I started writing this post while visiting my wife’s family this past Christmas. Things are tense here. The Covid-19 pandemic is aggravating everybody including my in-laws. It is what it is and it’s inescapable. I had brought down with me the Sorbie case law that made the legal news a few years back as a light read, hoping that if things with my in-laws headed south, I’d find a quiet corner and catch up on my readings.
As it happens, things deteriorated but that is for another soirée between friends. Today, it will be about something entirely different. You see, every time Christmas nears by, I am reminded of a different Christmas eve. I am reminded of the bloody Christmas of the Romanian Revolution of 1989.
On December 16, 1989, in Timisoara, western Romania, unarmed civilian protesters took to the streets to defend their local Reformed Church minister, Laszlo Tokes, who had been targeted and persecuted by the Communist authorities. Things quickly got out of hand. In a fit of rage,
Nicolae Ceausescu, the president of the Socialist Republic of Romania, ordered the repression of the protesters. At this point in time, the Revolt is strictly localized to Timisoara.
On both the 16 and 17 December 1989, the Minister of the Interior, the Securitate Special Units, and the Minister of National Defence troops opened fire against UNARMED demonstrators, killing 66 and injuring 196 people.
By the morning of December 18, 1989, general-colonel Ion Coman, the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, reported to Emil Bobu, the second in command after Elena Ceausescu (the dictator’s wife), that “in Timisoara, the situation is under control.”
On December 19, 1989, I was celebrating my 10th birthday, alongside some 4th grade buddies from school. I remember my first gaffe vividly as if it was yesterday. One of my school friends, Radu M., who is now a surgeon, had gifted me a nice copy of Victor Hugo’s seminal “The Toilers of the Sea.” I had just tactlessly and mannerlessly told Radu that I already possessed and read it, when my mom came up to the party room. She pulled me aside and whispered to me that Radio Free Europe (RFE), which my family were listening to at grave personal risk, had just broken the news that the Army had shot people dead in Timisoara.
Establishing guilt #1
Most people would argue that since the repression was ordered by the tyrant, Nicolae Ceausescu, he alone was responsible for the victims and not the people pulling the trigger. I couldn’t care less for such limited views. I think people who shift blame to others, are moral vacuums and are as, if not even more guilty than the decision-makers. It takes both mens rea (intent) and actus reus (commission) to perpetrate a crime. One cannot be dissociated from the other. The Dictator was morally responsible but some soldiers decided to carry out the orders.
I believe that people who enable monsters, that is enablers, are as guilty as dictators. A single individual, no matter how personally powerful, cannot exercise total control over a people, absent a cohort of enablers, sycophants, lackeys, sidekicks, followers, whores, moral proxenetes, and bottom-feeders.
However, in the case of the Romanian Revolution, we are now in possession of all the facts. We know exactly WHO was guilty of crimes against humanity:
The Ministry of the Interior
The Direction of State Security
The Ministry of National Defence
We know WHEN:
Between 16 and 22 December 1989 (12:00 pm), when suddenly the largest piece of the murdering ‘puzzle’, the ARMY, defected the cause of the repression, embracing that of Freedom.
We know WHERE and HOW:
Timisoara (16-17 December 1989)
Bucharest, Arad, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov, Sibiu, Constanta (under express orders on 21-22 December 1989) and via contradictory orders until after Christmas.
We know WHAT:
Romanians seized the Laszlo Tokes protests to come out against the murderous personal regime of the Ceausescus. What started as a freedom of worship matter evolved into a popular revolt, and then a full blown revolution that was commandeered by second tier communists like Ion Iliescu and Petre Roman for their own nefarious interests.
We also know WHY:
People were sick of being cold, hungry, lied to, disabused of their rights, imprisoned, beaten, harassed, raped, murdered, mocked and humiliated by a clan of tyrants seconded by 1 million Communist Party cadres, Securitate officers and informants, and various regime profiteers. Which brings us to the Rationale of the Revolution.
The Romanian 1989 Revolution was about JUSTICE.
Before the regime change that replaced a Tyrant (Ceausescu) with a bunch of second-tier ‘humane communists’ (what a misnomer!) like Iliescu et co. a.k.a. the National Salvation Front, 1,290 Romanians of all stripes gave their lives on the altar of Freedom. Another 3,321 were injured and maimed for life. And for what?!
To this day, only one Romanian official ever accepted moral responsibility for the repression. Ironically, it was not the Army or the successor of the Securitate, namely SRI or Romanian Intelligence Service that came clean.
Of all the ‘successors’, Marcel Vela, the Minister of the Interior, apologized “to all Romanians for the mistakes made by some individuals who failed to do justice in the past to this minister, including during the Revolution of December 1989.”
On the other hand, to this day, the Army did not acknowledge blame. Can you actually believe that I only found out about the Army having killed unarmed civilians before December 22, 1989, on the evening of December 24, 2021?! How foolish was that? I mean, I was born in the damn country. I was 10 when it happened. I should have known that the Army had murdered innocents back then, yet I still operated under the false assumption that only the Securitate and Ministry of the Interior troops killed Romanian citizens. Mea culpa!
Establishing guilt #2
Fact is that the Army only sided with the People in the afternoon of December 22, 1989.
And that only occurred when the top brass decided they wanted to be able to have an OUT. Yet, strangely, they postponed the inevitable despite seeing the writing on the wall. Everybody knew that Gorbachev and Bush had just met at Malta at the beginning of the month, and Ceausescu’s head was on the chopping block. Yet, the generals and colonels procrastinated until the vast majority of victims had died.
Suddenly, on December 22, 1989 at 16h00, Romanian TV announced that the Army had embraced the cause of the People. Fact is that on the ground, some of the soldiers had started fraternizing with the people before their commanders received their marching orders to follow suit.
But behind closed doors, nefarious things were afoot. Basically, the mother lovers on the Superior Military Council, hijos de puta madre like generals Atanasie Victor Stanculescu and Nicolae Militaru, in order to avoid prosecution for ordering the troop to open fire against their own mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, struck a deal with the new regime of Ion Iliescu.
You see my friends, in Communist and post-Communist Romania, the Intelligence Services know exactly what you and your friends, and your lovers, had for breakfast before you could digest it. Eat your heart out, Stasi!
Vasile Milea was an enigma. As Nicolae Ceausescu’s last Minister of Defence, Milea was involved in the reprisal phase of the Timisoara Revolution. Milea was the only Army commander who made the right call to kill himself. He took the only available way out. I know I sound harsh but bear with me. Patakson men, akouson de – Strike me if you must, but first listen!
Milea offed himself because of several reasons.
(1) He incurred the disfavour of the Tyrant for sending troops to put down the Revolution in Timisoara, without live ammunition. He gave them blanks.
(2) Given that he was ordered to supply the troop with live ammunition, and having eventually ordered the army to massacre the pro-democracy unarmed protesters, Milea knew he was going to answer for his heinous crimes.
(3) Given that he killed himself right before the Ceausescus fled Bucharest, Milea was not the hero some have started calling him.
(4) Milea had had the opportunity to order the Army to stand down in Timisoara. Alas, he did not. He failed the Army and the Romanian people. According to some reports, his failure cost the troop the lives of 42 recruits who refused to open fire against their brethren in Timisoara. They were promptly executed. They were true heroes and martyrs. The next day, December 20, some Army units fraternized with the people in Timisoara.
(5) General Milea committed suicide. He was not executed by Ceausescu 90 minutes before he jumped on the chopper that carried him away. But the myth of his supposed heroism and sense of duty endured so much so that when the news of his demise reached the Romanian people, the rank-and-file soldiers started to feel completely free to break with military oath given to a Murdering Dictator, who had killed their General. Some troops started going over en masse to the Revolution, in Bucharest and the rest of urban Romania.
Most soldiers HOWEVER unloaded their assault rifles and stood down ONLY when ordered by their superiors.
This happened a few good hours before Ion Iliescu formally took over the provisional government and the Army Top Brass switched sides and allegiance like I mentioned before.
In any case, the die was cast by then. So, the Communist Party-appointed military leaders managed to do a 180 degree turn, becoming the newly anointed angels of the Revolution, all the while avoiding Ceausescu’s fate in the process.
I’ve always wondered if the Revolution was truly a popular uprising or the secret project of a maleficent cabal. Time will tell!
But now that I come to think about it, I realize that perhaps, just perhaps, this was exactly why the self-appointed political leadership decided it was a good time to strike off the death penalty from the books on January 7, 1990. Yet as you might know by now, on December 25, 1989, a military kangoroo court, after a televised trial, condemned the Ceausescu power-couple to death.
The sentence was promptly carried out by 3 paratroopers led by captain Ionel Boeru. While a TV crew was standing by to catch their final moments, the execution squad was so anxious to get it over with, so thirsty with vengeance, they opened fire without waiting for the command. In a few seconds, the Dictator and his wife were in Hell.
Coming back to the beginning of January 1990, when Iliescu conveniently abolished the death penalty, I find this element most eloquent and extremely convenient for the new regime. We have a saying in Romania. He who raises the sword shall die by the sword. The old atheist Iliescu knew that saying quite well, and that is exactly why he removed the sword from the picture.
Lest someone be tempted to use it on him, legally, of course.
Further research attests that the military authorities had not only been complicit with the Tyrant. They actually did their best to create, maintain and reinforce “a general psychosis revolving around the threat of terrorism, which led to numerous instances of friendly fire, chaotic shootouts, involving tank artillery, heavy machine guns, automatic fire.” Contradictory military orders came from the command centre manned and directed by the new Front of National Salvation, led by the provisional government of Ion Iliescu.
There were even treacherous orders issued by the former Securitate Chief, general Iulian Vlad, who had conveniently embraced the cause of the Revolution on December 23, 1989. For three days, before being ousted by a watchful Iliescu, Iulian Vlad worked two phones giving orders, conflicting orders, increasing the bloodshed. Who is to know if he was in cahoots with Iliescu or not. One thing is sure though. Vlad died in his bed in 2017. He only served 4 years in prison.
Talk about Justice in this Life. What a joke, eh!
Perhaps the biggest victim of the Revolution was Truth. To this day, there wasn’t any meaningful, full-hearted investigation into the trappings of the Revolution, its leaders, victims, and survivors.
The Romanian people do not have a clue what went on for a fortnight. Sure, there’s video tapes, eye witness accounts, political leaders’ and revolutionaries’ accounts, TV footage, audio testimony, media accounts, but no TRUTH! I find that strangely deranged about the Romanian Revolution. It’s as if someone did not want Romanians to ever find out the TRUTH.
One of the most vicious incidents that penetrated even into the Western media accounts, which as a rule was unbiased at the time, was the Otopeni Massacre.
Allow me to present the facts in the same fashion developed by the director of the surprisingly good The Last Duel.
Video #1: What the Western Media Saw
Video #2: What really happened
What had happened was simple enough yet brutal nonetheless. Both the convoy and the airport command received orders advising them that the other force was comprised of Terrorists. There are several eye-witness accounts providing a chilling account of the massacre. Blame was even assigned to the officers on the ground. But the Army never presented its official apologies to the Nation. And what is worse, the real guilty parties are enjoying the protection of the Protection and Guard Service (PGS) security detail, cushy pensions, and writing their memoirs.
When we returned to Romania, on vacation in 2019, we passed by the Monument dedicated to those Otopeni Airport victims, martyrs of the Revolution.
The survivors of the massacre were wrongly identified as terrorists, beaten, abused and imprisoned after surviving the annihilation of their comrades, by their fellow soldiers. Some of these folks managed to hung onto dear life by hiding in the shadow of the sidewalk, taking cover by laying flat on their bellies and praying that the difference in elevation between the thoroughfare and the sidewalk would be enough. Yet, they were set upon by the airport defenders as if they had tried to kill their mothers. Such was the extent of the disinformation.
I realize that there are no words that can adequately describe my frustration as a historian and as a human being for witnessing this travesty of Justice. All that remains for me to do now, is to leave you with these images that I hope will tell the story of our People better than I can ever do.
HEROES NEVER DIE! THEY ARE HONOURED BY THE CONSCIENCE OF THEIR PEOPLE AND OF THE WORLD. THEIR GLORY BE PRAISED!
WE NEVER WANT TO LIVE IN COMMUNISM EVER AGAIN
The Tyranny is at an end! The Romanian People have won!
OUR CHILDREN WILL BE FREE
FACT is that for many nights in a row, Ion Iliescu and the new provisional government gave speeches à la Lenin from the famous balcony of the CC of the RCP, without receiving any fire from the ‘terrorists’ who were however mowing down unarmed civilians, armed soldiers and men, 40 feet from Iliescu et co. You are talking about some very strange ‘terrorists’ who were only shooting down soldiers and civilians, but not the self-proclaimed provisional government.
FACT is that while the crowd was taking fire and hundreds were being killed and wounded by machine gun fire day in day out, while the army had brought down armored carriers, APCs and T-85 battle tanks that could level the buildings housing the ‘terrorists’, nobody ever gave the order to actually assault the freaking buildings. And by the time they did, the shooting venues had been consumed by fires started by the firefight. At night, the firefights were quite spectacular, I can assure you.
I hereby accuse the Romanian Armed Forces of murdering unarmed civilians during the December 1989 Revolution. I will try to show how the Romanian Army not only lied about siding with the Romanian people, they orchestrated a campaign to invent terrorists and boogeymen who never existed, to justify their opening fire against peaceful demonstrators.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 is not an unknown quantity, something the Germans call unbekannt. The facts are known, yet the criminals were never arraigned, judged, or sentenced. They walked away scot-free and assumed the reins of power in 1990 ‘free Romania’. They need to be arrested, judged, and sentenced for their crimes.
Until then, the Romanian people need to wake up from their slumber – “Desteapta-te Romane!”
The Army was never with the People. They were accessories during and after the facts. They must apologize and they must do so now.
Furthermore, Communism was tried and it failed humanity, just life Nazism and Fascism before it.
I would urge everyone reading these words to think about this. Is it worth it repeating the Mistakes of the Past, knowing all too well that People will die trying to correct them, as they already did in December 1989? I try to use my intellect more than I do my heart, knowing that using either will be imprudent, while using both would allow me to showcase a balanced view of the facts. But looking at the images below, does anybody have the right to seek anything else but Justice?
And Justice, my friends, requires heart, passion, soul, vehemence, raising your fist against a cold, brutal, and yes, unjust fate. Justice may elude us in the end. But Justice is the driving engine of the world. And since the Social Contract binding the people to its government was Abandoned that day by the state, it falls to us to retrieve it from the ground, dust it off, and uphold before the Nation.
Let justice be done though the heavens fall.
Romania is a broken society on the inside. The Binding Trust, which provides the molecular glue holding the fabric of society together, is ABSENT. Until it is found, Romania is Broken.
There is however reason for qualified optimism. I’m proud of my fellow Romanians.
I’m disgusted by the way the country of my birth treated and continues to treat its people.
It makes me sick to the heart that to this day, 32 years later, the Army did not acknowledge its monumental blame in committing acts of genocide against the Romanian people and later on, criminally mismanaging the defence of the Revolution. And in the process, killing hundreds of soldiers and civilians instructed to shoot one another under false pretences.
But no, these were not false pretences, these were criminal orders that created a ‘fog of war’ that saw bloody mayhem destroy lives without any consequences for the higher-ups. Politicians like Ion Iliescu made their careers in the aftermath, stalling the progress of the country in the name of promoting Socialism with a human face. What a gigantic farce!
What a monumental bait and switch intended to ensure the continuation of the Securitate and Party apparatus’ stranglehold on Romania and Romanians.
People died so that Romanians could experience the normality of democracy, individual property rights, market economy, capitalism. They did not lay down their lives so that a bunch of second tier communists could take a second jab at ‘Socialism’!
This was their worst crime. They lied to a people that cried for Freedom so much that we lost our voices in that bloody December of 1989. They told us that we didn’t really want freedom. The nerve!
The biggest lie was this one. To convince a populace that was eager for Liberty that they were not ready for it. That is why one must not trust government. For government’s only raison d’être is Control. And the people’s only raison d’être is Freedom. These are forever at odds, and their clash generates martyrs, every generation, like clockwork.
Government tells people they know better because they have their interests at heart.
People foolishly believe that the State is out there to protect them.
Government infantilizes the People, cuts off their limbs, and forces them to beg for a scrap of freedom. And then proceeds to tell the People I told you so. That is the measure of their devious machinations.
For the Romanian Army to acknowledge its nefarious role in the days preceding its pactization with the new Iliescu government (16-22 December 1989) is to recognize that the Army is not an Institution Romanians should trust as blindly as they do today.
Because Romanians are uninformed, the Army currently commands the trust of 4 out of every 5 Romanians. A reputation that it does not deserve and hardly merits, given its infamous role during that fortnight in December 1989.
The Army and Government have been in breach of the social contract for the last 32 years. Instead of protecting the public good, what did the State do?
It conspired to put down a democratic rebellion of monumental proportions who had the support of the vast majority of the Romanian people, killing and wounding thousands in the process.
The Romanian people need a full apology, and the survivors of the victims need to be fully compensated for their pain and suffering and loss of their loved ones.
I am thinking €1 million per survivor’s family ought to justly compensate them for the lost revenue due to that person not being there for the last 32 years.
Money can’t bring our heroes back. But they can show how a grateful nation mourns those who were called to defend the Revolution and died trying to save the Nation.
Patriei Noastre spuneti-i Adevarul: Am Fost Acolo Unde Trebuia Sa Fim!
Go tell our Motherland the Truth:
We Were There Where We Had To Be
There has never been a more altruistic generation than the 18-year old kids who gave their lives away in the service of their nation and for the altars of their parents.
They were our Spartans! They are our Heroes!
We should try to fight in their Monumental Shade!
In lieu of conclusion
The Romanian Army oath needs to change to allow soldiers to refuse to follow immoral orders.
During the Revolution and also according to people who served during the events, “the soldiers obeyed their superiors’ orders. The officers issued the orders and the soldiers were crying. There were cases brought to my attention by former soldiers, whereby the enlisted private recounted how his officer unholstered his sidearm and if you (i.e., the private) refused to open fire (against demonstrators), the officer would have shot you down.”
[Quote from direct testimony of Tudor Postelnicu, the Communist Minister of the Interior during the Revolution of 1989.]
In my mind it is clear. If I had been in the private’s stead, I would have shot my officer dead on the spot. Any person who orders me to kill, wound or maim innocent civilians, my brothers and sisters, my father and mother, does not deserve to live.
If you think I’m too harsh, consider this. Too many crimes have been perpetrated on the face of our Earth, because good people chose, yes CHOSE, to follow bad orders. Following orders is not an excuse to commit murder. Obeying criminal orders for fear of your own life is not the only way out. The choice is not between you killing your fellow man or dying for refusing to obey such an order. The choice is between you acting as a responsible, decent human being, or not.
Caught between an unarmed civilian who is coming at you with flowers in his hands, crying for the lack of food in his belly, lack of warmth in his home, the lack of hope or a future for his children, and an armed monster who orders you to kill the civilian, it’s not even a choice, it is a way of life. You must protect life even if you must lose your innocence and forfeit your spiritual salvation.
You turn around and you put down the monster who would have you become a murderer of a soul yearning for freedom, for hope, for life. There is no moral equivalency about it. The scales of justice do not even come into play. An officer ordering a private to commit murder forfeits his life on the spot. We are all responsible for our actions. We must act the part. The officer should have known better than to follow his own murderous orders. If all people reflected instead of obeying orders, then the world would be a far better place than it is now.
That is the root of all evil. Obeying blindly the hierarchy. Hierarchy is killing us. Order is not the end game. The end game is Freedom. The solution is Justice.
In 1944, Judge Learned Hand gave a speech called the “Spirit of Liberty.” Therein he argued that freedom is not a legal concept but an organic human mindset. One that resides in our hearts and that needs no arms, no laws and no courts to exist. Freedom is the driving force that moves us to be human. We want to be free more than anything else. We want to be free from oppression and we want to be free to make our own choices.
Perhaps that is what motivated the hungry, cold, desperate men and women who risked life and limb those December days. Perhaps, just perhaps, Freedom is Worth Dying for. And perhaps, as tragic as it sounds, Freedom is Worth Dying if that is the only way to pave a better life for our children.