- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

In his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President George W. Bush vowed to fight the war on terrorism aggressively and proactively and singled out three nations Iraq, Iran and North Korea raising the possibility that they may be possible targets for future U.S. military strikes.
In a confident, powerfully delivered, simple yet highly effective speech, Mr. Bush had tough warning messages both for the American people and for states that still seek to protect terrorist groups and develop weapons of mass destruction. And he also made clear that the United States would act unilaterally and alone, if necessary, against them, rather than be held back by "timid" governments and allies.
The speech was a triumph for the hawks among Mr. Bush's advisers, especially Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who both smiled and remained relaxed and genial throughout it.
By contrast, Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has repeatedly argued against the United States seeking to actively commit military forces to topple Saddam Hussein of Iraq, appeared tense and unsmiling throughout the president's delivery.
Mr. Powell was also not seated next to Mr. Rumsfeld, his arch foe in repeated foreign policy debates in the Bush Cabinet. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill sat between them.
"Our war against terror is only beginning," the president told both houses of Congress assembled in joint session and the American people.
Mr. Bush noted the brilliant U.S. military success in toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and scattering the al Qaeda terrorist organization it had protected there. But he soberly warned, "Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs set to go off without warning."
Mr. Bush went out of his way to blast three states in particular North Korea, Iraq and Iran. His harshest words were reserved for Iraq, which, he said, "continues to flaunt its hostility to America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime which has something to hide form the civilized world."
Mr. Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea and other states like these "an axis of evil." With that phrase, he deliberately drew a close comparison between them and the Axis powers of World War II Nazi Germany, militarist Japan and fascist Italy that unleashed genocidal slaughter and aggression across most of Europe and much of Asia.
And he drew a clear line in contrast to the far more cautious policies of the previous Clinton administration toward those regimes, making clear that the United States was not prepared to let them continue to develop such weapons, with plans to use them.
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger," the president said. "They could provide 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."
In one of the most dramatic parts of his speech, the president vowed to adopt a proactive, aggressive policy toward such states. He made clear he was determined and prepared to use the vast military might of the United States to act pre-emptively against them to forestall major attacks or threats against America.
"Time is not on our side," Mr. Bush said to more waves of applause. "I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer."
If "terror states" as well as terror camps were left "unchecked," the president said, "our sense of security would be false and temporary. History has called America and its allies to action."
Mr. Bush went out of his way to offer high praise to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, whose government he praised for "cracking down on terror." But, he added, "some governments will be timid in the face of terror."
Some nations, including even U.S. allies in the European Union, have repeatedly urged caution on U.S. responses to the terror attacks of September 11. In an apparent response to short calls, the president made clear that, if more cautious governments refused to support the proactive, pre-emptive military operations he was prepared to unleash, he would go ahead without them.
"Make no mistake: If they do not act, America will," he said to roaring cheers.
Mr. Bush hardly mentioned Russia or China in the foreign policy sections of his address. He alluded to close U.S. cooperation with those giant Eurasian nuclear powers in one sentence. "America is working with Russia, China and India in ways we never have before to achieve peace and prosperity," he said.
In fact, the specifics of the policies he adumbrated in his speech looked certain to anger leaders in Moscow and Beijing, and intensify anti-American cooperation between them. Russian and Chinese leaders are alarmed by the U.S. determination to push ahead unilaterally to develop its own anti-ballistic missile shield and maintain a strong presence in Central Asia.
The president's speech was strong and rousing. But it also contained a somber tone. "This campaign may not be finished on our watch, yet it must be and it will be waged on our watch," he said.
It was a domestic political triumph, and a call to arms against ominous dangers still rising around the world.

Martin Sieff is senior news analyst for United Press International.

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