No Stukas, no stormtroopers, just a few strokes of the pen! Patrick Cockburn reports on the significance of Greece’s final surrender to the German-led blitzkrieg of bankers that has ravaged the cradle of democracy:
Greeks [signed a deal] with the Eurozone leaders [on Tuesday] that will cede much of their country’s independence. Greece will become an economic – and to a large extent a political – colony of Germany and its allies. Berlin will have a say in everything from the choice of prime minister to the types of medicines dispensed by pharmacies.
In return for €230bn, made up of €130bn in fresh loans and €100bn in write-downs on privately held Greek government bonds, Greece is relieved from its immediate debt burden. But the money does not go to the Greek government, still less to the Greek people. It simply leaves them to live off the money they earn.
After noting the elements of Greek culpability in the making of this morass, Cockburn goes on (italics added):
But there are clearly other motives behind the radical changes now being imposed on Greece. “It is like undiluted Thatcherism forced on the country in a few years,” said one observer in Athens. For instance, the minimum wage is to be reduced by 22 per cent to €522 a month as part of the latest austerity round. The Troika believes this will increase employment, but Greek economists disagree, saying that Chinese or Bulgarian workers will always be paid less. Greeks will not get jobs for the same reason that the Greek merchant navy employs Filipinos below the level of captain and chief engineer. Cutting the pay of poorly paid state employees will also do little for Greece except reduce consumption and increase misery.
…on the back of the austerity program rides a neo-liberal vision of how the Greek economy and society should be run. It sounds and looks very much like what was applied in Russia under Boris Yeltsin after 1992. There will be widespread privatizations; cuts in social security, pensions and state health provision; and wholesale deregulation. Many on the right welcome these reforms. Vagelis Agapitos, a financial consultant in Athens, looks forward to the day when houses, hotels, wind farms and fish farms can be built without any troubling regulations or permits.
Archaeological surveys would be dropped.
Mistah Pericles — he dead.
UPDATE: Cockburn follows up with a report on one of the significant factors behind Greece’s huge national debt: the private profits of the masters of war.
While most Greeks are critical of the reforms on which the troika of the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are insisting, many also feel that Germany and France share some of the blame for Greece’s overspending.
Over much of the past decade, Greece – which has a population of 11 million – has been one of the top five arms importers in the world.
Most of the vastly expensive weapons, including submarines, tanks and combat aircraft, were made in Germany, France and the United States.
The arms purchases were beyond Greece’s capacity to absorb, even before the financial crisis struck in 2009. Several hundred Leopard battle tanks were bought from Germany, but there was no money to pay for ammunition for their guns. Even in 2010, when the extent of the financial disaster was apparent, Greece bought 223 howitzers and a submarine from Germany at a cost of €403 million. …
“It is easily forgotten when Greece is criticized that there has been not very subtle pressure from France to buy six frigates,” says Thanos Dokos, director-general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. He adds that Greece was unwise to be the first buyer of new weapons systems, such as German submarines, that still had technical glitches.
… The justification for Greece’s large army – 156,000 men compared with 250,000 in the German army – is the perceived threat from Turkey, which requires the Greeks to keep some form of military parity with a nation with seven times as many people.
There has never been a debate in Parliament about the extent to which a Turkish threat really exists.
There is always a “justification” for war profiteering. There is always an “existential threat” that requires a vastly expensive war machine. (Whether the machinery actually works or not is of little importance — as long as the cash registers are ringing in good order.) And there is never any “debate” about these “threats”; actual facts would just spoil the chowdown at the trough.