Homeland has been a huge hit, but its depiction of the war on terror is cartoonish. For something more powerful, try the Israeli versionby Tom Streithorst / May 4, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s hard to believe Claire Danes as a psychologically troubled CIA agent
The global war on terror is ending with neither a bang nor a whimper but just fading away, seemingly from lack of interest. Ten years ago, the news magazines all proclaimed 9/11 one of the most significant moments in world history. No one thinks that anymore. The financial crisis and the rise of the BRICs will play a larger role when future historians write of our era. The most important consequence of 9/11 was that it goaded America into two failed and useless wars in the Middle East. These days most of us recognise that more people die each year as a result of peanut allergies than from terrorist attacks.
Maybe Baudrillard was onto something when he wrote, 20 years ago, “The Gulf war did not take place.” His point was that the 1990s invasion closer to a spectacle played on TV screens than war in the traditional sense. At the time, this postmodernist notion seemed facile, ignoring the bombs actually dropped, the blood spilled, the lives destroyed. Now the French philosopher seems prescient. Looking back over the past decade the war on terror now feels, in some ways, like a made for TV movie. The big plane making a graceful turn into the tall white building, the night time sky over Baghdad lit up by coloured lights, the handsome president on the aircraft carrier in his flight suit, the Iraqi prisoner with a hood on his head. You can see it all, even though you were never there. This is not to make light of the real suffering of victims of terrorism across the world over the past 11 years, but it is hard to deny that for the rest of us, the war on terror felt more like reality television than genuine battle.
When Siegfried Sassoon wrote his poems, when Joseph Heller wrote Catch 22, when Homer wrote the Iliad, they had experienced war and so had a large proportion of their target audience. No more. A handful of Americans and Brits have spent lengthy and repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan but 99 per cent of us know only what we see on television. And that, sadly, includes the creators of the hit television series Homeland, whose background does not lie in military service in the Middle East but instead as writers for the iconic “war on terror” television series, 24.