The Future of Terror
Horror movies and films about national disasters have been popular in the U.S. for years. Now, it’s as though the terrorist incidents on and since September 11 threaten to plunge the whole nation into a mammoth horror movie!
For horror-movie directors and terrorists, their most effective tools are 1) the element of surprise and 2) the invisible threat. Both creators of fear design their strategies to prey on the imagination.
The September 11 attacks caught America totally by surprise. The unexpectedness of the affront and injury deep in the heart of American culture made U.S. citizens feel suddenly unprotected and vulnerable. A sense of national insecurity was sparked in the public consciousness and ignited like a brush fire. Subsequent reports of anthrax attacks had people snapping up gas masks and antidotes.
The prevailing fear in America chillingly calls to mind these Bible prophecies: “I will even appoint over you terror …. Iwill send a faintness into their hearts … and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth” (Lev. 26:16, 36). Truly, terrorists, mostly from smaller countries with little say politically or militarily on the world scene, must be glorying in their newfound power, provoking dread in the citizens of mighty America.
A Real Threat
But the world is now awake to the very real threat of terrorism on a massive scale. Experts today are discussing mega-terrorism. After the World Trade Center attack, we can better understand what that means. The same experts are also predicting nuclear terrorism. That will be many, many times worse than what the U.S. experienced on September 11.
In the New York Times on September 12, William Safire said, “Along with the funerals, the grieving and the intelligence shakeup comes a grim recognition that America is at war, and this time our land is one of the battlegrounds. The next attack will probably not be by a hijacked jet, for which we will belatedly prepare. More likely it will be a terrorist-purchasednuclear missile or a barrel of deadly germs dumped in a city’s reservoir.”
Nuclear, chemical, biological warfare. A terrifying nightmare to contemplate. But how real it has become.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, 80 tactical nuclear weapons went missing, and they have never been found. Tactical nuclear missiles are the kind terrorists can use.
History shows that any time a weapon has been available, it has always been used—it is just a matter of when. Thus, if the past is any indication of the future, certainly we should be alarmed.
After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, an article titled “Must We Wait for the Nuclear Morning After?” appeared in the Washington Post. In this insightful analysis, Graham Allison warned, “[T]he oft-repeated assertion that with the end of the Cold War, the United States faces no direct or immediate threat to our security at home is dead wrong. As the most open society on a shrinking globe, America’s democracy is also most vulnerable to terrorists’ attacks. …
“Second, more deadly acts are surely yet to come. As a consequence of the collapse of the former Soviet Union, a vast potential supermarket of more than 30,000 nuclear weapons, plus weapons-grade uranium and plutonium sufficient to make an additional 100,000 weapons, is becoming accessible. … [W]e have every reason to anticipate acts of nuclear terrorism against American targets before this decade is out” (May 8, 1995; emphasis mine here and throughout).
What kept the terrorists from using these nuclear weapons in the World Trade Center attack? Was it their morals or their spiritual understanding? Obviously, no. The only reason they didn’t use nuclear weapons is because, at this point, it simply wasn’t possible to exercise that option—at least not the way they wanted it to be done.
September 11 made clear that there are madmen in this present evil world (Gal. 1:4) who will use whatever weapon is at their disposal. We must realistically ask ourselves, how long until nuclear terrorism begins? Do we really understand the dangerous times in which we live?
The Oklahoma City bombing occurred six years ago. There was immediate concern over the options open to terrorists at the time. Have those options since decreased? September 11 proved that the answer is no.
Mr. Allison continued in his editorial, “Over the past year, dribs and drabs of nuclear material have begun to trickle out of Russia. The flow is increasing …. The current trickle forewarns of an impending flow of nuclear weapons materials and indeed of weapons themselves.”
How will the U.S. stop nuclear material from entering the country? A river of drugs is flowing into America—we can’t stop it at our borders. Might someone be able to smuggle in some nuclear devices?
Others have forewarned of impending nuclear terrorism. In 1995, the Economist reported, “[Nuclear] bomb building is an industry in which the barriers to entry are steadily falling: The technology is widely understood; for anyone prepared to pay, the skills can be bought; though trade in the crucial parts and materials is controlled, no controls can be watertight.”
An unnamed Department of Energy official, who follows nuclear trends closely, was reported by U.S.News & World Report as saying, “It is a matter of when [the next nuclear weapon will be exploded], not if. It will happen” (April 17, 1995).
Those are chilling words. Cultural and religious hatred and the rage of revenge saturate our present-day societies. The U.S. News article makes it clear that a thermonuclear firestorm is only awaiting a nuclear device in the right hands—that device may well be a “nuclear suitcase bomb hidden in an American city.” Nuclear terrorism has gone beyond a possibility and has now become almost a certainty.
“Welcome to the third nuclear age. The first passed when the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb in 1949, ending the United States’ monopoly of the nuclear secret. The second, when a small club of five nuclear powers managed a Cold War nuclear equation according to well-defined rules of deterrence and crisis management, is over too. Now the world is entering a more dangerous nuclear era as new and unpredictable players prepare to join the game” (ibid.).
The article then referred to the monumental problem of monitoring and enforcing the provisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (npt). “What the npt won’t do … is stop governments that are determined, despite the penalties, to get the technology and materials they need to go nuclear on the sly.” It was only a few years later that India and Pakistan, to the surprise of the world, tested fully functional nuclear weapons.
How effective is the npt? Theoretically, a treaty is honored by all parties—but the fact is, all men are not honorable. Many will deceive or even murder to achieve their perverted goals.
The U.S. News article went on to say that the terror attacks we’ve seen “indicate that extremist groups are increasingly willing to resort to more deadly, unorthodox weapons. A top worry of senior fbi officials is that a terrorist group will acquire radioactive material—not to build a nuclear bomb but to create a ‘dirty’ conventional bomb that would contaminate a wide area if detonated. Such a bomb would not require weapons-grade nuclear material.”
Perhaps a terrorist might hijack and explode a plane carrying nuclear waste as it is being transported, or crash an airplane into a nuclear power plant, or destroy industrial facilities which disassemble nuclear bombs. Carrying out any of these monstrous plots would pollute the environment with radiation and bring death on the wings of the wind.
So many opportunities remain open for terrorists, it is impossible to guard against all attacks. And God has prophesied that evil men will grow worse and worse (ii Tim. 3:13). That prophecy, written more than 1900 years ago, is becoming increasingly relevant in our modern day.
The former prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, aptly said after the September 11 bombing that the survival of civilization is at stake.
A Grave Lesson
As surely as the ocean tides ebb and flow, a rising tide of terrorism has begun sending its grisly waves of death and destruction surging through the world. We are facing a high tide of unprecedented violence.
Dark clouds of nuclear terrorism are on the horizon. Because mankind is trying to solve the problem on his own, we will surely have to weather some terribly stormy and blood-drenched times ahead.
But at the end of it all, after Jesus Christ returns to put a stop to the madness of man and establishes God’s government of peace on Earth, mankind will be able to recognize the lesson in the horror movie we are experiencing today. How desperately this world needs God’s education and His righteous rulership, that we may put away the horror and learn to live up to our exalted, God-given potential.