OPINION

Letters to the Editor

Editor’s note: At a UEFA Cup soccer match between AEK of Athens and Hibernian of Edinburgh in Athens last Thursday night, some AEK fans jeered during the minute’s silence held in honor of the thousands of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Reports said that they burned the Israeli flag and also tried to burn the American flag but it did not light. The incident received international coverage on Saturday following comments to an Edinburgh newspaper by Hibernian coach Alex McLeish. It has met with outrage in America, where it was printed and broadcast across the country. Soccer fans in Greece, as in many other countries, often make a point of being provocative. It is regrettable that at this time the actions of a few hundred youths cause serious harm to the image of a whole country. The government has declared clearly that it will stand by the United States in its battle against terrorism. Below are some of the letters we have received in the last two days, illustrating the depth of anger among Americans, including many of Greek descent: Disgusted Many of us in the USA are disgusted by the actions of your soccer fans booing the moment of silence for the victims of the World Trade Center. This disgusting behavior is rarely reported in any Greek paper I have read but was reported worldwide in European newspapers. Just remember this. So many of the EU countries show their cowardly attitudes by supporting the US in the smallest way possible. If we have gained anything at all during this attack, it is the clear focus the US now has of who our true friends are. You can be assured that the decisions made by governments internationally will affect everything from the intelligence we supply you to humanitarian aid. I read over and over about how the US will show a lack of restraint. Has the US bombed or killed anyone since the attacks? Did the US retaliate right away? The answer to both questions is no. Now I see your political cartoon today depicting a dove with grenades. The US has every right to seek out and punish Osama for his bombing of our embassies alone. When the next earthquake, flood, or terrorist attack occurs in Greece what relief will the US give you? Be assured it will not be much, I hope. Let’s also see how the lack of US tourists affects your economy. The reaction of so many Greek Americans bears this out. Many are downright ashamed of the country’s attitude as well as their disgust at Archbishop Christodoulos’s remarks. Anton Papadopoulos via e-mail Time for respect I just read an article about events at a soccer game involving your country where your country was jeering at the moment of silence for all the innocent dead victims and were trying to burn our flag. All the civilized people thought it was disgusting and I don’t blame them. If it was your people that had died, I and everyone else would have respected a moment of silence. Andrew Lorton via email Embarrassed I know that this letter of condemna tion will not be printed, but at least you will read it. To me as a man of Greek descent, I am disgusted at the behavior of those AEK fans who burned the American flag at the UEFA game last week and with the other spectators and police who made no effort to do anything about it. Is anyone else in Greece offended as well? These were innocent people from all over the world, as well as heroic New York City Police and Fire personnel. That’s why I couldn’t believe that there was apparently no sympathy showed by the police officers attending the game. If this was true, I am embarrassed with my Greek ancestry. Gary Mols British Columbia Ashamed I am ashamed to say that I have gone to your country and spent my hard-earned money to support your economy. I can guarantee you that after what your soccer fans from AEK did, I will never buy a Greek product again. I had always thought that Greece was a Christian country, but this action shows me that it is not. You have reached the bottom of the swamp with this response to 6,000 dead, of which, for your information, 10 were from Greece. Not even in Afghanistan did they burn our flag. As the Olympics come closer, you will beg for Americans to come. But if you think that after you burn our flag we would support your country’s efforts you will be sadly mistaken. Pat Divver via e-mail A voice of hope I was born in Thessaloniki in 1965 and I have spent the last 16 years in the United States – the last three as a US citizen. I strongly believe that the terrible events of September 11 have provided a unique opportunity for Greece to reverse its image of the last 20 years as a reluctant member of the western alliance. While I was growing up in our country, I remember hearing repeatedly that the United States was responsible for many of the evils we suffered during modern Greek history. Today, I believe that those views were simply the belief of a very vocal minority that somehow managed (it seems that it still does) to set the tone of political discussion throughout the country. The result is the development of the complexes of being a victim, which have become an integral part of the way Greeks view themselves. I believe that our perceived victimization has resulted in a foreign policy characterized by complaint, not argument. I don’t mean to imply that the United States has always promoted long-term Greek interests. In recent years, especially since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, US foreign policy has become extremely complicated, faced frequently with competing objectives (the Soviets have been replaced with a dozen less visible, less immediate but equally dangerous threats). In this environment, it often appears that Greek interests are not ideally served through actions (or lack thereof) of the US and the other western allies. However, even with that in mind, can anyone make a truly convincing argument that Greece would be better served by distancing itself from its allies, whom it supported heroically in every major war? I was extremely disappointed when I read editorials of major Greek newspapers since the barbaric attack on the WTC two weeks ago. More often than not, it seems the Greek pundits believe that America brought this disaster onto itself, through an irresponsible Middle East policy. It is truly shameful (and an unavoidable part of any true democracy) that the mainstream press of a civilized nation would find ways to justify the terrorist attack on innocent civilians. I wish everyone in Greece could understand that one of the main reasons this tragedy was not prevented, is something that the US shares with Greece: A true love for individual freedom (many of the hijackers would have long been expelled from this country if the authorities were paying closer attention to them). So you can understand my shock when I read articles by Greek talking heads promoting the idea that the US will use this opportunity to do what it always wanted: Play the role of Big Brother with its citizens! I hope that the majority of Greek citizens have a deep understanding of the magnitude of the terrorists’ crime; hope. I hope that Greeks appreciate their opportunity to take a leadership role in supporting the US. I hope that Greece will find its way back, closer to those with whom it shares its most basic values.