WASHINGTON, D.C. – Former US Ambassador Robert V. Keeley, who spoke out against America’s backing of the military junta, has died at 85.
The Washington Post reported that the outspoken Keeley passed away Jan. 9 at an assisted living center after decades of serving his country in a number of posts, including as Ambassador to Mauritius and Zimbabwe before his tenure in Athens from 1985-89.
The cause was an apparent stroke, said his brother, Edmund Keeley.
He was elevated to the top post in Athens despite, as a political officer in Athens at the time, to have disagreed with the US’ policy of supporting the right-wing Colonels and he went so far as to openly maintain contacts with pro-democracy groups opposed to the junta that ruled from 1967 to 1974.
At one dinner party, he later told The Washington Post, he exploded in fury at a woman who insisted the ruling colonels were not torturing anyone. Mr. Keeley said he jumped from his chair, grabbed the woman’s hair and told her, “This is what they are doing.”
He added that his career foundered for the next seven years. “There is no question in my mind that my outspokenness was not appreciated,” he said.
Despite his occasional undiplomatic stances, he maintained a high visibility in the Foreign Service for decades. He became fluent in Greek and French.
After retiring from the Foreign Service in 1989, he served as President of the Middle East Institute in Washington and as board chairman of the Council for the National Interest Foundation, a group that tries to counter what it considers a pro-Israeli tilt in foreign affairs.
He was a Past President of the American Foreign Service Association and received its prestigious Christian Herter Award.
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