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Thursday, 22 January 2015

On Romiosyni and the CIA

I've been reading George Tenet's memoir "At the Center of the Storm, My Years at the CIA" (Kindle Edition)

About George Tenet (Wikipedia).

George Tenet was Director of Central Intelligence with the CIA, from 1997 to 2004.

I found his comments on his Greek roots particularly interesting:

"Growing up in the New York City borough of Queens, the son of working-class immigrants, I never would have imagined I would find myself in such a position...Only in the United States of America can the son of immigrants be given such a privilege. I will always be grateful that John and Evangelia Tenet left their villages in Greece to give me that chance".

He writes candidly and proudly about the influence of his parents and of his admiration for them both. His father left Greece at the age of eleven. When he reached the USA, just before the Great Depression, he opened a diner. At home the conversation "flowed freely from Greek to English".

His mother fled from what is now Southern Albania; she escaped aboard a British submarine after the War. George's father had been born in a nearby village. They met and married in Greece in 1952 and Evangelia soon joined him in New York.

Their son was to become the Director of the CIA. He drew on his Mediterranean background in his intelligence work; he believes it gave him his special diplomatic style, which was successful with Georgians and Palestinians alike.

Meeting Palestinian intelligence and security officers,, he writes, "I struck up warm personal relations with them all. Perhaps it was my Greek ancestry, but I was used to people speaking emotionally, with lots of arm-waving and raised voices".

When he met Arafat, "after dinner I happened to mention that I was Greek Orthodox, and with that news Arafat warmed up even more. Apparently he had some affinity with the Greeks"

Some parts of the book might not be out of place in the long-awaited report of the Chilcot Inquiry.

As the New York Times reviewer wrote, the book is "intermittently fascinating". It is still relevant.

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