Le roi est mort, vive le roi! Anti-Americanism is dead, long live anti-Americanism!
My native Romania has become the second former Soviet bloc country, after Russia, to revive the KGB slogan “America-is-the-enemy.”
Romania’s Supreme Court just declined to cancel a 1974 death sentence given by a two-bit communist Dracula named Ceausescu to an American citizen, Constantin Rauta. This American “traitor” committed the “crime” of “betraying” communist Romania’s political police and helping the U.S. defeat the Soviet evil.
Rauta is a reputable NASA scientist, who over the past thirty years worked on important U.S. aero-space projects such as HUBBLE, KOBE, EOS and LANDSAT. He was also involved in the development of various space defense systems, making a substantial contribution to the defense of the U.S. and her NATO’s allies.
Romania that still considers anti-communism a crime is a NATO country. On November 23, 2002, when the Romanians were officially informed that their country was seated at the NATO table, a rainbow appeared in the Bucharest sky. “God is smiling at us,” President George W. Bush told a cheering crowd. God was indeed smiling at Romania. From one day to the next that country, which had a dark history of Roman, Ottoman, Phanariot and Soviet occupations, became no longer vulnerable to foreign domination. American soldiers, now stationed in Romania, are committed to defending that country’s territorial integrity with their lives.
Romania’s justice system, however, seems unable to realize that the country has been admitted in NATO, though its masters—mostly former communist judges or officers of Ceausescu’s political police, the Securitate—are now chauffeured around in limousines imported from NATO countries. In the past five years, 6,284 people sentenced by the communists for helping, in one way or another, the U.S. and NATO to demolish the Soviet empire have asked to have their sentences canceled, but only three have succeeded—because of media pressure.[i] Over 500,000 patriots killed or terrorized by the communists are still not rehabilitated. At the same time, thousands of former Securitate officers and hundreds of thousands of its informants and collaborators who wrote the bloodiest era in Romania’s history are still shielded by a veil of secrecy.
How is it possible for communists to call the shots in a NATO country’s justice system twenty years after communism collapsed?
Professor Tom Gallagher, one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Romania, who teaches the evolution of post-communist states at Bradford University in the U.K., concluded that Romania had moved from rigid egalitarianism to super-inegalitarianism run by corrupt ex-communists who pay lip-service to democracy. This “new predatory elite” has “widened the gap between a parasitic state and a demoralized society.” In his view Romania is not yet a democracy, because “a functional democracy cannot be based on lies, denial and amnesia.” This is also the subject of his book Romania since Communism: The Denial of Democracy (Hurst, 2004), which concludes that “a Romania under the control of corrupt ex-communists threatens to be a dangerous force for regional instability.”
I’ll put it my own way. Today we know how a democracy could be changed into a communist tyranny, but we are still learning how to reverse that nightmare. My native country is a case in point. Post-Ceausescu Romania has been transformed in unprecedented, staggering ways, but it remains a police state—like Russia, where the KGB was a state within the state and now is the state.
In the 1970s I accompanied Romanian prime minister Ion Gheorghe Maurer on a visit to Pope Paul VI, who asked, if he could grant us one wish, what it would be. “Change our geographical position,” the prime minister said, half jokingly. Romania was, indeed, the only East European country entirely surrounded by communism, and that has affected its transition to democracy. Romania’s long borders with Russia, still a chronically ill police state (6,000 former KGB officers are members of the federal and local governments), have made it more difficult for Romania to rid herself of the Soviet-imposed political police state.
In 2005, Donald Rumsfeld was asked to comment about the persistence of the Securitate in today’s Romania. “I know nothing about the Securitate, and I don’t care about it!” That was a strategic mistake on the part of our 21st secretary of Defense—and it concerned Russia as well.
In 1978, when President Carter granted me political asylum, Romania had one major intelligence service: the Securitate, staffed with ca. 16,000 operations officers. Now it has six (SRI, SIE, UM 0962, STS, SPP, DGIA), which have absorbed most of the former Securitate officers and its modus operandi. According to the Romanian media, these six ghosts of communism are bloated with 30,000 officers.[ii] The SRI (domestic counterintelligence) alone, covering 22 million people, has ca. 12,000 officers. Its French equivalent, the DST, covering a population three times as large, has 6,000. Its German counterpart, the BfV, which covers 82 million people, has only 2,448 officers.[iii] If the United States were to apply this Romanian ratio to its population, the FBI would have ca. 190,000 agents, not the 12,156 it has today. Older Romanians still put a finger to their lips to signify the potential presence of hidden microphones. No wonder over 2 million people have left the country since communism collapsed.
Hangmen do not incriminate themselves. On March 13, 2009, the Romanian media announced that the country’s justice system had refused to indict the chief of Ceausescu’s domestic and foreign political police, Nicolae Plesita, despite overwhelming evidence proving he was a brutal assassin. In 2001, for instance, the general prosecutor of Berlin (Germany) charged Plesita with international terrorism. The Berlin court documents prove that in 1980 Plesita brought the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal and his deputy, Johannes Weinrich, to Romania, gave them a luxurious villa (picture provided), a training camp near Bucharest (location provided), 100 false passports (samples provided) and 20 kg of the plastic explosive EPH/88[iv] (sample provided), to blow up the Romanian offices at Radio Free Europe’s headquarters in Munich.
Eight RFE employees were injured in that terrorist attack, which took place on February 21, 1981. Five Romanian diplomats in West Germany were subsequently declared non grata. Plesita rewarded Carlos with $400,000. The money was deposited in account #471 1210 3502 at the Romanian Bank for Foreign Trade under the name Annalise Krammer, who in reality was Magdalena Kopp, the Jackal’s lover and partner.[v]
The Jackal and Weinrich are ending their days in prison. Plesita is free because he “defended” his country against the anti-communist Radio Free Europe, regarded by Romania’s justice system even today as an enemy. Plesita continues to receive a substantial pension from the Romanian government, and to give TV interviews inciting his former subordinates to assassinate the “traitors who helped the enemy”—i.e., the U.S. and its NATO allies.
The judges who maintained Ceausescu’s sentences for Rauta and the 6,281 other anti-communists that asked to have their sentence cancelled, and the prosecutors who refused to indict Plesita should watch The Memorial of Suffering. This is a staggering TV serial built by Lucia Hossu Longin over the last fifteen years. In over 100 shaking episodes, this visionary film-maker dramatically documents some of the most heinous domestic and international crimes committed by the Securitate under the leadership of various Plesitas.
I have been a devoted American for 31 years, but I also love my native country and I want to see it fully regain its old place in the civilized world. I treasure 50 years of life there, my youthful dreams, my relatives, my good friends and the graves of my parents. That is why I am greatly encouraged seeing a new generation of Romanians, inspired by Lucia Hossu Longin, trying to give their country a new identity.
Andrei Nana is one of them. He left Romania to escape the new political police, joined the U.S. Army, had a tour of duty in Iraq, and is now getting a PhD at Florida Coastal School of Law. Nana has persuaded his law school in Florida to use the outrageous Rauta case for hosting an international conference on Romania’s political duplicity (March 24, 2009). Some prestigious international law experts, from whom Romania’s justice system could certainly learn something, have agreed to attend it. The Romanian embassy declined the invitation, however, invoking schedule conflict.
Condemning the heresies of the past is indeed the most difficult step in the transition from tyranny to democracy. In the 1950s, when I headed Romania’s foreign intelligence station in West Germany, I witnessed how the Third Reich was demolished, how West Germany’s economy was rebuilt with Marshall Plan money, and how the country became an established parliamentary democracy whose Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) made it the leading power in Europe. But not until 1998 was the Bundestag able to adopt a law canceling the sentences given to Klaus von Stauffenberg, who had led a plot to assassinate Hitler, and to all other Germans who had, in one way or another, helped the Allies fight Nazism. Horst Heyman, the president of the Bundestag commission that initiated this law, apologized to the German people because their parliament had needed 50 years to arrive at that point. Now the Germans who fought Nazism are honored in the grandiose Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the country’s new museum of history.
Germany needed half a century to condemn Nazism, because that heresy was born in Germany and was rooted in her soil. Communism and its political police were not born in Romania. They were imported from the Soviet Union, and Romania should not wait for new generations to repudiate them.
On December 18, 2006, the Romanian president condemned communism as “an unlawful and culpable regime,” and he apologized to those whose lives had been destroyed by despotism. In a speech to the nation, he explained that the right to condemn communism’s crimes was given to him by “the need to make Romania a country of laws.”
It is now time for the Romanian president to move from words to action, and to initiate a Heyman-style law that would rehabilitate—judicially and politically—the hundreds of thousands of anti-communists who are still sentenced in Romania twenty years after the Soviet empire collapsed.
It is also time for the Romanian president to accept the $100,000 donated by Professor Claude Matasa—an American citizen who spent years in communist jails and is now an honorary consul of Romania in the U.S. Prof. Matasa donated the money three years ago to help Bucharest start building a museum of Romania’s real history, like the one erected in Germany, but he has not yet heard a word from Bucharest about his donation.
And it is time for the Romanian president to make a fundamental decision: what “treason” means and who is a “traitor.”
[i] “Magistratii ICCJ, inainte de a fi comunisti sunt imbecili”(Before being communists, Romania’s Supreme Court magistrates are imbeciles), ZIUA, Bucharest, January 31, 2009, p. 1
[ii] Laszlo Kallai, “Comoara Serviciilor Secrete” (The wealth of the Secret Services), ZIUA (Bucharest, Romania), Mai 8, 2007, p.1
[iii] Laszlo Kallai, “Servicii Secrete de Lux” (Secret Services Deluxe), ZIUA, Mai 11, 2007, p. 1.
[iv] Ärsenalul Securitatii pentru Carlos” (The Securitate Arsenal for Carlos), Ziua, March 19, 2001.
[v] John Follin, “Jackal: the complete Story of the legendary terrorist Carlos the Jackal, Arcade Publishing, NY, 1998, p. 130-132.