Wednesday January 30, 11:43 AM
Bush puts Iran, Iraq and North Korea on notice in terror war
President George W. Bush singled out Iran, Iraq and North Korea as "an axis of evil," bluntly warning the three nations that they could soon become targets in the US-led war on terrorism.
Delivering his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Bush put the three so-called rogue states on notice that the United States is prepared to act, alone if it has to, against them should they threaten their people, their neighbors or others.
In addition, the president said the United States could and would bear the immense cost of a military campaign against any one the nations, maintaining that the price of doing nothing to counter such threats "would be catastrophic."
"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world," Bush said in the speech which appeared to anticipate an extension of the anti-terror campaign beyond Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger," he said. "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.
"All nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security," he said.
"We will 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," he said, laying down a direct challenge.
Bush said that while Iran, Iraq and North Korea might not have been particularly active since the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington which sparked the US war on terrorism, he was not fooled by them.
"We know their true nature," he said.
Bush accused Stalinist North Korea of arming itself 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," he said, in an apparent reference to Iran's alleged involvement in a foiled Palestinian arms smuggling operation.
But Bush saved his harshest comments for Iraq -- frequently mentioned as a possible next target in the anti-terror campaign.
"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror," he said.
"The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade," Bush said, demanding that Saddam Hussein allow UN weapons inspectors back into his country.
"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."
Bush left his warning to the three countries vague without mentioning any specific actions that could be taken against them, but he hinted that he would move to use the full force of American military might if he had to.
He told Congress that the war in Afghanistan was costing more than one billion dollars a month to fight, but that it was worth it.
"It costs a lot to fight this war ... and we must be prepared for future operations," Bush said.
"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."