By Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
I was not privileged to be born in this greatest country on earth – I paid with two death sentences, from my native Romania for the honor of becoming an American citizen.
As an immigrant, I have spent my 36 American years under six presidents – some better than others – but the joy of being a part of this unique land of liberty has only been surpassed by the joy of simply being alive.
For most of America, the Fourth of July is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. For me, the Fourth of July symbolizes the miraculous power of self-determination, of deciding who you want to be.
On July 4, 1976, I was in New York, as a representative of communist Romania at the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I saw for the first time, with my own eyes, what being yourself could do and what American independence really meant. On that day I also understood why America’s unique freedom had been the lifelong dream of my father, who spent his working career managing the service department at the General Motors affiliate in Romania.
Two days later, I was in Philadelphia, where Queen Elizabeth presented the Bicentennial Bell on behalf of the British people. That bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell, bears the inscription “For the People of the United States of America from the people of Britain, July 4, 1976: LET FREEDOM RING.”
In July 28, 1978 I myself decided to “let freedom ring,” and President Carter granted me political asylum. Three years later, I married a multi-generation American who had spent her life fighting the Soviet evil, and she helped me to look back at my past with American eyes. Our first trip as married couple was to the Liberty Bell. In 1987, we published “Red Horizons” to help my native Romania understand what “let freedom ring” means.
July 28, 1988, was the most important benchmark of my new life. On that day I became an American citizen. On that same day I got a letter signed by the CIA’s deputy director for operations, stating that I had made “an important and unique contribution to the United States.” I also received a small, ceramic replica of the Liberty Bell. “Let freedom ring,” the presiding judge declared to conclude that solemn ceremony.
On Nov. 9, 1989, as I sat glued to the television screen showing the Berlin Wall being torn down, I was holding that ceramic Liberty Bell in my hands, incredibly proud to be an American citizen. The whole world was expressing its gratitude to the United States for its 44 years of successfully fighting the Cold War. Almost half a billion people who had been locked behind the Berlin Wall and spent their whole lives with their mouths wired shut began now to speak freely again, and to discover the new universe of “let freedom ring” that had been kept hidden from them.
On Dec. 26, 1989, Leonard Bernstein conducted a magnificent concert before the fragments of the toppled Berlin Wall, which for so many years had “protected” tyranny from freedom. His centerpiece was Beethoven’s Ninth, containing Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” in which the word Freude (joy) was changed into Freiheit (freedom). That was Bernstein’s version of “let freedom ring.” The orchestra and choir were from both East and West Germany, as well as from the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and the United States.
That concert celebrated the fall of the Soviet empire.
On Dec. 25, 1989, Romanian tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu was executed for genocide. A year later, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.
“Let freedom ring” can be shackled but never killed.
Unfortunately, soon after stepping into this millennium, the world faced another destructive evil – international terrorism. Two days after Sept. 11, 2001, my wife and I landed in Berlin. We were having lunch with friends at the enormous KaDeWe department store, and I wandered off to get some food for dinner. The manager, noticing the American flag on my lapel, came up to me and asked if I was really an American.
“Champagne for everyone,” he ordered, when I told him I had just flown over from the U.S. “We will never forget that we owe our freedom to the United States of America,” he explained. “Without America and the Berlin Airlift, we would be speaking Russian now.”
Without America, a good part of the world might now be in danger of living under Islamic law. But Americans are proud people who love their country and who won every military conflict up until its wars against communist expansion – the Korean and the Vietnam Wars, which I discussed in “Disinformation.” Americans will win the war on terrorism as well, but this war may be considerably less bloody, if we can persuade other spy chiefs – from places like Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, Russia, Cuba and Venezuela – to “let freedom ring” and move over to our side.
In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence to serve later as presidents of the U.S., died on the same day, July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. The Fourth of July has generated many other miracles. Let’s hope that it will now help us to “let freedom ring” throughout the whole Muslim world as well.
Happy Fourth of July!
Lt. Gen Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet bloc official ever to defect to the West. In December 1989 Ceausescu was executed at the end of a trial whose accusations came out of Pacepa’s book “Red Horizons,” republished in 27 countries. Pacepa’s most recent book, “Disinformation,” co-authored with Prof. Ronald Rychlak, was published by WND Books in 2013.