President Bush has been getting plenty of flak from the fainthearted and morally impaired for his designation of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an axis of evil. It might interest you to find that in large part he’s following recent historical precedent.
The Los Angeles Times reports that in his visit to Japan President Bush is being "dogged" by his characterization of these nations as evil. "Editorials are warning about the dangerous implications for the world ... Demonstrators are protesting the possibility of a new U.S. military campaign ... For many Japanese, Bush’s good-versus-evil language is unsettling on less concrete grounds, as the product of a worldview that sees black and white but doesn’t always seem to appreciate the area in between where most people live."
But the criticism is not just from abroad. Significant discomfort exists among the elite in this country as well at the mere utterance of the word "evil" when not adjectivally affixed to politically conservative nouns. For example, David Talbot, in Salon.com enlightens us that Bush’s black-and-white rhetoric fails to grasp the complexity of the world. "Bush utters the word 'evil' the way a child does when it first dawns on him that there is darkness and danger in the world, and only his goodness and courage stand in its way ... it simply confuses the American public and underlines what a dismal imitation of a great president our current leader is." What a sweetheart this compassionate liberal is!
In light of all this criticism I decided to do a Nexis search to document the similar reaction to President Reagan’s labeling of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." My search confirmed that the Soviets went bonkers over Reagan’s straight talk, as did some of this country’s usual suspects. But I also came across something even more interesting. Ah, the glories of serendipity!
Reagan’s "evil empire" speech was delivered to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando on March 8, 1983. Two years later, July 8, 1985, in a speech to the American Bar Association, President Reagan branded five terrorist states as enemies of America. Two of those states, North Korea and Iran, are now part of Bush’s evil axis.
What did Mr. Reagan say about Iran and North Korea? Iran: "Well, in 1983 alone, the CIA either confirmed or found strong evidence of Iranian involvement in 57 terrorist attacks." North Korea: "The extent and crudity of North Korean violence against the United States and our ally, South Korea, are a matter of record. Our aircraft have been shot down; our servicemen have been murdered in border incidents; and two years ago, four members of the South Korean Cabinet were blown up in a bombing in Burma by North Korean Terrorists ... Now, what is not readily understood is North Korea’s wider links to the international terrorist network."
Since Reagan’s time, North Korea (not to mention Iran) has continued her sponsorship of terrorism -- including acts against South Korea, sales of missiles to Libya and Syria, and harboring Japanese Red Army terrorists -- and is also proliferating weapons of mass destruction. This should remove all doubt about Bush’s position.
Now listen to Mr. Reagan’s words about the scope of international terrorism, especially those of you who have difficulty comprehending that evil is a black and white reality, not some nuanced grayish phenomenon. "There is a temptation to see the terrorist act as simply the erratic work of a small group of fanatics. We make this mistake at great peril, for the attacks on America, her citizens, her allies and other democratic nations in recent years do form a pattern of terrorism that has strategic implications and political goals. And only by moving our focus from the tactical to the strategic perspective, only by identifying the pattern of terror and those behind it, can we hope to put into force a strategy to deal with it."
Reagan also warned about state sponsorship of terrorism. "Most of the terrorists who are kidnapping and murdering American citizens and attacking American installations are being trained, financed, and directly or indirectly controlled by a core group of radical and totalitarian governments -- a new, international version of Murder Incorporated. And all of these states are united by one, simple, criminal phenomenon -- their fanatical hatred of the United States, our people, our way of life, our international stature ... their real goal is to expel America from the world. And that is the reason these terrorist nations are arming, training and supporting attacks against this nation. And that is why we can be clear on one point: These terrorist states are now engaged in acts of war against the Government and people of the United States. And under international law, any state which is the victim of acts of war has the right to defend itself."
And let’s not forget these gems: "A number of times ... foreign tyrants, warlords and totalitarian dictators have misinterpreted the well-known likeability, patience and generosity of the American people as signs of weakness or even decadence ... But ... when the emotions of the American people are aroused, when their patriotism and their anger are triggered, there are no limits to their national valor nor their consuming passion to protect this nation’s cherished tradition of freedom ... (American) history (is) littered with the wreckage of regimes who made the mistake of underestimating the vigor and will of the American people ... So, the American people are not ... going to tolerate intimidation, terror and outright acts of war against this nation and its people. And we’re especially not going to tolerate these attacks from outlaw states run by the strangest collection of misfits, loony tunes and squalid criminals since the advent of the Third Reich."
Quite a predicate for President Bush’s War on Terrorism, wouldn’t you agree?