Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Axis Of Evil Tour

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world," said U.S. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address on Jan. 29, 2002.
When Bush coined the phrase that was to echo around the world, American Scott Fisher was teaching English at Sungshin Women's University in Seoul. Little did the long time resident and fluent Korean speaker know at the time, but those three little words -- "Axis of Evil" -- were going to have a profound impact on his life, and lead to the publication of a book that most reasonable people would consider essential reading for the current occupant of the Oval Office.
"I never intended to write this book," says Fisher in the introduction to "Axis of Evil World Tour." "When I visited my first axis country, North Korea, in 2002, it was simply out of curiosity to see the North after living for almost ten years in the South."
Two years later, Fisher, then working as an Asia Analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, took the opportunity of a temporary posting to Baghdad. But, Fisher said, his decision was made more to escape the boredom of the Pentagon rather than any specific plan to visit his second axis country.
"It wasn't until Iran, the final country on my axis tour, that I traveled with this book in mind," Fisher writes in his introduction.
And the result is a remarkable volume that gives revealing first-person insights into life in the so-called axis of evil.
Packed full of anecdotes drawn from face to face meetings, and in some cases confrontations, with ordinary people and officials, Fisher takes the reader into a world that so many people have an opinion about, but one that few people have actually experienced first hand.
Fisher said the hardest part of writing the book was trying to avoid all the political partisanship that the term Axis Of Evil brings to mind, especially in the United States. "The whole point of writing about a 'tour' through the 'Axis of Evil' was to demonstrate that reality is far more complex than grossly-simplified ideological slogans and the concomitant political beliefs these slogans engender."
The people in Iran, Iraq and North Korea are not evil, Fisher asserts, nor are they part of some imagined "axis" plotting against U.S. interests.
"On the flip side of that coin though, these places, specifically their governments, are not the gentle, innocent victims of an arrogant U.S. power that many on the left, especially here in South Korea, would have you believe," said Fisher.
These governments, mainly in Iran and North Korea, are international outcasts for a reason, he said. "Anyone who is in need of a reminder of how open and friendly these governments are is urged to visit Pyongyang and try demonstrating against Kim Jong-il, or denounce the mulla-controlled government in Tehran."
Fisher says feedback from his book has been mixed. "I have been called a granola munching tree hugger to a knuckle-dragging (George) Bush-lover. Which I guess means I at least accomplished one of my goals -- not supporting either side of the political divide."
The biggest regret Fisher has was not being able to see more of Iraq. "The security situation, plus limits imposed on Americans working for the government, kept me from seeing much of the country or talking to all but a handful of its people."
Despite the limitations, Fisher's insights from the confines of a military base near Baghdad airport are thought provoking, and in many places, highly amusing. His confrontation with a Marine "bird" colonel is classic.
Fisher is back in Korea, teaching at Sungshin, and eventually plans to return to the United States to get an international relations Ph.D. on U.S. relations with so-called "rogue nations."
For details on how to purchase the book go to

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