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Monday, 25 May 2015

"Causing us real trouble” The 1967 coup in Greece

Eirini Karamouzi (The A. G. Leventis Fellow on Modern Greece, St Antony's College, Oxford)

Sarah Snyder, assistant professor at American University, D.C. and a historian of U.S. foreign relations with specialization in the history of the Cold War and human rights activism, presented on 20 May 2015 a chapter of her upcoming book Dictators, Diplomats, and Dissidents: United States Human Rights Policy in the long 1960s with Columbia University Press. Her talk focused on the 1967 coup in Greece and in particular the US reaction. As Snyder put it ‘The case of Greece serves to illustrate that human rights had a place on Johnson’s policy agenda in the 1960s, albeit not the most prominent one. Of particular international concern was the Greek junta’s harsh treatment of its perceived enemies in the wake of the 1967 coup’. Yet the Johnson administration did not actively oppose the new leaders, while Nixon and Kissinger accepted the regime thus precipitating years of struggle among the White House, State Department, congressional critics, and concerned citizens. Debates concerning United States policy toward Greece drew new adherents to the cause of human rights and galvanized many others. However, Snyder convincingly showed that the strategic considerations privileged military alliance with Greece but unease about human rights violations in Greece and its impact on U.S. policy persisted until the country returned to democracy in July 1974.

Effie Pedaliu, LSE fellow and an expert on human rights opened up the discussion to place the story of the Greek dictatorship within the pan-European discourse on human rights, drawing parallels with the US debates and examining the transatlantic dialogue. She was interested in the legacy of the Western involvement and policy towards the dictatorial regime in the post- junta period and democratization process in Greece. Both speakers agreed in the importance of looking at the long decade of the 60s and high-lightened the vital role that Greece played or what Barbara Keys has gone as far as claiming that ‘anti-junta activism helped lay the groundwork for the worldwide “human rights boom” of the 1970s’.[1]

[1] Barbara Keys, Reclaiming American Virtue: The Human Rights Revolution of the 1970s, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2014) from Sarah

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