Beret lieutenant colonel, Gordon Cucullu is now an editorialist,
author and a popular speaker. Born into a military
family, he lived and served for more than thirteen years in East
Asia, including eight years in Korea. For his Special Forces
service in Vietnam he was awarded a Bronze Star, Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry, and the Presidential Unit Commendation. After separation
from the Army, he worked on Korea and East Asian affairs at both
the Pentagon and Department of State as well as an executive
for General Electric in Korea. His first major non-fiction work,
at Birth: How North Korea became the Evil Twin, is
based in large part on his extensive experience in
Korea and East Asia as a governmental insider and businessman.
[go to Cucullu index]
A global web of terror...
[Gordon Cucullu] 7/8/04
tend to be very binary about organizations: you’re
a member or you’re not. For example we are Protestants
or Catholics, Republicans or Democrats. Though not fixed in stone,
this characteristic is something of an American cultural value.
Add our legalistic bent and we find ourselves fretting over irrelevant
issues: is Ansar al Islam really an al Qaeda organization? A
terrorist is known to be affiliated with Hamas therefore doesn’t
that mean he isn’t al Qaeda? Though it might make some
sort of twisted sense to us it means nothing to our enemies.
to include mixed cultures and long geographical distances and
even more difficulty perceiving or accepting
the linkages. But it is these very combinations that provide
the deadly connectivity that our enemies exploit. To ignore them
is perilous, even to death. Such is the case with North Korea.
Many Americans assumed that when President Bush included North
Korea in his famous Axis of Evil speech he was simply defusing
a potential ‘America versus the Islamic world’ confrontation.
He just tossed in the North Koreans, some suggested, so that
we would not polarize the Moslem world more than it already is.
But to believe
that ignores one of the most dangerous linkages operating out
today, the North Korean-Syrian connection.
And lest you think that this is just hypothetical speculation,
be aware that the North Korean-Syrian connection has existed
for many years. It is extraordinarily secretive and intimate.
Neither side is especially concerned with the other’s politics.
This is strictly a money game. The North Koreans need hard currency
desperately; the Syrians have it and are willing to spend it
for WMD technology. Unfortunately for us all, the only thing
the North Koreans have in abundance are missiles and WMD.
The Kim Jong
Il regime has been on a long, steady economic slide since the
It was accelerated by the fall of the Soviet
Union. Pyongyang was once able to play the Peoples Republic of
China off against the Soviets for economic and military assistance.
Collapse of the Soviets left a single bidder in the auction,
a situation hardly designed to elicit the highest price. Returning
Chinese largess with spitefulness, regional disharmony and ingratitude,
North Korea slid even further down China’s priority list.
Contrasted to an expanding, highly profitable bilateral economic
relationship between the PRC and South Korea initially stimulated
by the Seoul Olympics, and the North’s situation looks
For the past decade and a half, consequently, North Korea has
been relying on illegal arms transfers and massive drug trafficking
as primary sources of foreign exchange. Heroin and crystal meth
bring in big bucks, but how much cash could it receive from a
wealthy terrorist group for a nuclear bomb? Maybe billions. The
North Koreans seem willing to find out. They have surreptitiously
developed programs to produce WMD including both plutonium based
and enriched uranium based nuclear weapons. They have developed
large stocks of poison gas including Sarin, blister and VX type
nerve agents. We know from North Korean defectors that the regime
experiments on humans with these and other lethal agents. Any
regime so morally corrupt will not hesitate to sell abroad regardless
of the end use. There is mounting evidence that Japanese Aum
Shinrikyo and other terrorist groups have trained in North Korea
and may have been supplied Sarin gas by them.
that weapons without delivery systems have limited utility,
the North Koreans
have proceeded at a frantic pace to
develop longer range missiles. Originally manufacturing the Soviet-style
SCUD, a rocket without sophisticated guidance systems, the North
Koreans have moved up through the intermediate range Nodong series
of missiles with improved accuracy and range to what we now suspect
is a class of missile, the Taepodong, capable of hitting targets
3,700 miles distant with reasonable accuracy. North Korea can
now attack virtually all major Northeast Asian cities and fly
east to Alaska. A Middle Eastern country like Syria if armed
with Taepodong class missiles could threaten most capitols of
Western Europe and the Middle East. Place a warhead of “dirty” explosives,
poison chemicals, lethal biologicals or a nuclear device on top
of those missiles and suddenly the balance of power is rudely
tipped toward the enemy.
We know that
Syria has been ordering SCUDs and probably more powerful missiles
from North Korea. Recall that when we overran
some of Iraq’s weapons sites we found missiles with far
more range than the regime supposedly possessed. It would be
reasonable to expect that Syria either received some missiles
from Iraq or has taken delivery from North Korea. Recall that
just prior to the Iraqi war a US Navy vessel intercepted a North
Korean freighter delivering missiles marked for Yemen. There
is a good chance that they were in fact headed for a buyer farther
up the road. We caught that one but how many other shipments
could have slipped through the net?
Incontrovertibly the links between Syria and North Korea have
been expanding. These ties have solidified with the overthrow
of Saddam Hussein. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad
has stepped up to the role as leading regional dictator. A
Baathist like Saddam, Assad rules his country with an iron
fist. A recent UN weapons investigation report verified pre-war
export and relocation of Iraq’s WMD. It is highly probable
that Syria was a welcome destination for the heinous devices.
The recent foiled terrorist attack on Jordan – intended
to be a highly coordinated poison gas/conventional explosive
truck bomb attack - certainly used chemicals supplied by Syria.
It would be of great interest if US and UK intelligence service
scientists conducted detailed analysis of the chemicals discovered
so far in Iraq, Jordan and in the Tokyo subways following the
Sarin-based terrorist attack there by the Aum Shinriko group.
If similarities were discovered it would further illuminate
the highly developed relationship among the terrorists and
rogue regimes in the world irrespective of nationality or ideology.
Even more revealing are reports of Syrian presence in North
Korea. Last April Kim Jong Il took his special train to Beijing
to meet with the Chinese. Rumors abounded that Kim acted hysterically
and irrationally, no surprise. He demanded increased support
from China and threatened more propaganda attacks against the
US, Japan and South Korea. The Chinese were said to be upset
with him. On April 22 Kim headed back to Pyongyang. Within hours
of his train passing through the small North Korean village of
Ryongchon near the Chinese border a huge explosion leveled the
village, killing an unknown number of inhabitants. The North
Koreans waited several days before permitting international relief
agencies to enter and assist. Reports are that hundreds of bodies
and secret, damming evidence was removed in the interim. Just
what could be so secret in a terrible train wreck?
more speculation. Was this apparent accident really an assassination
against Kim Jong Il? While possible,
such an attempt could have been made only by high level, disgruntled
members of the regime itself given the tight controls within
North Korea. Or the Chinese might have been sending a message.
The explosion may have been a warning shot fired across the Dear
Leader’s bow that said we can get you any time we wish!
The enormity of the explosion disclosed that highly volatile
military cargo was aboard. But the stunner is that reliable reporting
both from inside the country and from independent Japanese sources
says that 10 Syrians were killed in the explosion. Syrians killed
on a munitions-laden train in North Korea! Very suspicious. The
10 bodies were said to have been covertly evacuated on May 1st
when a Syrian aircraft delivering emergency assistance flew them
out of country.
Most startling in all the reports are details that tell of North
Korean workers and soldiers digging through the debris following
the explosion wearing bio-chemical protective clothing! Also
those loading the Syrian bodies onto the aircraft wore bio-chemical
protective clothing. All equipment and debris around the spot
where the bodies were recovered was also collected and removed
by workers in protective clothing. This work was completed prior
to international agencies receiving clearance to come on the
What could this tell us? Probably nothing that would give comfort.
Obviously what is most disquieting from the aftermath of the
Ryongchon explosion are the reports of bio-chem suits worn by
recovery workers and the swift precision with which North Koreans
focused attention at one specific portion of the wreck and removed
material and bodies from there posthaste. If the reports are
correct it follows that Syrian technicians were in North Korea
for training and to accept delivery of chemical or biological
weapons. If so, we have yet another red flag waving in the War
on the left in America and Europe like to turn a blind eye
Saddam Hussein’s terror organization connections,
there is absolutely no argument in regard to Assad. Syria has
long sponsored Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and has given
aid and comfort to al Qaeda. Syria occupies Lebanon and has been
a major supporter to Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation
Organization. Even more openly than Saddam, Assad supports terrorists.
That ought to earn Syria the newly opened spot on the Axis of
If Syria is allowed to continue to acquire, possess and deploy
WMD and missiles without hindrance then we may abruptly find
ourselves in a very untenable position in the Middle East. Threats
to Israel and NATO allies could be of such a potentially destructive
nature that protests from the Euro-left and American appeasers
against American intervention could reach hysterical levels,
leaving the US with few allies to face a problem of gargantuan
proportions. Certainly both the money-hungry North Koreans and
the power-mad Syrians are taking advantage of international dissent,
and, most especially, of the internal domestic turmoil they perceive
in a vitriolic US election cycle. They will push the acquisition
and deployment envelope as hard as possible. They are gambling
that American leaders will not confront Syria prior to resolving
the issues extant in Iraq. They are betting that the American
public does not have the stomach to win the anti-terrorist war.
these highly frightening reports from North Korea we dare not
deadly connectivity that binds the terrorist
world in its web. These terror sponsors must be destroyed. Just
as regime change was necessary in Iraq so is it in Syria and
North Korea. For all the same reasons, all the correct reasons:
human rights, threats to neighbors, proliferation of WMD, the
entire list of crimes. The Baathists must be overthrown and a
democratic government put in place. Kim Jong Il’s Stalinist,
repressive dictatorship must be replaced. Easy? No, but vital
to our survival. Cleaning out Afghanistan and Iraq successfully
provides the model. But snarling threats from rogue states frighten
the weak of will who desperately want America to cower and shrink
before terrorists and madmen. This is a battle for survival.
We cannot and will not falter. CRO
background see Endgame, by Paul Valleley and Tom MacIntyre,
and the recently
released BBC shocking documentary, Access
to Evil, produced by Ewa Ewart.]
Gordon Cucullu 2004