Post-9/11 Americana

Alan W. Dowd writes on defense and security.


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The 9/11 anniversary obliges us to consider the changes that have been thrust upon us since that terrible Tuesday morning. Most pixels, ink and airtime are being devoted to how 9/11 and its consequences affected our greatest city, our politics and freedoms, our international standing and self-perception, our view of the world—and understandably so. But 9/11 also left a lasting mark on the everyday stuff of Americana, especially television and movies.

Not only did 9/11 make those distracting news-tickers a permanent part of our TV screens, it also spawned and/or propelled an entire genre of TV shows and films centered around global terrorism.

“The Unit,” “24,” “Threat Matrix” and “E Ring” all focused expressly on counterterrorism—some more effectively and convincingly than others. Likewise, the 9/11 attacks heavily influenced the plotlines and story arcs of “The West Wing,” “CSI: New York” and “Rescue Me.” The glimpse at the apocalyptic that 9/11 gave us opened a window for programs such as “Jericho” to explore not just an assault on America, but a collapse of America.

At the other end of the spectrum, the short-lived sitcom “Arrested Development” used the war in Iraq as foil for several episodes, while the prime-time cartoon “American Dad” took cheap shots at the embattled CIA.

Several films wrestled with 9/11 and its consequences. A slew of war movies and counterterrorism movies—among them, “Body of Lies,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Jarhead,” “Rendition” and “Brothers”—dealt with the high costs and hard choices of what one historian has aptly called “the wars of 9/11.”

Likewise, the latest adaptation of the Batman franchise—with its terrorist villains, unappreciated hero, complicated moral dilemmas and grim remedies—seems a thinly-veiled parable for the post-9/11 world.

Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” stitched together facts, half-truths, opinions and conjecture to convince viewers that the Bush administration ginned up a post-9/11 panic to torch the Constitution. Given that Moore’s man in the White House is relying on military commissions set up by the Bush administration, has kept in place or expanded Bush’s post-9/11 intelligence orders, continues to employ Bush’s indefinite detention orders and has extended the hated PATRIOT Act, we can only wonder why Moore hasn’t yet produced a sequel. (Of course, we know the answer.)

For my money, there are four 9/11-related films that stand out from the rest.

Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” is solid. The film’s depiction of the hell that 9/11’s first-responders went through is as close to terrorism’s consequences as anyone would ever want to get. The heroism of everyday people, the triumph of the human spirit and the American spirit, the average American’s willingness to serve and help, and the amazing power of faith and family to sustain us, are conveyed in a bruising, exhausting but ultimately uplifting two hours.

Set in the 1970s, Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” uses Israel’s relentless hunt for those who perpetrated the terror attacks on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 as something of a parable for America’s response to 9/11, offering a thinly veiled critique of a vengeance-focused policy.

At the conclusion of the film, after eliminating nearly a dozen people connected to the Munich attacks, the leader of the Israeli kill team has second thoughts and challenges his erstwhile boss. Meeting in a Manhattan park, they engage in a heated argument about justice and vengeance, murder and killing.

“Did we accomplish anything at all?” the assassin asks, pointing out that everyone he has killed has been replaced by another terrorist. “There’s no peace at the end of this,” he says, sliding into the violence-begets-violence trope.

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  • kafir4life

    Be sure to congratulate a muslim on his holiday on Sunday. Cross to the other side of the street when the superior muslim approaches, as is required by the koran and sharia.

    Also note that under the right conditions, muslims do eat pork. They've even claimed it tastes just like chicken.

    allahu snackbar!

    • Fred Dawes

      Thank you

  • Ronald W. Carnine

    Vengeance focused policy my butt. I don't see how responding to the worst terrorist attack in US history as "Vengeance" in any way. The response was controlled and thought out. Ya, it has lasted 10yr. but that is still a short time as the wars of this world go. Maybe it didn't accomplish all we wanted it to but itgot Osama and halted any major terrorist attacks withing the territory of this nation. The Islam threat has been recognized and responded to, even though it wasn't recognized by the liberal media. This is one war we can't walk away from, for it involves our very existence. We must always be vigilant and we must never give up. Let our voices be heard.

  • Brujo Blanco

    Our war of self defense cannot be measured in rime. Our war will take as long as it takes. If we relent we can lose and at some time and be taken over.

    One writer on this thread struck a nerve. Muslims see themselves superior to all other people. In fact they see certain ethnic groups as animals not even deserving of life/

  • mrbean

    Rgety had the same bul&sh*t anti American movies after Vietnam, like Casualities of War, Coming Home, and Platoon. Like Full Metal Jacket said, it is our killer instincts which must be harnessed if we expect to survive in a war with the Jihadists. Our weapons are only our tools. It is a hard heart that kills. If our killer instincts are not clean and strong we will hesitate at the moment of truth. We will not kill the Jihadists. We will then become dead or enslaved Americans. Because there are a billion Muslims and on a few of us who will fight! Do you understand? This is a deadly game that we must not lose? Enough of this whining and grieving almost 10 years later. Time to increase the Jihadist body count significantly! Muck the Fuzzlims! Kill 'em all and let Allah sort 'em out!

  • flyingtiger

    Flight 93 was the action that defined us. A group of mostly American strangers organized themselves and attacked.Despite it flaws the movie does bring it out. Flight 93 is an inspiration to us all.

    • Questions

      I think it was called "United 93." You mean Paul Greengrass' film from 2006?

  • http://www.contextflexed.com Flipside

    Defined us as what? As large skeet? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6Xoxaf1Al0

  • tarleton

    I'm sorry , but I'm tired of hearing about 9/11 …ten years and counting and it seems to have morphed into some type of cult of the dead like you would get in the former soviet union
    This is exactly what comes from a society that is trapped in the prison of the present with little grasp of historical continuity …it's our shallow , superficial hollywood / american idol obsessed toxic culture …the ''whole of human history began with ME ''generation …It's as if the second world war never happened or at least occured on some distant planet ….over 200,000 died in the indonesion tsunami in 2004 and YET …30,000 londoners were killed during the blitz for christsake …us folk outside of the US are tired of hearing about the sept 11th massacre , it's time for americans to wise up , get over it and move on

    • ziontruth

      Comparing the numbers of the dead like data on a spreadsheet. It's a wonder how your big heart manages to fit inside your chest.

      "…it's time for americans to wise up , get over it and move on"

      America was able to get over Pearl Harbor and move on when it won the war, and not a moment before. As long as the threat of Islam exists, neither America nor Britain (victim of the 7/7 attack) nor India nor Israel can get over and move on from those terror attacks, local or otherwise.

      Ignorant British toady preaching from the comfort of his armchair, that's what you are.

      • tarleton

        I just wish you people would just grow up …i'm tired of this juvenile sentimentality

    • Ahmed Johnson

      OI! tarelton hears a "who" and lashes out at you people across the pond. Of course it's pork rinders like Tarelton, that sued the British Crown to remove the word "Great" from Briton – that's how flucked up tarelton's line of thinking is…it's all rooted in his fantasy "Matrix" world; see he thinks he's "Neo" resisting the system and what not. The system is of course the Western nations.

      See how stupid he is? He's more sympathetic to a Hollywod Movie than he is for you blokes across the pond.

  • tarleton

    furthermore …if Londoners had made such a cult of the dead 10 years after the war , they would have been told to shut up and get on with their lives instead of engaging in this mawkish maudling sentimentality

    • Amused

      Don't like it ? Don't listen , we STILL honor the dead at Pearl Harbor 60 years on , Wre STILL honor the fallen on the Normandy shores 60 years on …YOU are the One who should "move on " to where-ever the hell it is you are going ……your remarks STINK . And you wouldn't be around to spew it had not Americans came to your aid in WW2 . So the best thing for you to do today , this Sept. 11 ….ius SHUT YOUR FOUL MOUTH .

      • tarleton

        you people are like a group of hysterical teenage girls ..believe it or not but sept 11th is not the worst thing that has happened since the fall of Rome…us folks outside of america are tired of this death cult , like something from a hollywood movie

    • Ahmed Johnson

      half a mo, tarelton. What about the British maudlin over Princess Di? even comparin' the newist Princess to the old dead Dianna…you blokes are STILL crying in your skimmings over the Dianna thing…

      I can see 9/11 being remembered since it had such real effect on so many people, lives, investments and national policy. to remember that is normal…but YOU chums and you Princess Dianna cult…you're the wussies. A Gang a stumbling, bumbling Briton's and their ilk.

      • tarleton

        the cult around the death of a frivolous, good looking woman was an embarressment and typical of the decline of british society

  • aghasaheb,

    All problem of the World, is blong To Jewish Lobby Of The World.. They Want control the World, but they can’t do it. Its the 2000 years back worong story. They never want come from DATE Time To This Time. They were Stuked in Worong History of Evil & Devil. They Think date they are very Wise, Very Nice, Creture of The Holy World, They are blong TOO.But Acutually they going in a WORONG WAY OF HISTORY, They are Thinking Look LIKE a 12 years BOYS.IQ. ITS NOT THEIR FAULT, Its their fore Father worrong Idea of Living on this Earth. They are Sadist Nation of the World. They are Thinkig, & Working like Donkey Yester day night whats happend with their Embessy in Cairo. Its Enough for them for next century. They are LIE’s, Hapocarte, Dishonest with each other’s. The Americans, & Israei’s Nation are blong to Homosexuals.The Big mistake of U.S. & Israel’s history were allways a mistakes, Thats they are under esitimates The other Nation’s of the Worlds They make issue for other Countries They Think that they are very Wise, Nice, or Cleaver, ? BUT Thay are Mad, Sadist NATION, FOOLISHNEES IDEA, Bush, & Sharon Idea’s were Failed in the World. The Obama bin Ladin, & Nathayun are puazzled in these DAYS. Why ? They THINK AFTER WORK. They don’t know, what thay are doing. ? What they gaine from Afghanista, & Iraq Wars. Why 11/9, Projects was Failed, Why ISLAMIC REVOLUTION CAME IN Islamic Countries. ?. Its due to Obama bin Ladin.The Big mistake Brone of U.S. in history were allways a mistakes, Thats they are under esitimates The other Nation’s of the Worlds They make issue for other Countries They Think that they are very Wise, or Cleaver., nice person of the WORLD..Thanks.

    • Amused

      KNOW this well "mohammed " you wil eat each and everyone of those jagged mispronounced and mispelled words , one by one .The only thing we may under-estimate is the barbarism and bloodlust of the 'mohammadan cult ' . You will NEVER prevail .You have done your worst and WE STILL STAND , both USA AND ISRAEL .
      So watch your back aghasaheb …..THERE ARE DRONES IN THE AIR , each one with the names of our enemies on it .

    • Fred Dawes

      Muslms have a reek odor of dead things, must be the food and the murder of little kids.

  • alexander

    after killing 2,400 men in Pearl Harbor, we destroyed Hiroshima…….don't want to capitutale, Japan? We flattened Nagasaki….and had promised more… The WAR with Japan has ENDED.

    After killing 3000+ people in WTC, Mecca and Medina are still there………………………?

  • Amused

    ….And "furthermore Tarleton " . if at all possible , I think you should get yourelf to NYC today , where you can express that sentiment openly in public , where it can be fully appreciated , according to it's worth .

  • Amused

    Well I see there's atleast one more idiot …thank for the thumb down , I consider it complimentary .

  • Fred Dawes

    Do the right thing with H-BOMBS