September 11th has challenged America to root out the political and cultural factors that feed terrorism. But could our own millennial prophecies have provided Bin Laden’s network with further ideology to wage Holy War? On the 13th anniversary of 9/11, has America really drained it’s own swamp of ideology which fed this heinous act?
After 13 years, have we addressed the root causes of Terrorism? Have we made the right investments in education, immigration, infrastructure, and capital formation to keep America great? In this award winning feature, here is what I wrote two weeks after 9/11. You be the judge. Is America more ready for the future now, than then? – Dr. Gary
ON THE MOST HORRIFYING DAY in American history, with smoke still billowing out of rubble in New York and Washington, a grim-faced President addressed the nation from the Oval Office, “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks… Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into building, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.”
September 11, 2001…. By far it was the most devastating terrorist attack ever on American soil, as four planes headed to California were hijacked and used as weapons of mass destruction. Coordinated suicide strikes hit the heart of America’s financial and military centers. Thousands were feared dead as the World Trade Center collapsed, taking with it two hundred of New York City’s police and firemen. And the causalities were not just Americans. They included nearly 1,000 citizens from thirty-seven different countries.
Holy War Horror
Since the attack on America, it has been all the more chilling to realize that Arabs, motivated by radical Islamic beliefs, carried out these acts. Their masterminds speak of a “Holy War,” a Jihad against the West. International terrorism once threatened Americans outside their country. Since September 11th, the front line of attack has moved to Main Street, U.S.A.
Fourteen months before this suicide hijacking the National Commission on Terrorism warned the U.S. Congress: “International terrorism poses an increasingly dangerous and difficult threat to America… Today’s terrorists seek to inflict mass casualties, and they are attempting to do so both overseas and on American soil. They are less dependent on state sponsorship and are, instead, forming loose, transnational affiliations based on religious or ideological affinity and a common hatred of the United States. This makes terrorist attacks more difficult to detect and prevent.”
“Terrorism is meant to terrify,” Mark Juergensmeyer writes in Terror in the Mind of God. Terrorism comes from the Latin terrere, “to cause to tremble.” Not only does terrorism commit violent acts against the public, the public who witness the acts are terrified.
Wanted: Osama Bin Laden
Before night fell on the collapsed World Trade Center complex, the wealthy Saudi expatriate, Osama Bin Laden emerged as the prime suspect, based on known associations with the hijackers. Known as “the contractor,” Bin Laden operates a loose confederation of terrorist groups that dispatch funds and trained warriors to terrorist groups around the world.
Bin Laden was born in 1957, son of a wealthy general contractor in Saudi Arabia. Working for the Saudi Royal family, his father built the main Muslim Mosques in both Mecca and Medina. Later the King of Jordan awarded him the job to restore the Dome of Rock Mosque in Jerusalem. Although his father died when he was ten years old, Bin Laden continued in his family’s footsteps and studied civil engineering.Even before September 11th, Bin Laden was on the FBI’s “Top 10 Most Wanted List” for masterminding the East Africa Embassy bombings and the year 2000 attack on of the USS Cole. He also is thought to have sponsored the mid-’90s bombings of U.S. facilities in Saudi Arabia. And in the late ’90s, Russian military intelligence sources reported he was hunting for nuclear weapons in Chechnya and in the Central Asia republics, to convert his ballistic weapons into “suitcase nukes.”
Feeling a connection to the Islamic holy places his father restored, Bin Laden feels that the United States and Israel, or “the Crusader-Jewish alliance” has attacked “the countries of Islam” by threatening the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Furthermore, he feels “the Infidels have occupied the Arabian Peninsula” with troops, “plundered its ‘oil’ riches, dictated to its rulers, humiliated its people, terrorized its neighbors, and turned its bases into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.”
In 1996, Bin Laden called upon Muslims to fight against the United States and its people “in accordance with the words of Almighty God.” And in opposition to moderate Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt and his homeland of Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden claims his Holy War aims “to liberate its land, to fight for the sake of God, and to make the Islamic law the highest law, and the word of God the highest word of all.”
Roots of Islamic Terrorism
What would cause a man like Bin Laden, with net assets over $300 million to take up a Holy War against the world’s remaining superpower? The answer in short is confidence, based on the fact that he and the Afghan mujahedin successfully turned away the invasion of another superpower, the former Soviet Union.
Bin Laden not only fought, but his construction company blasted massive tunnels into the Afghan mountains to set up safe guerrilla hospitals and then cut a trail across the country to within 15 miles of Kabul. In addition, Bin Laden recruited thousands of Arab activists from countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey and Jordan to join the mountain warriors.“When the invasion of Afghanistan started, I was enraged and went there at once–I arrived within days, before the end of 1979,” Bin Laden revealed in a 1993 interview. “Yes, I fought there, but my fellow Muslims did much more than I. Many of them died and I am still alive.”
Ironically, at that time the United States covertly provided $500 million-per-year of weapons and training to these “freedom fighters” in their war against the Communist invasion. In a recent MSNBC interview, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf admitted, “There is no doubt in my mind that at one point or another we probably armed him. Indirectly, I was training the people who today are terrorists.”
Why today is Bin Laden’s base so strong and his soldiers so loyal? It is because they got their basic training from Bin Laden’s “Terrorist U,” studies that were subsidized by a “U.S. GI Bill.” When the war ended in the late ’80s, these “Afghan Alumni” returned to their countries to carry out Jihad and establish strict Islamic rule everywhere that Muslims live. Throughout the ’90s, Mujahedin veterans turned up at many of the world’s flashpoints, including Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Chechnya.
Like ambulance chasers, End Time Christians immediately responded to this attack on America. On conservative talk shows across the country believers were asking, “Is this the beginning of the End?” The day after the tragedy, Hal Lindsey confirmed their fears in a WorldNetDaily column, “It Has Begun.” “The Battle of America has begun! So be it! As I have warned many times, the United States has come under attack by the combined terrorist forces of Islam.”
Lindsey is not the only End-Time handmaiden using Bible prophecy to confirm this Holy War.The Late Great Planet Earth author, who thirty years ago seeded the waters for this current feeding frenzy, further boasted, “In my video, ‘Where Is America In Prophecy,’ I warned that America will be destroyed as a world power and that terrorism was one way this could happen. This scenario seems to have begun.”
In Saudi Arabia, a 47-year old Islamic Sheikh named Safar al-Hawali has recently written a book using Bible prophecy to show how this latest Muslim uprising against Israel and America will result in their downfall.
Drawing on Islamic tradition, conspiracy theory, and an intimate knowledge of the Bible (through the eyes of Hal Lindsey), al-Hawali creates a compelling End-Time narrative for Muslims. His book, The Day of Wrath, contains chapter-length treatments of the prophecies of Daniel, Jesus and John’s Apocalypse. It is posted on Azzam.com, an Islamic Jihad recruiting web site based in London. According to the Sheikh’s Bible reading,
- The End-Time beast is “Zionism in its Jewish and Christian fundamentalist forms,”
- The New Babylon is “modern western culture in general and American culture in particular,”
- The False Prophet is the pope and anyone who claims to be a Messiah,
- The Abomination of Desolation predicted by Jesus is Israel defiling the sanctuary of the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and
- The Day of Wrath is coming by 2012, when a majority of the Jews, if they remain in the land, will be exterminated.
After presenting this End-Time scenario, the Sheikh asks both Jews and Christians, “if you reject it as supposition and guesswork, well, yes. But whose guess is more likely? Why is your guess so certain and ours is just conjecture?”
Commenting on how the Sheikh appears to be the mirror image of Hal Lindsey, Dr. Glen McGhee, a religious studies professor from Panama City, FL asks, “Would it not be deeply ironic if this is a genuine example of Islamic appropriation of the “Bible Prophecy” mentality by radical Sunnis?”
McGhee continues, “If this is involved with terrorism in any way, it represents a cruel two-fold irony, 1) that Christian millennialists have inadvertently provided the ideological frame for this particular strain of virulent terrorism, and 2) that Bin Laden’s purging of Islamic holy sites is itself asserted on the basis of defective Christian millennialism!
For McGhee the terror and tragic loss of life on September 11, 2001 will only be magnified if it is further exploited by millennial scenario makers.
The Fall of Jerusalem
Not all Christians are ready to label America’s campaign against terrorism as a “Holy War.” They fear doing so would only empower Bin Laden again to use American strength against itself to gain sympathy in the Middle East and topple moderate Arab regimes.
Following America’s disaster popular Evangelical author Tim King asked, “Why should Christians take sides in this “Holy War” between Judaism and Islam?”
“I wish Christianity, Judaism and Islam could see what Abraham saw!”
Citing Hebrews 11:10, King said, “For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” According to King, and a growing fulfilled Bible prophecy movement, that New Jerusalem or heavenly city that Abraham saw is not some future state of Israel, but the heavenly/earthly people of God today.
“Two-thousand years ago the Jews were expecting a physical city, to throw off the Roman yoke, and rule the world. The only thing Jesus said about the physical city of Jerusalem was that it would fall under Roman assault,” claims King.
“Christian Zionists who focus on a physical Jerusalem today make the same mistake that Jews did in the first century, expecting God to establish a physical city.”
King rejects any present-day Christian, Jewish or Muslim attempt to co-op the End-Times, given historical Jesus scholarship shows Jesus felt the End-Times would culminate in his generation. King claims Jesus would have seen the new heavens and new earth of Isaiah 65 as the New Covenant that reached maturity in A.D. 70.
The Clash of Civilizations
Now, in the wake of America’s tragedy, some leaders are calling us to think beyond Huntington’s “clash of civilizations.” They want a world made safe for diversity.Since 1979, when Iran took hostages at the U.S. Embassy, America has been troubled by Islamic militant fundamentalism. After the Cold War, U.S. intellectuals, such as Samuel Huntington at Harvard, began to explain the new world scene as “The Clash of Civilizations.” Where once conflicts between secular ideologies or nations caused wars, now the “fault lines between civilizations” will be clashing cultures and religions.
Dr. Edward Said, a leading Arab Christian intellectual from Columbia University writes, “‘Islam’ and ‘the West’ are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly. Some will run behind them, but for future generations to condemn themselves to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more willful than necessary.”
In his September 16th London Observer essay Dr. Said continued, “We need to step back from the imaginary thresholds that separate people from each other and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available, decide to share our fates with each other as cultures mostly have done, despite the bellicose cries and creeds.”
Draining the Swamp
The evening after suicide bombers hit America, Larry King hosted an inter-religious talk show of a Christian minister, a Catholic priest and a Jewish Rabbi. When the Rabbi was asked to summarize the meaning of this tragedy, he said, “Now we are all Israelis.”
After September 11th, every American can identify with the suffering Israel has faced from extreme Islamic terrorism. But like the victims of the World Trade Center, most Americans can also identify with Palestinian civilians who have suffered from Israeli plane attacks, demolished homes, and targeted assassinations.
Mr. Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist and “Gush Shalom” leader writes: “There is no patent remedy for terrorism. The only remedy is to remove its causes. One can kill a million mosquitoes, and millions more will take their place. In order to get rid of them, one has to drain the swamp that breeds them.”
Even if Arabs carried out this attack, how do we drain the swamp? Avnery feels “the world must at long last treat the festering wound of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is poisoning the whole body of humanity.”
Will we be equal to the task? Can America’s political and military “Operation Infinite Justice” drain the swamp of Middle East terrorism without addressing legitimate Arab desires for freedom and self-determination? Equally important, can America’s evangelicals find the resolve to drain their own apocalyptic swamp of dubious Bible readings and eradicate its own Jihads?
As Abraham Lincoln gathered at Gettysburg to memorialize the dead in the middle of the Civil War, so humanity is now gathered on a great battlefield. The recovery workers of New York call it “The Pit” or “Ground Zero.” Christians know it as the heavenly grounds of Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:18-24).Avnery concludes, “Instead of the destroyed New York edifices, the twin towers of Peace and Justice must be built.”
May we resolve, as Lincoln urged in his famous address, “that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
This feature was selected the year after 9/11 by the Smithsonian Institute as exemplary writings of the tragedy to enter into their collection.
Dr. Jay Gary is president of PeakFutures.com, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.