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Why ‘Axis of Evil’ is Still Right

Staff Report
Alabama Political Reporter

It has been less than a week, and already it’s hard to remember a single line from President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address.

Yet people are still arguing about the State of the Union delivered by George W. Bush 10 years ago Sunday: the famous, or notorious, “axis of evil” speech. I played a small part in the crafting of that speech. Rereading it again after this long interval of time, I’m impressed to see how well it stands up—and how wrong so many of its critics were.

Ten years ago, President Bush asserted that the world’s leading rogue regimes and a variety of terrorist groups together formed an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

Those words touched off possibly the most explosive reaction ever heard to a presidential speech: an outpouring of enraged criticism that reverberates all these years later.

The criticism could be summarized under three main headers:

1) It was naive, paranoid, or outright deceptive to suggest that rogue states and terrorist groups might cooperate across ideological or theological lines. Communist North Korea would never cooperate with Shiite Iran. Shiite Iran would never aid Sunni Hamas.

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2) By pointing fingers at these regimes, the president disrupted fruitful negotiations and cooperation.

3) And what about Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? Didn’t they support terrorism? Why were they omitted from the memorable axis?

Criticism #1 is the criticism most thoroughly debunked by subsequent revelations. The whole world now knows what 10 years ago counted as highly sensitive intelligence information: rogue regimes do cooperate, and support for terrorism does cross ideological and theological lines.

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