The War on Terror is the current setting for a lot of Present Day media, although how much it features in a given work of media varies considerably.
A cornerstone of the The United States of America's central-government policy from late September 2001 'till... well, now, sort of. The 'War on Terror' is not a war in the conventional sense, but is the collective name given to the US government's attempts — with the help of the US's various allies and participating multi-national organizations, including NATO and the UN — to prevent small groups of private individuals from killing its citizens. The 'war' has brought out the uglier side of the US government, given its willingness to use morally dubious means — chiefly the torture, indefinite imprisonment, and execution of (mostly foreign) suspects without trial — and actively kill thousands of other countries' citizens to save her own. The US has lost several thousand soldiers in its much-criticized military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq, which when paired with its loss of 3,000 civilians in the attack on New York City's World Trade Centernote on the 11th of September 2001, gives a total of over 10,000 US citizens dead.
Furthermore, some 300,000+ foreign civilians have died during the course of the war, though most of these were not killed by USA or NATO troops or fire-support (artillery bombardments and air-strikes) but rather in the civil disorder which resulted after the Afghan and Iraqi regimes were toppled. The USA's handling of the situation in Iraq -which under Saddam Hussein's right-wing dictatorship had been an old Cold-War Ally of the USA against Iran - was particularly poor by all accounts; the country essentially went totally ungoverned for several months, and the delicate peace that had been maintained only by the brutality of Hussein's secular police state dissolved amidst violencenote that was not formal or organized enough to merit the term 'civil war'.
Given the nebulous nature of the 'war', it's hard to say when (if ever) it'll end. The death of Osama, son of Laden — in an illegalnote commando raid into the USA's old Cold War Ally-turned-distant-friend Pakistan in 2011, was seen by some as a sign of the war winding down. The 'Coalition of the Willing'note The USA, Britain, and Australianote withdrew its troops from Iraq several years ago, leaving behind a dysfunctional parliamentary democracy still marred by an unhealthy degree of civil violence and corruption. Most UN/NATO forces in Afghanistan will also be withdrawn in the next few years, and are set to leave the country in a similar conditionnote .
Iraq's civil disorder took a turn for the worse in 2013-14, however, and became a full-blown Civil War between the Shiite south and the Sunni north, where the latter rebelled against the Shiite-dominated government put into place by the US occupation. The north also merged after a fashion with eastern Syria, also embroiled in its own Civil War. With the USA and a few choice allies broadly supporting the anti-Government forces in the Syrian Civil War and the (southern) Iraqi Government in the Iraqi Civil War with weapons and air-strikes, anti-humanist and anti-secular Shiite and Sunni (e.g. 'ISIS'note ) groups running northern Iraq and eastern Syria, the Iraqi front seems to have continued after all - much as the US continued to fund and arm South Vietnam and use air-strikes on North Vietnamese cities and military forces even after her withdrawal of combat-troops. It remains to be seen whether the USA will make peace with her enemies in Iraq and accept the possibility that they will win their war and found a state that will attempt to kill their citizens (as in Vietnam), or whether The Levant will become another Latin America for the USA à la her constant Cold War anti-communist interventions.
Although its real end seems far-off, and its nominal end has come and gone, it's hard to say when exactly it started. Though the 2001 attacks were what caused the USA under President G.W. Bush to actively declare a 'War on Terror', attacks on the USA's citizens and public servants had actually been happening for a while by that point. In fact the 'Al Qaida' organization declared war on the USA as early as 1996, and some of the people who were later involved with that group were making unofficial attacks on the USA as early as 1993 and the (New York) World Trade Center bombing. However, very few people died in these and under Bill Clinton's Presidency efforts to curtail terrorist activity were largely successful. Other attacks included one on the U.S.S. Cole and various US embassies dotted about the Middle East.
Compare with Defcon Five, which has more clearly defined, though ignorantly inverted readiness levels. Contrast with The Vietnam War, for the USA's last experience of 'a-symmetric warfare', with a much more impressive death-toll (at some ten-plus times greater) to boot. Contrast also the much less bloody Boer War for another good example of an asymmetric war — one that has since been called 'The British Empire's Vietnam'note . See also the unsuccessful 'war' on drugs.
If you're looking for the actual documentary called 9/11, it's here.
In Afghanistan, Mohammad Zahir Shah was overthrown in a coup by his cousin, the Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan, who took advantage of rising resentment against the country's economic conditions to secure power. The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan had been growing in popularity, owing to the nation's high levels of income inequality and the influence of the neighboring Soviet Union. The PDPA was a constant influence on Daoud's government, but after years of persecution by his administration, the PDPA finally cracked. The military, which proved to be sympathetic to the PDPA, overthrew Daoud and proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1978. The new republic was fraught with internal issues including mounting opposition both the far left in the PDPA, and from conservatives who saw the new modernizing reforms as a threat to their traditional Islamic way of life. The government cracked down on both, arresting and murdering tens of thousands of dissenters.
A low-level insurgency had been ongoing in the country at least since Daoud took over, but it exploded with the PDPA's takeover. Communists, mutineers, and Islamists all turned their guns on the government. The largest faction of insurgents was the Mujahideen, a collective of many different Islamic extremist groups. Many of these groups were initially supported by Pakistan, who had a negative relationship with Afghanistan due to the Pashtun peoples being split across their borders. The split of the Pashtuns between the two countries is an enduring problem.
In 1979 the first American agents started to enter Afghanistan and meet with Islamist resistance fighters in an effort to start a proxy war. The reasons for this were many: it served as a response to the death of the US ambassador Adolph Dubs, it helped to repair the United States' relationship to Pakistan, and most importantly, it was hoped that it would spur a Soviet intervention and give the USSR "its own Vietnam."
In October of 1979, President Taraki was killed by his Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin. The move only drove the country further into chaos, as his impromtu coup resulted in greater opposition to the government. The Soviets had favored Taraki and saw Amin as an unstable variable, so with a full on civil war brewing in the country, the Soviets intervened. Land and airborne forces started streaming across the border while special operatives from the GRU note , dressed as Afghani soldiers, occupied key government buildings in Kabul and killed Amin. The Soviets set up a new puppet government, but opposition was already mounting.
Meanwhile, in Iran, the long-reigning monarch of the country, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi Shah, was overthrown by a coalition of dissenting elements. The shah had faced mounting internal opposition for decades, with one of the stronger voices coming from the exiled Islamic cleric Ruhollah Khomeini. When the Iranian government published a work critical of Khomeini in a newspaper, protesters gathered in the religious center of Qom. Most of the protesters were students at religious universities, studying to become imams. They clashed with police, resulting in an unknown number of deaths. Demonstrations were held throughout the country, leading to more violent suppression and more deaths.
Protests would continue steadily throughout 1978. In August, a major terrorist attack occurred at the Cinema Rex in Abadan. A group of arsonists blocked the exits and set the cinema on fire, killing 422 people. The exiled Khomeini and the protesters blamed the Iranian secret police for committing the act, although it was later confirmed to be committed by a group of Islamic extremists. This incited even more unrest that led to the declaration of marshal law in September. 64 more protesters were killed in clashes with the military, in an event known as "Black Friday."
After this, the military started to become less and less interested in firing on its own people. Meanwhile, protests reached their all time high with a general strike being declared. In response, the shah set up a military government. Meanwhile Khomeini was exiled from Iraq under pressure from the shah. He fled to Paris, but continued sending messages to his loyal followers in Iran. In December, he ordered a massive protest during Muharram, an Islamic holiday. Millions of Iranians marched in one of the largest protests in history, but the protests were surprisingly restrained and organized. This caused the military to further demoralize, and troops began to rebel against their officers.
In January of 1979, the shah and his family fled to Egypt, setting up a transitional government to maintain order. Free elections were called and Khomeini was invited to return to the country. The secret police were disbanded and prisoners were freed. When Khomeini returned in February, he spoke out against the transitional government and declared his own Islamist government. The military backed down, and by the end of the month Khomeini had taken over the country, renaming it to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Khomeini continued to consolidate his own power and undermine the other members of the revolutionary coalition. Liberals, socialists, and nationalists were pushed aside as Khomeini set up an Islamist government.
Meanwhile, the insurgency in Afghanistan continued. For 10 long, bloody years, the Soviets fought a brutal counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan. Their opposition, the mujahideen, attracted international support. Money, weapons, and intelligence came streaming in to the Mujahideen from the United States and Pakistan, in an effort to prolong the conflict and give the Soviets a black eye. Some of these weapons, such as the American FIM-92 "Stinger" anti-air system, proved incredibly effective against the highly mechanized Soviet forces. Foreign fighters also started coming to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets, chief among them Osama bin Laden. With nearly ten years of conflict and almost no results, Mikhail Gorbechav began pulling out Soviet troops in 1987. The US got its wish in the form of a bankrupted and bloodied Soviet Union, while the Pakistanis got their wish in the form of an anarchic, devastated Afghanistan.
Both events changed the political topography of the Middle East. For most of the Cold War, the region had been dominated by Arab nationalists, and nationalism was seen as the best way of opposing Western influence. The death of Gamal abdel Nasser and the failure of the Arab states to defeat Israel in two major wars served to undermine the power of Arab nationalism, and by the late 1970s many Muslims were looking for other ideologies with which to oppose foreign imperialism. The Iranian Revolution and the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan showed that Islamism, particularly Islamic extremism, was the best way to resist foreign powers. These events were to Islamism what the Suez Crisis was to Arab nationalism, codifying it as the main ideology for opposition groups in the Middle East.
It also had a more direct consequence of helping to create the Islamic militant group Al Qaeda, led by the mujahideen resistance fighter Osama bin Laden.
In 1993, an Islamic militant detonated a bomb in an underground parking garage on the World Trade Center. The attack killed 6, but it was intended to destabilize the building's foundation and level it. While this was not the first terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, it was the first in America to gain widespread notoriety. It was also important because it showed how the World Trade Center became a symbol for the West, which made it a target for future attacks.
In 1996, Osama bin Laden formed what would become Al Qaeda. From his base of operations in Afghanistan, he issued a fatwa declaring war on the West, and from there a series of terror attacks would elevate Islamic extremism into the spotlight. The first terrorist attack to gain notoriety was the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. President Clinton ordered a campaign of retaliation against Al Qaeda and other militant groups, but this seemed only to embolden them. Membership in Al Qaeda skyrocketed, and some of the new members would be recruited to plan a new attack, one far greater in scope and scale.
Meanwhile, in the year 2000, the USS Cole was attacked while refueling in Aden. A group of insurgents had sailed up next to the ship and planted C4, causing an explosion that killed 17 American sailors. The attack really put Al Qaeda on the radar, both for Americans and for many Muslim radicals, who saw it as dealing a great blow towards Western imperialism.
Al Qaeda had been planning a massive attack on the World Trade Center for years, but in 1999 several English-speaking militants from Germany came to meet with Bin Laden. Bin Laden recruited them and told them of his plan: they were to hijack several airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center. They agreed, and after some training on flight simulators, they went to the United States. Intelligence services had some vague awareness that a plot was afoot, but where and when it was to take place were yet unknown.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the hijackers took control of four flights in the eastern United States. Two of the flights were to be crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one was to be crashed somewhere in Washington D.C., likely the Capitol Building or the White House. At 8:46 AM Eastern Standard Time, the first plane crashed into the northern tower of the World Trade Center. The next 17 minutes were fraught with confusion. Many at the time believed it to be an accident, but at 9:03 AM the second plane crashed into the southern tower. At that point it was clear: America was under attack.
At 9:37 AM, the third flight crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth flight crashed in Pennsylvania at 10:03 AM, when the passengers of the plane heroically tried to storm the cabin and retake control, prompting the hijackers to intentionally crash the plane. Meanwhile, the city of New York sent out emergency crews to the World Trade Center to assist in evacuating the buildings. Departments in surrounding communities also began to send their own emergency crews, while off duty emergency workers joined in the evacuation effort.
At 9:56 AM, the southern tower collapsed due to fire and structural damage. At 10:28 AM, the northern tower also collapsed, and its debris would cause another building in the World Trade Center to collapse as well. Many thousands, including emergency personnel sent to evacuate, were still trapped inside. Damage to the surrounding area was severe, and all flights in the US were grounded for three days.
A tremendous relief effort began to dig through the rubble left behind in the wake of the attacks, in an effort to find survivors. The city of New York deployed a massive civil service effort, but they were not alone. Off-duty firefighters, EM Ts, and other professionals began to supplement the search crews. Ships evacuated people off of Manhattan Island while supplies and fresh water were hauled in. Relief efforts streamed in from across the country. Searchers rescued 11 people from the rubble on September 12.
In less than two hours, the world was changed forever. Almost 3,000 people lost their lives as a result of the attacknote and one of America's greatest symbols was destroyed. The impact of the September 11 attacks cannot be overstated.
The attack would have major consequences for Americans domestically, as it led to a massive expansion of government power, particularly in surveillance. Hate crimes against American Muslims also increased, and other groups such as Sikhs were affected due to their resemblance to stereotypical Muslim archetypes. To this day, the social and political ramifications of the attack are still being felt, but the less said, the better.
Afghanistan had essentially been in a state of civil war since the Soviet withdraw. The years following the Soviet withdraw in 1989 saw the collapse of the communist government, followed by total anarchy. Roving gangs of militants fought in the streets, and various groups began to squabble. The group to come out ascendant from all this was the Taliban, which by 2001 was effectively in charge of Afghanistan. The Taliban had a strong base in the Pashtun parts of the country, namely the southeast. They were, however, opposed by the Northern Alliance, but the alliance had been bottled up in the northwestern part of the country and was on its last legs.
On the 20th of September, the US sent an ultimatum to the Taliban demanding that they surrender Osama bin Laden. The Taliban responded demanding evidence of Bin Laden's involvement in the 9/11 Attacks, and that he be tried in an Islamic court. The US-led Coalition responded with a massive bombing campaign in October, followed by a swift ground invasion. The Northern Alliance, despite being Islamic militants themselves, saw the Enemy Mine situation and sided with the Coalition. In what is most certainly not a coincidence, their leader had been assassinated just two days prior to the September 11 Attacks.
Within two months, the Taliban had been driven back into the mountains, where they continued to wage an insurgency. Hamid Karzai, an Afghani national living in Pakistan, was sworn in as President of the transitional government on December 22. Karzai had originally supported the mujahideen, and even supported the Taliban at one point, thinking they'd finally bring peace and stability to his ailing country. However, after the Taliban were blamed for the death of his father, he turned on them and started drumming up international support for the Northern Alliance. He would win the 2004 election, becoming Afghanistan's first democratically elected leader.
However, the transitional government he led had little real power, and both inside and outside of Kabul, the war was still going on. The War in Afghanistan is still raging as of the writing of this article, as the Taliban continues its insurgency from their traditional bases of power in the Pashtun tribal regions and the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. The Coalition forces have maintained a presence in the country ever since, and the course of the war has flowed back and forth. An Afghani army and police force has been equipped and trained by NATO forces in an effort to support NATO withdraw, but these forces have had questionable results and NATO forces have routinely had to step in to fight back Taliban offensives.
Coalition forces are projected to stay in the country until at least 2024, but the actual date of withdraw is unknown. The most significant victory since the initial invasion came in 2011, when a US special forces team located and killed Osama bin Laden in his compound in neighboring Pakistan, finally killing the mastermind of the September 11 Attacks.
Iraq and the United States have had a troubled relationship in the past. The nation had been led by the nationalist Ba'ath Party since the 1950s, which Saddam Hussein would take over in 1979. Iraq became a belligerent, military state under Saddam, constantly lashing out against its neighbors. He attempted to invade Iran in 1982 in a flagrant attempt at conquering the nation, but the war ended in a stalemate. Saddam had become indebted to the Arab monarchies due to the war, and was in no position to pay. Furthermore, the war exposed Iraq's major strategic vulnerability: it had only one major port, Basra, and it was not an effective deep water port. To rectify this, Saddam Hussein had invaded the small nation of Kuwait in 1990, having accused them of taking Iraqi oil resources along the border. He quickly overran the military of Kuwait, and annexed the country.
Saddam had erroneously thought that the US would not take issue, due to some vague and poorly worded statements exchanged between foreign ministers. The US sent an ultimatum demanding the Iraqis withdraw, as did the United Nations. When Saddam failed to withdraw, the US, then under President George H.W. Bush, gathered a massive coalition of troops across the border in Saudi Arabia, while initiating a bombing campaign. In January of 1991, the coalition forces stormed across the border and soundly defeated the Iraqis in a Curb-Stomp Battle, driving them from Kuwait in a little over a month.
The defeat was bad news for Saddam. Bush Sr. had spared him, choosing to go no further than the Iraq-Kuwait border, as he feared that ousting Saddam would create a power vacuum that would devastate the region. Saddam struggled internally in his own country, as the Kurds and Shiites both attempted uprisings that he swiftly, and brutally, crushed. He also found himself increasingly isolated, as not even traditional allies of Iraq would attempt to aid him after the invasion. The United States would lend support to opposition forces to try and topple his regime, and the US and UK would launch a joint campaign of airstrikes against Saddam in 1998 with the intent of crippling his forces and inciting rebellion.
Backed into a corner, Saddam started to try to appeal to Islamic radicals, adding "God is Great" to the Iraq flag and making gestures towards Sunni radical groups. Of course, these appeals fell flat and were correctly surmised by most Islamic extremists to be disingenuous, but none-the-less it made Saddam the target of suspicion following the September 11 Attacks.
Rumsfeld had tried to use the September 11 Attacks to make war on Saddam, but President Bush wasn't convinced and decided not to go to war... yet. He did, however, increase pressure on Saddam, appealing to the UN for a regime change and making a great deal of fuss about potential weapons of mass destruction. The UN only agreed to continue sending inspectors to search Iraq for weapons, which they did not find.
Despite this, the Bush administration started to drum up domestic support for an invasion, leading the majority of Americans to believe that Saddam had WM Ds. In October of 2002, Congress authorized the use of military action against Iraq. The Secretary of State, Collin Powell, gave a speech to the UN showing the evidence for WM Ds in Iraq and Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda, both of which were later discovered to be lies, based on an unreliable asset of the CIA.
In March of 2003, the United States and its "Coalition of the Willing"note invaded Iraq. Protests against the war broke out around the world, but in the United States, resistance to the war was small. Few were willing to challenge the Bush administration so soon after the disaster of 9/11, and many were convinced that Saddam had WM Ds and was in some way responsible for the attacks, despite there being zero evidence for either.
Over a quarter of a million troops participated, including around 70,000 Iraqi Kurds. The Iraqi military was defeated swiftly in conventional battle, but they engaged in guerrilla warfare which proved to be a bit more effective against the Coalition. Still, the Coalition annihilated the Iraqi Armed Forces and had captured Baghdad in a little over a month.
An insurgency started to grow, initially supported by Republican Guard guerrillas and Ba'ath loyalists, but later by Islamic radicals. A provisional government was set up, but it was largely ineffective. Iraqis were incredibly hostile to the occupying forces, especially in Ba'athist strongholds. In the city of Fallujah, militants killed some American private military contractors, and the local people mutilated the bodies in a showing of resentment towards the American forces. In response, the US engaged in the nightmarish Battle of Fallujah.
The US did little to garner love from the Iraqi people and the international community. The use of the painful and deadly white phosphorous gas was condemned internationally, and abuse towards Iraqi prisoners also attracted notoriety. These same prisons would become instrumental in forming the next wave of radicals that would form ISIS.
The US attempted to set up a democratic government, but it was hampered by the historical ethnic and religious divisions of Iraq, as well as the distrust of the occupying forces. The war would ebb and flow, with the US redploying troops to counter every surge. De facto, the country was locked in a state of low-intensity civil war, one that is arguably still ongoing.
The war would outlive the Bush administration, following Obama into office. Obama had campaigned on the idea of withdrawing from Iraq, but he initially deployed thousands more soldiers to the country to help the failing regime. Finally, in 2010, the withdraw commenced, and in 2011 all combat personnel left. The US had reportedly offered to extend their stay, but the Iraqi government refused.
The Iraqis would quickly find a new ally in the Iranian regime. The Sunni government of Saddam had been replaced by a largely Shiite one under the Americans, with concessions granted to the Kurds including regional autonomy. The US withdraw from the country created a power vacuum that caused a surge of violence. The insurgency ballooned into a full scale civil war in 2014, when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former internee at an American prison camp, led the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on a campaign of violence across the nation that spilled over into neighboring Syria. ISIS attracted international attention for their sheer brutality, as they attempting to massacre religious and ethnic minorities and were known for their harsh methods of enforcing their version of Islamic Law.
ISIS had nearly defeated the Iraqi government, driving back both the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army. They had effectively reached Baghdad, but were stopped with the intervention of an international coalition. The US and allies launched a massive air campaign against ISIS, while the Iranians deployed thousands of soldiers to help Iraqi. As of the writing of this article, ISIS has been effectively defeated in conventional warfare, but they still maintain active insurgencies in many nations, including Iraq.
The Iraq War has a controversial legacy, but its geopolitical ramifications for the region can be quite easily seen in the Syrian Civil War. Moreover, the power vacuum the US has left has heightened the proxy war between the Iranians and the Arabs, giving Iran a much needed ally in the region. It has also had the potential to start a new war, with Iraqi and Kurdish forces clashing over the town of Kirkuk, and Turkey eyeing up Iraqi Kurdistan.
Terror attacks occur annually in the West, and the political topography of the West is changing as a response. Western governments have taken on a decidedly more authoritarian bent than before, upping their surveillance and law enforcement measures at the cost of civil liberties. Right-wing politics is surging in the West largely as a response to Islamic extremism and the perceived failure of traditional left and moderately-right governments to do anything about it. Time will tell if this surge is permanent or not.
As for the Middle East, the wars generated by this conflict are ceaseless, but the nature of the conflict has changed dramatically. Many conflicts are now simply proxy wars for the various parties, with the Syrian Civil War largely being a US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey vs. Russia and Iran proxy conflict and Yemen being an obvious Saudi Arabia vs. Iran proxy conflict.
It is unknown when, if ever, the War on Terror will end, but it remains controversial in nature.
There are multiple levels:
The situation isn't really mentioned at all. It's either not relevant (as in the Speculative Fiction genre), or it's pretended it's not happening. This does not bar the show from making comments via metaphor though.
Anime and Manga
- In Death Note, the Twin Towers can be seen in the New York City skyline, even though it's 2012. Also, there doesn't appear to be strict airport security.
- DMZ: Manhattan island is the titular DMZ because in this Alternate Universe the US adopted a more aggressive, reckless, and far-reaching response to 9/11 than it ever did under George W. Bush. Groaning under the weight of "three different wars on as many continents" which required the deplyoment of the entire regular army and most of the national guard, large anti-government/secessionist militias sprang up... and the result was a second American Civil War between the central government and the citizen-militias and guerillas of the 'Free States'.
- The Stargate-verse. They've got bigger problems to deal with, such as the Ori and the Wraith. Occasionally a character will flashback to being in it though.
- Stargate SG-1:
- In a Reality Subtext, there was a period during season seven when Samantha Carter temporarily changed weapons from the SGC's standard FN P90 to a kitbashed submachine gun dubbed the "Carter Special" in order to conserve P90 blanks. The show's armorer had run short because the factories had had to switch from making blanks for TV shows to making real bullets for fighting wars.
- Cameron Mitchell has a Sympathetic Murder Backstory where he bombed a refugee convoy which intel had thought was insurgents, with control telling him to hold fire seconds too late. It's not stated to be the Afghanistan War, but his age and the timing make it a reasonable assumption.
- Stargate Atlantis: John Sheppard, the only main character who has been part of the US Armed Forces, has several references in the story about his time as an Air Force pilot in Afghanistan (he hadn't been let in on The Masquerade yet, which is why he was bothering with the less important conflict in the first place). In "The Runner", Sheppard asks for clarification when Caldwell mentions "Code Orange and above", suggesting that even a veteran of The War on Terror can be confused by the terror alert color system.
- Stargate SG-1:
- The new Doctor Who. See Stargate. Maybe less so, Doctor Who being British. The public, in general, doesn't care for the War on Terror and has reached a point of indifference about it, unless a family member is involved, and would have more concern for the giant eye ready to incinerate the Earth, or a visit from the Daleks. Spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, having more limiting methods of Time Travel, mention Iraq, but never higher than Alert Level Blue. Doctor Who, on the other hand, involves frequent use of time travel, on top of having had just nine out of 32 episodes substantially set on present-day Earth between 2009 and 2011 note .
- Farscape subverts the "Green" level, even lampshades it: Crichton's father mentions to John that it's a different world than the idealistic one they believed in when he left, what with the War on Terror going on. Crichton is obviously not impressed and is almost glad that's their biggest concern, in contrast with all the atrocities he's seen and felt "out there".
- Power Rangers Wild Force, which began principal photography a few months after 9/11, uses the slogan "united we roar". It's a fairly likely reference to the slogan "united we stand", which became a popular symbol of solidarity after the attacks.
Films — Live-Action
- Just about completely ignored in The Taqwacores, to the point where it gets a lampshading, because despite what certain news channels would tell you it's really completely irrelevant to the American Muslim's day-to-day life.
- Sesame Street had a grease fire and a trip to the firehouse in its first season premiere after 9/11.
- Arthur and his friends all deal with emotional responses to a fire at their school. The attacks are alluded to with the episode title, "April 9th". Police cars and fire trucks show up at the school.
The thing is there in the background, it's acknowledged it's happening, it affects the plot somewhat, but ultimately doesn't directly affect the plot on a day to day basis.
Films — Live-Action
- In Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Ryan joins the Marines not too long after 9/11.
- Mentioned indirectly in Jurassic World:
- Hoskins wonders how Owen Grady's raptors would have done better in Tora Bora. He is referring to the bombing of the Tora Bora caves in December 2001 in Afghanistan in which the United States dropped several bunker buster bombs on the cave system believed to be hiding Osama Bin Laden. Despite the amount of ordnance dropped, the coalition forces failed to kill/capture Osama Bin Laden.
- The ACU trooper beside Masrani states he served in Afghanistan before joining the ACU.
- The Jennifer Morgue mentions rather offhandedly that "Saddam's magical disappearing chemical weapons" were the result of a faulty prediction of the future by the Laundry's Predictive Branch.
- Alias is the prime example of this. While the increased world tensions are mentioned, people get threatened with the Patriot Act and there's one trip to Afghanistan, the rest of the series is chock full of non-Islamist terrorists and there is never a direct "Al-Qaeda" plot during the entire show. A notable incident is a case in Series Two, where Sydney, as part of a disguise, is wearing a heavily metal-studded shirt. Her comment: "When I last went through JFK, they literally made me take off my shirt". Guess what ends up happening...
- Comedies like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia like to dig joke material out of it, but that's as far as it goes.
- Community: 9/11 was pretty much the 9/11 of the falafel business.
- CSI: New York has the main character's wife dead in 9/11, and it gets painfully reminded every other episode like it was some new (to be fair, to the irregular watchers, it is new... until they stop being irregulars) heartbreaking thing that didn't happen soon-to-be over 10 years ago. Milked for all it's got, but that's usually as far as it goes, except rare random terrorist involving plots.
- The War on Terror has tangential effects in The Wire. Mainly, the local Baltimore police discover that drug trafficking has fallen off the FBI's priority list and they can't get Bureau assistance in their anti-drug cases anymore. (Although in Season 3 sympathetic Agent Fitzhugh hooks them up with an expedited wiretap by registering "Stringer" Bell as a homeland security threat named "Ahmed".)
- They do manage to crack one case with the help of equipment granted to the Baltimore PD by a Homeland Security grant. Hilariously, none of the cops knew what it was or how to use it, so it was buried on a back shelf for years.
- There's also one seen in the Western District squad room where a federal agent is trying to train the police officers in how to deal with terrorist threats only to have the police officers crack jokes about how Baltimore is already a war zone or how the city's drug gangs would scare off any potential terrorists.
- There's also the fact that due to all of the FBI's resources being aimed toward terrorism, a lot of cases where the Baltimore Police would get additional help and resources from the Feds now has to be handled by the local cops alone. Considering the apathy, incompetence, and lack of resources the Baltimore cops are plagued with, this makes life a lot harder for anyone trying to do something about the big cases.
- White Collar often mentions how traditional tactics used by crooks have had to change in a post 9/11 world.
- Scrubs has an episode featuring an Iraq veteran with the entire hospital siding in heated debates. Another episode has J.D. becoming a makeshift US flag due to a shortage of them in wartime.
- Dr Watson from Sherlock is, as in the original, a veteran who fought in Afghanistan. We see him having a flashback to it in the beginning of the "A Study in Pink" episode and, as in the original, Sherlock comments upon it when they first meet, but that's about it.
- The Sopranos: The Feds lose interest in The Mafia after 9/11. It comes up a few times, notably in the final season when Chris debates whether to sell guns to two Arab men and Tony tries to offer information (violating his Omerta) on terrorists.
- David Kelley's shows mention it from time to time. Ally McBeal's therapist mentioned that after 9/11, casual sex has become more common because people just felt like they needed some connection they could turn to during that trying time and Alan Shore dealt with the ramifications of the war on terror frequently, even butting heads occasionally with the extremely conservative Denny Crane.
- Dean and Sam in Supernatural pretend to be Homeland Security agents. In addition, Jake was fighting in Afghanistan before he woke up in Cold, Oak. Amelia was married to a man name Don Richardson, who was thought to have been killed while in service in Afghanistan.
- In the Farscape episode "Terra Firma", Crichton's dad blames 9/11 for ruining the optimism he once felt about humanity and for why the world is so suspicious of Crichton's alien friends. (Farscape premiered in March 1999, the episode aired in January 2003.)
- The second stanza of "Sith Lords" by Raleigh, NC nerdcore outfit [SiTH] Clan references Darth Kaedus having served in Afghanistan.
- The Boondocks gave plenty of Take Thats against the Bush administration and their foreign policy, and revealed that Jazmine's two-year absence was due to hiding in her house out of fear of terrorism.
- Deus Ex: Invisible War's tagline was "The Future War on Terror". Other than that, it has next to nothing to do with the actual War on Terror, being set some 70 years in the future.
- The Boondocks episode "A Date with the Health Inspector" made one hell of an allusion to the Iraq War in the form of a convenience store robbery. Ed Wuncler III and Gin Rummy (White Gang Banger takes on George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld) take some beer called "Black Gold", and when the Arab store clerk (Saddam Hussein) tries to charge them, they accuse him of having a gun (Weapons Of Mass Destruction). A cop named Frank (France) shows up, and Ed III levels a gun to him, shouting "Whose side you on?!" The clerk's coworkers fight back, leading to a two-hour shootout with more allusions to the events around the War than can be listed here. It ends with the Arab store owners arrested and Ed III and Rummy hailed as heroes.
A common one for the Cop Show that otherwise has to deal with its third Serial Killer of the season. This includes attacks on veterans, possible involvement of someone in Islamist terrorism and asylum seekers.
- Frank Castle in The Punisher MAX once has to deal with a situation in Afghanistan (though it's with Russians) and occasionally calls in favors to hitch a ride on a CIA flight (no questions asked, but avoid being allergic to Pakistani prisoners).
- The Boys is an Alternate History where a superpowered attempt to prevent 9/11 ended up sending the planes into the Brooklyn Bridge. The main character is shocked to learn this, and the fact that the intended target was the World Trade Center.
Films — Live-Action
- Marvel Cinematic Universe examples:
- Iron Man: Tony Stark is injured by terrorists while showcasing a M.I.R.V. to NATO brass in Afghanistan.
- Iron Man 3: The aforementioned terrorists possibly make a return appearance in this film.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier: This is the "official" reason for Project Insight. The actual reason is it's the final step in HYDRA's decades-long plan to Take Over the World.
- Without a Trace is an example here. In one case, an Iraq veteran went missing, some of the team headed to Iraq[!]... then it turned out the guy was killed while doing an armed robbery and the war was nothing to do with it whatsoever. Also had a guy mistakenly shot dead because they thought he was a terrorist by virtue of the books in his library and the fact he looked like he had a gun.
- The Bill is in this category. It's an interesting example. Despite being set in an area with a considerable number of Muslims, it has not yet done a straight Islamist terrorism story ("Moving Target" was a vendetta over Iraq artefacts).
- Law & Order has seen a couple of episodes come and go with both attacks on veterans and a (white) Islamic extremist murdering a women's rights activist.
- NCIS has had several plots featuring Islamist terrorists, most notably Ari's attempt to use a target drone as a cruise missile to attack a crowd at a crew homecoming. When that plot failed he killed Kate Todd. Later seasons have introduced more elements which connect to the Islamist terrorism, and the ending of season 6 very strongly suggests it will be a major part of stories in season seven.
- The West Wing falls into this catagory due to the infrequent, but heavy-hitting episodes involving Islamic extremists and Qumar
- In NUMB3RS, Colby is an Afghanistan veteran, and there are a few terror-related episodes, but most of the episodes are close-to-home.
- In The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, a plane comes down and extremists are suspected.
- Arrested Development has both major and minor references to the war on terror. At first glance, the war only seems to get a passing, satirical treatment. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that the War on Terror is a central element in this show and that it is actually behind the premise of the series. Such references run the gamut from Maeby offhandedly mentioning that school let out early because an Arabic student parked too close to the gym to Michael, Gob, and Buster actually going to Iraq to clear their father's name after he supposedly built houses for the Hussein regime.
- Blue Bloods has several mentions: Frank and Henry were WTC first responders, along with many other cops, and Danny fought in Fallujah. In Season One, the NYPD's Intelligence Division has infiltrated a splinter cell and prevents a major terrorist attack.
- Series 8 of Doctor Who uses the War in Afghanistan as a large part of Danny Pink's story arc.
- In Golden Boy, Don Owen's That One Case is a murder he was investigating the morning of 9/11 that went cold while NYPD was responding to the attacks. The last episode has a flashback to it: Owen is right under the path of United Airlines Flight 175 as it heads for the South Tower.
- The Punisher:
- Frank Castle was part of an unsanctioned CIA black ops unit that was committing war crimes during the war in Afghanistan.
- In the second episode, we have a scene where Dinah Madani and Sam Stein converse about the War on Terror and its affect on people of Middle-Eastern descent, like Dinah herself. Even more importantly, they're having this conversation while walking around the reflecting pools at the 9/11 Memorial.
- Space 1889: A few plots, such as “Anarchy in the Ether” from Tales from the Ether, are about the struggle against 19th century terrorists, mostly anarchists and Fenians. Late 19th century is sometimes considered the birth of revolutionary terrorism. Some of its methods, theories and ideologies come from this time: such as Bakunin’s ideas about “propaganda of the deed”. So it is sort of a prequel to the modern war on terrorism.
- In Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, the war apparently still happened. Furthermore, The Man Behind the Man's plan is to restart it and drag Pakistan in this time.
- Saints Row: The Third plays with this trope, with a senator more-or-less declaring a War on Urban Terror and establishing a special military unit to deal with escalating gang violence.
- South Park, being the topical show it is, has done plenty of episodes on the war:
- The first, Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants "Osama Bin Laden has Farty Pants", aired less than a month after 9/11. It exaggerated post 9/11 paranoia with everyone wearing gas masks, security checkpoints every ten minutes, and people camped out in their living room, utterly catatonic from all that's going on in the news. It also shows the negative effects of the war Afghan innocents, who are also shown to have stronger morals and values than most Americans. The climax had Cartman kill Osama bin Laden Bugs Bunny style. (actually, a soldier delivered the final shot)
- The later episode "I'm a Little Bit Country..." sees the town divided between those who support the war and those against it. Cartman, to ease his way out of a school assignment on the Founding Fathers, tries to flashback to 1776, and learns there was a divide between pro-war and anti-war sentiments then as well. Benjamin Franklin decides that the two opposing opinions both help America by giving it a Martial Pacifist appearance; those against war show that America strives for peace, while those for it show America is willing to be strong and fight if need be. (Though being the show it is, they refer to it as "saying one thing and doing another" and "having your cake and eating it too".)
- "The Mystery of the Urinal Deuce" tackles the subject of 9/11 being a Government Conspiracy. As it turns out, 9/11 conspiracies are conspiracies in themselves, as "a bunch of pissed-off Muslims" crippling America the way it did doesn't reflect well on Ol' Dubya.
Islamist terrorists turn up a lot, but there are other people as well.
- Marijuana Simpson. Lisa identifies 9/11 as the beginning of the Simpsons' woes, and Bart is drafted to fight in the Iraq War (a conflict which Homer eventually ends after smoking with George W. Bush).
- Spooks (MI-5), the first example of "terror TV"- a series explicitly set post-9/11.
- Later seasons of JAG had the War on Terror taking a central role in the story arcs. Very justified, as the show centers around career military officers. Notably, the show made a point of depicting at least a few of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters as being Not So Different, with Bud managing to gain vital information from a prisoner while they bonded over a common interest in Star Trek.
- Person of Interest has the events of 9/11 as the explicit inciting incident for the creation of the Machine, which drives the plot of the series, and several major characters have backstories relating to the War on Terror as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. More generally, the series is a pretty good representation of the technologic, post-9/11 surveillance state.
- A recurring element in Madam Secretary, a Government Procedural set in the US State Department with the Secretary of State as its protagonist.
- The second episode, "Another Benghazi", has Liz dealing with nasty demonstrations against the US embassy in Yemen, as well as some Private Military Contractors whom she hires for added security after the Senate won't spring for Special Forces.
- "Collateral Damage" has Liz host the new Iraqi prime minister, then break up a sectarian political fight between Sunni and Shi'a members of the government by threatening to pull support altogether and back the Kurds for statehood. Also deals with the US use of torture during the 2000s.
- "Catch and Release" has an American-born ISIS propaganda hero dubbed "Jihadi Judd" as the Monster of the Week. Also, Liz's brother is a Doctors Without Borders surgeon working in refugee camps around Syria.
- The Brave begins with a mission to rescue a Doctors Without Borders volunteer from the al-Nusra Front in Syria. Anti-terrorist missions are a core of the show, but several plotlines occur that have nothing to do with terrorism (mostly involving Russia).
- SEAL Team is very similar to the above, having many plotlines related to anti-terrorist efforts, but a good chunk of the missions in the show deal with other non-state outlaws such as the Eastern mafia and piracy.
- Army of Two is mostly you vs. Al-Qaeda. However You also get to fight the Chinese military and SSC.
- Though Alpha Protocol encompasses a far greater scope than just the War On Terror, the initial part of the game involves fighting an Al-Qaeda Expy named Al-Samaad who were supplied missiles by a US weapons contractor to touch off tensions allowing them to sell more weapons to everyone. Later on in the game, exploiting fears of terrorism is the entire point behind Conrad Marbug's plan in Rome to bomb the city.
- Postal 2: Paradise, Arizona has an absurd number of Islamic terrorists living or at least operating in and around the town (to the point that the "Tora Bora" complex can be reached from an underground sewer complex within the city limits), but beyond them taking over the church on Tuesday and the National Guard taking out one of their training camps in the expansion, they're just another group of people for you to kill with reckless abandon.
- WinSP:MBT, a Fan Remake of Steel Panthers II, includes a number of scenarios set in this. The majority are based on actual events in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there's a few hypothetical scenarios as well, including a campaign where Al-Quaeda tries to run operations in the Netherlands and the player has to root them out.
- The Super Mario Bros. fan game Super Mario World Dark Horizon has a 'world' equivalent where Mario fights his way through the War on Terror singlehandedly. It's a mix of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with both a nuclear weapons facility in the former and an area involving a fight with Osama Bin Laden in the latter), and features Mario blowing up militants left and right guns a blazing (as well as them being affiliated with Hitler and Those Wacky Nazis). a video of part of the level
See also Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie.
Films — Live-Action
- Team America: World Police takes place during the War on Terror, lampooning both sides of the American political spectrum for it.
- Four Lions, a Black Comedy about four Jihadi suicide bombers.
- This is the story of United 93 and Flight 93, After the collision of two planes against the World Trade Center and one against the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 decide to struggle against the four terrorists to take back the control of the airplane.
- Fahrenheit 9/11, the Michael Moore documentary, was made to critize the War on Terror and the manner in which the Bush administration handled it.
- Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.
- Tiger Cruise, a 2005 Disney channel live-action movie about a military family event taking place on a US aircraft carrier during the attacks. Ends with the unfurling of a giant American flag on deck; needless to say, it's...controversial, and has fallen into obscurity nowadays.
- Lone Survivor, 2013 film about a SEAL team that attempts to capture a Taliban leader. The title makes it perfectly clear how many of them survive.
- The Messenger is about a casualty notification team during the war(s).
- The Kingdom, which is about a group of FBI agents investigating a terrorist attack on a softball game.
- American Sniper, all about Chris Kyle's numerous deployments to Iraq.
- World Trade Center, Two Port Authority police officers become trapped under the rubble of the World Trade Center.
- Vantage Point, which is about a terrorist bombing at a political summit told from the perspectives of different characters.
- Olympus Has Fallen and its sequel London Has Fallen, both of which involve a Secret Service agent against an entire army of terrorists.
- Collateral Damage is about a Los Angeles firefighter who travels to Colombia to seek revenge on a terrorist who killed his family in a bombing. This movie was actually affected by the 9/11 attacks.
- White House Down is another "Die Hard" on an X movie set in the White House about another Secret Service agent fighting against Western Terrorists, though it's a more lighthearted work compared to others on this list.
- In the Loop is a satirical comedy film about the build up to the Iraq war, and the shady politics behind it. Curiously, it's never actually mentioned by name.
- Traitor is an unflinching portrayal of how far both terrorists and counter-terrorists will go to achieve their ends, as FBI agents try to figure out the plans of Sudanese-born Arms Dealer-turned-terrorist Samir for another terror attack on US soil. Nobody escapes with a clean conscience by a longshot.
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is about the terrorist attack on the American consulate at Benghazi, Libya that ended up with 4 dead Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Notable for being a very hot potato topic given that the film was released in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, with the Benghazi incident being one of the major points of contention.
- Patriots Day is based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, with Mark Wahlberg playing a fictional police officer who sees the entire incident from beginning to end.
- 24 is usually cited when people use the term "terror TV" and Islamist terrorists feature in six of the eight seasons thus, while the third season has a Big Bad annoyed over US foreign policy. However, the first season was conceived pre-9/11 and has the Kosovo War as its backstory (the S3 big bad is partly motivated by the fact he was left to be captured there). Season 2's second part involving "three Middle Eastern countries" now appears to be a rather heavy-handed, slightly inaccurate, but pretty prescient metaphor on what was then the approaching Iraq War (the Bombers on the Screen use is great, though).
- Generation Kill is a 7 part miniseries based on the book of the same name by Evan Wright, a journalist who was embedded with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the initial invasion in 2003. Created by David Simon.
- The Grid was a Mini Series on an Islamist plot to explode a gas tanker near Chicago.
- Homeland is about a returned POW from the Iraqi War whom a CIA agent fears has been turned by an Islamist terrorist group.
- Quantico's present-day storyline deals with a bombing of Grand Central Terminal in New York, openly described as "the worst terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11". Among other things it calls out the racism against Arabs and Central Asians that has cropped up since 9/11, with the half-Indian protagonist Alex Parrish, who was framed for the bombing, calling it the same old story: "They blame the brown girl."
- Six is a Ripped from the Headlines military drama about a group of Nigerian schoolgirls who are kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group and a former Navy SEAL who is taken along with them, while the U.S. Navy and members of his old SEAL team try to rescue them.
- Valor centers around a failed U.S. special forces mission to Somalia which ends with two U.S. Army soldiers captured by a local Somali jihadist group who are planning to hand them over to ISIS. The plot is divided between the stateside efforts to rescue them and the POWs' struggles to survive.
- The second edition of Delta Green updates the original 90s setting into a post-9/11 world and ties it heavily with the War on Terror since Player Characters are government agents. Delta Green is reactivated and brought back into the US government as a Special Access Program that uses the War on Terror as a cover of the fight against the mythos. The 2016 Agents Handbook enters in details on the inner workings of many law enforcement, intelligence, military, and public safety agencies on their counterterrorist activities, specially the ones that interest Delta Green such as JTT Fs (Joint Terrorist Task-Forces) and surveillance programs of the NSA, FBI and NCTC.
- Full Spectrum Warrior's universe has a fictional continuation of it taking place in Qurac after Iraq and Afghanistan. The parallels are very obvious too.
- Command & Conquer: Generals is a three-way war involving the USA (after a SCUD missile was shot down over the Atlantic), the rebel-manipulating GLA and an expansionist China. What's interesting is that the real war was still more or less only on-paper when the game came out.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is more or less a fictional, slightly-future counterpart to the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, though with some noticeable changes such as the Saddam/bin Laden analogue having access to a nuke with which he kills 30,000 American soldiers - not to mention that he gets caught the day after that, and ultranationalist Russians also playing a quickly-growing part in what happens afterwards.
- The 2010 version of Medal of Honor basically thrusts you into it, specifically Operation Anaconda in early 2002.
- Target Terror, which has received So Bad, It's Good infamy by making a goofy terrorist shooter directly riding off of the War on Terror, at a time where almost everybody else was hesitant to make any references to it at all.
- Spec Ops: The Line deals heavily with themes of American Interventionism in the Middle East and the lionization of the conflicts in that section of the world, alongside the effects it has had on the soldiers fighting it. By the end it is a pretty damning condemnation of these types of themes, as nothing was saved, everyone dies or will die soon for nothing, and the main character went on a Protagonist Journey to Villain due to a self-aggrandizing power fantasy that he fell into head over heels due to a need to be "the hero."
- Were it not for 9/11 and the War on Terror (and Family Guy getting canceled for the third time), we wouldn't have American Dad!. Nowadays, the show is somewhere between Blue and Orange...
- "Which means something might go down somewhere in some way in some point in time, SO LOOK SHARP!"
- An additional bit of Fridge Horror: Seth MacFarlane was almost a victim of the attacks himself. He was scheduled to board American Airlines Flight 11 and was saved by both a hangover and incorrect info from his travel agent that caused him to be late to the airport. To which he makes several 9/11 jokes. There was even a joke about Osama bin Laden smuggling Weapons Of Mass Destruction on Family Guy around a year before 9/11 even happened!
The full-scale conflicts
Quite a few TV and film examples, including a number of Afghan ones, the only one to break out so far is 2013's Lone Survivor, which is notable for taking a highly patriotic view of war. Lions for Lambs went down badly with critics and the public alike, as well being criticized for the title being an apparent misquote of the World War I expression "lions led by donkeys". Studio 60 featured Tom's brother being kidnapped in Afghanistan in its closing five-parter, then ended in Fairy Tale style.
An Afghanistan D20 role-playing board game has been published, doing a fairly serious job with describing the early stages of the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan. Times have changed however, and today (this is written in Kabul in the autumn of 2008) the war looks quite different.
"The Road to Guantanamo" is a 2006 docu-drama about the detention in Guantanamo of three British men picked up in Afghanistan in 2001. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature, and the Silver Bear for Best Director at 2006 Berlin Film Festival. Contains archive news footage from the period, and recounts the men's experiences from their travels into Afghanistan to their capture and imprisonment.
And then there's the new Medal of Honor video game that has you as both a soldier and a Tier 1 Operator fighting in Afghanistan. It semi-accurately depicts the war, centering on a fictionalized version of Operation Anaconda, with, in true Medal of Honor fashion, everyone who isn't American (Or in this case, Afghan) conveniently excised.
- Outlaw Platoon, a non-fiction account of a young officer's sixteen-month deployment to Afghanistan.
- Bomb Patrol Afghanistan: A US Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit sweeps the roads of bombs in Afghanistan at least once an episode.
Outside of Iraq itself, movies and TV (there's a few novels out there and a number of computer game mods on the conflict, the latter of which raises the moral issue of playing games involving an ongoing war) that directly deals with the conflict and is actually set in Iraq is few and far between. The first attempt at a TV series in the US, Over There, was critically acclaimed, but ultimately cancelled (some speculate it was cancelled for "political reasons"). In contrast, the 2008 HBO miniseries Generation Kill is based on the 2004 book of the same name about an embedded reporter's experience with his unit of Marines and has at least one character played by his real-life counterpart (Sgt. Rudy Reyes as himself).
All the movies are pretty obscure and have effectively flopped at the box office, with some commentators arguing that "war movie fatigue" on the part of the public was responsible. On the other hand, some have argued that "anti-war movie fatigue" is responsible.
One exception would be The Hurt Locker, which won an Oscar for Best Picture. However, it should be noted that it is also the lowest grossing film to win that award. Then, in 2014, American Sniper was released to both massive critical and financial success, and was nominated for half a dozen Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor. It wound up winning the Best Sound Editing award.
A good past example that may serve as a guide for the future (due to general perception, accurate or not, on the Iraq War) is The Vietnam War. It took four years after the fall of Saigon for the first widely-known (Go Tell The Spartans isn't that well known) period and area set film to come out and that, Apocalypse Now, is also Heart of Darkness in Vietnam. Full Metal Jacket wasn't until 1986. On the other hand, during previous American conflicts films were produced expressing a pro-war position (if not quite actual propaganda). During World War II Hollywood was essentially co-opted by the US war department to produce pro-war films and cartoons (although every country did the same thing, except, ironically, Germany, which mainly produced period films). During the Vietnam War films in support of the war like The Green Berets (with John Wayne) were made, and the vast majority of 80s action films were supportive of the Reagan administration's foreign policy. In contrast, the War on Terror hasn't produced many films or TV shows that expressly support it (with the possible exception of a Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie or two).
Appears as backstory quite a bit, especially in Brothers and Sisters, where Blonde Republican Sex Kitten Kitty, trying to prevent her brother going to Iraq, tries to bribe the Senator she later gets engaged to and performs on an on-camera volte-face. One can't help feel someone's going Strawman Political on this one (supporting a war until it directly affects you). Justin eventually goes of his own free will anyway and is seriously wounded there.
Films — Live-Action
- Home of the Brave, about four National Guardsmen who deal with various hardships after returning home from the war in Iraq.
- Most of Tom Kratman's "Okuyyuki" takes place during the Second Gulf War, following a soldier through the invasion and early occupation.
- In The Unit, Jonas Blaine's daughter Betsy is kidnapped while serving in Iraq.
Strictly speaking, Iran is actually a separate issue from the true "war on terror" — Iranians largely aren't Arabs but Persians, they don't speak Arabic but Farsi, and they're Shias not Sunni — they're lumped in these days because of two main reasons. One: the apparent threat, real or otherwise, of the regime in Tehran. Two: they're seen as Ambiguously Brown and live in the same general direction (exactly between Afghanistan and Iraq, in fact): which is enough for certain startlingly poorly educated people in high positions to overlook the differences.
- The Mediterranean Sea
- Somalia, the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden (a continuation of the Somali Civil War)
- Saudi Arabia (ended around August 2008)
- Pakistan (though it's usually included with Afghanistan)
- Southern Thailand
- Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories
- Northern Caucasus (the period after the Second Caucasus War/South Ossetia War)
- Algeria and The Maghreb (The Northern Half of the former French West Africa)
- Yemen (seemed to have ended in 2008, but flared-up again starting 2014)
- The Arab Spring.
The War On Terror, IN SPACE
There are a couple of shows out there that use their settings and plots to make points, usually rather anvilicious, on the War On Terror:
- The second season of Children of Time has the conflict surrounding cryptnosis, a program used by the British government to sentence most criminals. Cryptnosis effectively reprograms the brain to "reform" criminals. There are many people who question the morality of this method, including the protagonists, Sherlock and Beth Holmes. In the third episode, their case involves one group of anti-cryptnosis extremists who threaten to destroy entire cities if cryptnosis is not ended. In the next episode, the Framing Device is a hearing in Parliament to discuss the issue.
- The Daredevil fanfic What They Wouldnt Do has a scene where Matt Murdock and Sarah Corrigan talk about where they were during "The Incident". It has all the feel of a "Where were you on 9/11?" conversation, and this is intentional on the author's behalf because, like 9/11, "The Incident" affected all New Yorkers in one way or another and caused a ton of destruction and loss of life while the rest of the nation/world watched.
- 300 sparked an enormous amount of controversy from all corners of politics on release because of its plot involving asymmetrical warfare, swarthy Mediterraneans, Freedom™, extremely stylized history, and even disagreement about its real subject matter between co-creators. Not least of its problems is that some people are still very fussy about the historical figures it portrays, and Greece and Turkey are still going at it.
- On a related note, many movies about treacherous regimes and war, such as Harry Potter, and V for Vendetta couldn't help but slip in allegory of varying subtlety (or lack thereof) about The War on Terror.
- 9th Company is a strange example: The events in the film predate the War on Terror by nearly two decades, as it focuses on the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan. That said, it was made in 2007 and there are numerous, subtle parallels to the current war. It is almost as if the director was saying "We went through that hellhole. Now it's your turn".
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith "If you're not with me, you're my enemy!" Whether that was meant as a reference to George W. Bush or not is debated, though Lucas says it is unintentional. Or rather, that people are getting the wrong period: He says it was inspired by the Vietnam War (which was happening at the time the originals were envisioned), not the War on Terror.
- Star Trek:
- The cinematic reboot of Star Trek, where the Romulans were downgraded from Romans IN SPACE to swarthy, sword-bearing savages in dusty clothing. Although many would argue otherwise, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which particular historical event the destruction of Vulcan might possibly be alluding to.
- Star Trek Into Darkness includes bombings in major population centers and other real world contemporary issues, such as sending the Enterprise into another government's territory to launch a bunch of missiles at a terrorist. And, in true, grand Trek fashion, the proper message is that we cannot give in to our fears and devote ourselves to little more than war and militarization, even in the face of "threats". It's in the face of such things that we have to be even more noble, not less.
- The Dark Knight Rises draws a clear parallel between the League of Shadows and organized terror cells based in the Middle East. The film sidesteps mentioning which desert country Bane and his cronies hail from, as most of them are played by Anglos.
- In John Birmingham's Without Warning and After America the war on terror takes a bizarre turn in 2003 when an energy field of unknown origin and composition wipes out about three-quarters of the population of North America. An energized Saddam Hussein takes the offensive against a demoralized US military just before they were going to invade and drives them out then allies with Irannote to declare a universal jihad against Israel. This leads Israel to nuke all its Islamic neighbors except Lebanon (too close) in what becomes called the Second Holocaust. Other ripples from this include the French Intifada and the United Kingdom deporting or interning all of its Muslims while parts of Germany, especially Cologne become functionally converted to sharia.
- Flipped on its head in Matt Ruff's Mirage where the United Arab States are threatened by Christian terrorists, especially after the Bagdad Twin Towers are destroyed on 11/9, 2001.
- A weird one: To present-day eyes, the X-Wing Series novel Isard's Revenge (set immediately after The Thrawn Trilogy) looks based on the first leg of the Iraq War, with a politically motivatednote invasion of a villainous but neutral nation by the protagonists' nation, spurred on by fears of a bogus superweapon. The novel was published in 1999.
- The Oncoming Storm by Christopher Nuttall seemingly has the Occupation of Cadiz as a counterpart to the Iraq War. The Commonwealth of Tyre annexed the Cadiz system for geopolitical reasons (it's unimportant but strategically located in the face of a coming confrontation with the Theocracy). At present the occupation is a clusterfuck of corporate interests, under-equipped troops, Head-in-the-Sand Management, and a bloody insurgency.
- Battlestar Galactica, which over the course of the series has dealt with themes such as military occupation, suicide bombing and whether it can be justified, an enemy that blends in with the public, the results of a nuclear holocaust, the cycle of revenge and escalation, and religious conflict (both violent and cultural).
- The 2015 Doctor Who two-parter "The Zygon Invasion" and "The Zygon Inversion". With Zygons instead of ISIS.
- The 2006 Robin Hood in the first season actually has the Sheriff use the words "war on terror" in late 12th century England and uses the Crusades as a (rather inaccurate) metaphor for the whole thing. It's toned down a lot for the second.
- Stargate SG-1 with the Ori arc.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine deserves a mention. Though it was written and aired in the 1990s, it dealt with many issues that would suddenly become very relevant in the post-9/11 era. The relationship between the Bajorans and Cardassians, for example, was based more on the Nazi occupation of Europe in World War II, but episodes dealt with the relative merits of terrorism, and Bajoran religious beliefs were used to parallel real-world religious extremism. The "Homefront"/"Paradise Lost" two-parter dealt directly with a security state ramping up in response to terrorist attacks and the dangers of becoming so worried about outside threats that you compromise your own freedom and turn on your neighbors.
- Star Trek: Enterprise's third season drew heavily on current events. Earth is savagely attacked, apparently out of nowhere, and the NX-01 (bringing along a cohort of Army Guys) heads into a treacherous region of space to find the culprits. Many fans were afraid this storyline would be untrue to Trek's philosophy, but they needn't have worried: the aliens aren't all bad, Archer's new hard-edged attitude isn't always endorsed, and there's enough ambiguity all round to keep it from being Strawman Political in either direction. Prior to that, a couple of first-season episodes — "Fortunate Son" and especially "Detained" — examined elements of the war on terror. But contrary to a common assumption, the decision to name the first season's bad guys "Suliban" happened long before 9/11. They were named after the Taliban, but only because Rick Berman thought that name had the exotic sound he wanted; no one was expecting it to become a household name.
- War on Terror: The Boardgame is ... well, guess. It's also quite satirical. And the "Axis of Evil" is a spinner in the middle of the board.
- The series, debuting a few months after 9/11, has Scary Dogmatic Aliens who are religious extremists going to war with the UNSC (humanity's united military, modeled after the United States Marines), though this aspect of the plot had already been shown in previews for the first game before 9/11 happened. It was subtle in the first game, but was more obvious in Halo 2, where the War was on the developers' minds more; the aliens' religious motivation ceased to be an Informed Attribute. The allegory, if it was ever intentional, sort of falls apart when the Flood shows up. However the developers have also said that The Culture was an influence. Seeing as how that series had Scary Dogmatic Aliens in the first book it might just be coincidental.
- The UNSC were also in a revolution by "The Insurrection," which had turned to terrorism to fight for freedom. However, in many ways this is more reminiscent of The Troubles than any more recent conflict.
- Deus Ex is a rare example, since it came out before 9/11. The game deals with the issue of if terrorists are doing their actions because they are simply violent, or because they have been left with no other option. The issue of increasing security at the cost of personal freedoms comes up throughout the game, especially as the Crapsack World setting becomes more so.
- There is also the infamous Harsher in Hindsight example of the missing World Trade Center Towers in the New York skyline. The real reason for it was due to memory limitations. The developers justified it by saying it was due to a terrorist attack sometime before the game.note The game was released in 2000.
- Deus Ex: Invisible War had the tagline "The future War On Terror" since it came out in 2004 when it was fresh on people's minds.
- Again, Modern Warfare 2. The basic plot for the American portion of the game is obviously influenced by the real War on Terror: a group of terrorists (Makarov's group) launches an attack on a country's famous landmark (Russia, airport named after a major character from the previous game), said country finds a link between the group and another country (the US — the player controls an undercover CIA agent going with the attack, who is killed by Makarov specifically for his corpse to link America with the attack) and invades them on this pretext. As noted above, though, even with a few missions both at the beginning and end explicitly taking place within Afghanistan, things aren't quite what they seem to be.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II makes a small Call-Forward to this in a flashback mission set during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, with a side-order of Historical Villain Upgrade; the player fights alongside the Mujahideen to drive the Soviets off, only for them to immediately turn on the player once the threat has passed, claiming "you are, and always will be, our true enemy". It also makes a pair of small Call Backs in the regular missions set in 2025, once where Harper refers to the Big Bad Raul Menendez as "the most dangerous terrorist since Osama bin Laden", and then again if the player fails to complete the Strike Force missions and secure an alliance with China before a specific mission, where General Petraeus and Admiral Briggs briefly discuss the last time America moved up to DEFCON 3 "almost 25 years ago".
- Star Trek Online has something of this with the True Way in the Cardassian story arc, The Remnant of the pre-Dominion War old order who have now become terrorists, much like many al-Qa'ida in Iraq and ISIS leaders served in the pre-invasion Iraqi military. Unfortunately most of this flavor was removed in favor of a Mirror Universe plot when the arc was revamped in 2015.
- The Simpsons:
- Touched during the 2006 Halloween special, where Kang and Kodos decide to invade Earth. Incidentally, the scene originally ended with the line "This sure is a lot like Iraq will be", tossing an anvil straight through the Fourth Wall. This was wisely cut at some point down the line, but it still aired on some channels.
- Many other episodes, such as "Bart-Mangled Banner", have satirized post-9/11 America.
- The entire plot of "MyPods and Boomsticks" is about Homer's attempt to reveal that the family of Bart's newest friend are terrorists. It turns out they aren't terrorists; the husband is just a construction worker, the building he destroyed was with a construction team as a sanctioned demolition for a future building project (his wife's concern was because construction sites can be dangerous), and his talk of a better place referred to being promoted to a higher-paying position in his company.
- In The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok's treatment of non-benders is similar to this, especially as of the most episode.
Tropes appearing in media set in this period:
- Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: This trope saw a resurgence in US media after France refused to send troops to Iraq,note arguing that they needed to give diplomacy more time and that a war would just add to the instability in the Middle East. That being said, the French did have no little experience with messy counter-insurgencies (see Algeria and Indochina) and have since been at least partially Vindicated by History.
- Knight Templar: Terrorists in pro-US portrayals, Western politicians and/or soldiers in anti-US portrayals.
- Misaimed Fandom: There is always a substantial misaimed Hatedom who will interpret any popular or mainstream book or film about the War on Terror or U.S.-Middle east relations, no matter how critical it is of U.S. foreign policy, as pro-war propaganda. Conversely, there are those who will misinterpret critical satire of the war on terror and praise it for extolling the virtues of Eagleland.
- Mission from God: On both sides of the conflict. Along with the expected 'kill the infidels' rhetoric from the Taliban, there was a disturbing amount of reference to 'Crusades' on the part of certain American religious types.
- Politically Incorrect Hero or Politically Incorrect Villain: Movies about U.S. soldiers or spies set during this period show them using racial slurs intended towards Arabs, as well as showing politicians ramping up policies that seem to target Muslims. This is Truth in Television, as Muslims were subject to increased scrutiny after 9/11, including the presence of FBI and NYPD informants placed in several New York mosques. Needless to say, America's Muslim population didn't feel particularly safe. Racism against people of middle eastern descent also increased dramatically, and even Sikh Indians (who are obviously neither Arab nor Muslim) were occasionally subject to racially motivated violence. Things didn't dissipate over time, either, as Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States demonstrates.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: The U.S. was and is often accused of this attitude on the War on Terror, including by many Americans themselves. Features in both pro-war and anti-war media, and is pretty much the entire theme of movies such as Team America: World Police (in which it is dealt with humorously) and Zero Dark Thirty (in which it is dealt with seriously).
- Renegade Russian: Most often ex-Soviet men, businessmen or non-Communist political extremists.
- Terrorists Without a Cause: Though, exceptions are sometimes made for religious organizations, those whose motivation is to get the US out of their country or those involved in the Arab–Israeli Conflict.
- Western Terrorists: Occasionally, Slavic, Far Eastern and African terrorists.
- With Us or Against Us: Especially in the early years, criticism of how the War on Terror was being handled was viewed as "treasonous", and Muslim communities as a whole are pressured into openly denouncing terrorism or being seen as abetting/approving of it.
- America Saves the Day: Portraying the US as a heroic and righteous defender of freedom and democracy was especially popular in the early years of the War on Terror.
- Big Damn Heroes: How the US military tends to be portrayed.
- Dirty Coward: Terrorists are usually portrayed this way, whether or not they're actually behaving like cowards.
- Hypocrite: Anti-American insurgents and terrorists in general will claim to be liberating the people of their country, while killing them by the hundreds and backing extremely intolerant or cruel demagogues.
- America Saves the Day: America Will save the day, no matter if you wanted or not.
- Armies Are Evil
- Big Brother Is Watching: The security measures of tin-pot tyrannies and the United States tend to be portrayed as Orwellian.
- History Repeats:
- Allusions are made to Vietnam, most commonly, though CIA activities in South America or the First Gulf War are also popular.
- The anti-Muslim and anti-Middle Easterner paranoia, especially in the early years (and again in recent years), has been likened to the anti-Japanese paranoia of World War II, or anti-Communist paranoia afterward.
- Hypocrite: The US will be portrayed as a self-righteous nation that claims to be spreader of democracy, even though it supports brutal dictatorships as long as it's convenient to do so, invades them when it's no longer convenient, and oppresses the people in the countries it invades.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: The more decent soldiers, USA or otherwise.
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: When Americans themselves criticize the leader's choices, most especially the ones in this era.
- No Blood for Phlebotinum: That the war "is all about oil" is a common motif.
- Sociopathic Soldier: The less decent ones, particularly from states like Sudan, or sometimes of the United States.
See Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie for the subject of terrorism in some depth. Also see Turn of the Millennium. Not to be confused with the Australian comedy series The Chaser's War on Everything, though they've certainly touched on the matter on occasion.