Robert Keeley was a Foreign Service officer stationed in Greece during one of the most tumultuous events in the country’s history, the so-called Colonels’ coup of April 21, 1967. This is his insider’s account of how U.S. policy was formulated, debated, and implemented from 1966 to 1969, the critical years directly before and after the coup.
A major event in the history of the Cold War, the coup ushered in a seven-year period of military rule in Greece. In its wake, some eight thousand people affiliated with the Communist Party were rounded up, and Greece became yet another country where the fear of Communism led the United States into alliance with a repressive right-wing authoritarian regime. In military coups in some other countries, it is known that the CIA and other agencies of the U.S. government played an active role in encouraging and facilitating the takeover. The Colonels’ coup, however, came as a surprise to the United States (which was expecting a Generals’ coup instead). Yet the U.S. government accepted it after the fact, despite internal disputes within policymaking circles about the wisdom of accommodating the upstart Papadopoulos regime. Keeley was among those dissenters.