Politics & Policy

Do as I Did

An open letter to Saddam Hussein's generals.

appeal to you, the generals of Iraq’s Republican Guard, to follow my example and turn your arms against your country’s tyrant. I can assure you that you will never regret taking that patriotic step.

#ad#History repeats itself, and if you can live two lives, you have a chance of seeing that repetition with your own eyes. In my other life, I also served a terrorist dictator, who had transformed his country into a monument to himself and created his own dynasty. Nicolae Ceausescu was a Romanian Saddam, who starved his people to build palaces for himself and spent the country’s wealth to produce weapons of mass destruction in order to fulfill his megalomaniacal dreams. Like you, I held a high position at the top of my country’s society, when I broke with Ceausescu: a two-star general, personal adviser to the president, acting chief of his espionage service, and state secretary in his ministry of interior. Like you, I also lived a privileged life in the dictator’s entourage, in which every material need was generously provided by the government. But eventually, the prospect of being judged by history as an accomplice of one of the world’s most despicable dictators convinced me to give up everything.

Now, at this historic moment for your country, I call upon you, my fellow generals, to follow in my footsteps, and I assure you, you will never regret it. On July 28, 1978, when I made my break, I was exactly three months short of the round age of fifty, and I have never looked back. I knew that it would not be easy starting my life over from scratch with no tangible possessions but the clothes on my back, but the anticipation of finally being a free man and living in a free society was irresistible. Today I have a marvelous new life, and my native Romania is becoming a flourishing democracy. I am proud that I have done what I could to help Romania cast off the evils of its past and make its way into the modern world.

My fellow generals, do as I did. Break away from your tyrannical dictator before it is too late. Expose his crimes against humanity to the world, as I have done with those committed by Ceausescu. Catch your fugitive tyrant, as my fellow Romanian generals caught Ceausescu in December 1989, when he went into hiding in an attempt to escape the revolutionary wave sweeping Communist dictators off the face of Eastern Europe. Make Saddam pay for his crimes, as Ceausescu did for his — with his life.

Like Romania, Iraq has an ancient and proud history and culture. Both countries were conquered by the Ottoman Empire, both became honorable kingdoms, and both were in the last century taken over by despicable dictators. Join the coalition forces fighting Saddam Hussein, and you will also enjoy an honored place in your country’s history.

— Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. He is currently finishing a new book, Red Roots: The origins of today’s anti-Americanism.

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