A Response to Watts: The Pitfalls of Not Having Any Evidence
(purely personal views as always, based on two decades of prior research and publications…I originally treated this topic as early as my 1997 Indiana University Ph.D. Dissertation, Rewriting the Revolution: Regime-State Relations and the Triumph of Securitate Revisionism in Post-Ceausescu Romania, chapters of which can be found on this webpage.)
In response to:
It is an understatement to say that Dr. Larry L. Watts has a HUGE problem in proving that Soviet “tourists”–Soviet KGB, GRU, or other agents, using the cover of being “tourists”–were present and somehow linked to the outbreak of anti-Ceausescu regime protests in Timisoara in mid-December 1989. Especially when one reads the testimonies in the initial period after December 1989 by senior Securitate officials–including some who had been dispatched to Timisoara with the express purpose of demonstrating the role of Soviet “tourists”–stating that they could not confirm such a role.
How does Mr. Watts seek to deal with this cognitive dissonance? He argues that 1) the fact that these officials state that they did not confirm the idea that Soviet “tourists” were involved, cannot be interpreted as evidence that…they were not involved…in fact, he argues it should be interpreted as evidence that Soviet “tourists” may have been involved! and 2) because suspected Soviet spy Army General Nicolae Militaru was Defense Minister and these officers gave their testimonies while under Army custody, they must have all decided to withhold details about the Soviet “tourist” role…out of fear! That Watts is reaching mightily to come up with anything to salvage his argument should be clear to almost any reader.
MY COMMENTS IN RED INTERSPERSED IN LARRY WATTS’ ORIGINAL TEXT
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Romanian Revolution December 1989 (III): Pitfalls of Testimony as Evidence
Yes, that’s it! Neither as an academic, nor as an analyst, has “the USSR’s repeated use of “tourist” cover for intelligence, paramilitary and military operations in the Soviet bloc (including Romania) prior to 1989″ occurred to me! What has never occurred to Watts is that in the very historical examples he invokes THE SOVIETS ROUTINELY AVOIDED THE USE OF “SOVIET TOURIST” COVER AND INSTEAD POSED AS WESTERN TOURISTS OR TOURISTS FROM OTHER SOVIET BLOC COUNTRIES, but NOT as Soviet tourists!
(In fact, Watts’ own words betray him: “In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the provocateurs and intelligence gatherers from the KGB’s PROGRESS operation appeared as “tourists” and “journalists” from West Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland, Lebanon and even Mexico. Meanwhile, the Soviets claimed that Western agents disguised as “tourists” were flooding into the country….In 1968 Romania also experienced an unusual influx of Soviet bloc “tourists,” mostly coming in over the Bulgarian border – Bulgaria being the least threatening of Romania’s Warsaw Pact neighbors. These “Bulgarians” gathered around stores in the immediate vicinity of the Romanian Ministry Defense, which was subsequently relocated…There are also several examples of Soviet bloc “tourism” in which the suspicious sightseers took no apparent operational actions. For example, Czechoslovak “tourists” in Poland under Gomulka in 1956, “Bulgarian tourists” in Romania in 1968, and East German “tourists” in Romania (in and around Brasov) in 1987.” See his http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/01/romanian-revolution-december-1989-i.html and my discussion in https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/all-the-soviet-tourists-where-do-they-all-come-from/)
I won’t dwell here on the allegations regarding “steadfastly ignoring Soviet-Romanian relations” or that I appear to assume that “Moscow had no motives for forcing change in Romania,” other than to say that Watts assumes that during the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev the policy of Soviet institutions toward Romania continued essentially unchanged from the Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko eras. Watts never fully addresses what he expects or he wants us to believe: either a) that Romania was part of a broader Soviet plan to oust anti-reformist leaderships in Eastern Europe, most notably in Czechoslovakia where the “Soviet tourist” theory most prominently shows its face, or b) that having “lost” East Germany and Czechoslovakia in November and early December 1989 the Soviets suddenly switched policies and gears to oust the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu? Watts appears to suggest that Nicolae Ceausescu’s renewed rhetoric on Soviet Moldova (with its large Romanian-speaking population and incorporating land taken from pre-communist Romania) and Ceausescu’s continued efforts to “go his own way” in the Warsaw Pact threatened Moscow as 1989 progressed. This ignores the fact that as long as Ceausescu was in power Romanian speakers pushing for reform in Soviet Moldova hardly looked to or wanted Ceausescu’s support, let alone to be incorporated into the Romania of Ceausescu’s “Golden Era,” and that in the context of fellow Warsaw Pact countries that were increasingly reformist or saw the communist party lose power, Romania’s calls for sovereignty had become little more than a thinly-veiled alibi for preserving, unchanged, Ceausescu’s anti-reformist policies and hold on power.
This is a cheap shot, but also just plain wrong. The issue of “who is to blame” is first and foremost a factual issue and only then an ethical issue. My emphasis in my research has always been upon the issue of “what happened” and only then “how it happened” and finally “who is to blame” as a factual question. Watts assumes that I set off “from the premise that the DSS was culpable for all or most of the violence perpetrated in 1989.” This is ahistorical and incorrect. In fact, like many and probably most observers beginning in 1990 I began to question that original premise (https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/coup-by-revolution-my-views-1990-1993/) . It was only while doing field research in Romania in 1994 with an IIE-Fulbright grant that–based on what I was finding in my research–I began to question the revisionism I and so many others had imbibed.
Watts sets off from the premise that because of the (longstanding) animosity between Moscow and Bucharest, the Soviets overthrew Nicolae Ceausescu–including relying on/using large numbers of Soviet agents posing as tourists–and that the DSS were either largely innocent bystanders, scapegoats, or victims of this diabolical foreign intervention. Watts has a big problem with testimonies suggesting that foreigners were not observed playing such roles, in that he seeks to suggest that just because someone says they didn’t see them doing anything, doesn’t mean they weren’t actually there, doing something (thus declarations by DSS officers that they did not see/conclude that Soviet tourists were involved in the Timisoara unrest, in Watts’ interpretation, means that Soviet agents posing as tourists may still have been present and perhaps even engaging in actions that went unreported or undetected)!
Once again, a pendantic no-duh and thoroughly unnecessary “lesson.” Indeed, I couldn’t agree more. Whereas the testimonies I use were in the initial weeks and months after December 1989, and the latest was from 1991, the vast majority of what Watts refers to in his rebuttal are from far later: 1992, 1994, and 2011! Physician heal thyself!
Pathetic parsing. From the standpoint of two decades later “immediately after the December 1989 events” refers to the initial weeks and months after December 1989.
Testimony Under Duress
|General Vlad on Trial|
Watts provides no source for the following claim: “Several DSS officers have complained of being told during the 1990 trials that they would be acquitted if they denied any Soviet bloc presence during the revolution.” Indeed, it is true that after their former boss DSS Chief Iulian Vlad started talking about the “Soviet tourists” in February 1991, former DSS employees suddenly started to “remember” about the “Soviet tourists,” an issue I have highlighted on many previous occasions (see for example, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2010/03/14/presa-din-1991-indicatii-pretioase-despre-turistii-rusi-din-decembrie-1989/ and https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/08/15/fara-indoiala-se-intimpla-ceva-securitatea-nu-spune-dar-sugereaza-lasa-sa-i-scape-mici-detalii/) As for Vlad’s testimony before the Senate commission of inquiry, included in the pages of Sandulescu (1996), it’s date is 19 October 1993, thereby begging the question of what happened to Watts’ application of his own admonishments about testimony, memory, and the passage of time (above)?
Ah, but former Securitate collaborators in the media–from Angela Bacescu to Pavel Corut to Sorin Rosca Stanescu to Gheorghe Ionescu Oblojan to name but a few better-known names–were working hard in the media to reeducate “mainstream opinion” about the “true” role of the DSS in December 1989, and to good effect already by 1991 (for some articles, see https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2009/12/20/dezinformare-securista-despre-decembrie-1989-in-actiune-zig-zag-anul-1990-angela-bacescu-teroristii-n-au-fost-securisti-nici-n-au-existat-teroristi-gheorghe-ionescu-olbojan-teroristii-au/ ; https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2009/12/20/dezinformare-securista-despre-decembrie-1989-in-actiune-zig-zag-anul-1990-angela-bacescu-teroristii-n-au-fost-securisti-nici-n-au-existat-teroristi-gheorghe-ionescu-olbojan-teroristii-au-2/ )
Even more implausible: that all of these officers in question decided to leave out details about the presence and/or activities of the “Soviet tourists.”
The Brief Coup of Pro-Soviet Officers
|General Nicolae Militaru|
Ah, yes, the very dead–and therefore unable to rebut anything–suspected Soviet-spy General Nicolae Militaru. Here we see Watts’ approach to questions in general: it is all about establishing a structural, circumstantial case, and then by analogy, supposition, pure speculation, and innuendo hoping the reader will arrive at his magical conclusions. He presents zero evidence to demonstrate his claim that the reason DSS officers did not mention the role of “Soviet tourists” in their declarations was that they feared Militaru (whom Watts also just assumes would have known about the “Soviet tourists”). Watts’ core problem is that he lacks credible declarations and evidence to demonstrate his claims.
Cherry-Picking the Testimony
It would appear that Hall is cherry-picking the evidence. As related by Vlad’s chef de cabinet and confirmed by General Vlad to this author, Teodorescu’s initial report on December 18, 1989 stated that “there was not enough manpower to prevent access [to Timisoara] on the Buzias Road” and the militia thus “left access into Timisoara from this direction open.” [nu au existat fortele necesare pentru interzicerea accesului prin Calea Buziasului, deoarece … a ramas descoperitat directia respective de access in Timisoara.] This lead to the following exchange:
“As related by Vlad’s chef de cabinet and confirmed by General Vlad to this author”! Watts cites a book published in 2011, the exchange does not mention “Soviet tourists,” and since it is the text reported by a senior DSS official (Rogojan) many years after the fact (is a facsimile of the document reporduced in the book?) this passage inevitably raises questions of credibility. Since the former head of the DSS General Vlad personally confirmed this to Watts, I would suggest that he also inquire of Vlad: “In 1989, what was the Securitate’s cover mechanism for operation ‘in territory controlled by a foreign (i.e. Soviet) invader’?” In other words, how did the Securitate plan on conducting surveillance of or penetrating units, buildings, and grounds held by the Soviets? https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/01/24/what-would-it-have-looked-like-if-nicolae-ceausescus-securitate-executed-a-plan-to-counter-an-invasionbut-the-invaders-never-came-iii/) And, oh yes, “cherry-picking”: interesting, innuendo-laden choice of terms, Mr. Watts.
I find it relatively stunning that Watts invokes the reported March 1990 statement by Teodorescu when it has long since been established that the people Teodorescu was referring to were undercover personnel of the Army’s intelligence unit (DIA). I mentioned this as early as 1996, https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/rewriting-the-revolution-1997-chapter-6-18-22-december-1989/ (see text and fn. #11), and it has also been clarified by Marius Mioc (https://mariusmioc.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/rich-hall-brandstatter-11/) and Gino Rado ( http://memorialulrevolutiei.ro/index.php?page=revista-on-line/memorial-7/agentii-straini , see Emil Macri quote). In fact, the head of DIA Stefan Dinu discusses it directly in the Sandulescu volume (p. 220) invoked by Watts (see xerox below). Conveniently, Watts quickly jumps to Teodorescu’s book published later in 1992, for a book-buying audience and when he was out-of-the-woods so-to-speak and with “mainstream opinion” already well-contaminated by public Securitate disinformation over the previous two years. Talk about context important to take into account when evaluating its credibility!
Hall misrepresents the testimony of General Vlad in a similar manner. Elsewhere in facsimile reproduction of that testimony (but not translated by Hall), Vlad made the following clarification: “I mention that the mission of Gen. Macri and of the others that I sent to Timisoara was to establish, in the first place, what involvement foreigner and foreign interests had in setting off the events, because the data base of which we disposed from foreign sources indicated this…” [Mentionez ca misiunea gl. Macri si a celorlalti pe care l-am trimis la Timisoara a fost aceea de a se stabili in primul rind ce amestec au strainii si strainatatea in declansarea evenimentelor, intrucit pe baza datelor pe care le detineam din surse externe, rezulta acest lucru…] (Vlad Testimony, 19/07/91)
So according to Watts, what is important here is that Vlad refers to the reason for why he suspected foreigners were involved in Timisoara. Vlad was in fact clear that those high level DSS officers whom he dispatched to Timisoara told him that they found no evidence that a foreign element produced or continued the unrest there. “Incepind cu noaptea de 16/17 dec. si in continuare pina in data de 20 dec. 1989 organul de securitate local col. Sima cit si gl. Macri si in lipsa lui col. Teodorescu imi comunicau date din care rezulta ca sute de elemente turbulente au devastat orasul, si ca elementul strain nu rezulta a se fi implicate in continuarea fenomenului.” “Mai exact, cei trimis de mine la Timisoara mi-au raportat ca nu au elemente din care sa rezulte vreum amestec al strainatatii in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara.” https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2013/03/17/o-indicatie-pretioasa-de-pe-malurile-dimbovitei-implicarea-strainilor-in-evenimentele-de-la-timisoara-paranoia-lui-nicolae-ceausescu-sau-confirmarea-lui-iulian-vlad/
(I respond to the claims re. Mavru further down). Notably, Watts forgets to even quote from the other testimonies presented on the post in question, for example: Generalul Emil Macri (seful Dir. II-a Securitatii, Contrainformatii Economice), Declaratie 2 ianuarie 1990:“Rezumind sintetic informatiile obtinute ele nu au pus in evidenta nici lideri si nici amestecul vreunei puteri straine in producerea evenimentelor de la Timisoara. Raportarea acestor date la esalonul superior respectivi generalului I. Vlad a produs iritare si chiar suparare…”
It is well-established and known that Pastor Tokes’ dwelling had been under constant Securitate surveillance for months prior to December 1989. The idea that these people would have been suspect at the time, that the Securitate would have taken no action against them, and that the Securitate was unable even to write down details about them strains credulity. Besides the reference is to “stat vecin,” pretty clearly in this context, a reference to ethnic Hungarians, not Soviets. And none of this changes Mavru’s declaration that, despite the tremendous pressure they were under from Bucharest and General Vlad to find a foreign hand behind the Timisoara protests and unrest, they tried really hard but could not find any! The following remains the most appropriate response to the background Securitate justifications Watts seeks to invoke here: https://romanianrevolutionofdecember1989.com/2014/12/19/25-for-the-25th-anniversary-of-the-romanian-revolution-8-romania-closes-its-borders-to-almost-all-foreigners-except-russian-tourists-returning-from-shopping-trips-to-yugoslavia-18-19-december-19/
[Un Grup de Ofiteri din Garnizoana Timisoara, Romania Libera, 15 octombrie 1991
“4. Existenta unui mare numar de turisti straini, care s-au deplasat (cu autoturisme) spre Timisoara si prin Timisoara.
Cine au fost acei turisti? Turisti banuiti, si ei, de intentii destabalizatoare.
Daca fortelor speciale de securitate si contrainformatii militare li s-au parut suspecti, de ce nu s-au procedat la verificarea acestora? Oare in acel rastimp, securistii si contrainformatorii nu mai stiau sa-si faca meseria? Au uitat pentru ce erau platiti, din bugetul statului, cu bani grei?”]
None of the testimonies says that Soviet agents were “present and vexatious” in Timisoara. Moreover, no Soviet citizen or Soviet tourist was arrested during the Timisoara unrest (Timisoara participant and researcher Marius Mioc has posted the ethnic breakdown of those arrested as reported by the Interior Ministry from the dosarelerevolutiei at https://documente1989.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/situatia-retinutilor-din-revolutia-timisoreana/).
Mr. Watts, how about providing some eyewitness accounts from the time or in the initial aftermath, by people who were not members of the Securitate, of the Soviet “tourists” coming over the border in worrisome quantity and being “present and vexatious” in Timisoara? (So far, as your “evidence,” you have cited Filip Teodorescu, Aurel Rogojan, and Iulian Vlad–all high-ranking officers of the former Securitate with an obvious vested interest in seeking to justify their actions in December 1989!)
Until then, I am reminded of a memorable characterization that also seems to describe in some measure Watts’ approach to building his case. Until next time!
Fara indoiala…se intimpla ceva. Securitatea nu spune dar sugereaza. “Lasa sa-i scape” mici detalii.
“Without a doubt…something is going on. The Securitate doesn’t say but it suggests. It allows small details to leak out.”
In the meantime, Watts continues to invoke as “evidence” to support his case, things he has superficial and inaccurate knowledge of:
in an exchange with Marius Mioc in the comments section at http://larrylwatts.blogspot.com/2015/04/romanian-revolution-december-1989-iii.html?showComment=1429265678355#c1059532130391066370 he argues:
RE: Your perplexing insistence of no Hungarian involvement
This is rather off-topic but since it suggests a strong cognitive bias I thought it worth mentioning. You have no doubt heard of the refugee camps in Hungary. Aside from Vlad’s testimony cited above scholarly articles have since been published by Hungarians in Hungary regarding the phenomenon. At a commemoration service broadcast on Romanian national television in 1993, and commented on by the Romanian Ambassador to Hungary who was in attendance, the Hungarians dedicated a statue at their military base in Egger for Hungarian personnel fallen in the Romanian revolution. In the testimony cited by Hall and reproduced in this blog, DSS officer Mavru insisted on clarifying that “in November approximately 1500 persons from one and the same neighboring state appeared in Timis county and the city of Timisoara, usually men, whom I was not able to keep under surveillance, because of lack of manpower.” To date, no equivalent surge of Yugoslav or Bulgarian visitors has been reported (or even rumored).
Here is information about the monument in question, which is dedicated to the people of Timisoara, from most notably the Romanian Military Attache in Budapest in December 1989, Colonel Ioan Todericiu:
From approx. minute 4 Todericiu discusses the Eger monument and that it was dedicated to the Romanian people of Timisoara; despite the obstinacy of the reporter–including what may be a clip from the 1993 program invoked by Watts–Toderciu confirms that there are no documents which would testify to an organized Hungarian role in the December 1989 events in Romanian.
La rândul lor, românii au cerut ajutor umanitar: sânge, medicamente, alimente pt. copii, chestii din astea.
Atunci, organizaţii de caritate din Ungaria, cât şi unele spitale militare (!) au pregătit pachetele, şi normal că şoferii acestor vehicule erau tot militari. Câţiva dintre aceşti subofiţeri au murit în rafalele care se trăgeau pe atunci în toată ţara. Trupurile lor au fost repatriate în Ungaria, şi înmormântate cu toate onorurile. La înmormântarea din Eger a participat şi ataşatul militar român pe atunci la Budapesta, Todericiu. Este şi vina bătrânului măgar că niciodată nu a spus clar, (nici pe videoclipul ăla care e pe Youtube), că aceşti militari nu au murit pe teritoriul român în luptă, ci în timpul unor misiuni umanitare.
Ei, atât despre “agenturile străine”. Dacă ei nu aduceau sânge şi medicamente, ar fi fost şi mai multe victime.
Lui judex în primul rând (Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 19:59)Lucidul [anonim]judex scrie: “Va aduceti aminte de afirmatia “agenturili straine”? Se pare ca, in 1990, au aparut niste monumente comemorative pentru niste eroi cazuti la datorie in unitati militare la Debretin si alte locuri in Ungaria.”Auzi, dar deştept te dai tu, cu diversiunea ta securistă. Fi-ţi-ar mintea deşteaptă, să-ţi fie. Şi ne mirăm noi, cum dracu a reuşit Securitatea să-şi salveze oamenii, de sunt şi acuma în posturi de cheie.Dar, hai să trecem la subiect.În 1989 TOATE ţările vecine aveau spioni în România, şi România avea spioni în toate ţările vecine. Dar, şi ce-i cu asta? Numai proştii ca tine, se miră, şi încep să invoce “agenturile steine”. Tu chir crezi că astăzi este altfel? Şi azi toate ţările se spionează reciproc, asta înseamnă “culegere de in formaţii”. Aşa cum şi tu “pălăvrăgeşti” despre vecinii din scara blocului, şi întrebi ce mai e cu Fănică al Smarandei.Cu cei 40 arşi de Ceaşca în crematoriul din Bucureşti, iar ai zis o prostie colosală. Măi, campion de IQ, îţi dai seama ce senzaţie internaţională era, ce scandal ieşea la ONU, inclusiv la Consiliul de Securitate, dacă iubitul tău Ceauşescu găsea UN SINGUR terorist din afara graniţelor? Nu-l ardea nici în ruptul capului, ci-l păstra ca dovadă, băi.Acum, hai să ne întoarcem la afirmaţia: “eroi cazuti la datorie in unitati militare la Debretin si alte locuri in Ungaria”.
Înainte de 22 decembrie armata română se afla în contact permanent cu un grup operativ al armatei ungare. Milea a vorbit la telefon cu ministrul maghiar al apărării, Karpati Ferenc, care s-a interesat de evenimentele din Timişoara. Milea l-a asigurat pe colegul său ungur, că armata română nu a tras şi nu va trage în populaţie, şi spus clar, că armata română va combate orice intervenţie străină.
Ungurii şi-au mobilizat cei drept câteva unităţi militare în apropiere graniţei, dar stăteau şi ascultau, atât.
(voi continua)raspunde trimite
continuare (Duminică, 4 ianuarie 2009, 20:08)Lucidul [anonim]După moartea lui Milea şi căderea lui Ceauşescu, ungurii au luat din nou legătura cu Ministerul Apărării, condus acum de Stănculescu şi Militaru. Una dintre rugăminţile ungurilor era protecţie pt. Tokes. Stănculescu a trimis nişte militari, şi pastorul a fost pus sub pază. (Securiştii vroiau să-l lichideze).La rândul lor, românii au cerut ajutor umanitar: sânge, medicamente, alimente pt. copii, chestii din astea.Atunci, organizaţii de caritate din Ungaria, cât şi unele spitale militare (!) au pregătit pachetele, şi normal că şoferii acestor vehicule erau tot militari. Câţiva dintre aceşti subofiţeri au murit în rafalele care se trăgeau pe atunci în toată ţara. Trupurile lor au fost repatriate în Ungaria, şi înmormântate cu toate onorurile. La înmormântarea din Eger a participat şi ataşatul militar român pe atunci la Budapesta, Todericiu. Este şi vina bătrânului măgar că niciodată nu a spus clar, (nici pe videoclipul ăla care e pe Youtube), că aceşti militari nu au murit pe teritoriul român în luptă, ci în timpul unor misiuni umanitare.Ei, atât despre “agenturile străine”. Dacă ei nu aduceau sânge şi medicamente, ar fi fost şi mai multe victime.raspunde trimite