Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ion Mihai Pacepa, former acting chief of Communist Romania’s espionage service. In 1987 he published Red Horizons (Regnery Gateway), reprinted in 24 countries. In 1999 Mr. Pacepa authored The Black Book of the Securitate, reportedly an all time bestseller in Romania. He is now finishing a book on the origins of current anti-Americanism.
Frontpage Magazine: Welcome to Frontpage Interview, Mr. Pacepa. Let’s begin. As a former Romanian spy chief who used to take direct orders from the Soviet KGB, you are obviously armed with a wealth of information. You have written about how the Soviets armed Hussein with WMDs, and also taught him how to eliminate any trace of them. Can you talk a bit about this and tell us its connection to the “missing WMDs” in Iraq today?
Pacepa: Contemporary political memory seems to be conveniently afflicted with some kind of Alzheimer's disease. Not long ago, every Western leader, starting with President Clinton, fumed against Saddam’s WMD. Now almost no one remembers that after General Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law, defected to Jordan in 1995, he helped us find “more than one hundred metal trunks and boxes” containing documentation “dealing with all categories of weapons, including nuclear.” He also aided UNSCOM to fish out of the Tigris River high-grade missile components prohibited to Iraq. That was exactly what my old Soviet-made “Sãrindar” plan stated he should do in case of emergency: destroy the weapons, hide the equipment, and preserve the documentation. No wonder Saddam hastened to lure Kamel back to Iraq, where three days later he was killed together with over 40 of his relatives in what the Baghdad official press described as a “spontaneous administration of tribal justice.” Once that was done, Saddam slammed the door shut to any UNSCOM inspection.
FP: So was any Sãrindar plan activated?
Pacepa: Certainly. The minimal version of the Sãrindar plan I made for Libya’s Gaddafi. Soon after I was granted political asylum in the US, Gaddafi staged a fire at the secret chemical weapons facility I knew about (the cellar underneath the Rabta chemical complex). To be sure the CIA satellites would notice that fire and cross that target off its list, he created a huge cloud of black smoke by burning truckloads of tires and painting scorch marks on the facility. That was written in the Sãrindar plan. To be on the safe side, Gaddafi also built a second production facility, this time placed some 100 feet underground in the hollowed-out Tarhunah Mountain, south of Tripoli. That was not in the Sãrindar plan.
FP: It is undeniable, therefore, that Saddam had WMDs, right?
Pacepa: In the early 1970s, the Kremlin established a “socialist division of labor” for persuading the governments of Iraq and Libya to join the terrorist war against the US. KGB chairman Yury Andropov (who would later become the leader of the Soviet Union), told me that either of those two countries could inflict more damage on the Americans than could the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof group and all other terrorist organizations taken together. The governments of those Arab countries, Andropov explained, not only had inexhaustible financial resources (read: oil), but they also had huge intelligence services that were being run by “our razvedka advisers” and could extend their tentacles to every corner of the earth. There was one major danger, though: by raising terrorism to the state level we risked American reprisal. Washington would never dispatch its airplanes and rockets to exterminate the Baader-Meinhof, but it might well deploy them to destroy a terrorist state. We therefore were also tasked to provide those countries secretly with weapons of mass destruction, because Andropov concluded that the Yankees would never attack a country that could retaliate with such deadly weapons.
Libya was Romania’s main client in that socialist division of labor, because of Ceausescu’s close association with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Moscow kept Iraq. Andropov told me that, if our Iraq and Libyan experiment proved successful, the same strategy would be extended to Syria. Recently, Libya’s Gaddafi admitted to having WMD, and the CIA inspectors found them. Why should we believe that the almighty Soviet Union, which had proliferated WMD all over the world, was not able to do the same thing in Iraq? Every piece of armament Iraq had came from the former Soviet Union—from the Katyusha launchers to the T72 tanks, BMP-1 fighting vehicles and MiG fighter planes. In the spring of 2002, just a couple of weeks after Russia took its place at the NATO table, President Putin and his ex-KGB officers who are now running Russia concluded another $40 billion trade deal with Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical regime in Iraq. That was not for grain or beans—Russia has to import them from elsewhere.
FP: Tell us about the PLO and its connection to the Soviet regime.
Pacepa: The PLO was dreamt up by the KGB, which had a penchant for “liberation” organizations. There was the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB in 1964 with help from Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Then there was the National Liberation Army of Colombia, created by the KGB in 1965 with help from Fidel Castro, which was soon deeply involved in kidnappings, hijackings, bombings and guerrilla warfare. In later years the KGB also created the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which carried out numerous bombing attacks on the “Palestinian territories” occupied by Israel, and the “Secret Army for Liberation of Armenia,” created by the KGB in 1975, which organized numerous bombing attacks against US airline offices in Western Europe.
In 1964 the first PLO Council, consisting of 422 Palestinian representatives handpicked by the KGB, approved the Palestinian National Charter—a document that had been drafted in Moscow. The Palestinian National Covenant and the Palestinian Constitution were also born in Moscow, with the help of Ahmed Shuqairy, a KGB influence agent who became the first PLO chairman. (During the Six-Day War he escaped from Jerusalem disguised as a woman, thereafter becoming such a symbol within the bloc intelligence community that one of its later influence operations—aimed at making the West consider Arafat a moderate—was given the codename “Shuqairy.”) This new PLO was headed by a Soviet-style Executive Committee made up of 15 members who, like their comrades in Moscow, also headed departments. As in Moscow—and Bucharest—the chairman of the Executive Committee became the general commander of the armed forces as well. The new PLO also had a General Assembly, which was the Soviet-inspired name given to all East European parliaments after World War II.
Based on another “socialist division of labor,” the Romanian espionage service (DIE) was responsible for providing the PLO with logistical support. Except for the arms, which were supplied by the KGB and the East German Stasi, everything else came from Bucharest. Even the PLO uniforms and the PLO stationery were manufactured in Romania free of charge, as a “comradely help.” During those years, two Romanian cargo planes filled with goodies for the PLO landed in Beirut every week, and were unloaded by Arafat’s men.
FP: You have discussed your personal knowledge of how Arafat was created and cultivated by the KGB and how the Soviets actually designed him to be the future leader of the PLO. Illuminate this picture for us please.
FP: Why has the American and Israeli leadership been deceived so long about Arafat’s criminal and terrorist activities?
Pacepa: Because Arafat is a master of deceit—and I unfortunately contributed to that. In March 1978, for instance, I secretly brought Arafat to Bucharest to involve him in a long-planned Soviet/Romanian disinformation plot. Its goal was to get the United States to establish diplomatic relations with him, by having him pretend to transform the terrorist PLO into a government-in-exile that was willing to renounce terrorism. Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev believed that newly elected US president Jimmy Carter would swallow the bait. Therefore, he told the Romanian dictator that conditions were ripe for introducing Arafat into the White House. Moscow gave Ceausescu the job because by 1978 my boss had become Washington’s most favored tyrant. “The only thing people in the West care about is our leaders,” the KGB chairman said, when he enrolled me in the effort of making Arafat popular in Washington. “The more they come to love them, the better they will like us.”
“But we are a revolution,” Arafat exploded, after Ceausescu explained what the Kremlin wanted from him. “We were born as a revolution, and we should remain an unfettered revolution.” Arafat expostulated that the Palestinians lacked the tradition, unity, and discipline to become a formal state. That statehood was only something for a future generation. That all governments, even Communist ones, were limited by laws and international agreements, and he was not willing to put any laws or other obstacles in the way of the Palestinian struggle to eradicate the state of Israel.
My former boss was able to persuade Arafat into tricking President Carter only by resorting to dialectical materialism, for both were fanatical Stalinists who knew their Marxism by heart. Ceausescu sympathetically agreed that “a war of terror is your only realistic weapon,” but he also told his guest that, if he would transform the PLO into a government-in-exile and would pretend to break with terrorism, the West would shower him with money and glory. “But you have to keep on pretending, over and over,” my boss emphasized.
Ceausescu pointed out that political influence, like dialectical materialism, was built upon the same basic tenet that quantitative accumulation generates qualitative transformation. Both work like cocaine, let’s say. If you sniff it once or twice, it may not change your life. If you use it day after day, though, it will make you into an addict, a different man. That’s the qualitative transformation. And in the shadow of your government-in-exile you can keep as many terrorist groups as you want, as long as they are not publicly connected with your name.
In April 1978 I accompanied Ceausescu to Washington, where he convinced President Jimmy Carter that he could persuade Arafat to transform his PLO into a law-abiding government-in-exile, if the United States would establish official relations with him. Thereupon, President Carter publicly hailed Ceausescu as a “great national and international leader” who had “taken on a role of leadership in the entire international community.”
Three months later I was granted political asylum by the United States, and Romania’s tyrant lost his dream of getting the Nobel Peace Prize. A quarter of a century later, however, Arafat remains in place as the PLO chairman and seems to still be on track with the Kremlin’s game of deception. In 1994, Arafat was granted the Nobel Peace Prize because he agreed to transform his terrorist organization into a kind of government-in-exile (the Palestinian Authority) and pretended, over and over, that he would abolish the articles in the 1964 PLO Covenant that call for the destruction of the state of Israel and would eradicate Palestinian terrorism. At the end of the 1998-99 Palestinian school year, however, all one hundred and fifty new schoolbooks used by Arafat’s Palestinian Authority described Israel as the “Zionist enemy” and equated Zionism with Nazism. Two years after the Oslo Accords were signed, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists rose by 73% compared to the two year period preceding the agreement.
FP: There simply can’t be any kind of peace in the Middle East with Arafat at the helm. What advice would you give to American and Israeli diplomats now?
Pacepa: To expose Arafat’s lies and condemn his bloody terrorism, but to avoid being implicated in physical reprisals against him—that would certainly make him a hero with the Palestinians. I strongly suggest the Ceausescu solution. In November 1989, when he was loudly reelected president of Romania, Ceausescu was as popular there as Arafat is now with the Palestinians. A month later, however, Ceausescu was tried for genocide by his own people and executed by his own people. From one day to the next Ceausescu became the symbol of tyranny. Romania turned into a free country, and twelve years later it was invited to join NATO.
FP: Tell us a bit about what you think about the state of the KGB in Russia today. Some say it is experiencing a resurrection. Is this true?
Pacepa: It certainly is. In the last dozen years, Russia has been transformed for the better in unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, that country has a long way to go until it will tear down the legacy of Soviet Communism. As of June 2003, some 6,000 former KGB officers were reportedly holding important positions in Russia’s central and regional governments. Three months later, nearly half of the top governmental positions were also held by former KGB. It is like putting the old, supposedly defeated Gestapo in charge of rebuilding Germany.
Since the fall of Communism the Russians have been faced with an indigenous form of capitalism run by old Communist bureaucrats, speculators and ruthless mafiosi that has widened social inequities and created a decline in industrial production. Therefore, after a period of upheaval, the Russians have gradually—and perhaps thankfully—slipped back into their historical form of government, the traditional Russian samoderzhaviye (autocracy) traceable to the 14th century’s Ivan the Terrible, in which a feudal lord ruled the country with the help of his personal political police. Good or bad, the historically Russian political police may appear to most people in that country as their only defense against the rapacity of the new capitalists at home and the greediness of grasping foreign neighbors.
Russia will never return to Communism—too many Russians perished at the hands of that heresy. But it seems that Russia will not truly turn westward either, at least not under this generation. If history—including that of the last 14 years—is any guide, the Russians, who are now enjoying their regained nationalism, will struggle to rebuild a kind of an Old Russian Empire by inspiring themselves from old Russian traditions and by using old Russian ways and means.
FP: So is Russia a friend or a foe of the United States in the present international environment?
Pacepa: After the Berlin Wall was torn down, I hurried over there to have a look around. The dreaded East German political police was abolished from one day to the next, and its archives were opened to the public. One year later, the Stasi’s outrageous activity was laid bare in a large, impressive museum of freedom. A member of the Berlin parliament told me that the Germans wanted to provide the world with the certitude that the past would never be repeated. To be on the safe side, the German government sold off all the Stasi’s buildings to private companies.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the new rulers in the Kremlin did not open the archives of the Soviet Union’s political police, but in 1992 they did create their own kind of KGB museum in Moscow, in a dreary gray building behind the Lubyanka. The upper floors remain KGB offices, but the rooms on the ground floor are used for conferences and as a club for retired KGB officers—complete with disco.
On September 11, 2002, numerous former KGB officers gathered at the KGB museum. They had not congregated in order to sympathize with us on the date of our national tragedy, but to celebrate the 125th birthday of Feliks Dzerzhinsky—the man who created one of the most criminal institutions in contemporary history. A few days later, Moscow’s mayor, Yury Lushkov, one of Russia’s most influential politicians, reversed his previous opposition and now said he wanted to restore Dzerzhinsky’s bronze statue to its former place of honor on Lubyanka Square. Just before that, the new Russian president ordered that the statue of Yury Andropov be reinstated at the Lubyanka, from where it had been removed after the KGB coup in 1991. Andropov is indeed the only other KGB officer to have been enthroned in the Kremlin, and it was therefore normal for Putin to pay homage to him. For all his life, Andropov indoctrinated his subordinates to believe that American Imperialism was the main enemy of their country. Now these subordinates are running Russia. It may take another generation until the visceral hatred for the US cultivated by Andropov disappears.
FP: How does Russia fit in the War on Terror? Isn’t there at least a common interest in fighting Islamic terrorism?
Pacepa: September 11, 2001 was directly rooted in a joint Soviet/Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operation conceived in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day Arab-Israeli War. The object of this joint operation was to repair Moscow's prestige by turning the Islamic world against Israel and by creating a rabid and violent hatred for its main supporter, the United States. The strategy was to portray the US, this land of freedom, as a Nazi-style "imperial-Zionist country" financed by Jewish money and run by a rapacious "Council of the Elders of Zion" (the Kremlin's epithet for the US Congress), the aim of which was allegedly to transform the rest of the world into a Jewish fiefdom. In other words, the heart of the joint plan was to convert the historical Arab and Islamic hatred of the Jews into a new hatred of the United States. We threw many millions of dollars at this gigantic task, which involved whole armies of intelligence officers.
In the late 1960s, a new element was added to the Soviet/PLO war against Israel and American imperial-Zionism: international terrorism. Before 1969 came to an end, the KGB's Thirteenth Department-known in our intelligence jargon as the Department for Wet Affairs, wet being a euphemism for bloody-invented airplane hijacking. The KGB constantly lectured at us that no one within the
American/Zionist sphere of influence should feel safe anymore. The hijacked airplane became an instrument of Soviet foreign policy-and eventually the weapon of choice for September 11, 2001.
During those years of intensive airplane hijackings, I became amazed at the almost identical pride both Arafat and KGB General Sakharovsky exhibited over their prowess as terrorists. “I invented the hijacking of [passenger] airplanes,” Arafat bragged to me in the early 1970s, when I first met him. A few months later I met with Sakharovsky at his Lubyanka office. He pointed to the red flags pinned onto a world map hanging on his wall. “Look at that,” he said. Each flag represented a plane that had been downed. “Airplane hijacking is my own invention,” he boasted.
Sakharovsky’s subordinates are now reigning in the Kremlin. Until they fully disclose their involvement in creating anti-American terrorism and condemn Arafat’s terrorism, there is no reason to believe they have changed.
FP: Mr. Pacepa. thank you. We are out of time. It was a great honor to speak with you. I hope you will return and join us again.
Pacepa: It was a great pleasure to be with you, and I would be delighted to return.
I welcome all of our readers to get in touch with me if they have a good idea/contact for a guest for Frontpage Interview. Email me at email@example.com.