Fortunately, many of the people who hate America the most are also the most incompetent. Also, Israel is far more serious than us about policing their borders. Which is why we haven't had to deal with the awful spectacle that would result from a terrorist attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
If you want to see what this kind of thing would look like, one only need go back to 1979 when something similar was attempted in Mecca.
Here is something to think about from the easily alarmed but always entertaining Northeast Intelligence Network:
The plot to destroy the [Al Aqsa] Mosque by fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, then placing the blame on the "Zionists and the Americans", if not stopped in time, will be the platform from which all further retaliatory strikes will be made. This is THE event that has been referenced in a number of sermons, jihad posts, and other channels of communication that will mark the call to jihad in the United States.
As you know, the Al Aqsa mosque is built on the site of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, though recent Islamist propaganda and a small number of eccentric scholars dispute this fact, and doubtless I will get email for reasserting it. Something not in dispute is that the destruction of the mosque has been a central feature of the endtime scenario of Christian millenarians since at least the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of the whole of Jerusalem. To put it briefly, the mosque must be cleared so that a Third Temple can be built on the site, which the Antichrist will desecrate during the Tribulation. Groups of messianic Jews are of similar mind about the need to rebuild the Temple in the Latter Days. Though these Jews and Christians differ on the details of the scenario of the endtime, they have nonetheless cooperated on plans for the rebuilding, and have even conspired to destroy Al Aqsa.
Their logic is not quite that reported by the Northeast Intelligence Network. The shadowy Islamist conspiracy the Network reports is said to intend to blow up the mosque and blame Israel and the US. On the other hand, one might note that there has been a syncretism of apocalyptic ideas in Islamist circles. The works of American pretribulationists are available to the Arab public, either directly or through Muslim interpreters. In any case, the mosque seems to have acquired a symbolic role that is quite new.
I have no way of confirming or even assessing this latest report, though I must confess that I had dismissed speculation about such a tactic when I first heard it at a conference of the Center for Millennial Studies several years ago. Is it likely that religious extremists would blow up their own sacred site, I asked? Now we learn that one of the strategies that Al Qaeda and related groups plan for Saudi Arabia is to attack pilgrims on the Hajj. The reasoning for that is quite specific: the legitimacy of the Saudi regime rests in large part on its ability to protect access to Mecca. If the regime is shown to be incompetent in that regard, for whatever reason, then its days could be numbered. Such a strategy makes clear that fear of sacrilege plays little role in these calculations.
The Islamist strategy of dramatic terror seems to be backfiring at this point; the recent truck-bombings in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which strike ordinary civilians, are alienating local public opinion. The bombing of Al Aqsa might have a similar effect. Whatever the repercussions in the Arab world, however, the implications for the United States could be dramatic, as well as for the rapidly growing regions of the Third World where evangelical Christianity is on the ascendant. The clearing of the Temple Mount is the "ON" button, in many versions of popular eschatology, for the beginning of the endtime. It would generate apocalyptic expectations in a way that the year 2000 singularly failed to do. This would give the Terror War a new dimension.
The US response to the Islamist Jihad did not begin as a Crusade, but it could easily turn into one.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly