They’re Rebooting “Axis Of Evil” On The 20th Anniversary Of The Iraq Invasion

Caitlin Johnstone
7 min readMar 24, 2023

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The western political/media class has suddenly resurrected the phrase “Axis of Evil” in recent days to refer to the increasing intimacy between Russia and China, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Famed Iraq War cheerleader Sean Hannity appears to have kicked things off last week, saying on his show that “a new Axis of evil is emerging” between China, Russia and Iran, a slogan that has since been echoed numerous times this week.

On Tuesday former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Fox News that Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are “two dictators that have said they are unlimited partners,” asserting that “This is the new Axis of Evil, with Iran being their junior partner.”

Also on Tuesday Representative Mike Lawler tweeted, “Xi’s meeting with Putin in Moscow is deeply concerning and highlights the growing threats posed by this new axis of evil,” and on Thursday he tweeted, “We are dealing with a new axis of evil and failure to stop Putin in Ukraine will have far-reaching implications as Russia pushes further into Eastern Europe and China moves against Taiwan.”

On Wednesday The Telegraph published an article titled “Xi and Putin are building a new axis of evil,” which mixes in the phrases “China-Russia axis” and “Beijing-Moscow axis” for good measure.

Also on Wednesday Representative Brian Mast tweeted “This is the new axis of evil” with a picture of Xi and Putin shaking hands.

On Thursday British tabloid The Sun published an article titled “WHO’S THE BOSS? Body language experts reveal Putin & Xi’s hidden messages in their ‘axis of evil’ meeting and who REALLY has the power,” with the phrase “axis of evil” appearing nowhere in the actual body of the text.

The “Axis of Evil” slogan was first made infamous by George W Bush in a jingoistic speech he gave a few months after 9/11, and at the time referred to the nations of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The following year Iraq would be in ruins as the US empire ushered in a new era of worldwide military expansionism and shockingly aggressive interventionism throughout the Middle East.

Bush (and the speechwriter who helped him coin the phrase, neoconservative war propagandist David Frum) used the word “Axis” to evoke the memory of the Axis powers of World War II who fought against the Allied forces, of which the United States was a part. Western warmongers have an extensive history of comparing every war they want to fight to the second world war, framing whoever their Enemy of the Day happens to be as the new Adolf Hitler, whoever wants to fight him as the new Winston Churchill, and whoever opposes the war as the new Neville Chamberlain.

The idea is to get everyone thinking in terms of Good Guys versus Bad Guys like children watching a cartoon show, instead of like grown adults engaged in complex analysis of real life as it actually exists. Because the US empire has spent generations framing WWII as a pure Good Guys versus Bad Guys conflict, now propagandists can say that every Pentagon target is Hitler and the US and its allies are the brave heroes who are fighting Hitler.

And that appears to be the intention behind this recent resurrection of the “Axis of Evil” label: not to recall George W Bush’s hawkish sloganeering on the 20th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, but to recall World War II. This seems likely because we’re also seeing a huge increase in the use of the term “axis” to refer to Russia, China, Iran and sometimes other nations like North Korea, without the fun “of Evil” part.

Genocide walrus John Bolton has been trying to make “axis” happen for a while now; he used that term to refer to the relationship between Russia and China last month in an interview with The Washington Post, where he also claimed that we are already in “a global war” against those nations. In an interview with The Telegraph earlier this week Bolton referred to “the China-Russia axis,” which he described as having “outriders like Iran and North Korea.”

On Monday Representative Jamie Raskin tweeted about the “axis of authoritarianism linking Russia, China, and Iran.”

On Wednesday Representative Lisa McClain tweeted, “Xi and Putin seek a new world order that poses a worrying global threat. The West should be worried about this China-Russia axis and what it means for freedom.”

(Can I just pause a moment here to note that it’s a bit odd for the other guys to be labeled the “axis” when the US is now aligned with every one of the World War II Axis powers?)

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday, committee chairman Michael McCaul shed a bit more light on the worldview driving this perspective in his opening remarks.

“History shows when you project strength you get peace but when you project weakness it does invite aggression and war; you only need to look back to Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, and really the course of time has proven that axiom,” McCaul said, adding, “We’re starting to see this alliance very similar in my judgement to what we saw in World War Two: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.”

The problem with McCaul’s thinking, of course, is that he is pretending the US is just some passive witness to the formation of this evil “axis” of hostile nations instead of the singular driving factor behind it. Russia, China, and other unabsorbed governments have all been driven closer and closer together by the hostility of the United States toward all of them, and now they are overcoming some significant differences to rapidly move into increasingly intimate strategic partnerships to protect their national sovereignty from a globe-spanning empire which demands total submission from every government on earth.

Empire managers have long forecasted the acquisition of post-Soviet Russia as an imperial lackey state which could be weaponized against the new Enemy Number One in China, but instead the exact opposite happened. Hillary Clinton told the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in 2021 that as an insider within the US power structure she’d “heard for years that Russia would become more willing to move toward the west, more willing to engage in a positive way with Europe, the UK, the US, because of problems on its border, because of the rise of China.” But that’s not what occurred.

“We haven’t seen that,” Clinton said. “Instead what we’ve seen is a concerted effort by Putin maybe to hug China more.”

Perhaps more effort would have been expended winning over Russia’s friendship had this incorrect forecast not been made. If US empire managers had not been so confident that Moscow would come groveling to their feet to kiss the imperial ring, perhaps they would not have felt so comfortable expanding NATO, knocking back Putin’s early gestures of goodwill while administration after administration assured him with its actions that it will accept nothing but total subordinance, and engaging in aggressive brinkmanship on its border.

But they made a different call, so now we have to listen to cringey cold warriors like Michael McFaul moan about Moscow deciding to go with Beijing instead of Washington.

“After the collapse of the USSR, a democratic Russia had the chance to be a major, respected European power,” McFaul recently complained on Twitter. “Putin however has pushed Russia a different way, turning Russia (yet again) into a vassal of an Asian autocratic power. Such a wasted opportunity. Oh well.”

Which is of course just McFaul’s way of saying, “Russia was supposed to be our vassal, not China’s!”

Really all this fuss is nothing other than the emergence of a multipolar world crashing headlong into the imperial doctrine that US unipolar hegemony must be maintained at all cost. If not for that last bit the US empire ceasing to singularly dominate the planet wouldn’t be much of a problem, but because there’s a zealous belief that all attempts to surpass the United States must be treated as enemy acts of aggression we’re now seeing world powers split into two increasingly hostile alliance groups with more and more talk of hot global conflict.

This is madness, and it needs to stop.

EDIT: The always excellent Moon of Alabama put out its own piece on the rebirth of the “Axis of Evil” slogan at the same time as me that’s got more instances of the use of that phrase by the political/media class.

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