The "Axis of Evil" is a term used to describe the countries Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The phrase was introduced by President George W. Bush in his 29 January 2002 State of the Union address. The three countries were grouped as threats to the United States capable of terrorism and nuclear attack.
Speechwriter David Frum developed the phrase, describing Iraq, Iran and North Korea in the written speech as an “Axis of Hatred.” The term was then altered during the oral speech by George W. Bush to “evil.” The phrase drew on the historical example of the American enemies during World War II, the Axis powers: Germany, Japan and Italy.
The phrase "Axis of Evil" was developed by Frum for George W. Bush as a means of making the case for war eloquently and forcefully. Frum drew upon the example of President Franklin Roosevelt’s 8 December 1941 speech to the United States people leading them into war. He used this phrase to represent the growing culture of nuclear enemies faced by the United States, and was primarily at Iraq. The term was extended to Iran and North Korea by Bush and Frum with the goal of preventing these regimes from threatening America and its allies.
The term was used to pinpoint these common enemies of the United States and rally the country in support of the war on terror. Iran, Iraq and North Korea were portrayed by Bush during the State of the Union as possessing nuclear weapons, and they were lumped together as chief instigators in terrorist actions and attacks. Many have called this speech a justification by George W. Bush for his War on Terror policy, while others saw it as a strong statement by the president in response to growing hostilities from Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Bush, in his State of the Union address, condemned the Axis of Evil as totalitarian regimes who were stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. He lambasted the these countries for denying their people’s freedom, rejecting international inspections, and cultivating nerve gas and anthrax. Bush illustrated the three countries as a grave and growing danger.
In the years following the State of the Union address, some have tried to add countries to the list, including Cuba, Libya and Syria. When delivered in 2002, however, the speech was meant as a clear warning by George W. Bush against the actions of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.