OPINION

Specter of terrorism

It is no surprise that the issue of terrorism cast some shadows over the otherwise encouraging meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and US President George W. Bush. In the light of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it was normal that the US head of state would remind the premier of his concerns over the – so far fruitless – investigations aimed at breaking up the November 17 terrorist organization. For Greek authorities, the accomplishment of this goal is an imperative – not only, and not primarily, because it is a demand by Washington, but rather because it is dictated by our national interest. It is the Greek State above all, whichever political party is in power, that has an interest in finally resolving this long-outstanding issue. Otherwise, it is exploited as a means of putting pressure on the government and intervening in domestic affairs. State efforts to crack down on terrorism are bound to have the unanimous support of the Greek public. Even if we assume that in the past, given the special post-1974 conditions, a small segment of public opinion might have displayed silent tolerance toward November 17, the Greece of today, which is an equal member of the European family and a frank ally of all civilized nations in the war against global terrorism, leaves no room for the development of similar tendencies. When US officials invoke the continued existence of November 17 in order to charge Greece with incompetence or to make insinuations of a shadowy involvement by the police force, they obscure the fact that the terrorist gang in question differs from all other armed organizations in one aspect: November 17 is made up of a narrow ring of conspirators with no intention of recruiting members or creating circles of supporters, two facts that would facilitate its destruction. Furthermore, American officials have in recent years taken an active role in investigations, therefore they cannot be allowed to attack the Greek authorities as though they were on the outside. Should Washington present tangible evidence on the activity of this terrorist group, the Greek government would be the first to celebrate. But the lack of such evidence cannot be covered with lists of intellectuals or politicians who are named as suspects merely because their political views are at odds with US interests. Our American allies should realize that Greece has the right to display the same sensitivity with respect to democratic freedoms as they do when they are dealing with terrorism inside their country.