Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Unknown Greek-American CIA Agent In "Charlie Wilson's War" That Would Have Changed Modern Greek History

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Most of you have probably read and/or watched the movie "Charlie Wilson's War". The controversial movie, which starred Tom Hanks recounts the true story of US Congressman Charlie Wilson who partnered with CIA operative Gust Avrakotos to launch Operation Cyclone, a program to organize and support the Afghan mujaheddin during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. But did you know that there was a Greek link in this story?

Interestingly Gustav Lascaris "Gust" Avrakotos (January 14, 1938 – December 1, 2005) was a Greek-American case officer and Afghan Task Force Chief for the United States Central Intelligence Agency. He was actually unknown to the public until the 2003 novel "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History, by George Crile".

But there are other points of interest in this book that if materialised at the time would have altered modern Greek history as we know it. Avrakotos, who was the son of a Greek American soft drink manufacturer from the island of Limnos, was actually a "link" between the CIA and Greek Secret Service (KYP) and according to Wikipedia was also the man who was in direct contact with dictator Georgios Papadopoulos and other military men in the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. In fact he also played a role in approving the Greek Junta coup against Cyprus President Makarios and the subsequent Turkish invasion.

Most importantly, and in accordance with the book, this Greek-American CIA officer even unofficially advised his associates in the Junta to assassinate Andreas Papandreou, to not allow Papandreou to leave the country but rather "shoot the motherf**cker" because at some point Papandreou will make his comeback and destroy everything that you have built in Greece! (Oh how right he was.... )

Here are some excerpts from the book:
"On April 21, 1967, [Avrakotos] got one of those breaks that can make a career, when a military junta seized power in Athens and suspended democratic and constitutional government. Liberals in the United States and elsewhere were outraged, but overnight 'the Colonels' coup' turned Avrakotos into one of the CIA's indispensable, frontline players ... Avrakotos understood that the colonels had expected the United States to thank them, however discreetly, for preventing the anti-American candidate, Andreas Papandreou, from taking power [because] the polls had indicated that Papandreou would win the election..."
This is what Crile calls a "big career break" for Avrakotos: being CIA enforcer in Athens just when Phalangist colonels seized power to prevent a Leftist from winning a fair election. Avrakotos's friends the colonels arrested Papandreou, who had taught in America for years and had, inconveniently for the Junta, an American passport. The colonels asked Avrakotos what to do with Papandreou:
"...the [US] embassy sent Avrakotos to [tell] the Junta to permit [Papandreou] to leave the country. 'That's the official position. You should let him go,' [Avrakotos] told the colonels. 'But unofficially, as your friend, my advice is to shoot the motherfucker because he's going to come back to haunt you.' This was vintage Aliquippa [PA, the small town where Avrakotos grew up] wisdom [!] and just the right kind of statement made at just the right moment to cement a true conspirators' friendship."
So Avrakotos' "wisdom" was to advise the Junta to kill Andreas Papandreou, and what's more the author praises the wonderful timing of Avrakotos' suggestion calling it "just the right kind of statement made at just the right moment..."
In a bio on his life that was featured at the weekend on newsbomb, we read that one of the most difficult moments in Avrakotos' career was when CIA Chief Richard Wells was assassinated (December 23, 1975) by the notorious "November 17" terrorist organization. At the time, he had asked his superiors in America to give him the "green light" to find the killers and make them pay but according to newsbomb.. this request was rejected.

Interestingly, after Athens, Avrakotos was unable to find another mission. In fact the CIA considered him too raw and believed that the profile of a Greek immigrant did not fit with the Anglo-Saxon way of their sophisticated agency. Having survived a large clearing in the late '70s, Avrakotos eventually found a position with the CIA in Beirut, where he succeeded in all his missions and made a great name for himself.

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