Magazine article USA TODAY

Do Iraq, Iran, and North Korea Truly Constitute an Axis of Evil? (Worldview)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Do Iraq, Iran, and North Korea Truly Constitute an Axis of Evil? (Worldview)

Article excerpt

TO LISTEN TO CRITICS of Pres. Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech, you would think he just picked three nations out of a hat. However, the three he named--Iraq, Iran, and North Korea--have earned the description. All boast dictatorial, terrorist regimes that are overtly hostile to U.S. interests. All squander critical national resources to develop weapons of mass destruction, with America as their most probable target. Moreover, although they don't represent an "axis" in the sense that Italy, Japan, and Germany did in World War II, they increasingly cooperate with each other to coordinate their opposition to the U.S. and its ideals of freedom and equality.

Many of America's European friends, as well as South Korea, have taken issue with the President's rhetoric. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine declares the "axis of evil" designation "simplistic." Christopher Patten, the European Union's Foreign Minister, says it indicates Bush believes "the projection of military power is the only basis for true security." The South Koreans fear Washington is "undercutting years of diplomacy aimed at luring the Stalinist North out of its frightfully armed shell."

Curiously, none argue that Iran, Iraq, and North Korea do not form an axis of evil, but then, how could they? All three aim to destabilize legitimate governments. North Korea has kidnapped thousands of citizens of South Korea and launched a ballistic missile over Japan to demonstrate the prowess of its weaponry. Iraq has used poison gas on its own citizens. Iran, which held Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979-80, funds and supplies a number of terrorist groups from the Persian Gulf to the Holy Land. Any hostility not directed at the U.S. goes toward America's number-one ally in the region and its only democracy--Israel.

Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein can't even utter the word "Israel." Instead, he refers to the nation as a "freak and accursed entity." In recent months, he has pledged to help Palestinian terrorists take on Israel. His threats shouldn't be taken lightly. He fought a bloody eight-year war with Iran, then invaded Kuwait, and continues to threaten Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad Khatami, Iran's democratically elected president, tries to present himself and his country as a force for moderation in the region. However, the clerics of Iran, not Khatami, hold the power, and their hostility to U.S. and Western interests never wavers. The Iranians hate Israel as much as Saddam does, and they put their resources to work to prove it. Israeli commandos intercepted a 50-ton arms shipment headed from Iran, probably under the auspices of the terrorist group Hezbollah, to the Palestinian Authority. More recently, Iranian Islamic fundamentalists have begun to work with elements within Afghanistan to undermine the emergence of a pro-Western Afghan government there.

All three countries commit a far greater share of their resources--financial and human--to war-making than the U.S. does. Domestic opponents rip Bush for proposing to spend slightly more than three percent of the nation's gross domestic product on the military. Meanwhile, North Korea expends 14% of its GDP on the military; Iraq, 9.1%; and Iran, 7.6%. America keeps 1,300,000 of its 290,000,000 citizens on active military duty. Iran, meanwhile, keeps 513,000 of its 72,000,000 citizens armed and ready to fight; Iraq, 430,000 of its 22,000,000; and North Korea, nearly 1,100,000 of its 21,000,000.

While U.S. forces meet and defeat tyranny all over the world and carry out humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, Iron and Iraq focus on the defeat of America and Israel, and North Korea focuses on the defeat of the U.S. and South Korea. Their dedication to these goals is nearly total. If Iraqis must straggle under onerous international sanctions so their leader can resist allowing international inspectors to investigate his biological weapons programs, so be it. If North Koreans must starve or barely subsist in homes that often are without power so that Kim Jong-Il, their "Dear Leader," can keep his army fed and poised to attack South Korea, so be it. …

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