Part Troll

Axis of evil

"Axis of evil" is a term coined by United States President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002 in order to describe governments that he accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction. President Bush named Iran, Iraq, and North Korea in his speech. President Bush's presidency has been marked by this notion as a justification for the War on Terror. North Korea was removed from this list on October 11, 2008.


President Bush's exact statement was as follows:


Yossef Bodansky

A decade before the 2002 State of the Union address, in August 1992, the political scientist Yossef Bodansky wrote a paper entitled "Tehran, Baghdad & Damascus: The New Axis Pact" while serving as the Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives. Although he did not explicitly apply the epithet evil to his New Axis, Bodansky's axis was otherwise very reminiscent of Frum's axis. Bodansky felt that this new Axis was a very dangerous development. The gist of Bodansky's argument was that Iran, Iraq and Syria had formed a "tripartite alliance" in the wake of the First Gulf War, and that this alliance posed an imminent threat that could only be dealt with by invading Iraq a second time and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

David Frum

The phrase was attributed to former Bush speechwriter David Frum, originally as the axis of hatred and then evil. Frum explained his rationale for creating the phrase axis of evil in his book The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush. Essentially, the story begins in late December 2001 when head speechwriter Mike Gerson gave Frum the assignment of articulating the case for dislodging the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in only a few sentences for the upcoming State of the Union address. Frum says he began by rereading President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "date which will live in infamy" speech given on December 8, 1941, after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. While Americans needed no convincing about going to war with Japan, Roosevelt saw the greater threat to the United States coming from Nazi Germany, and he had to make the case for fighting a two-ocean war.

Frum points in his book to a now often-overlooked sentence in Roosevelt's speech which reads in part, "…we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again." Frum interprets Roosevelt's oratory like this: "For FDR, Pearl Harbor was not only an attack—it was a warning of future and worse attacks from another, even more dangerous enemy." Japan, a country with one-tenth of America's industrial capacity, a dependence on imports for all its food, and already engaged in a war with China, was extremely reckless to attack the United States, a recklessness "that made the Axis such a menace to world peace", Frum says. Saddam Hussein's two wars, against Iran and Kuwait, were just as reckless, Frum believed, and therefore presented the same threat to world peace.

In his book Frum relates that the more he compared the Axis powers of World War II to modern "terror states", the more similarities he saw. "The Axis powers disliked and distrusted one another", Frum writes. "Had the Axis somehow won the war, its members would quickly have turned on one another." Iran, Iraq, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah, despite quarrelling among themselves however, "all resented power of the West and Israel, and they all despised the humane values of democracy." There, Frum saw the connection: "Together, the terror states and the terror organizations formed an axis of hatred against the United States."

Frum tells that he then sent off a memo with the above arguments and also cited some of the atrocities perpetrated by the Iraqi government. He expected his words to be chopped apart and altered beyond recognition, as is the fate of much presidential speechwriting, but his words were ultimately read by Bush nearly verbatim, though Bush changed the term axis of hatred to axis of evil. North Korea was added to the list, he says, because it was attempting to develop nuclear weapons, had a history of reckless aggression, and "needed to feel a stronger hand.


Bolton: "Beyond the Axis of Evil"

On May 6, 2002 future United States UN Ambassador John R. Bolton gave a speech entitled "Beyond the Axis of Evil." In it he added three more nations to be grouped with the already mentioned "rogue states": Libya, Syria, and Cuba. The criteria for inclusion in this grouping were: "state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations." The speech was widely reported as an expansion of the original axis of evil.

Rice: Outposts of Tyranny

In January 2005, at the beginning of Bush's second term as President, the incoming Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made a speech regarding the newly termed outposts of tyranny, a list of six countries deemed most repressive. This included the two remaining Axis members, as well as Cuba, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

Criticism of the term

No coordination

One criticism is that unlike the Axis powers, the three nations mentioned in Bush's speech have not been coordinating public policy, and therefore the term axis is incorrect. Also, while the Axis Powers of the Second World War signed diplomatic treaties, such as the Pact of Steel and the Tripartite Pact, with one another that created a military alliance between them, none of the nations that make up the "axis of evil" have taken similar steps.

No category

In addition, Iran and Iraq fought the long, bloody Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, under basically the same leadership as that which existed at the time of Bush's speech leading some to believe the linking between the nations under the same banner as misguided. Others argue that each of the three have some special characteristics which are obscured by grouping them together. Anne Applebaum has written about the debate over North Korea's inclusion in the group.

No facts

Furthermore, other information Bush cited in his state of the union address — primarily dealing with Iraq and its alleged weapons of mass destruction and terror ties — have been labeled false by Senate-appointed committee investigations.

Other Axes

Axis of the willing

By analogy to axis of evil, the term axis of the willing has occasionally been applied to the coalition of the willing (for countries that participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq).

Axis of terror

In January 2006, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz implicated "the axis of terror that operates between Iran and Syria" following a suicide bomb in Tel Aviv.

In April 2006 the phrase axis of terror earned more publicity Israel's UN Ambassador, Dan Gillerman, cautioned of a new axis of terror — Iran, Syria and the Hamas-run Palestinian government; Gillerman repeated the term before the UN over the crisis in Lebanon . Some three months later Israeli senior foreign ministry official Gideon Meir branded the alleged alliance an axis of terror and hate.

United States, United Kingdom, and Israel

Among his other speeches, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi the chief commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran has spoken of a true axis of evil consisting of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel.

New Latin Left

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez has described the so-called New Latin Left as an "axis of good" comprising Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua (all three countries now governed by leftist leaders) and instead "Washington and its allies" as an "axis of evil".

In Media


Various related pun phrases include:

  • axis of weasels - mocking certain countries that did not support the US invasion of Iraq
  • Axis of Eve - a political action group that opposes Bush
  • axis of medieval - mockingly criticizes the influence that Bush's personal Christian faith has on his political views
  • asses of evil - a mocking insult against Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld
  • axles of evil - denouncing sport utility vehicles for their poor fuel efficiency, and several other variations
  • coallition of the drilling - mocking the 'coallition of the willing', stating the possible goal behind the "willing" in getting acces to the Iraqi oil
  • Axis of Eden - the title of the latest album by Nashville, Tennessee noise rock band Today is the Day, referring to the gang of conservative Christians in the White House.

The term has also lent itself to various parodies, including the following:

Star Wars

In the science-fiction Star Wars novel Labyrinth of Evil, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine uses the term the Triad of Evil when referring to the planets Felucia, Mygeeto, and Saleucami in an apparent jab at the Bush administration. Palpatine is the public persona of Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, who seeks to take over the galaxy and install an authoritarian Empire.

Bill Bailey

British Comedian Bill Bailey also referred to the Axis of Evil in his Part Troll tour. He queried whether it was possible to have a non-evil position within a terrorist organisation, going on to pretend that he was the receptionist for the Axis of Evil, and he was sorry 'they were all out at the moment, doing something evil I suppose'. Placing the 'caller' on hold, he then played a short jingle for the 'Axis of Evil Caterers' and 'Axis of Evil Pension Plan'.

Comedy Tour

In response to the problems Americans of Middle-Eastern descent have in the current climate, a group of comedians have banded together to form the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. The comedians, Ahmed Ahmed (from Egypt), Maz Jobrani (from Iran), and Aron Kader (whose father is Palestinian), have created a show which currently plays on Comedy Central. They have also included half-Palestinan, half-Italian Dean Obeidallah in some of their acts.

The group recently took the comedy tour around the Middle East (November - December 2007), performing in the UAE, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, and Lebanon to sell-out crowds.


In 2003 the Norwegian record label Kirkelig Kulturverksted published the CD Lullabies from the Axis of Evil containing 14 lullabies from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Cuba. Every lullaby is presented in its original form sung by women from these countries, and then a western version with interpretations in English.

Words Without Borders

In 2007 the online magazine Words Without Borders published its first anthology titled Literature From The "Axis of Evil". The anthology contains works from Syria, Cuba, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Iraq and North Korea. The works included are typically non-political in nature, and are intended to further a human understanding of life inside the countries designated as part of the "Axis." It should be noted that Sudan (included in the anthology) has never been given an "Axis" or "Beyond the Axis" designation by proponents of the terms.


In cosmology

In cosmology, the Axis of Evil is the name given to a pattern that is left imprinted on the radiation left behind by the Big Bang. The controversial pattern itself is an alignment of hot and cold spots in the Cosmic Microwave Background that seemingly defies the standard isotropic model of the Universe. Discovered and named in 2005 by Kate Land and João Magueijo of Imperial College London, the pattern is controversial and disputed amongst scientists, though two independent studies have confirmed its existence.

See also


North Korea removed from the US 'axis of evil'

External links

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