Alivizatos, Nicos C. 1981. “The 'Emergency Regime' and Civil Liberties, 1946–1949.” In Greece in the 1940s: A Nation in Crisis, ed. John Iatrides, 220-29. Hanover: University Press of New England.
Chapter 5. 1946–1949: Emphýlios
Witness of the Mountains
Fighting started in March 1946, when a group of thirty ex-ELAS members, not yet organized as an army, attacked a police outpost in the village of Litochoro, about thirty kilometers south of Thessaloniki. In May the collaborationists who had been indicted and sentenced to prison terms were released by the Tsaldares government. The same month the first Emergency Military Tribunals (Ektakta Stratodikeia) were established. On June 18 the Third Parliamentary Vote took place (as we have already seen), decreeing the death penalty for anyone who engaged in or contributed to breaking up the Greek state. By the middle of August, thirty-three such sentences had been carried out, and about 3,250 Leftists, along with the majority of the leaders of ELAS, had been exiled. The escalation of violence by the Right-wing paramilitary forces became such a concern for U.S. Ambassador Lincoln MacVeagh that he made a formal complaint to the head of the State Department. The same concern was expressed by British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. (See Alivizatos 1981.)
In December the KKE announced the formation of the Democratic Army (Demokratikos Stratos Elladas, DSE), headed by Markos Vafiadis (known as “General Markos”), who operated from a base in Yugoslavia. He was sent by the KKE to align and organize the already-existing armed groups. By late 1946, DSE could deploy about ten thousand partisans in various areas of Greece, mainly in the northern mountains, although a report in September 1946 prepared by the Greek Communist Party for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union states that there are four thousand partisans, all of whom are under the control of the Party. Both the Yugoslav and the Albanian Communist governments supported the KKE fighters (primarily by supplying sustenance, not armament), although the Soviet Union kept a safe distance.
Throughout 1947 fighting intensified, as did the emergency measures taken by the government in the form of legislation, terror, and rigged elections. In December 1947 the KKE announced the formation of a Provisional Democratic Government (Prosōrinê Dēmokratikê Kyvérnēsē), with Markos Vafiadis as prime minister. In retaliation, the Athens government outlawed the Communist Party. The National Army now numbered about ninety thousand men. The British undertook the task of modernizing its equipment and training, but by early 1947 Britain, having spent eighty-five million pounds in Greece since 1944 and facing the rapid collapse of the empire, could no longer afford this enterprise. On February 21, 1947, the British government informed the U.S. State Department that the British Empire would have to withdraw all troops and support from Greece as of March 31, 1947, because they were direly needed elsewhere.
On March 10, 1947, President Harry S Truman announced what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, in which he committed the United States to step in to support the government of Greece against Communist pressure . This move opened the cold war and began a long and troubled relationship between Greece and the United States. For several decades, for example, the American ambassador advised the king about important issues such as the appointment of the prime minister and intervened in other political matters—not to mention the fact that the CIA trained Greek officers in the art of counterinsurgency and interrogation techniques.
Given the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, funds, advisors, and equipment started flooding into the country from the United States. Under U.S. guidance, a series of major offensives were launched in the mountains of central and northern Greece, especially after James Van Fleet took over as commander of the Joint United States Military Advisory Group . The equipment of the National Army included U.S. agents, battalions, and napalm bombs, which were being dropped on villages close to the strongholds of the Democratic Army. This greatly exceeded the equipment of the Democratic Army, which mainly consisted of what ELAS had managed to salvage from the collapse of Italy and Germany .
The emphýlios was fought in the countryside, where the majority of the population was caught in the crossfire and had little chance to resist. The DSE was in dire need of supplies, mainly foodstuffs, as its supply lines were precarious, coming over the border from Albania and Yugoslavia. Often the DSE would enter a village and requisition its supplies (its crops, beasts of burden, blankets). The very village that had been raided by the DSE would then be held accountable by the National Army, with its citizens being characterized as Communist sympathizers and suffering the consequences (imprisonment, torture, and exile).
As Anikam Nachmani states, “although the situation was tantamount to civil war, Western states were extremely hesitant to define it as such, in order to avoid camouflaging the Balkan involvement” (1990: 93). As I was reading Nachmani's book, my mother phoned. She asked what I was doing, and I said I was reading about this in a book on the international intervention and how the Allies refused to call it an emphýlios.
“What do they mean?” my mother asked.
I said that they were reluctant to call it emphýlios.
“Yes,” my mother said sarcastically, “it wasn't an emphýlios war, it was a loving war [den êtan emphýlios pólemos, êtan agapēménos pólemos]!” She added an expletive.
President Harry S Truman's address before a joint session of Congress, March 12, 1947, reads as follows.
Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States:
The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress. The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved. One aspect of the present situation, which I wish to present to you at this time for your consideration and decision, concerns Greece and Turkey.
The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and economic assistance. Preliminary reports from the American Economic Mission now in Greece and reports from the American Ambassador in Greece corroborate the statement of the Greek Government that assistance is imperative if Greece is to survive as a free nation. I do not believe that the American people and the Congress wish to turn a deaf ear to the appeal of the Greek Government.
Greece is not a rich country. Lack of sufficient natural resources has always forced the Greek people to work hard to make both ends meet. Since 1940, this industrious and peace loving country has suffered invasion, four years of cruel enemy occupation, and bitter internal strife. When forces of liberation entered Greece they found that the retreating Germans had destroyed virtually all the railways, roads, port facilities, communications, and merchant marine. More than a thousand villages had been burned. Eighty-five per cent of the children were tubercular. Livestock, poultry, and draft animals had almost disappeared. Inflation had wiped out practically all savings. As a result of these tragic conditions, a militant minority, exploiting human want and misery, was able to create political chaos which, until now, has made economic recovery impossible.
Greece is today without funds to finance the importation of those goods which are essential to bare subsistence. Under these circumstances the people of Greece cannot make progress in solving their problems of reconstruction. Greece is in desperate need of financial and economic assistance to enable it to resume purchases of food, clothing, fuel and seeds. These are indispensable for the subsistence of its people and are obtainable only from abroad. Greece must have help to import the goods necessary to restore internal order and security, so essential for economic and political recovery.
The Greek Government has also asked for the assistance of experienced American administrators, economists and technicians to insure that the financial and other aid given to Greece shall be used effectively in creating a stable and self-sustaining economy and in improving its public administration. The very existence of the Greek state is today threatened by the terrorist activities of several thousand armed men, led by Communists, who defy the government's authority at a number of points, particularly along the northern boundaries. A Commission appointed by the United Nations Security Council is at present investigating disturbed conditions in northern Greece and alleged border violations along the frontier between Greece on the one hand and Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia on the other.
Meanwhile, the Greek Government is unable to cope with the situation. The Greek army is small and poorly equipped. It needs supplies and equipment if it is to restore the authority of the government throughout Greek territory. Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.
The United States must supply that assistance. We have already extended to Greece certain types of relief and economic aid but these are inadequate. There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn. No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek government. The British Government, which has been helping Greece, can give no further financial or economic aid after March 31. Great Britain finds itself under the necessity of reducing or liquidating its commitments in several parts of the world, including Greece.
We have considered how the United Nations might assist in this crisis. But the situation is an urgent one requiring immediate action and the United Nations and its related organizations are not in a position to extend help of the kind that is required. It is important to note that the Greek Government has asked for our aid in utilizing effectively the financial and other assistance we may give to Greece, and in improving its public administration. It is of the utmost importance that we supervise the use of any funds made available to Greece; in such a manner that each dollar spent will count toward making Greece self-supporting, and will help to build an economy in which a healthy democracy can flourish.
No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected. The Government of Greece is not perfect. Nevertheless it represents eighty-five per cent of the members of the Greek Parliament who were chosen in an election last year. Foreign observers, including 692 Americans, considered this election to be a fair expression of the views of the Greek people.
The Greek Government has been operating in an atmosphere of chaos and extremism. It has made mistakes. The extension of aid by this country does not mean that the United States condones everything that the Greek Government has done or will do. We have condemned in the past, and we condemn now, extremist measures of the right or the left. We have in the past advised tolerance, and we advise tolerance now.
Greece's neighbor, Turkey, also deserves our attention. The future of Turkey as an independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece. The circumstances in which Turkey finds itself today are considerably different from those of Greece. Turkey has been spared the disasters that have beset Greece. And during the war, the United States and Great Britain furnished Turkey with material aid.
Nevertheless, Turkey now needs our support.
Since the war Turkey has sought financial assistance from Great Britain and the United States for the purpose of effecting that modernization necessary for the maintenance of its national integrity.
That integrity is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East.
The British government has informed us that, owing to its own difficulties [it] can no longer extend financial or economic aid to Turkey.
As in the case of Greece, if Turkey is to have the assistance it needs, the United States must supply it. We are the only country able to provide that help.
I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time.
One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion. This was a fundamental issue in the war with Germany and Japan. Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose their will, and their way of life, upon other nations.
To ensure the peaceful development of nations, free from coercion, the United States has taken a leading part in establishing the United Nations. The United Nations is designed to make possible lasting freedom and independence for all its members. We shall not realize our objectives, however, unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed on free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States.
The peoples of a number of countries of the world have recently had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. The Government of the United States has made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria. I must also state that in a number of other countries there have been similar developments.
At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.
The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.
I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way. I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.
The world is not static, and the status quo is not sacred. But we cannot allow changes in the status quo in violation of the Charter of the United Nations by such methods as coercion, or by such subterfuges as political infiltration. In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the United States will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
It is necessary only to glance at a map to realize that the survival and integrity of the Greek nation are of grave importance in a much wider situation. If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East.
Moreover, the disappearance of Greece as an independent state would have a profound effect upon those countries in Europe whose peoples are struggling against great difficulties to maintain their freedoms and their independence while they repair the damages of war.
It would be an unspeakable tragedy if these countries, which have struggled so long against overwhelming odds, should lose that victory for which they sacrificed so much. Collapse of free institutions and loss of independence would be disastrous not only for them but for the world. Discouragement and possibly failure would quickly be the lot of neighboring peoples striving to maintain their freedom and independence.
Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East. We must take immediate and resolute action.
I therefore ask the Congress to provide authority for assistance to Greece and Turkey in the amount of $400,000,000 for the period ending June 30, 1948. In requesting these funds, I have taken into consideration the maximum amount of relief assistance which would be furnished to Greece out of the $350,000,000 which I recently requested that the Congress authorize for the prevention of starvation and suffering in countries devastated by the war.
In addition to funds, I ask the Congress to authorize the detail of American civilian and military personnel to Greece and Turkey, at the request of those countries, to assist in the tasks of reconstruction, and for the purpose of supervising the use of such financial and material assistance as may be furnished. I recommend that authority also be provided for the instruction and training of selected Greek and Turkish personnel.
Finally, I ask that the Congress provide authority which will permit the speediest and most effective use, in terms of needed commodities, supplies, and equipment, of such funds as may be authorized.
If further funds, or further authority, should be needed for purposes indicated in this message, I shall not hesitate to bring the situation before the Congress. On this subject the Executive and Legislative branches of the Government must work together.
This is a serious course upon which we embark.
I would not recommend it except that the alternative is much more serious. The United States contributed $341,000,000,000 toward winning World War II. This is an investment in world freedom and world peace.
The assistance that I am recommending for Greece and Turkey amounts to little more than 1 tenth of 1 per cent of this investment. It is only common sense that we should safeguard this investment and make sure that it was not in vain.
The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want. They spread and grow in the evil soil of poverty and strife. They reach their full growth when the hope of a people for a better life has died. We must keep that hope alive.
The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.
If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world—and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.
Great responsibilities have been placed upon us by the swift movement of events.
I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely. (The Avalon Project, Yale University, 1997, http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/trudoc.htm)
While walking in Central Park in the fall of 2005, I encountered a group of about five people, who had set out a small table and were distributing literature. One of the men handed me a little postcard that gave a brief description of the involvement of the CIA in the training of foreign police and paramilitary forces in techniques of interrogation. As I took the card, the man asked if I would like to stop and listen to him about this issue. I was in a hurry and said that I really did not need to, that I am from Greece. The man looked at me with contrition and, almost in tears, whispered: “I am sorry, I am really very, very sorry.” The involvement of the CIA in Greek politics has been amply documented in recent years. The first book on the matter is Agee 1975, which states matter-of-factly something that was understood as truth by the Greek population but seen as Greek paranoia elsewhere—namely, that “in Greece, the CIA participated in bringing in the repressive regime of the colonels” (8)—before Agee goes on to talk about the millions that The Company [sic] spent to “destabilize” the Allende government in Chile and set up the junta of Augusto Pinochet (in addition to murdering Allende himself, something that has been confirmed by the recent declassification of the Kissinger archives by the National Security Archives). Agee does not discuss in depth Greece or any other country where he was not stationed himself, but he has published a partial list of CIA operatives throughout (primarily) Latin America.
The United States Army Military Group–Greece, which was part of the U.S. Mission for Aid to Greece, was established on May 24, 1947, and was placed under the command of James Van Fleet, after the personal intervention of General Marshall. Translating the Truman Doctrine into practice, the U.S. Mission was charged with providing operational advice to the Greek National Army. Later in 1947, the Joint Military and Advisory and Planning Group (USJMAPG) was created, “with the mission of providing the Greek military with aggressive assistance in operations and logistical support,” as described by Paul Braim, Van Fleet's biographer (Braim 2001: 162). The USJMAPG had an initial staff of ninety-nine officers, eighty enlisted men, and a number of advisors who were assigned to all branches of the military, at the level of division headquarters. According to Braim, Van Fleet acquired almost complete control over military operations of the Greek Army, to the extent that, when Van Fleet visited Makrónisos in 1948 and was shown repentant Communist soldiers by General Bairaktares, the latter said, “General, here is your army.”
Braim's biography of Van Fleet ought to be taken judiciously in matters that have to do with the situation on the ground in Greece before the emphýlios and Van Fleet's involvement. For instance, Braim mentions that “near the end of the war the Communists concealed their identity under the title National Liberation Movement, or EAM” (2001: 158), whereas EAM was established in 1941, the first year of the war, a scant six months after the Axis forces occupied Greece. Furthermore, he mentions that with the beginning of the emphýlios the Greek National Army had an added disadvantage over the DSE, the fact that it “was worn out from years of fighting the Germans” (2001: 161), when there had been no National Army to fight the German occupation and the brunt of the resistance against the Axis had been carried largely by the military branch of EAM, ELAS, largely the same army that the newly reconstituted Greek National Army was now fighting. But his material pertaining to Van Fleet is largely taken from Van Fleet's personal notes and is indispensable for documenting Van Fleet's personal disposition toward Greece and the emphýlios.
When the Greek government petitioned the U.S. government for an increase in the National Army, the U.S. ambassador to Greece, Henry Grady, refused to consider the request. He wrote to the secretary of state on November 22, 1948:
The key to success according to [this] thinking is always more: more men, more money and more equipment. We have today in Greece an armed forces reorganization of 263,000 men, which is fed with American purchased daily rations of 4,200 calories, clothed with American purchased uniforms, equipped with American arms, transported by vehicles and pack animals supplied by America and trained and advised in operations by American and British officers. Supporting the land army is heavy artillery, an air force and navy.
This armed force has been unable to make appreciable progress… against a bandit organization of some 25,000 men fed with what they could steal or buy locally, clothed in remnants, armed with old weapons… transported on their own, or their donkey's legs, and trained by their own leaders. …Bandit land army is not backed by a single airplane, heavy gun or naval vessel. In view of the fact that we have [already] increased size and equipment of Greek armed forces, during which time strength of bandit forces has remained proportionately constant to that of Greek army, and as we have not achieved greater security by these actions, it seems to me that we are not justified in [applying] the old method of increasing again the size and the equipment of armed forces. (Quoted in Nachmani 1990: 17)
Pharmakes (2006) states that even during the Battle of Athens the equipment of ELAS was dismal, especially compared with that of “X.” He says that ELAS's equipment, because it had been pillaged from the retreating Italians and Germans, was haphazard and not interchangeable, so that two ELAS fighters fighting side by side could not share ammunition because their weapons were of different makes. Nachmani also mentions that the United National Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) observers learned not to record in their reports the weapons that they witnessed being used by the DSE because they were of U.S., Nazi, and British make, so that the fiction of Balkan material support to the DSE would have collapsed.
If the war was declared to be a civil war, as the ΚΚΕ had done as early as 1947, the Western states would have had no right to interfere. The United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans (UNSCOB) of 1947 to 1952, led by Mark Ethridge and ostensibly sent to Greece to document border incidents and Balkan involvement, was from early on torn between the fiction of neutrality and the tug of American interests. As early as 1947 Ethridge reported that members of his committee had “canvassed in [their] minds a neutral commission of three, but [they] didn't know any neutrals except the King of Mog Mog” (quoted in Nachmani 1990: 103). A year later, in March 1948, the U.S. State Department spelled out that the function of the UNSCOB observers ought to be to supply the Greek National Army with intelligence on the guerrillas (ibid.). In August 1948, Karl Rankin, a counselor stationed at the U.S. embassy in Athens, was even more direct, noting that the “objective and historical function of the UNSCOB should be changed. It should not again be necessary to 'prove' the Greek case nor to insist on the fiction of the possible compliance therewith of A[lbania], B[ulgaria], and Y[ugoslavia], although contrary to the plans of international Communism. …The non-Communist world must realize that Greece is on 'our side,' or rather that we are on 'her side,' and that we are defending her in our own defense” (quoted in ibid.; my emphasis).