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Gordon Cucullu- Contributor

Former Green 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, Separated 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. [website] [go to Cucullu index]


Separated at Birth : How North Korea Became the Evil Twin
Gordon Cucullu

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Who will Bend?
Did we learn nothing about capitulating to terrorists?
[Gordon Cucullu] 7/13/04

‘Success breeds success.’ ‘Reinforce success’. ‘Try something. If it works, repeat it.’ These are words that guide us. Since these words and more importantly the concept they promote are so deeply ingrained in our culture – and indeed in cultures around the world – it is difficult to understand why we seem to forget them in practical application.

Specifically we seem unable to recall these lessons in international affairs from one moment of crisis to the next. It has been fashionable for decades to shake our heads in disgust and frustration at the historical picture of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning from negotiating Czechoslovakia away to Hitler, standing on the airport tarmac waving a paper and declaring that he had achieved ‘peace in our times.’ How foolish, we say, how could he not have seen the obvious?

But here we are again going through the process as if we have learned nothing. Al Qaeda terrorists kill innocent Spanish citizens in Madrid and the populace quails in fear, votes in the appeasement party and tries to seek safety behind the promise of the terrorists not to hit them again. Until the terrorists are ready, that is. So those of us who see things though a longer historical lens expect terror attacks in the UK, Italy, Iraq and America before elections. Why not? It worked well enough in Spain to merit a reprise. Why can’t people understand?

Adding to their repertoire of horror, the terrorists have sunk to abysmal depths in beheading innocent hostages. They pick the most savage, barbaric method of killing that they can, making the death as cold and cruel as possible with the sole intention of inflicting fear and intimidation. If it works, if we fall into the appeasement trap, then we can expect to see it over and over again.

The latest victim, a poor young man with big dreams and lots of ambition, was a South Korean named Kim Sun Il. Kim was 33 years old, a Christian, and Arabic language speaker. He had been hired to work in Iraq by a South Korean firm that supplied materials to the US military there. He was shown in a video kneeling before five masked terrorists. They had stripped Kim and put him into one of the orange jumpsuits that seem to be the execution garment the terrorists prefer for their victims. He begged for his life – which must have thrilled them – while they postured around him, masked cowards, acting tough and waving weapons. Then they cut the helpless man’s head off.

The terrorists had threatened to murder Kim Sun Il unless the government of South Korea bowed to their demands to remove all troops and send no more. With more backbone than a great many European countries, the Koreans have remained steadfast. This was not a given. Among many military observers and not a few civilians who are aware of their reputation, the South Korean military are regarded as tough, skilled and stalwart. In years past one could count on South Korea and its military to support American policy even when – in joining Carter’s 1980 Moscow Olympic Games boycott, for example – it seemed in contravention to its best interests. Nonetheless, South Korea has typically stayed the course in rough diplomatic waters.

But the last two presidents, the beleaguered incumbent Roh Moo Hyun and his predecessor Kim Dae Jung, drifted increasingly to the far left, embracing a policy of appeasement. Considering that Roh won narrow victory on an anti-American platform, asking about the fortitude of South Korea these days is a legitimate if embarrassing question.

However to its credit, the South Korean government has so far vowed to stand fast against the terrorists. It is keeping its promise to supply 3,000 troops later in the summer (about half construction engineers, to the others infantry protect them). In reaction, the usual suspects are out on the streets noisily making their point against deployment: student organizers, professional dissidents, and proponents of accommodation with the communist North Korean government.

Disturbingly, many of these people are part of President Roh’s support base. He is going to be under increasing pressure to give in to them. Roh – whose painful inexperience in governing at the national level still hampers him – may decide to offer an olive branch to the dissidents. If so he could slide the deployment date of the South Korean force further to the right. He could also reduce the number of troops deployed. This would give him the dual advantage of claiming to be supportive of the US and coalition effort while telling his base that he is intentionally delaying. In his mind this move might allow him to paint a ‘best of both worlds’ face on a difficult situation.

But while Roh is stewing don’t expect North Korea to withhold comment. We ought to look to it to issue a statement designed to divide the US and South Korea, probably something on the order of a challenge to the independence of South Korea. Accusing the South of being a lackey of the US gets a reaction from some in the South, particularly the ultra-nationalistic parties or the communist sympathizers. Meanwhile, North Korea drives a wedge between the US and South Korea, while it continues to court terrorist groups that are actual or potential customers of the North’s illegal weapons and missile systems.

What ought South Korean President Roh to do? The best thing that the government of South Korea could do to defy the terrorists and demonstrate free world solidarity would be to accelerate the deployment and increase the number of troops. This is not what Roh will probably do, but he should be encouraged to consider the move. So doing would send a message of great import to the terrorists and to those who oppose them that South Korean recognizes the gravity of the threat and is stepping up to the challenge. Strength in response to terror galvanizes the population and steels their will; vacillation erodes it.

Regardless of the outcome, there is a sense of historical irony discussing Iraq and South Korea at the same time. South Korea had its growing pains too. It was liberated from brutal Japanese colonial rule in 1945, suffered through a terrible war, and slogged through a long aftermath of economic and social recovery. South Korea has become a role model for how a free market democracy can evolve. But it was not long ago that conventional wisdom deemed Korean people unable to handle democracy. ‘These people have to have a strong leader,’ was both a rationale for accommodating dictators and an excuse for not pressing harder for reform.

Despite the difficulties, South Korea has made the proper choices: it has weathered severe economic storms and emerged stronger. It has passed through the fire of coup d’etat and political controversy and now routinely selects its own leaders. It is a country that affords basic human freedoms to its populace even while under hysterical threats of nuclear destruction by an authoritarian, oppressive neighbor.

South Korea has endured terrorist attacks in the past such as the downing of a commercial airliner in 1987 designed to thwart the 1988 Seoul Olympics and a bomb detonation that barely missed the president and killed most of his cabinet. But South Koreans, like most of the civilized world, are just beginning to face the personalized brand of depravity served up by al Qaeda murderers. The Koreans will need our understanding and assistance to weather the trauma of vicious terrorist attacks such as the murder of Kim Sun Il. We must set an example of moral courage and fortitude and help they stay the course.

Realistically all countries must accept the fact that all foreigners in Arab countries are targets. The terrorists intend to break the US public and allied will. The tactic is not so much an attack directed against an individual for the sake of killing him, as it is a psychological warfare attack directed against the morale of entire populations. Terrorists are targeting the US in the midst of a heated election season along with any of our coalition partners that they can intimidate. We must hold firm together, refuse to negotiate, and combine to hunt down and kill these barbarians.

One final note: it is well past time that we called these murderers what they are, terrorists. I for one am sick and tired of the mealy-mouthed press referring to them as ‘militants,’ ‘insurgents,’ or, thanks to Reuters, ‘freedom fighters.’ Euphemisms do not erase or diminish the horror of their actions. Calling them the scum that they are is a good first step in eliminating them. CRO

copyright Gordon Cucullu 2004




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