Axis of Evil

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Axis of Evil

The President's State of the Union Address


By: George W. Bush

Date: January 29, 2002

Source: The President of the United States is required by the Constitution to deliver a periodic assessment of the state of the nation to Congress, and to make recommendations to Congress regarding the nation's welfare. Traditionally, the State of the Union speech is delivered annually in January by the president before a joint session of Congress. The following excerpt is taken from the State of the Union speech delivered by President George W. Bush on January 29, 2002.

About the Author: George W. Bush was elected President of the United States in November 2000, and re-elected in 2004. The son of former President George H.W. Bush, he was previously Governor of Texas.


The State of the Union address, once known as the President's Annual Message to Congress, is an annual speech given before a joint-session of Congress (U.S. House of Representatives and Senate). It is intended to report on the status of the nation, including important events of the previous year, and outline the President's policy agenda for the next year. The address may be given by a written message read by a clerk or delivered as a speech. Modern tradition dictates that the speech is delivered by the President on the last Tuesday in January, in the evening.

On January 29, 2002, President George W. Bush delivered his second State of the Union address. Coming just four months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, much of the speech focused on the effects of the attacks and subsequent war in Afghanistan. However, President Bush stated that terrorism was not a problem confined to Afghanistan. He proceeded to outline what would become a new foreign policy agenda and military strategy for the United States. He identified three nations that he declared possessed dangerous arsenals of chemical and biological weapons, were pursuing development of nuclear weapons, or were state sponsors of terrorism. He dubbed three nations—North Korea, Iran, and Iraq (and later, Syria)—an "axis of evil," further asserted that immediate intervention was necessary to combat both the spread of global terrorism networks and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

The phrase "axis of evil" was created by senior White House speechwriter, David Frum. Frum later claimed that he had actually penned the words "axis of hatred," but that the phrase was refined by the speech-writing team or the President in a subsequent draft of the State of Union address.


January 29, 2002 . . . Our cause is just, and it continues. Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears, and showed us the true scope of the task ahead. We have seen the depth of our enemies' hatred in videos, where they laugh about the loss of innocent life. And the depth of their hatred is equaled by the madness of the destruction they design. We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants and public water facilities, detailed instructions for making chemical weapons, surveillance maps of American cities, and thorough descriptions of landmarks in America and throughout the world.

What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning. Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September the 11th were trained in Afghanistan's camps, and so were tens of thousands of others. Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning.

Thanks to the work of our law enforcement officials and coalition partners, hundreds of terrorists have been arrested. Yet, tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large. These enemies view the entire world as a battle-field, and we must pursue them wherever they are. (Applause.) So long as training camps operate, so long as nations harbor terrorists, freedom is at risk. And America and our allies must not, and will not, allow it. (Applause.)

Our nation will continue to be steadfast and patient and persistent in the pursuit of two great objectives. First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world. (Applause.)

Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. A terrorist underworld, including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-i-Mohammed, operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities.

While the most visible military action is in Afghanistan, America is acting elsewhere. We now have troops in the Philippines, helping to train that country's armed forces to go after terrorist cells that have executed an American, and still hold hostages. Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy. Our Navy is patrolling the coast of Africa to block the shipment of weapons and the establishment of terrorist camps in Somalia.

My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own. Many nations are acting forcefully. Pakistan is now cracking down on terror, and I admire the strong leadership of President Musharraf. (Applause.)

But some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will. (Applause.)

Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction. Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th. But we know their true nature. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections, then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. 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. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. (Applause.) And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. (Applause.)

Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun. This campaign may not be finished on our watch, yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch.

We can't stop short. If we stop now, leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked, our sense of security would be false and temporary. History has called America and our allies to action, and it is both our responsibility and our privilege to fight freedom's fight. (Applause.)

Our first priority must always be the security of our nation, and that will be reflected in the budget I send to Congress. My budget supports three great goals for America: We will win this war; we'll protect our homeland; and we will revive our economy.

September the 11th brought out the best in America, and the best in this Congress. And I join the American people in applauding your unity and resolve. (Applause.) Now Americans deserve to have this same spirit directed toward addressing problems here at home. I'm a proud member of my party, yet as we act to win the war, protect our people, and create jobs in America, we must act, first and foremost, not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans. (Applause.)

It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month, over $30 million a day, and we must be prepared for future operations. Afghanistan proved that expensive precision weapons defeat the enemy and spare innocent lives, and we need more of them. We need to replace aging aircraft and make our military more agile, to put our troops anywhere in the world quickly and safely. Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment, the best training, and they also deserve another pay raise. (Applause.)

My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high. Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay. (Applause.)

The next priority of my budget is to do everything possible to protect our citizens and strengthen our nation against the ongoing threat of another attack. Time and distance from the events of September the 11th will not make us safer unless we act on its lessons. America is no longer protected by vast oceans. We are protected from attack only by vigorous action abroad, and increased vigilance at home.

My budget nearly doubles funding for a sustained strategy of homeland security, focused on four key areas: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence. We will develop vaccines to fight anthrax and other deadly diseases. We'll increase funding to help states and communities train and equip our heroic police and firefighters. (Applause.) We will improve intelligence collection and sharing, expand patrols at our borders, strengthen the security of air travel, and use technology to track the arrivals and departures of visitors to the United States. (Applause.)

Homeland security will make America not only stronger, but, in many ways, better. Knowledge gained from bioterrorism research will improve public health. Stronger police and fire departments will mean safer neighborhoods. Stricter border enforcement will help combat illegal drugs. (Applause.) And as government works to better secure our homeland, America will continue to depend on the eyes and ears of alert citizens. . .


The term "axis of evil" proved controversial. Critics claimed that the President chose the words in an attempt to characterize the nebulous threat of global terrorism as parallel to the threat posed by the Axis powers of Germany and Japan during World War II in order to garner public support for any future military action. They further claimed that despite the chosen rhetoric, the extent and immediacy of the threat to global security posed by the new axis was not fully known. Some claimed that rhetoric would further flame anti-American passions, especially throughout the Islamic world. Supporters of the shift in policy cite successes in the war in Afghanistan, including the ousting of the Islamist Taliban government who had supported the al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the September 11 attacks.

The speech declared that North Korea and Iran were developing nuclear capability. North Korea broke a string of international treaties banning its further development of nuclear weapons technology. Iran's militant, fundamentalist Islamic government also fed regional anti-American sentiment that influenced Islamist terrorism. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Iraq had used an array of chemical weapons against its Kurdish population. Bush asserted that Iraq maintained a stockpile of these WMDs. The inference in the "axis of evil" speech was that three countries could use, and potentially desired to use, these weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies. The phrase conflated problems with the three nations into one operational policy.

Soon after the State of the Union address, the Bush administration declared that Iraq posed the most immediate threat to global security. Iraq's military dictatorship under Saddam Hussein had a problematic relationship with the United States. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988), the United States armed Iraqi troops. However, during the 1991 Gulf War, the United States fought Iraqi troops after they invaded Kuwait.

The U.S. and British governments presented to the international community intelligence reports and information that allegedly linked Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to both al-Qaeda terrorism and illegal stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein refuted allegations that his regime sponsored al-Qaeda actions and claimed to have destroyed WMDs following the 1991 Gulf War. United Nations (UN) inspectors were called in to Iraq, but the investigations proved inconclusive—teams reported finding no weapons but also claimed to be obstructed in their work. The United States and Britain lobbied for a UN mandate (a resolution of support) to invade Iraq, but after failing to secure a resolution, proceeded with military action against Iraq on March 20, 2003.

The United States declared an end to the war in Iraq on May 1, 2003, though fighting continued against insurgent forces. As of 2005, United States and coalition troops remained in Iraq. Coalition security forces and UN weapons inspectors did not find Iraqi stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, and ended the official hunt for WMDs in Iraq in October 2003. Allegations of the ties between the former-Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda have also proven tenuous.

North Korea declared itself a nuclear power on February 10, 2005. Since the nation has refused all UN weapons inspections, the current extent and capabilities of North Korea's nuclear program remains unknown. Several rounds of multi-national talks with North Korea have failed.

The United States continues to allege that Iran is developing nuclear weapons technologies and harboring al-Qaeda operatives. In June 2005, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated the more-moderate Akbar Rafsanjhani in Iran's presidential elections. Anti-Americanism was one of the central tenets of Ahmadinejad's campaign.



Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Web sites

The White House. "President Delivers State of the Union Address." <> (accessed July 10, 2005).