Tο ΚAΛAMI - New Lobby in Town: The Greeks
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Μάρτιν Λ. Κινγκ

New Lobby in Town: The Greeks

TIME Magazine
Monday, Jul. 14, 1975

Nonexistent a year ago, forged on the anvil of a single issue, one of the most effective lobbies in Washington today is that of Greek Americans. Their grievance is the Turkish occupation of Cyprus, and they have had remarkable success in helping persuade Congress to cut off military aid to Turkey because of its invasion of the Mediterranean island country. Greece and Turkey, of course, are NATO allies; in legitimate pursuit of their special concerns, the Greek Americans have complicated U.S. efforts to mediate an already complex situation on NATO's southern flank.

Cyprus has a long history of conflict between the Greek majority and Turkish minority who inhabit it. Too of ten in recent times, the Turks have been second-class citizens. But under the rule of Archbishop Makarios, a reasonable if at times precarious modus vivendi had been achieved, and an independent Cyprus was prospering. Then a year ago, the junta of Greek colonels who governed Athens and whom the U.S. supported fomented a coup on Cyprus. It was led by 650 Greek military officers commanding the 10,000-man Cypriot national guard. The Turks, suspecting that the intent was to make Cyprus part of Greece and further suppress the island's Turkish minority, attacked and occupied Cyprus, uprooting 200,000 Greek Cypriots, and partitioned the island to their own advantage.

The invasion and occupation spontaneously unified the roughly 3 million people of Greek descent in America. Until then, they had been bitterly divided over the dictatorial government in Athens, which ended when the junta resigned in the wake of widespread civilian unrest in Greece after the Cyprus defeat. Greek Americans were outraged by the Turkish aggression, regardless of its justification, and besieged the U.S. Congress with demands that American military aid to Turkey be withheld.

This led to a congressionally mandated cutoff of aid to Turkey effective last February, though other factors played a major role: 1) the Turkish use of American military weapons on Cyprus clearly violated U.S. laws banning their offensive employment and a specific agreement between Washington and Ankara against shipment of such weapons to Cyprus without Washington's consent; 2) Congress was growing increasingly restive over what many legislators considered Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's highhanded management of U.S. foreign policy.

Now the Greek lobby is regearing for a new assault on Congress. The Senate in May yielded to Administration pleas and decided by just one vote to end the ban on arms to Turkey. A House committee will take up the issue this week, and a floor vote is expected by mid-July. But if aid is not resumed this month, Ankara has vowed to require "renegotiation" of U.S. military installations in Turkey—meaning that Ankara might close U.S. bases that Washington considers vital Rule of Law. How does this newest ethnic lobby function? In Congress the American Greek community has worked mainly through Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri and Congressmen John Brademas of Indiana, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland and Benjamin Rosenthal of New York. Only Brademas and Sarbanes are of Greek extraction (there are only three other Greek Americans in Congress: Representatives Louis "Skip" Bafalis of Florida, Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts and Gus Yatron of Pennsylvania). None of them consider themselves part of a Greek lobby. "We prefer to think of ourselves as the rule-of-law lobby," says Brademas, whose 475,000 constituents include only about 450 Greek Americans. Explains Sarbanes: "We have simply sought to enforce a provision of the existing law. We do not feel the U.S. should sanction aggression."

They also share a common antagonism toward Kissinger's obvious reluctance to share foreign policy decision-making with Congress, most notably on the Cyprus issue. Contends Rosenthal: "No doubt dealing with Brademas, Sarbanes and myself is less exciting than dealing with Mao and Brezhnev, but he [Kissinger] must deal with us and with other members of Congress because we reflect the will of the American people." That could possibly be true, but it is precisely because the Cyprus situation has stirred relatively little public debate in the U.S. that a concentrated lobbying effort can have great impact.

While Eagleton and the three Congressmen have championed the cause, the pressure has been generated by a complex of Greek-American organizations. Most effective has been the American Hellenic Institute, founded last summer. The institute has a full-time lobbyist in Washington and is headed by Eugene Telemachus Rossides, a former Nixon-appointed Treasury Department official and a well-connected Republican attorney (he is a law partner of former Secretary of State William Rogers). Son of a Greek mother and Greek-Cypriot father, Rossides argues that the Cyprus crisis "exposed the myth of Kissinger's competence as a negotiator," and that the Turkish aggression was "equal to if not worse than the Soviet aggression against Czechoslovakia and Hungary and Hitler's aggression against Czechoslovakia and the Balkan nations." Such invidious rhetoric aside, Rossides' group has efficiently spearheaded the lobbying.

Two long-established Greek-American institutions have provided vital grass-roots support, stimulating the mail campaigns. One is the Greek Orthodox Church, headed in the U.S. by Archbishop lakovos, who set up 50 state committees after the Turkish invasion to raise money for Greek-Cypriot refugees (collections so far: $1.3 million) and to urge letters to Congressmen. Iakovos has personally pressed the issue with President Ford, Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy and Democratic Presidential Contenders Henry Jackson and Lloyd Bentsen. The other is AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association), the Greek-American fraternal order, which has 400 chapters and about 50,000 members, as well as some 700 chapters of auxiliary organizations for women, boys and girls. AHEPA headquarters raised $165,000 to run newspaper-ad campaigns and to solicit letters; it sent delegations to Ford, Kissinger and Under Secretary of State Joseph Sisco.

A publicity campaign has been pushed by the Greek embassy in Washington, which has hired the public relations firm of J. Walter Thompson to advise it. The embassy has also retained William Ruckelshaus, the former Deputy Attorney General who was a victim of Richard Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre, to argue against military aid to Turkey on Capitol Hill. Legislators describe his efforts as "low-key but effective."

Hard Work. There are some 70 Greek-American organizations, about 20 of which have sprung up because of the Cyprus crisis. Much of their effort will now be coordinated by an organization set up for that purpose in Boston last month. Called the United Hellenic American Congress, it is headed by Andrew Athens, president of the Chicago-based Metron Steel Corp. Among this group's supporters have been New York Shipowners George Livanos, Pericles Callimanopulos and the Goulandris family. Most of the shipowners' contributions have been to aid Greek-Cypriot refugees. Such prominent Greek Americans as former San Francisco Mayor George Christopher, California investment Millionaire James Zissis and Mayor Lee Alexander of Syracuse, N.Y., have worked hard in the lobbying drive. An ad hoc group, the Hellenic Council of America, was founded last summer by Columbia University Economics Professor Phoebus Dhrymes to enlist academic and professional people in the campaign.

Kissinger has responded to the Greek-American criticism by meeting four times with the AHEPA leadership's Justice for Cyprus Committee and several times with anti-Turkish-aid Congressmen. He has refused to budge in advocating aid to Turkey and has criticized the opposition as misguided and not in the best interests of the U.S. Kissinger also has found one Greek American, Rochester lawyer Dennis Livadas, who has agreed to try to organize a minority lobby within the U.S. Greek community to support the Administration.

To complaints by Greek Americans that he should have warned the Turks that invading Cyprus would be a breach of aid agreements, as Lyndon Johnson did so effectively in 1965, Kissinger has argued that would have been interpreted as support of the Athens junta—a U.S. stance for which he was already under fire. While some of his aides have conceded that Turkey violated U.S. military aid laws, Kissinger insists they are bad laws. With merit, the pro-Greece lobbyists counter that laws, good or bad, must be obeyed. Indeed, when India and Pakistan went to war, using U.S. arms, in 1965, the Johnson Administration itself suspended aid to both combatants.

Still, another barrage of anti-Turkey mail is hitting Capitol Hill, and it is now up to the House of Representatives to make its difficult decision. There is no comparable Turkish lobby active in Washington. The case for Turkey is, instead, being made vociferously and with potent political arm-twisting by the Administration. As in the Senate, the final House vote is expected to be close.


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