NEWS

Through the looking glass

What’s the matter with you all over there? Last time you supported the Serbs and Milosevic. We admit that it was very close and you felt it affected you directly. But why are you with the Taleban? Why such hostility to the American people? The questions came from the other side of the Atlantic, not from official mouths, but from Greek Americans and other US citizens who are reading and hearing that Athens has become something between Kabul and Peshawar, and Greeks ready to declare a holy war against American imperialists. Of course, the image of Greece that various circles are trying to project is a distorted one. Not that there aren’t some opinions being voiced in Athens that are, once again, extremist. This is the usual minority who did not want Clinton to visit Athens, nor even the pope for that matter, and who talk about an eye for an eye. They are the ones who miss no opportunity to hop from one television talk show to another spouting a crude anti-Americanism in order to promote themselves and make an impression. It would be equally unjust to claim that the tone of Greece’s reaction was not being made by the government and the main opposition, but by a few hundred football hooligans who the other day shouted anti-American slogans instead of observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the strikes against New York and Washington. There are always excesses, particularly in a country like Greece, where memories of recent history are still strong. However, the overwhelming majority of Greeks do not identify with the few crazed voices, nor are they ready to grow beards like the Taleban or wear a chador. And of course they grieve for the tragic events that occurred on that black Tuesday. Yet that does not mean that people in general are not extremely concerned about the future. Like millions of other people in Europe, Greeks are afraid of two things. Firstly, they are worried that security measures to counter terrorism will lead to restrictions on personal liberty. The answer to that will not, of course, come from Washington, but from European leaders who have to achieve a delicate balance so as not to endanger the democratic privileges that Europe has been enjoying for decades. Secondly, people are concerned that the Bush administration might bow to the harsh voices in the Pentagon and overreact, resulting in a series of chain reactions and world instability. Fortunately, Washington’s cautious handling of the crisis so far is making that possibility seem less likely.