As noted in previous despatches, Greece’s vast over-spending on arms was one of the compelling reasons for its debt crisis as well as the corrosive spread of corruption among the political classes.
We have been receiving a daily diet of reports on the impending trial of former Defence Minister Akis Tsochalzopoulos, a senior member of the late and unlamented Pasok (social democratic) government. He is charged with trousering two billion euros ($2.2 billion) in kickbacks and bribes for army, navy and air force contracts over a 10-year period.
In the latest instalment, the 73-year-old ex-minister has given a newspaper interview saying: “I remind you that I served Pasok for 30 years and knew a lot of citizens and politicians. Of course I knew the part they all played. We all judge and are judged. Today I’m not just being judged but I’ve been thrown into a modern-day Colosseum created for political reasons.
“My turn to judge will come. By exposing the whole truth, everyone will have to take on his share of the responsibility. In front of the judge, I will reveal the plot that has been hatched. The former leader of Pasok and representative of New Democracy Antonis Samaras have formed an unethical front against me with the aim of saving all their ministers and leaving me as the sole person responsible.”
When the ICAC starts its public inquiry into Operation Jasper in Sydney on November 1, is it too much to ask that one of the former NSW Labor Government ministers offers the same kind of conscience-clearing testimony that Tsochalzopoulos is proposing in Athens?
ISRAEL’S WAR PLANNING
When the Greek Government was putting down anti-bank and anti-austerity demonstrators with their customary violence, they ran out of CS gas and rubber bullets.
Never mind, one regional nation was ready to send emergency supplies. The helpful neighbour? Israel.
This week Athens city centre has been festooned with Israeli flags and the cops are out in force on every street corner due to the visit by President Shimon Peres. While his predecessor languishes in jail following his conviction on rape charges, Peres, an ex-Labor prime minister, has become the senior diplomat-at-large for the odious Likud coalition of “Bibi” Netanyahu.
There are two reasons for his Greek visit: to encourage the Hellenic government to increase its diplomatic hostility to neighbouring Turkey (which has become a major thorn in the side of Israel) and to ask for Greece’s support in the planned air attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.
The current view is that Israel won’t attack until after the US presidential election in November. The preliminary choreography for the attack has already started: the terrorist attack on Israelis in Bulgaria, the walk-out from the Israeli coalition by Kadima, the renewed “intelligence” reports that Iran is less than two years away from the capacity to make a nuclear weapon; the Israeli public is being whipped into a state of anti-Iranian fanaticism.
The Tel Aviv military has calculated that the predictable counter-attack by Iranian missiles – 80 per cent of which will be shot down by Israel’s electronic defence system – will result in 20,000 casualties which is considered “acceptable” and will be quickly overcome by a massive programme of new Jewish settlers.
That’s the plan anyway.
TRIBUTE TO BOB HUGHES
I have never subscribed to the concept of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, the name given to the Australian habit of chopping into the reputation of prominent people considered to be “up themselves”.
I thought the syndrome was over-exaggerated and, quite frankly, something of an urban – Sydney and Melbourne – myth.
That was until I witnessed the savaging of art critic Robert Hughes who has just died aged 74. It followed a head-on car crash on a lonely road in WA in 1999 as he was returning from a fishing excursion, a recreation he greatly enjoyed.
The mainstream newspapers, television and radio went after him with loathsome revenge: stories were invented, quotes were made up, anonymous sources from the legal and medical professions were stapled into lurid accounts of what purportedly happened.
On reflection, Hughes was made to pay for being too bright. He was too avant garde. He had been described as “the greatest art critic of the 20th century” and, horror of horrors, he had written a world acclaimed book, The Fatal Shore, giving a shocking account of the brutal and cruel convict origins of his homeland.
This was too much. The suburban-minded hated his success. Not only was he an “airy fairy” art lover but he was also a “self hater” (to adapt the Zionist term of abuse for anti-Zionist Jews).
I met Bob Hughes in London in the 1960s and again in Sydney in the 1980s. He was a formidable, passionate, adventurous and unique intellectual who made art and history accessible to millions of people with his brilliant television programmes and coruscating art reviews.
It is not necessary to know Hughes or even to like him. The point is to celebrate the great things he accomplished in his life.
Is it too much to ask that we offer the same generosity to other Aussie expats who have served us all with such huge distinction – Clive James and Germaine Greer to name but two?