Axis of evil

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In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, U.S. President George W. Bush characterized Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil".

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world," he stated. "By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States."[1]

According to David Frum, who was fired from his job as a White House speechwriter in February 2003, the speech originally read "Axis of Hatred", which was subsequently changed by others. ["The World According to Bush", CBC Newsworld]

On January 30, 2002, the report Proliferation in the "Axis of Evil": North Korea, Iran, and Iraq by Anthony H. Cordesman was published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Note that Donald Rumsfeld headed the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, which reported to the US Congress in 1998. This "Rumsfeld Commission" singled out three countries threatening the US with ballistic missile development - North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

The concept of an "axis" evokes memories of the "Axis powers" of World War II (Germany, Italy and Japan) and functions to prepare the public for acceptance of war against nations that purportedly belong to the axis. However, this use of the term is misleading. It suggests an alliance or confederation of states that pose a significant danger precisely because of their common alignment - a menace greater than the sum of the parts. In fact, Iran and Iraq have been bitter adversaries for decades, and there is no pattern of collaboration between North Korea and the other two states.

To say that these nations are "evil" depends in part on your theology and in part on your politics. There is no question that Iran, Iraq and North Korea have all committed significant violations of human rights, although Iran has recently been undergoing internal democratization (a process that may be disrupted as the U.S. invasion of Iraq fans the flames of Islamic fundamentalism). The singling out of these particular nations as evil, however, invites the question of why the Bush administration failed to include U.S.-supported nations that violate human rights on a similar scale, such as Saudi Arabia or Egypt, as well as countries that already possess weapons of mass destruction and have recently come close to using them, such as India and Pakistan. In reality, "axis of evil" is a term used to stigmatize countries against which the U.S. contemplates military action in the near future.

In May 2002, US Undersecretary of State John Bolton gave a speech titled "Beyond the Axis of Evil" in which he added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the nations that the U.S. claims are deliberately seeking to obtain chemical or biological weapons. Speaking to the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, Bolton suggested that the U.S. might also take military action against those countries.[2]

Worldwatch Institute analysis

"Poverty, disease, and environmental decline are the true axis of evil," says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "Unless these threats are recognized and responded to, the world runs the risk of being blindsided by the new forces of instability, just as the United States was surprised by the terrorist attacks of September 11." State of the World - 2005

SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • George W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 29, 2002.
  • Jon Wolfsthal, "What Is to Be Done With The Axis of Evil?" Proliferation Brief, Vol. 5, No. 1, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 6, 2002.
  • Following the speech by Bush, produced a clever spoof titled "Angered by Snubbing, Libya, China, Syria Form Axis of Just as Evil."
  • "US Expands 'Axis of Evil'," BBC News, May 6, 2002: "The United States has added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the nations it claims are deliberately seeking to obtain chemical or biological weapons."
  • Danny Schecter, The Power of Evil, znet/zmag, January 14, 2003. Regarding the phrase Axis of evil and the addition of North Korea to the axis: "Most likely, it was simply oratorical affirmative action, bussed in to lend diversity to what would otherwise have been an all-Muslim list. One thing it was not was the product of careful policy deliberation. It had not been, as they say, staffed out. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the State Department's East Asia hands learned about it only hours before the speech, and they were not happy. ... What we learn here is that the phrase comes from the world of propaganda more than politics."
  • Chip Berlet & Nikhil Aziz, Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy, rightweb, December 5, 2003: "Apocalyptic thinking--especially in the Christian Right--joins other factors influencing U.S. Middle East policy, such as controlling global oil sources, assisting corporate-driven globalization, militaristic imperialism, and more. Why focus on this one factor? Because the Christian Right is a powerful force shaping politics and culture in the United States, and they are the largest voting bloc in the Republican Party, so they can expect politicians to pay attention to their interests.2 That George W. Bush takes his born-again religion seriously and applies it to his political decisions has been discussed widely.3 That's why we need to understand apocalyptic thinking."

Articles & Commentary

  • Who said "axis" first?.
  • 29 October 2003: "U.S. Takes Softer Tone on Iran, Once in the 'Axis of Evil'" by Steven R. Weisman: "The Bush administration assured Iran on Tuesday that the United States did not favor 'regime change' in Tehran and signaled a new willingness to engage in a dialogue with Iran over its nuclear program, its alleged support of terrorism and other issues. ... The administration's newly conciliatory approach toward Iran, enunciated by Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, resolved at least part of a contentious internal debate among aides to President Bush, administration officials said."
  • 4 December 2003: "Bush's Religious Language" by Juan Stam, The Nation: "Politically, Bush's discourse has been very effective, but theologically the results have been more problematic...."

But, on the other hand ...

  • 29 October 2003: "Iran Says Won't Give Al Qaeda Intelligence to U.S." by Parinoosh Arami, New York Times: "Iran said on Wednesday it would not share intelligence with the United States about al Qaeda members it is holding despite repeated requests from Washington for Tehran to do so. ... 'We don't have any relations with American security services so there is no reason to do anything on this issue,' government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh told a weekly news conference."
  • 29 December 2003: "'Great Satan' Sends 'Axis of Evil' Member Iran Aid" by Christina Ling, Reuters: "In contrast to Iran's rejection of all offers of international assistance after a 1990 earthquake that killed more than 30,000 people, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has said help is welcome from everywhere except Israel."