Letter from Athens: “What Didn’t You Know; When Didn’t You Not Know?”

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

When it was revealed that Greece’s National Intelligence Service EYP – known by American intelligence as ‘The Sieve’ – had bugged the phone of PASOK-KINAL leader Nikos Androulakis, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he wasn’t informed about it.

It was a curious response as he had put EYP under his direct control after his New Democracy Captains of Industry in July, 2019 ousted the Looney Left SYRIZA, during whose reign 103 people died in wildfires that nearly destroyed the seaside village of Mati.

When 57 people died in a head-on collision between a passenger train and cargo train on the same track on the Athens-Thessaloniki route last month, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said Mitsotakis wasn’t informed about railway safety lapses.

Well, no one can now ask the premier, “what did you know and when did you know it?” because the answer apparently is nothing.

That’s not exactly what you want from a General leading you into battle or someone touting an Information Technology-driven government.

Mitsotakis came into power rightfully touted as a guy who could get things done, although maybe not, as George Carlin said, as much as Joe Pesci could with a baseball bat. But the Harvard-Stanford-educated business manager should have made a requirement of those reporting to him to keep him informed.

That includes former Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who quit on the spot after the tragedy when reports came that out the government – like those before it – hadn’t implemented safety measures.

Based on what Oikonomou said, we’re left to believe that Karamanlis didn’t tell Mitsotakis during Cabinet meetings or any other time that the railways weren’t safe, nor explain why, beyond blaming SYRIZA for its failures too.

That’s no way to run a railroad, and there was a lack of communication between ministries and prime ministers in the last two decades about negligence in the railways. That, combined with incompetence and corruption, proved a deadly recipe for disaster.

Inexplicably, Karamanlis was kept on the list of candidates for Parliament for upcoming elections, putting a big albatross around the neck of Mitsotakis, who hasn’t explained his trust in a man who didn’t keep him informed.

Greeks have a lot of experience with no-nothing governments and it’s a wonder that there wasn’t a minister named Sgt. Schultzopoulos at some point, but this isn’t funny, but fatal as we just found out.

As the old American dictum goes: lead, follow, or get out of the way because people want General Patton in a pinch, not someone looking for a clue. Shaking up a Cabinet means appointing people on merit, not musical chairs.

Mitsotakis, of course, isn’t alone in not being informed because former premier Alexis ‘I Know Nothing’ Tsipras surrounded himself with so many acolytes and yes-comrades he didn’t even know there were fires on July 23, 2018.

He didn’t direct firefighting aircraft to the scenes, nor the Navy or Coast Guard to pluck survivors out of the hot waters of Mati either.

Sadly – and predictably – once an acceptable period of mourning the dead, many of them college students as Greece often sacrifices its young, was over, both sides started the flame game of who was more irresponsible.

So what’s the campaign slogan going to be: “You killed 103 people and we only killed 57?” That’s not what Greeks want to hear, and the tragedy (why are we even still talking politics?) is now being used to score points.

What happened here was a variation of the Don Corleone Rule #1 that says, “Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking.” But DO tell the head of the family what you’re thinking or what’s wrong on your watch.

When I was a young Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and wet behind the ears I asked my First Sergeant, who was twice my age and with twice the experience, for advice and he said: “Be hard first and soft later because you can’t do it the other way around.”

The problem with Greek governments, as with most perhaps, is that political leaders don’t want to be hard: witness Tsipras bringing back into the fold the loose cannon Pavlos Polakis, a firebrand former deputy minister who was taken off the election ticket for threatening journalists and anyone in his way.

Greece needs a good man – or woman – in the imperfect storm it’s facing as people feel even more disenfranchised, although politicians can always count on fooling enough of the people enough of the time to get elected or stay in power.

Apologies aren’t going to bring back the dead, but they shouldn’t be used as campaign talking points, and if Mitsotakis wants to show that he’s the best man for the job, and a good man in a storm, he has to step up and never again say, “I didn’t know that” when the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

He’s bringing back investor confidence, but losing voter confidence, because when people seek answers, they don’t want to be told there aren’t any, or that their leader was “never informed.” Someone has to be held accountable or he will, and what we will have here is a failure.









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