Nothing prepared me for the ugly sight of what became known to the world as Ground Zero. As I stood at the police barrier in New York City just two weeks after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, I could not summon words to adequately express the shock and horror before me at the devastation and the impact on the city.

September 11—A Personal Observation

The mighty towers that stood for the economic muscle of the United States were now literally a smoking ruin. Those who had not perished on that fateful day were still in shock. As grim faced police and military personnel manned the barriers, I saw demoralised rescue workers leaving the site after another fruitless shift of searching the rubble for survivors, covered in the grey concrete dust that still covered the streets and buildings of lower Manhattan. In the distance firefighters on a fully extended ladder poured gallons of water on the twisted mash of concrete and metal. Ironically, an advertisement encouraging investment in a Madison Avenue company could just be seen from my vantage point through the smoke that continued to billow from the fires of what was the icon of the wealth of the world.

Whilst much of the previous issue of The Lampstand (November–December 2001, pp 282–284) more than adequately covered the events of that fateful day and immediately afterwards, an undercurrent of events continue to ripple through the world which are of particular interest to watchmen. So in this article, I will focus on the aftermath of September 11.

The Sleeping Bear Stirs

On another front, the queue of nations to align themselves with the US and its campaign to rid the world of terror was comprised of some, who would have been expected to pledge allegiance and others, who would have been thought of as unlikely to be counted. As was detailed in the previous issue of The Lampstand (pp 282–284), Britain has become the staunchest ally. Tony Blair was the first to reveal the evidence that implicated Osama bin Laden; undertook several personal visits to key nations on behalf of the alliance against terrorism; was the only foreign leader in the Congress when President Bush delivered his special address to the nation after September 11; and committed the largest contingent of troops after the US to the campaign on the ground in Afghanistan. All this was to be expected, given the alliance described in Ezekiel 38.

However, should the commitment of President Putin and the Russian people to support the US give us cause to reassess our understanding of Ezekiel 38? In the wake of September 11, optimism of closer cooperation with Russia was riding high. In USA Today (September 20, 2001) an article appeared with the title: “Tragedy can tighten US, Russian ties”. The article tended to be speculative in content and exhorted US officials to meet and forge a new dialogue, especially over the concerns of Russia on the American anti-missile shield which the Russians are strongly opposed to.

Only six days later Russia began posturing as a central figure in securing the cooperation of her former satellite republics that border Afghanistan to allow US military movements in their air space and bases (USA Today, September 26, 2001, “Russia rallies ‘Stans’ in support of US fight”). In that article it says Russian President Putin in a speech “that delighted the White House, promised renewed Russian aid to the rebels fighting the ruling Taliban [and] would not rule out military cooperation between Washington and the five republics.” Russia is still smarting from being soundly defeated by the Taliban in 1989 and is even more set on avenging their humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan given that Chechnyan mercenaries number in the ranks of the Taliban forces. As to the second ‘offer’, whilst Russia can influence its former republics, the decision to permit American access to their airspace and bases is ultimately theirs. The former republics have demonstrated that they are not afraid to exercise their autonomy, many of whom have been working directly with American oil and gas conglomerates to establish their economies since their separation from mother Russia. Much to the chagrin of Russia, large American conglomerates have established facilities in countries such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan since 1997.

Suspicions concerning their intentions in supporting the US were confirmed only days later. In The Washington Post (September 28, 2001, “Russia Welcomes Chechnya Support”) it was reported that “Russia today claimed vindication for its war against Islamic rebels in Chechnya after nearly two years of criticism from the West…”. Russia has demonstrated an unashamed opportunism to justify a war against a group of people wishing to separate from Russia, as have others in recent times, by comparing their military incursions with America’s retaliation for a blatant and unprovoked attack on its soil. In the same article it was interesting to note that “Russia has ruled out direct participation in any US strikes against Afghanistan”. It seems that they have derived most of the political mileage possible out of American misfortune and don’t see the necessity to provide material support, especially when they are much closer to the action. Perhaps they are letting American wrath soften the nation up for their eventual move into the territory that they once coveted (and are considered prophetically) to become the rulers over.

The dubious support of the Russians for the US is confirmed in another report in The Wall Street Journal (October 3, 2001, “Russia and Iran Reach Deal On Arms Purchases”). Whilst the US had been garnering support for a world-wide campaign against terrorism, Russia had been making noises of support and at the same time negotiating a pact, for the full resumption of arms sales. The article carried a quote from a senior aide to Putin, who said: “Iran is among Russia’s historic partners, and we are not going to act to the detriment of our national security interests.” Prophetically, Russia is linked with Iran (Ezekiel 38:5—Persia) and will meet her end not at the hands of the West, but at the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Only then will Russia’s true motives be seen for what they are. So now is not the time to interpret the day-to-day events in a way that requires us to reassess our understanding of prophecies such as Ezekiel 38. Now is time to fix our attention on the end state of the unfolding events we are privileged to witness and to ensure that we are ready and waiting for their imminent consummation.

Gomer’s Insincere Overtures

The position of a great many nations who are lending their support to the US fall into the same category as that of Russia. Only weeks after the tragic events of September 11, a grinning Jacques Chirac, the French president who has been particularly strident in trying to break US influence in Europe, was seen in a ‘photo shoot’ with President Bush in the White House. One only has to look back at the French overtures a little over twelve months ago to the Taliban regime (The Economist, September 30, 2000, “Where Angels Fear To Tread”) in an effort to give French companies a head start in building a pipeline across Afghanistan, to see how shallow Chirac’s visit to Washington was.

Whilst these negotiations may have ceased now, due more to the fact that the Taliban have lost the war than to their support for the US, it is interesting to note that the French openly invited leaders of the regime to Paris for talks on the pipeline at a time when the US had no relations with them. France, together with the main European powers and Russia, will soon build the alliance that is strongly pro-Islamic and seek to eliminate the tiny nation of Israel.

Courting the Taliban, at a time when they had no other diplomatic recognition with any nation other than Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, is a convincing anecdote that support for the US is superficial at the very best and consistent with the anti-American sentiment that is evident in Europe and openly supported by Chirac’s administration. (The New York Times September 22, 2001, “In Europe Some Critics Say the Attacks Stemmed from American Failings”). In this article the arrogance and wastefulness of the American people was cited as a potential cause by some of Europe’s more liberal thinkers for the attacks by fundamentalists who abhor the impact of American culture and commercialism on their societies. Soon, together with Russia and the other confederates of Gog, France will become one of the nations to overrun the mountains of Israel ignoring the challenge of Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish and the young lions (Ezekiel 38:13).

“In God We Trust”

How the American people have handled the attacks and their aftermath has been analysed and over-analysed, as is the habit of the American media. One analysis gave an interesting insight. When one of the country’s top comedians sought to defend his television program continuing at a time when the nation was still reeling from the events of September 11, he stated: “I am a comedian. That’s what I do for my country. I find my security, quite obviously, in terms of humour. Others find it in the flag. Others find it in God. In times of stress, you retreat to what you know best” (USA Today October 5, 2001, “Comics feel their way along public sensibility”).

Whilst many churches, synagogues and chapels were filled to overflowing in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, it is nonetheless remarkable that in the assessment of this person, God is but one of the alternatives to seek answers and solace. How could any reasonable person equate the personage of God with a joke or piece of material with stars and stripes on it? This is a clear indication of the real depth of religious commitment that is prevalent in a nation that has the motto “In God We Trust” on its currency. So as the tears abate and the temporary shrines and memorials across New York and Washington come down and the pews empty the main concern is focussed on the worship of the ‘Almighty Dollar’. Talk is now of rebuilding the economy that was teetering before the attacks. In an upbeat editorial USA Today (September 15, 2001, “Down But Not Out: Markets Survive. Will Economy?”), the paper boasts that “If the terrorist attacks were designed to foment panic, it failed, thanks in large part to a series of successful calming moves, including the Fed’s half point rate cut 2 hours before Monday’s opening bell”.

However, it wasn’t enough and panic did indeed set in requiring a further cut. The Wall Street Journal (October 3, 2001, “As Fed Cuts Rates Again, Its Powers Seem to be Limited”) reported a further cut was necessary due to the continuing falling consumer confidence in addition to mounting unemployment, falling stock prices, unused industrial capacity, stubbornly high long term interest rates, and weakening economies abroad. And still its not enough! A further cut was necessary, bringing interest rates to their lowest ever as the American economy stares recession in the face (Australian Financial Review, November 8, 2001, “Greenspan Cuts Rate Gain in Recession Fight”).

The effects are being felt across the world too.

Another report in the Australian Financial Review (November 8, 2001, “Jobs Slashed as Confidence Slumps to 30 Year Lows”) carried gloomy details of the employment situation across Europe, which is bound to make the push for a break of European economies on the US. Thousands of jobs lost weekly is now becoming the norm as major companies downsize. “Business confidence is slumping across Europe to levels of pessimism not seen since the 1970’s and 1980’s according to a sweep of respected surveys in Germany, Belgium, France, the UK, Sweden and Italy. And the lagging indicator of unemployment is increasingly telling the tale”—a tale being repeated in Australia (Australian Financial Review, November 15, 2001, “Global Slump Takes Toll on Jobs”). Whilst we are in the world, we must continue to maintain our position of not being of it (cp John 17:11,12;1 John 4:4).

The prevailing attitudes of society, moulded by challenges to the very comfortable lifestyle enjoyed in the West, can draw us into the web of concern that the average men and women have. They can vainly turn to their humour, flags or their mistaken notion of a God who exists to maintain or improve their existing indulgent lifestyle. (Cp. Luke 21:34–36; Romans 13:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5–8) Whilst the circumstances of the world can touch us, sometimes more harshly than others, we are to remain as strangers and pilgrims with the assurance of “a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto we do well that we take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn , and the day star arise in our hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).