Two generations ago, in 1964, Julie Andrews starred in the memorable Hollywood production: The Americanization of Emily, the story of a World War II bride experiencing America with the American husband she married in Britain.
Ten years later, in August of 1974, following the dastardly Turkish invasion of Cyprus in mid-and late-July, began the Hellenization of the man who eventually became United States Vice President Joe Biden.
Immediately after the Turkish invasion that violated international law in mid-July, then-Archbishop Iakovos called for the Greek Orthodox Community of our nation to mobilize against the humanitarian disaster that the Turks were creating on Aphrodite's lovely island.
On the next Wednesday morning, after Wilmington Delaware’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Parish Council’s emergency meeting the night before, I received a telephone call from our then-priest, the Reverend Stamatios Ganiaris, having been asked by the Council’s President to contact me and inform me that the Council had appointed me to be the leader of our Cyprus effort, since I was a veteran United States Air Force intelligence officer and now in the field of international education. Graciously, I refused due to my heavy work schedule at the University, both in my capacity as a director and in my teaching. The very next Wednesday, I received a similar call, practically demanding that I accept. Again I refused, for the same reasons.
On the third Wednesday, by then early August, Father Ganiaris showed up in my office, practically ordering me to accept. After repeatedly refusing his “I won’t leave until you accept” threat, I decided on a diplomatic solution to end the issue. I informed him that if he would get me Mr. Basil Savopoulos, a past President of the Parish Council to be my ‘assistant,’ I would accept. The reason for my offer was that Basil Savopoulos was – and is – a devout Greek Orthodox Christian with no interest whatsoever in politics, which he abhorred. To my shocking surprise, however, Father Ganiaris telephoned me that same afternoon informing me that Basil was “honored and delighted” to be my assistant. The reason for his immediate acceptance was that his father and mother were refugees from the Greek holocaust of the ‘Great Catastrophe of Smyrna’ in 1922, a background of which I was unaware.
Under the circumstance of having given my word, I accepted.
Within the week, we established the United Hellenic American Action Societies (UHAAS) of Delaware, encompassing individuals from our Community in general, the Order of AHEPA, the Hellenic University Club of Wilmington, and the Young-at-Heart senior citizens group.
By the next week, we had secured appointments, in order, with our Congressional Representative Pete du Pont, and U.S. Senators Bill Roth and Joe Biden, the latter a rookie Senator a year-and-a-half in office.
Our meeting with Congressman du Pont was useful and quick, for he had already joined the coalition to stop aid to Turkey, under the direct leadership of then-Congressman Benjamin Rosenthal. Likewise, we experienced quick and positive action from Senator Bill Roth, for he had already sided with the call for cutting off aid to Turkey.
On an early Monday afternoon just past mid-August, thirteen of us met with Senator Biden in his office at the Federal Building in Wilmington. Since he already knew what the meeting was to be about, he had requested and received information from the U.S. Department of State. Also – and very significant – he was a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, a position he held throughout his 36 years in the U.S. Senate. Thus, as we proceeded in our discussion, Senator Biden kept bringing up details that were both contrary to ours and wrong. It soon became clearly evident to us that the State Department had fed him with its own twisted, pro-Turkish objectives. Let us be reminded that Dr. Henry Kissinger was the Secretary of State at the time, and Turkey was his darling.
At one point, when frustration set in due to the wrong information given to us, I, being our group’s designated speaker, and quite upset, requested that the Senator refrain from opposing us and just listen to our issues. I asked if he would bring into the room his secretary to take ‘shorthand’ notes of what I would say “for just ten minutes,” at which time we would depart. I asked that he check all our details and that “if we are wrong, never speak to us again; if we are right, you decide what to do next.” He agreed.
We proceeded explaining to him that Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus was an illegal act, contrary to the United Nations and the NATO charters, the Treaty of Guarantee that was part of the establishment of Cyprus’ independence, and U.S. laws prohibiting the use of American military weapons and equipment other than for defensive purposes. Turkey was in violation of all of them, and the United States should act accordingly.
Three days later, on Thursday afternoon, Basil Savopoulos received a telephone call from Vince d’ Anna, one of Senator Biden’s staff, that the Senator would like to meet with Basil and me in his office the next morning, Friday, at 9:00 o’clock. We were there on time, with coffee and donuts available, and with seven members of his staff.
At about 9:05, Senator Biden walked in, extended his hand to greet us, saying – in what we became used to later as the usual Biden lingo: “You guys were completely right, and if someday the Greeks beat the hell out of the Turks they’ll be right.”
This special meeting lasted until 11:55, when the Senator was informed by his staff that is was time to go to a scheduled luncheon.
It is now very important to review what took place during the almost three hours we were together, which was the beginning of solidifying our Community’s position on the Cyprus tragedy and the ‘Hellenization of Joe Biden.’
Our position was to stress the value and reliability of Cyprus and Greece to U.S. regional interests and to Western defense, and that America’s values were being compromised in disregarding Turkey’s invasion and occupation of one of America’s best friends, an act accomplished with the illegal use of American military equipment and weapons provided to Turkey solely for defensive purposes.
In introducing the topic, we briefly brought forth the Cypriot historical background, emphasizing that Cyprus was an integral part of the Hellenic world which provided the West with its heritage, and that during the two world wars of the Twentieth Century, Cypriots of Greek ancestry had joined the British forces fighting against the Central Powers of World War I and the Axis Powers of World War II.
We then proceeded to discuss the current at-the-time values, and the importance of Cyprus as a geopolitical location and ‘associate’ of the United States, highlighting the value of facilities such as CIA-operated monitoring stations and the British sovereign base areas: the Royal Air Force Base at Akrotiri and the Army Base at Dhekelia, which comprise 99 square miles. In addition to the two bases, there are numerous auxiliary facilities throughout the country. The most important is the Radar Base at the Troodos Mountains. The radar and the auxiliary facilities are not part of the bases. They belong to the Republic. So does the water supply to the bases, and the roads and the telecommunications linking them, as well as the territorial sea that surrounds them. In other words, only in a friendly Cypriot environment can these bases function. In a hostile Cyprus they can be neutralized.
Determining that the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and its subsequent occupation of 37% of Cypriot territory were internationally-illegal actions and detrimental to United States national interests, Senator Biden pledged to seek justice for Cyprus by the removal of Turkish forces and respect of and for Cypriot territorial integrity. In the Fall of 1974, he joined the critics of erroneous American foreign policy toward Cyprus and, along with Senator Bill Roth and Congressman Pete du Pont, all of Delaware, voted for the American embargo on military aid to Turkey, for the Turkish illegal invasion was accomplished with American weapons provided to Turkey strictly for defensive purposes, per the U.S.-Turkey bilateral agreements.
We Delawareans consider it of major significance that in all 45 years of the Cyprus issue, all three our elected congressional leaders have voted with us on every issue legislated. Delaware is the only State in our Union that can claim this success.
Then-Senator Biden carried out his pledge in support of Cyprus throughout his senatorial career, and as Vice President of our United States, always considering Cyprus both a friend and of major significance to America’s national interests.
From then on, the relationship of our Community and the then-Senator grew and solidified. We often called and were often called to meet to discuss issues and how to approach them. We visited with him in his office in Delaware and in Washington, and were invited to his house on several occasions.
In late 1974, after the Turkish Embargo was enacted under the intense lobbying efforts of the American Hellenic Institute Public Affairs Committee (AHIPAC) – now the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) – in Washington, our UHAAS of Delaware organization converted to AHIPAC, and is today’s AHI-Delaware Chapter.
In 1983 I was ‘drafted’ to become AHIPAC’s National Chairman, a position to which I was elected in four two-year consecutive terms. This increased our communications with Senator Biden even more, as our Washington staff was in constant contact with the Senator’s staff. Also, our very close association with him and his staff brought us even closer with our two Greek-American senators and very close colleagues of our Senator, Paul Sarbanes and Paul Tsongas, all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The three made a formidable team on Senate foreign relations legislative matters.
In the November 2008 national elections, Joe Biden was on the winning team with then-Senator Barack Obama. In January 2009, he became Vice President Joe Biden, and his stand of justice for Cyprus and security for Greece remained intact.
On his official trip to Turkey, Vice President Biden visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate at the Phanar on December 3, 2011, being the first U.S. Vice President ever to do so.
In May 2014, Vice President Biden visited Cyprus, becoming “the most senior U.S. official to visit Cyprus in more than 50 years.” Upon arrival, he expressed that “I wanted to come to Cyprus to primarily underscore the value the United States attaches to our growing cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus. This relationship is a genuine strategic partnership which holds great promise.”
On October 21, 2015, a day that will live in deep disappointment to the Greek-American Community, Vice President Joseph R. Biden unfortunately ended his quest for President of the United States, feeling that the untimely loss of his son, Beau, four months before from cancer, had depleted him of strength for the long campaign road. With the Republicans in disarray over trying to find a candidate who might fit their diverse desires and with Donald Trump confusing the issue even more, with Hillary Clinton deservedly and correctly losing trust day-by-day, and with Bernie Sanders advocating a political path even farther left than Barack Obama, Joe Biden was the only viable candidate near the center of the political spectrum. He is experienced in the governing process as a past Vice President, has solid knowledge of domestic issues and possesses enormous expertise on foreign policy matters from 36 years as Senator member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and eight years as Vice President.
Those of us who know Joe Biden for over four decades are well aware of his down-to-earth personality, his honesty, his truthfulness, his commitment, his patriotism, and his objectives to defend and expand America’s best national interests, in bilateral terms: what’s good for us and what’s good for them – for if the positive is one-sided it becomes a negative and thereby inoperative and unproductive.
We Hellene Americans, devoted citizens to our nation by birth or by choice, and proud of our glorious Hellenic heritage – the Beacon of Western Civilization – would have seriously supported Joe Biden’s candidacy in 2016. “Making America Great Again” requires determination, knowledge, expertise, and faithfulness to our society, not merely words of mere campaign rhetoric. In considering Joe Biden’s advantages for presidential consideration, one would have gained much perspective from a good look at his 2007 book: Promises to Keep.
When we reached 2020 our nation was in the midst of its next national election. A renewed spirit had engulfed America, and a record number of Democrats were vying for the nomination of their Party. Because, however, the majority of the candidates were promoting ideas and plans contrary to our nation’s established standards, Joe Biden decided to enter the race as his Party’s Centrist.
For us Greek Americans, it is a renewed opportunity for our issues “to see the light of the day again.” Recently, when the University of Delaware – the Vice President’s alma mater – elevated its program of Public Policy to The Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Administration and Public Policy, under the University’s President, Dr. Dennis Assanis, Joe Biden invited Father Alexander Karloutsos of the Archdiocese to be present at the day-long ceremony. In the several minutes that I had alone with him, Joe Biden repeated the expression he has made several times: “You all educated me.”
For those Greek-Americans deciding whether to support a Democrat for President of our nation, my plea is to take a good look at Joe Biden’s offerings, and his views and support of our American issues and positions regarding and affecting Greece and Cyprus. It is high time for Greece and Cyprus to receive the proper care and attention required as truly faithful and reliable allies and friends of the United States.