papadópoulos eagerly joined the “security battalion,” whose main task was to find and kill Greek partisans.
After the war he was the liaison between the Central Intelligence Service (KYP) and the CIA. The KYP was run by, and funded by, the CIA for its first eleven years. This was only stopped when Geórgios Papandréou became prime minister in 1964.
Because of internal problems, including King Constantine’s open opposition to the government of Papandréou and the growing right-wing sentiment in the military, the CIA and the king bribed numerous parliamentarians of the ruling Centre Union to resign, which caused the collapse of the Greek government in 1965.
This collapse would be followed by five short-lived governments in the span of less than two years, which led to the military coup.
A CIA report on 23 January 1967 specifically named the Papadópoulos group as one plotting a coup.¹ Even though Greece was a NATO ally since 1952, the information was never passed on to the Greek authorities
On 21 April 1967 the Greek military launched a coup. Of the five officers who led the coup, four were very closely connected to the American military or the CIA. Papadópoulos was “the first CIA agent to become premier of a European country,” as he had been on the CIA payroll for fifteen years.²
The Junta was responsible for the murder of approximately 8,000 people in its first month, followed by the arrest and torture of thousands more during its seven years in power. Strict censorship was imposed, which led to many books and newspapers being banned. The Council of Europe and Amnesty International decried the human rights abuses in Greece, stating that “torture as a deliberate practice is carried out by the security police and the Military Police.”³ This, however, did not deter the US government as it continued to send the Junta military equipment and money.
The dictatorship of Papadópoulos ended after a massive student protest that began in the Athens Polytechnic. The student leaders were mainly from the banned far-left groups.⁴ These protests led to the more hardline members of the military overthrowing Papadópoulos on 25 November 1973.
The new leader was another CIA man, Dimítrios Ioannídis, head of the military police. He appointed another employee of the CIA, Adamántios Androutsópoulos, to be prime minister. It was under this government that the Greeks would invade Cyprus, which ultimately led to the Junta’s demise.
Nothing portrays the one-sided policy of the United States during the whole affair better than a quotation from Andréas Papandréou, describing his meeting with the US ambassador, Phillip Talbot. “I asked Talbot whether America could have intervened the night of the coup, to prevent the death of democracy in Greece. He denied that they could have done anything about it. Then Margaret [Papandréou’s wife] asked a critical question: what if the coup had been a communist or a Leftist coup? Talbot answered without hesitation. Then, of course, they would have intervened, and they would have crushed the coup.”⁵
- William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, p. 218.
- Charles Foley, “Greek dictator in CIA’s pocket,” Observer (London), 1 July 1973.
- Blum, Killing Hope, p. 216
- Roderick Beaton, Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation, Harmondsworth: Penguin, p. 335.
- Andreas Papandreou, Democracy at Gunpoint: The Greek Front, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, p. 294.