American Hellenic Institute


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AHI Sends Rebuttal Letter to Chicago Tribune
December 1, 1999 No. 40/99 (202) 785-8430

AHI Sends Rebuttal Letter to Chicago Tribune

On December 1, 1999 the American Hellenic Institute sent the following letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in rebuttal of the opinion piece "Whose Side are the Greeks On, Anyway" by Mr. R.C. Longworth published on November 29, 1999. The letter, which was signed by Executive Director Nick Larigakis, reads:

"In his opinion piece "Whose Side are the Greeks On, Anyway?" (Chicago Tribune November 28, 1999) R.C. Longworth uses the excuse of the demonstrations that took place in Athens during President Clinton's visit to indulge in a wild analysis of the Greek psyche. I think even he would concede that it is quite a stretch to connect the actions of about 5,000 demonstrators (out of a total Athens population of about 4 million) on a single day at the end of the 20th century with the Reformation, Renaissance and Enlightenment. I wonder what fanciful explanation Mr. Longworth has for the behavior of the 50,000+ demonstrators in Seattle and parallel marchers in London. Did they also miss out on the "skeptical and cooler Western mind"? I am sure the AFL-CIO would be fascinated to know.

Even without the pretentious psychobabble, Mr. Longworth's piece is beset with factual errors. Greece an inconstant ally? How does he account for World War I, World War II (both of which saw Turkey in the hostile camp or neutral), Cold War, Gulf War and Kosovo? Anti-Albanian? Mr. Longworth has clearly overlooked Greece's very helpful intervention (alongside Italy) in Albania in 1996 which prevented Albania from collapsing into civil war in the wake of the pyramid scams. Afraid of Macedonia? In fact Greece is the major investor in Macedonia and its main trading partner. An awkward member of the EU? Greece is set to join the European Monetary Union in 2001 ahead of the UK. The northern port city of Thessaloniki is also the coordinating point for EU reconstruction efforts in the Balkans.

These are powerful positive factors. During his visit, President Clinton stressed them in describing Greece as the "powerhouse of Southeast Europe." This gets it right. No one, least of all the Greeks themselves, would claim that Greece is a flawless nation but, if criticisms are to be made, let us at least make them on the basis of fact rather than fantasy."