A little over a year ago, Athens and several other cities in Greece were in flames. The trigger for that unprecedented wave of violence was the shooting death of a high school student by police. Within minutes of the shooting, throngs of anarchists, hooded street thugs, and looters, Greek as well as foreign, intermingled with students of all levels and other "discontented" youth, some of whom were as young as twelve (!) had seized the streets and begun burning, plundering, and laying waste across businesses, large and small, banks, public buildings, and university campuses.
The government at the time, paralyzed by the obsessions that have emasculated Greek politicians for decades, gave orders to the police to remain idle and leave the riots to run their apocalyptic course for the fear of casualties among the attackers. As a result, the Greek economy was dealt an enormous blow that cost some EUR 1.5 billion in physical damage and lost business; Greece's reputation abroad was again dragged through the gutter; and the government's internal "security" policy was demonstrated to be nothing but sorry tatters, buttressed with the usual words of cost-free hollow bravado by inept political appointees playing "minister."
The newly arrived socialist government, victor of the October 4, 2009 elections, has changed little, if anything, in this dangerous situation. While it would be too much to expect a radical change of direction, in such sensitive areas as counter-crime policy and the anti-terrorist effort, in a matter of weeks, it isn't too much to ask for fewer words and more action. But we of course understand that our newly arrived governors aren't free of the crippling limitations bred by our collective warped sense of "democracy." We are aware, for example, that
-- no "socialist" worth his/her salt (just like no 'conservative' before them) will go after violent street protesters with the sole aim to suppress, arrest, prosecute, and punish all those responsible for inflicting damage and endangering life with complete abandon;
-- no "democratic" Greek government will augment, sustain, and promote its law enforcement and intelligence services to focus in earnest on "political violence" with the objective of finding and neutralizing the terrorists and criminal anarchists responsible for exploding bombs in the middle of densely populated areas and shooting police dead;
-- no "democratic" Greek government will cease being thankful that our domestic breed of terrorists seems "committed" to avoiding mass casualties and expressing its relief in public every time another bomb explodes in our midst;
-- and no "democratic" Greek government will ever tackle head-on the smaller parties of the Left, whose sole expressed purpose of existence is to promote civil unrest and mass disobedience and act as public apologists for all violent "social fighters" and "people's militants" (read: terrorists);
In the few short months since the last elections, we have been treated to a torrent of declarations concerning the fight against crime and the "commitment" of the newly arrived governors "not to allow ever again" a repeat of the December 2008 riots in addition to suppressing exploding "common crime."
The answer from the terrorists to this thinly-veiled bragging has been swift and spectacular. Aside from a drive-by shooting of a police station last October, with six police wounded, two of them seriously, more recently, and in less than a month, bombs have hit the buildings of Greece's largest insurance corporation and the government's secretariat for the press; and another bomb has exploded right in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the foot of the Greek parliament building and in the middle of the supposedly best guarded location in all of Athens -- with the terrorists thumbing their noses at the authorities, and promising more of the same, in a proclamation posted on a local, anarchist-sympathetic Web page, which is hosted on Greek state university computer servers!
As for "common crime," little has changed since the elections. Statistics published in the press continue to highlight the unstoppable expansion of violent offenses, the use of firearms in the commission of crimes which result in death or serious injury, and the skyrocketing role of imported foreign criminals in this burgeoning wave of criminal violence. In the latest outrage on January 16 in southern Athens, a gang armed with military automatic weapons ambushed a security company armored van, carrying cash, and shot its driver dead in a failed attempt to snatch the loot. These incidents are becoming horribly common in a country that, only a short twenty years ago, was, relatively speaking, one of the safest places on earth.
Against this background, it is starkly obvious that this country remains without a comprehensive, hard-nosed internal security strategy. The recent pronouncements and PR campaign do not constitute anything but hot air when the situation "on the ground" continues to deteriorate with mathematical precision. Much needs to be done. Much has been identified as in need of being done. Again, though, words predominate while deeds are in desperately short supply.
To go over the list of "must dos" and "must not dos" again would be a waste of time. The clock is ticking while those in charge are again flapping about, focused as they are on personal and government "image making." Such is their disheartening distance from the hard core of our internal security crisis that we have few other choices but to conclude that no substantive action is in the works while all the while the situation is escaping beyond our control.
With the economic crisis biting deep into incomes and longer term personal financial stability, Greece may soon face the added insurmountable challenge of widespread civil unrest, with swaths of the Greek population pushed into irreversible unemployment. The public prediction by the Labor minister the other day that Greece may have to face as many as one million unemployed by the end of 2010 is a harsh warning of what is most likely in store.
Who will then face this brewing calamity and how? With the country's law enforcement still plagued by low morale, low pay, low training, and even lower political support, who would form the first line of defense against a combination of rampant "common crime," terrorist bombers and shooters, and large-scale social discontent with whiffs of rebellion?
Those more familiar with similar crises know how short is the distance between "peace" and a huge fireball of violence. Our "leaders" learned nothing from December 2008 and have done even less in preparing to defeat a repetition of that near insurrection.
We thus stand between a rock and a hard place, with prayers in order.