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George W. Bush: How to Axe Evil

What does the world think of U.S. President George W. Bush’s ‘Axis of evil' approach?

January 28, 2003

What does the world think of U.S. President George W. Bush's 'Axis of evil' approach?

On January 29, 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush uttered the phrase 'axis of evil' in his State of the Union address. He mentioned Iran, Iraq and North Korea in connection with state sponsorship of terrorism — and many other evils that have befallen mankind. A year later, the 'axis of evil' approach has not lost any of its initial controversy. Our Read My Lips examines what people think of this terminology.

What is the bone of contention?

“States like these (Iran, Iraq, North Korea) — and their terrorist allies— constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, January 2002)

How did U.S. President George W. Bush justify this term?

“Call this a strategic challenge. Call it, as I do, axis of evil. Call it by any name you choose, but let us speak the truth.”

(U.S. President George W. Bush, May 2002)

Did the U.S. Democrats agree?

“I think we’ve got to be very careful with the rhetoric of that kind.”

(Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), February 2002)

How about George W. Bush's opponent in the presidential race?

“As far as I’m concerned, there really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside and laying one’s cards on the table.”

(Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President, February 2002)

How do other people see it?

“What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives.”

(John Le Carré, spy novel writer, January 2003)

What was the British government's reaction?

“I think it’s for each politician to use their own words — but the sentiment behind what he is saying, namely the spread of weapons of mass destruction, is a real issue.”

(British Prime Minister Tony Blair, February 2002)

What was the view from Israel?

“Music to our ears.”

(Moshe Arens, Israel’s Likud Party elder, February 2002)

How about Japan?

“President Bush did tell me to be careful in going to that ‘axis of evil’ country.”

(Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on his visit to North Korea, September 2002)

And France?

“The good-and-evil view does not conform to the actual conditions in the present-day world.”

(Aide to French President Jacques Chirac, February 2002)

Is the 'axis of evil' approach just tit for tat?

“Iran’s recent promotion from a rogue state to a member of the “axis of evil” appears to be a belated rhetorical response to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s portrayal of the United States as the Great Satan.”

(Abbas Amanat, Yale history professor, February 2002)

Should the White House have been more diplomatic?

“The United States under President George W. Bush is not going to pull any punches. I think we learned all the way back with Ronald Reagan that you don’t soften the edges. You call out a threat when you see it.”

(Condolezza Rice, U.S. National Security Advisor, February 2002)

Does the White House expect any positive feedback from the 'axis' member states?

“Just as Ronald Reagan was accurate in calling the Soviet Union the evil empire, it’s important to people inside those three countries who want to be free to know that the United States has not forgotten their cause.”

(Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, January 2003)

Finally, should anyone or anything else be included in the axis?

“Poverty and hunger are the real axis of evil.”

(David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, March 2002)