'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Powell Killer Go Home 

Despite the rosy spin, there's been a tense atmosphere throughout these Olympic games. The level of unanimity right now between the nations of the world in condemnation of the foreign policy of the United States is probably unparalleled in history. Add to that Greece's deep tradition of populist leftism, and it's a wonder that these games weren't plagued with more than a vague tension. But tension there was, and it resulted mostly in the American teams that could most easily be conflated with the USA's international bully persona -- the men's basketball team and the men's volleyball team -- getting soundly booed; as one American tourist told Reuters, "The Greeks boo us. I don't mind them cheering their own team, but they boo us. I went to the basketball game between the US and Puerto Rico and they booed us so much that I thought I wanted to rip up my €3,000 worth of tickets and go home."

However, the air of anti-Americanism didn't result in much more than boos and whistles until it was announced last Monday that Colin Powell would be attending the games' closing ceremony. As early as Wednesday quotes like the following from Greek activist Yiannis Sifakakis were making the their way into AP stories

[Colin Powell] is a hawk, a war criminal and an arch murderer. .. We do not want him here, [ ... ] Colin Powell is coming here while the Americans are killing people in Iraq.

and, by Friday, the day before Powell was to arrive, thousands had taken to the streets in Athens. Greek communists hung a huge banner across one of the sides of Acropolis hill which read "Powell killer go home. Don't forget that civilians are being slaughtered in Najaf and a wall is being built in Palestine." The street protests followed the standard narrative the mainstream media likes to tell about successful demonstrations: they started out peaceful but then "turned into a riot." In this case, the spark that led to violence was the protesters' decision to demonstrate in front of the American embassy which would have been a huge embarrassment for Greece. The cops were sent in, tear gas was used, three were injured -- the whole shebang. Here's a picture of the peaceful phase of Friday's protests

and here's the riot phase

Anyway, the Greek leftists were successful. Colin Powell is not going anywhere near Athens citing other "urgent responsibilities" ... uh, yeah ... like not creating a negative photo-op for the boy king.

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