Remember the "axis of evil"? It's getting harder and harder to forget

A warning from Iran. Missile shots from North Korea. And then there's Iraq.


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Tim Grieve
March 9, 2006 3:25AM (UTC)

George Will said the other day that the three countries in the president's axis of evil are "more dangerous than they were when that phrase was coined in 2002." Today's news sure seems to back him up.

Iran warned today that it will cause the United States "harm and pain" if the U.S. succeeds in winning sanctions against the country for its nuclear program. Not that the United States could do anything anyway. With troops bogged down elsewhere, saber-rattling from the likes of Dick Cheney lacks anything approaching credibility, and opposition from Russia makes meaningful U.N. Security Council sanctions unlikely.

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North Korea offered a different sort of warning today, firing two short-range missiles in what appeared to be a test of its own nuclear program. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the tests confirm that North Korea's missile program is "a concern that poses a threat to the region and the larger international community." The administration's best-it-can-do response: Urge North Korea to return to long-stalled six-country talks aimed at stopping the country's nuclear program.

And then there's Iraq. In 2002, it was a repressive dictatorship, hemmed in by U.N. inspections and no-fly zones and run by a man who only wished he had the kind of weapons the Bush administration said he had. Today, it's a mess of a country -- a "Pandora's box," the U.S. ambassador said the other day -- where homegrown insurgents, warring faiths and al-Qaida operatives compete to see who can cause the most damage.

In a commentary up now at Nieman Watchdog, William Odom, director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan, says Iraq may end up looking a lot like Vietnam -- only worse. "Vietnam did not have the devastating effects on U.S. power that Iraq is already having," Odom writes.

With what seem like crises coming from all three of the "axis" countries, you might think that the president and Congress would be focusing hard on solutions. But George W. Bush -- fresh off his taxpayer-financed trip home to vote in the Republican primary -- was on the Gulf Coast today, trying to put a happier face on reconstruction efforts there. And Congress -- when it's not busy scuttling an investigation into warrantless spying -- remains at full boil over the still-hypothetical harms of the Dubai Ports World deal. We feel safer already.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Iran Iraq War Middle East North Korea War Room

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