George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil". Helpfulness in Fighting the War on Terror

Essay, 2019

8 Pages, Grade: 68


This essay is going to tackle whether Bush’s 2002 articulation of an ‘Axis of Evil’ in fighting the ‘war on terror’ was a mistake or not. To answer this question, this essay will look at Iraq as an example of the “Axis of Evil” as part of the “war on terror”, because Iraq was invaded by USA in 2003. On the one hand, Bush’s articulation that the “Axis of Evil” could be seen as helpful in fighting the war on terror as the U.S. argued, that Iraq had acquired chemical weapons and ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMD). On the other hand, invading Iraq could have been a huge mistake because the problem of Al-Qaeda became stronger and there were many terror attacks in Europa after the Iraq invasion (Beauchamp, 2017). Thus, the “Axis of Evil” could be helpful but there were some problematic things. This essay will first explore, what the “Axis of Evil” was? Then the essay will turn to illustrate the question; can a state be a terrorist and it will argue what evidence is there that this state is involved in terrorism. Finally, this essay will discuss the outcome of the ‘war on terror’, and conclude if the invasion of the Iraq by U.S. was a mistake or not? Let us then address what was the “Axis of Evil”.

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on the 11th September 2001 represent a symbolic declaration of war by Islamic fundamentalists to Western civilization. (Tibi, et al., 2001). However, in January 2002, George W. Bush in his speech to the Washington Post demonstrated the existence of an international ‘Axis of Evil’ by addressing North Korea, Iran and Iraq. Further, under Secretary of State John Bolton said that Cuba, Libya and Syria could be grouped with these as “rogue states” (Segell, 2005). Bush added “states like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil” (Bush, 2002). It could be catastrophic for the US, if the “Axis of Evil” and states which sponsor terrorism possess Nuclear Weapons or ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. It could be argued Bush was trying to push the narrative that these states were a threat to U.S. civilians. “The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons'‘ (Bush, 2002).

After the attacks on September 11th, the Bush Administration internationally and domestically promoted a campaign claiming that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction including chemical and biological arsenals and that they have nuclear capabilities (Bassil, 2012). The U.S. government presented Saddam as the source of all evil, a supporter and sponsor of terrorism, and that meant an immediate threat to the people of America (Bassil, 2012). The decision was made at the White House to invade Iraq and was justified by the allegations of possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction, which turned out later to be a baseless accusation (Hagan & Bickerton, 2007). Clearly one of the questions that could be asked, was if this was a direct result of Bush stating that Iraq was part of the Axis of Evil, and if so, was it that Iraq was evil? Was the state of Iraq sponsoring terrorism? Before investigating these claims, it is necessary to answer the question. Can a state like Iraq commit acts of terrorism and what evidence is there that Iraq is involved in terrorism?

The idea that a state could be engaged in terrorism is somewhat problematic, because “terrorism have spawned a vast array of different methodologies, paradigms and branches of knowledge” (Green, 2017, p. 414). However, some scholars have defined the term terrorism as follows: “terrorism is, at root, violent attacks on civilians designed either to persuade a government to alter its policies or to damage its standing in the world” (Giddens & Sutton, 2013, p. 1043). On the other hand, other scholars tend to say that “it is nearly impossible to define terrorism” (Bjørgo, 2005).Nevertheless, Max Weber defines the state as a “human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Munro, 2013). According to Weber state violence is legitimate. This means if terrorism is defined as “illegitimate force”, then states cannot be accused of terrorism. In other words, Weber describes the state as any organization that succeeds in holding the right to use, threaten, or authorize physical force against residents of its territory. Such a monopoly, in step with Weber, should occur via a method of legitimation. For example, a state like Iraq according to the definition of Weber has the right to kill its own people with chemical weapons. Was this not an act of terrorism?

However, the definition of state according to Weber is clearly not valid for analyzing the state as an entity of terrorism, because the two definitions cannot be separated. Terrorism is a response to the state and both are associated together (Green, 2017). “States have been responsible for many more deaths than any other type of organization in History” (Giddens & Sutton, 2013, p. 1043). According to Giddens and Sutton, “any action that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilian” is considered to be a “state terrorism”. This could mean that terrorism and the state are linked together and if the method looks like terrorism then it is terrorism, it does not matter who is performing the acts of terror. Terrorisms is always about “the use, or threat of use, of violence” (Schwartz, 1998). Iraq illustrates this point clearly.

There is a lot of evidence before 9/11, which indicate that Iraq was engaging in state terror. To add, in 1991 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the First Gulf War and violated many crimes against Humanity (Segell, 2005). The United States with its other 38 allied countries including the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia used very precise weaponry and advanced technology that rendered the Iraqi Army almost paralysed and unable to withstand the attacks. The war ended, but it left behind an intact dictator and plethora of unintended consequences (Hagan & Bickerton, 2007). As a result, Saddam Hussein threatened the west by activating “terror cells” in Europe. This could be a kind of hint, that he was engaged in terrorism because he threated the Union.

Saddam was also accused of environmental terrorism. He used oil and weapons. The fact he empty thousands of drums of oil into the desert. He set them on fire and burned the oil wells around Kuwait. It was one of the biggest environmental catastrophes’ that the world has ever seen (Schwartz, 1998).So, Saddam Hussein was accused of “environmental terror”. He also used chemical weapons not only against Iran, but also against his own people in the Halabja (Gordon de Bretton, 2016). He also was accused of sponsoring terror groups. For example, Mujahedin-e-khalq which could be argued as a terror origination fighting against Iran (Segell, 2005).

Another thing that Saddam Hussein did, was pay blood money to the families of suicide bombers in Palestine. For example, if the family lost one of its members because he or she committed a suicide bombing. Saddam Hussein would send money over to the Family (Keller, 2002). This also could be evidence that Saddam Hussein was part of Al-Qaeda (Bassil, 2012). So, there is evidence not only of WMD, but also of sponsoring terrorism. Although this evidence could help show that the articulation of Iraq as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, due to their medaling with state sponsored terrorism, as we have declared above, was helpful as it clearly showed that Iraq were engaging in illicit behavior. This essay will now turn to argue that the outcome of the war in Iraq produced negative effects that were a consequence of declaring Iraq as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

In fact, after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reported in 2004 that there was "no convincing evidence" accusing Iraq of having a nuclear programme, or biological weapons (Segell, 2005). However, the fall of Saddam Hussein after the invasion of Iraq allowed thousands of Iraqi Shia opposition to return home from Iran. Though, their return was sudden against the United States interests as they were tied to the Iranian regime and subsequently anti-American. The Shia returnees began forming their own armed militias and declared war against the “occupiers” as sacred. One prominent example of the armed militia groups was the charismatic Muqtada al-Sadr forming “Al Mahdi Army” (JAZEERA, 2007). As a consequence of the U.S. invasion and its intentional sectarian approach to Iraqi polity, Iraq was dragged into a civil war were Shia and Sunni Muslims were attacking and counterattacking their sacred shrines and mosques leaving Iraq dwell on in ponds of blood shed by sectarian violence.

Furthermore, the repression of the civilians, the poorly performing transitional authorities, and the inability to provide security to Iraqis and improve their living conditions, led to rising tensions among communities in Iraq against the United States as they were perceived as illegitimate occupiers who failed to rebuild the Iraqi state. The dismantling of the Iraqi army led to the creation of vacuum which the U.S. army was unable to fill (Bassil, 2012) . The unnecessary de-ba’thification process which marginalised Sunni and made them default enemies of the United States and its allies was a major fertiliser of the spread of Islamic extremist armed groups. One noticeable example of the Islamic extremist groups was “The Islamic State” which is still exists today. Many leaders with different skills were “ex-Ba’athists who had held senior positions under Saddam Hussein” (Barrett, 2014). Later, armed groups and odds and ends of Al Ba’th party began organising themselves and launched their guerrilla attacks on the coalition forces. The malevolence towards the United States increased after the scandal in Abu Ghraib prison in April 2004 where U.S. soldiers appeared to be sadistically sexually and physically torturing Iraqi prisoners (CNN, 2019).

Moreover, images of “Abu Ghraib” sparked an unstoppable anger among Iraqis and gave way to Islamic radicalisation to dominate the Iraqi scene (Hagan & Bickerton, 2007). Al Qaeda became active in Iraq in late 2003, mobilising thousands of Sunni youth to fight the “occupiers” and repel them from Iraq and also to attack Shia. Despite the United States efforts to eliminate the radical groups, it could not succeed due to the outrage against its unjustified and arbitrary arrests in addition to the aforementioned torture scandals (Bates, 2011). Having Sunnis forming their own armed groups, Shia reacted similarly.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil". Helpfulness in Fighting the War on Terror
University of Winchester
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
george, bush, axis, evil, helpfulness, fighting, terror
Quote paper
Nidal Rashow (Author), 2019, George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil". Helpfulness in Fighting the War on Terror, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: George W. Bush's "Axis of Evil". Helpfulness in Fighting the War on Terror

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free