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Volume 2, No. 8 - January 2003

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The Vertex of Evil
Dr. Subodh Atal

As 2003 dawns, a statement made by US President George W. Bush almost a year ago attains significance in a manner in which he surely didn't wish it to. In his 2002 State of the Union speech, the President spoke about an 'axis of evil' that threatened peace and freedom around the world, and he named Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the corners of that axis. In January 2002, none of the three nations were as much of a threat to either the United States or the rest of the freedom-loving world as they have become today. The axis was created in that speech. Before the speech, Saddam Hussein had no designs to pass on VX or other WMD to terrorists, or to launch missiles against Kuwait and Israel; North Korea, while covertly working on its nuclear weapons program, had no plans to overtly throw out IAEA inspectors and begin mass production of nukes, and Iran had taken the now unthinkable step of capturing fleeing Al Qaeda forces.

As it turns out, it was Pakistani nuclear scientists who had met up with bin Laden and discussed nuclear weapons design with him; it was Musharraf and his predecessors who had passed on nuclear secrets to North Korea, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Iran. And it is Pakistan, which today is providing sanctuary to most of the Al Qaeda and Taliban who escaped Afghanistan. And it is Pakistan, which trains, funds and supplies terrorists who kill more in Jammu and Kashmir than the ones trained by Iran do in Israel. And if someone hasn't made the connection yet, the nuclear blackmail being flaunted by North Korea today against the US sounds identical to that used by Pakistan in January and May of 2002. It worked then, with India succumbing to the threat of millions in New Delhi being wiped out, because Bush and Powell didn't see the long-term ramifications of not standing up to Pakistan. And now that strategy is going to work again, with millions in Seoul under nuclear threat, apart from 37,000 US soldiers near the DMZ.

Bush's grave misstep was to go after an axis of evil that was ill defined and incipient, helping it attain a reality and maturity that is far more dangerous. He thought he was taking the easy way out, rather than move against the vertex of evil, namely Pakistan. But by succumbing to that central evil, Bush showed the other nations how easy it is to hold the world's only super power to ransom. If Pakistan's nuclear status can help it carry out the largest terrorist operation in the world, why would North Korea not desire to mass produce nuclear weapons, and why should Iran not start designing nuclear reactors?

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld can put up a brave face and talk about winning two wars at the same time. Of course he will win, with his laser bombs, JDAMs, stealth fighters and Special Forces. But will it be victory if Seoul gets wiped out in the process, or if Saddam or Kim Jong II provide NBC components to the Al Qaeda? North Korea certainly has a good business sense; it will sell or barter away its most destructive weapons to whoever is willing to deal. And Saddam, as the CIA pointed out, will be only too willing to give away his well-hidden WMD to Al Qaeda as a farewell gift, now that everyone on the planet knows what Bush and Co. have in store for him. Perhaps Bush now realizes that the firestorms he has touched off in the past year are all making their way back towards American shores. In the meanwhile the original enemy flourishes and gloats in Karachi, NWFP, Baluchistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, ready to spread out from the vertex and collaborate with the broader axis of evil that Bush created.

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