The Head of the Snake

Present targets in the war on terrorism are only one tendril of the monster. Will the U.S. strike at its head? Here is how the war will end.

After the dust settled in Washington and Manhattan on September 11, Americans wanted revenge. Blood.

But whose blood? War had been declared, but by whom?

Clues quickly led to the Middle East, a seething cauldron of anti-Americanism and violent—even suicidal—religious fervor. Clearly the attack came from radical Islamic terrorists.

After years of operating as a third party to Mideast peace efforts, of politely asking the terrorists to stop pestering Israel, suddenly the U.S. found itself alone in the ring with them. President George W. Bush declared the U.S.’s determination to eradicate terrorism root and branch.

The U.S. began its campaign on the outskirts, zeroing in on Osama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban is, at best, only a starting point. Far from being the fountainhead of terror in the world, it is a single shaky, friendless regime that before September 11 was officially recognized by virtually no one.

Of course, every war must start somewhere. President Bush says the U.S. will not end the war until terrorism is gone. That honorable goal is stirring Americans almost unanimously to hope. They have no choice but to vigorously confront this enemy; the security of every citizen is in jeopardy. Now, with the U.S. committing its full resources to the task and many other nations voicing support, one wants to believe terrorism is facing its richly deserved demise.

Can we know whether the U.S. campaign will be successful? We can—Bible prophecy gives the answer!

A Wake-Up Call From Hell

Many Americans believe that people are inherently good. The will to terrorize is unfathomable.

September 11 was a brazen, terrifying reveille to a nation largely asleep to the threats of today’s world. A wake-up call from hell, in Benjamin Netanyahu’s words. It quickly acquainted Americans (those who had ignored or forgotten previous terrorist acts) with the venomous hatred growing in some quarters of the world. Many realized: If the terrorists could have, they would have leveled Manhattan with a nuclear bomb; if they could, they would turn cities into graveyards with killer diseases like anthrax or small pox. September 11 forced people to confront evil, if only for a moment.

That’s not to say, however, that the optimism—even naivety—is gone. “How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America?” President Bush asked in an October 11 press conference. “I’ll tell you how I respond: I’m amazed. I’m amazed that there’s such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am—like most Americans, I just can’t believe it because I know how good we are.”

While Americans want to believe that the violent enemies of their country are few—a thinly spread, underground network of individuals—in actuality, hatred for America is gaining in popularity and intensity, in many communities, nations and governments. Footage of Palestinians cheering in the streets the day of the attack gave only a glimpse of the gravity of the problem. Terrorists do not operate in isolation. They represent the will of populations; they receive assent and aid from sovereign nations.

President Bush confirmed this reality by saying on September 20, “Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists and every government that supports them.”

Which governments? The list is not secret. But it is a hornet’s nest of nations with powerful allies. Truly, prosecuting a war on terrorism is no small undertaking.

Does America have the will to see it through? What happens when the war spreads from Afghanistan to other, less-isolated governments—when world opinion begins to turn on the U.S.? What happens if American soldiers begin to die—or if retaliatory terrorist attacks on American soil intensify? Would the unanimity of public opinion fracture? Would fear intensify and determination falter?

King of the South

Let’s get specific about where a truly penetrating war on terrorism would take us. If the Taliban is just one tendril of the monster, where is the head? For the answer, we can go straight to the Bible.

The September 11 assault was perpetrated by only a faction of the existing Mideast terror groups. The real head of the snake of terrorism is referred to in end-time prophecy as the “king of the south.”

The Trumpet has often spoken of the king of the south (Dan. 11:40) likely being a potent Middle Eastern country leading a coalition of nations united by radical Islam. It is religion that feeds the murderous aims of the terrorists—and, as we have often said, religion that will bind together this diverse, generally fractious international power.

No Bible prophecy speaks expressly of a direct conflict between the U.S. and the king of the south. Prophecy instead explicitly tells of the demolition of this Mideast power by the “king of the north”—the European Union.

Realize what this means: The U.S. won’t be the victors in this war. Europe will!

Prophecy affirms the imminent rise of the European Union to dominate the global political scene. And when Europe turns its hand to address the problem of Mideast terrorism, it will do so through decisive blitzkrieg warfare!

We must implant this firmly in our minds before we can understand the significance of the U.S.’s present effort. This is God’s sure forecast of the ultimate end of the forces of Mideast terror. Read it! Believe it! “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south [radical Islam] push at him: and the king of the north [Europe] shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land [Israel and Jerusalem], and many countries shall be overthrown …” (Dan. 11:40-41).

Europe will not single out specific terrorists. It won’t try to coerce Iran and Syria into joining a coalition against terrorism. It won’t be squeamish about civilian casualties. Europe will come in a storm of fury! It will “overflow”—meaning inundate, cleanse, drown, conquer. Whole countries will be “overthrown”! The king of the north truly will make no distinction between terrorists and governments.

This is how the war on radical Islamic terrorism will end. In fact, this is the only way this war could end! The U.S. is talking about a vast network of terror that must be rooted out. The network is so vast that nothing short of a sudden, furious and indiscriminate whirlwind will get rid of it!

The inescapable conclusion we must draw, then, is that the U.S. will fall short of its stated goal—and Europe, watching from the sidelines, will learn the lesson. They won’t make the same mistake!

We must also deduce that there will soon come a point when the U.S. won’t even be a factor in this war. In fact, numerous other prophecies foretell a crushing downfall for the world’s current most powerful country. (Our booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy is a must-read, and is available upon request at no cost.)

Understand: The Trumpet staff would like as much as anyone to see America conquer in the war on terrorism. But prophecy shows that it is, regrettably, underestimating its enemy. If we take a dim view of present U.S. efforts, it is because we know the Bible’s stated outcome!

As we now examine the facts emerging from this war, we can see unequivocally that the terrorist snake will survive America’s aggression—head intact, and stronger than ever.

State Sponsors of Terror

Before pledging to eliminate terrorism, America was outspoken about who it believed were its primary promoters. The State Department has held a list of seven regimes that sponsor terrorism: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Cuba. Documentation of the brutal activities of these nations—three of which are in the Middle East—is immense; the threat each of them poses is great.

Notice: Afghanistan was not on this list. As devastating as September 11 was, it was unanticipated—and, more importantly, mild compared to the potential for megadeath posed by hostile nations systematically building arsenals and production capabilities of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The Taliban hardly rates in those areas.

Iran is the one Mideast country with the power, the determination and the resources to be the king of the south. Its long-held objective is to become the undisputed leader in the region. Not only is it at the top of the State Department’s terrorist list because of its vast links to regional terror groups (including Hamas and Hezbollah), Iran has been stockpiling weapons and delivery systems (former Soviet nuclear warheads and weapons-usable nuclear material; thousands of tons of chemical blister, blood and choking agents; artillery mortars, rockets, aerial bombs and Scud warheads) and building production capabilities (manufacturing biological agents and long-range missiles; pushing for uranium-conversion facilities) for years. Make no mistake about it: Iran is the head of the snake.

Remember, it was the 1979 Iran hostage crisis that introduced the U.S. to the brutality of international terrorism in the first place. Soon after the Islamic Revolution put the Ayatollah Khomeini into power, Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and held 66 Americans hostage for a tense and terrifying 444 days. The fact is, Iran’s ruling Islamic regime is the architect of Mideast terrorism!

The Jerusalem Post reported on September 23 that senior officials within the Israeli Defense Force (idf) believe Iran may have even had a hand in the September 11 attack. “They are very deeply involved in everything that carries the label of Islamic radical terrorism,” a senior idf official was quoted as saying. “Iran comes from the same school as [Osama] bin Laden. Hezbollah and Hamas are all from the same school of thought. Iran is the only country in the world that actually adopts this ideology and is working on its capabilities to get hold of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.”

The threat is clear. But will the U.S. go after Iran? Not likely—certainly not like the king of the north will. Now that state sponsors of terrorism are on America’s new hit list, the definition of just what that is has suddenly grown more complicated. By striking Afghanistan, the U.S. angers virtually no one. Go any further, however, and the issue is not nearly so tidy. Make Iran a target, for example, and you’re also picking a fight with its allies, most notably Russia.

While the U.S. wants to eliminate terrorism and is becoming much more aggressive in trying to do so, its efforts will fall short. It frankly does not have the necessary will to tackle the enormity of the problem!

Thus, America is forced to confront the issue using clever half-measures. At this point Iran is no longer considered a “state sponsor” of terrorism. Instead—in a telling twist of irony—it is being courted as an ally in fighting terrorism!

An Impossible Task

After September 11, the U.S. quickly formulated a four-point war plan against terror: 1) attacking the specific perpetrators, 2) stepping up the campaign against host countries, 3) beefing up homeland security, and 4) creating a worldwide coalition of anti-terrorist nations.

While this plan sounds good, the truth is that the fourth of these objectives undermines the first three—particularly the most important of them, number 2: nailing terror-friendly governments.

The Los Angeles Times reported that for this coalition the U.S. wants “the vast majority of countries on board, but it is aiming for active participation by more than 100 nations”—including Iran and Syria. One official went so far as to describe Iran as a key player in any battle against bin Laden (Middle East Newsline, Sept. 25). The evident rationale is that the terrorists are just as much a menace to the Iranian government as they are to anyone else.

In other words, to pursue this bizarre course of action, U.S. leaders are making precisely the distinction between terrorist and state sponsor they said they would not!

Honestly, can Iran really be trusted in a fight against terrorism?

Iran must be smiling at the situation: the U.S.—the “great Satan,” in the eyes of many Iranians—asking for help in curbing terror.

So how did Iran respond? With a firm no! Ayatollah Khamenei flatly rejected President Bush’s statement that “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” for being “both arrogant and imperialistic.” “We say that we are neither with you nor with the terrorists,” he said. Rather than joining the fight against terror, Khamenei brashly called on the U.S. to drop its support for Israel. Even the “moderate” Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami, said Mr. Bush should realize his approach was wrong.

In spite of that slap in the face, efforts to woo other Arab states into the coalition continue. The problem with this approach? It leaves the head of the snake intact! It is tiptoeing around the enemy!

Realistically, no war on terror could be won without striking at the regimes on the State Department list. But a coalition that includes Arab states wouldn’t hold together for a second if the war ever spread to an Arab state. “If an Arab country is hit,” said one diplomat, “everyone in the Arab world will rally around it.” Why? Because that is where their loyalties lie—not with the U.S.! This “coalition” is fighting a cause that huge swaths of the populations of these Arab states deeply believe in. It is more brittle than glass.

The U.S. doesn’t want to wage war against the whole Arab world (nor does it have the resources to do so). So even as it is talking tough on terrorism, it is bending over backward to avoid angering anyone.

In plain terms, the U.S. is taking on the impossible task of prosecuting a war without offending the enemy!

You can be sure that in the background the king of the north is watching—and learning.

Courting Terror

How far is the U.S. willing to go in creating this Arab-inclusive anti-terror coalition? Look at the facts to date.

Immediately after September 11, many commentators said the attack would surely strengthen the U.S.-Israel axis. American public opinion would no longer tolerate simply telling Israel to use restraint in its responses to suicide bombings and other terrorist acts. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have to crack down on terror and capitulate to Israel.

Remarkably, that did not happen. Arafat condemned the attacks (evading the issue of his people openly celebrating them). When the coalition idea was floated, Arafat said he would support it, publicly distancing himself from the anti-Israel terrorists (which Israelis accuse Arafat of privately supporting). President Bush welcomed him by explaining for the first time that his “vision” for Middle East peace included a Palestinian state.

Frustration within Israel erupted. A shocked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused the U.S. of rewarding violence. After all, many Palestinians say they’ll support the U.S. war on terrorism if the definition of terrorism included Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The U.S. itself has suffered attacks by some of these anti-Israel groups. Nevertheless, the Palestinians are in the coalition.

The U.S.’s logic became even more tortured after Palestinians assassinated an Israeli cabinet member on October 17. Rather than supporting Israel’s bringing the terrorist perpetrator to justice, America condemned any attempt at retribution by Israel for fear that it would hurt Palestinian support for the anti-terror alliance.

About the same time, the U.S. threw a bone to Syria, one of the “big seven” terror sponsors, by consenting to its joining the United Nations Security Council, the UN body supervising international peace and security.

Arab states have never enjoyed such conciliatory treatment from the current U.S. administration. Its newfound “sensitivity” for these nations is a stark contrast to the tough, distant, isolationist approach it took before September 11.

In return, how much cooperation will the U.S. expect from its new partners? “Some coalition members will feel more comfortable doing certain things than other coalition members will,” President Bush said October 11. “We will accept any help that a government’s comfortable in giving. … Any help is better than no help. And so I am so appreciative of the help we are getting in the Middle East.”

At this point, the U.S. is receiving tepid statements of support—or, at least, no direct condemnation—from most Muslim governments over its air strikes on Afghanistan. What is alarming, however, is the groundswell of popular protest within these nations.

“The governments of Muslim nations such as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen must now balance cooperation with the United States against a surge in radical Islamic opposition,” wrote Stratfor on October 8. “A multitude of radical organizations have a presence in nearly every Islamic nation.” The article spoke of public protests of thousands in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, illustrating “a rising tide of radicalism that opposes ties with the United States.”

Pakistan is a dramatic example of a nation where the government faces U.S. pressure to cooperate on one side, and tremendous, even violent, public opposition on the other. The danger in Pakistan is that the radicals will overthrow the figurehead government, leaving the country’s nuclear weapons at the disposal of Islamic fundamentalists.

This is the nature of the coalition the U.S. is building!

Unlike the more moderate Muslim governments, Iran was unafraid to condemn the U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan. And now there are multitudes of angry people spread across several countries who would like nothing more than for their own government to fall in step with Iran.

Even if Iran wasn’t directly behind the September 11 strikes (though their involvement has not been ruled out), its position in the region has only been strengthened by them.

The Power of Will

The September 11 attack was truly an act of war. But it was merely one of many such acts committed against the U.S. over a period of years.

In April 1983, a car bomb claimed by pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad blew up the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63; Hezbollah was also implicated in the deed, but its leader eluded the fbi. That October, a truck loaded with explosives rammed Beirut’s U.S. Marine barracks, killing 241; Hezbollah was blamed; the U.S. pulled out of Lebanon four months later.

In December of 1988, a Libyan intelligence agent blew up twa flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270; though the judges said the act was “of Libyan origin,” they stopped short of calling it state-sponsored and merely prosecuted the one man. February 1993, Muslim militants killed six and injured over a thousand by detonating 1110 pounds of explosives under the World Trade Center; the convicted mastermind behind the deed was given life in prison plus 240 years.

In November of 1995, five Americans were murdered at a military base in Riyadh; no military action was taken. In June of 1996, a Hezbollah truck bomb killed 19 Americans at Khobar Towers military housing in Saudi Arabia; U.S. officials said the terrorists were helped by Iran; still, no military action was taken. In August of 1998, 12 Americans were among 224 killed when American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. In response, the U.S. lobbed missiles at inconsequential targets in Sudan and Pakistan. In October 2000, 17 sailors died in the attack on the u.s.s. Cole in Yemen; six suspects were arrested, but Yemen refused to hand them over to the U.S.; again, there was no military response.

The fact is, the strikes on New York and Washington were merely the latest in a string of emboldening victories by terrorists against what was once a powerful country. Some years ago, the enemy would not have dared to make such an attack. Now they are determined and pervasive. They do not fear the U.S. They hate the U.S. They sense weakness in the U.S., as a shark senses blood.

The Trumpet has often written that the pride of America’s power has been broken (Lev. 26:19). That is God’s doing—a curse on a nation that rejected His commandments and abandoned His protection.

With the country currently standing at attention, singing patriotic anthems and waving flags, padding its security, issuing proclamations and orders, deploying ships and planes and personnel, America may appear strong to some. These actions may even be temporarily holding the next attack at bay. But on the whole, they are not acts of courage, but of fear. And they are not complete or savage enough to eliminate the threat.

Sadly, that will take a whirlwind from the north—the same whirlwind that will deliver the decisive blow to America.