One of my dad’s favorite shows growing us as a kid was Hogan’s Heroes, which portrayed a group of Allied airmen held prisoner in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. But they weren’t there because they couldn’t escape, they were there to cause havoc on the Nazis by sneaking out of the camp and blowing up bridges, maintaining spy/underground networks, smuggling other prisoners and goods, all under the nose of the buffoonish Stalag 13 Kommandant Colonel Klink. With his portly, sheepish sergeant-of-the-guard Sergeant Schultz at his side, each episode made the Nazis look more imbecilic than the next.
An interesting fact about the show, that not many people know, is that Corporal Louie LeBeau, the French character in the show played by Robert Clary, was actually a French Jew and was sent to a real Nazi concentration camp during the war, spending much of his time in Buchenwald.
A Holocaust survivor (who is still living at 94 years old as I have written this), with the Nazi identification number A5714 tattooed on his arm acting as a Nazi prisoner of war in a show that was made a mere 20 years after the war ended and he was liberated from the real camp in which he was so harshly oppressed.
The Nazi regime brought the world to its knees. Some estimates suggest 85 million people died across the world. Nazism was a horrible scourge and the damage it did was only so widespread because of the invention and implementation of mechanized warfare.
So that got me thinking. Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As a result of those attacks, I, as a member of the 9/11 generation, spend almost two years in the Middle East and South Asia, as a member of the CIA, State Department, and US Navy. If the tragedy of September 2001 never happened, I never would have gone overseas in those capacities to support the wars and military operations that only existed because of the attacks.
America launched the War on Terror and invaded Afghanistan and Iraq in November 2001 and March 2003, respectively. Since then, at least 480,000 people have died, according to researchers at Brown University. While relatively few people have died in the War on Terror compared to World War II, I ask the question that I pose in the title: will there be a show satirizing the conflict?
I think there are five reasons why it won’t happen.
The first consideration here is that the current conflicts are not over. While the number of US troops in Iraq remains few and far between, America still has somewhere around 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. World War II had a definitive end and used the Marshall Plan to rebuild a European continent in crumbles over the next decade. When Hogan’s Heroes was released, America had already fought and finished with the Korean War and was well on its way to the Vietnam War. Therefore, you might say, “Well, we couldn’t fathom doing a similar show while the war is still going on. It wouldn’t be right.”
That could be true, but consider the movie Guadalcanal Diary, which was released in the United States on November 5th, 1943, a mere nine months after the actual battle ended. The war was still raging in the Pacific against the Japanese imperial military, and the film industry was busy making movies about it. We’ve done it before, so why would we not do it again?
The second consideration is that the 9/11 acts of terrorism were committed by Middle Eastern Muslims, not light-skinned faux-Christians like the Germans of the 1930s and 1940s. To create a show that makes Middle Easterners and/or Muslims look like buffoons and incompetent dolts would almost certainly be deemed as racist and xenophobic, regardless of the fact that the show was satirizing terrorists whose plans to attack America were continually thwarted.
The third consideration regards the lack of “victory” in the wars. Did the United States “win” the war in Iraq? Both Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent Operation New Dawn, in which primary responsibility for the security of Iraq was handed to Iraqi Security Forces, were completed and all US troops withdrew from the country in December 2011, and it only did so because the status of forces agreement that permitted US troops to remain in the country expired. But did the US “win?” Sure, US forces won many battles…
In Afghanistan, I think even the most patriotic American is hard-pressed to say that the United States military has been “victorious” in the South Asian nation. It doesn’t have as many troops today as it did when I was there in 2008, but a reduction in troops hardly means victory. The Taliban still fights, Kabul still endures car and suicide bombs, and the opium export continues.
A fourth consideration is the fact that 9/11 was committed on US soil, in multiple states, and is visceral because of so many Americans involvement in it. All of the direct combat actions undertaken by the United States happened on foreign soil, across vast oceans. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred when Hawaii was not yet a state, albeit it joined the Union 18 years later in 1959, and even that is a five hour flight from the US mainland.
The fifth and final reason is that terrorism remains a constant threat, one that perhaps has dissipated in recent years, but still remains. Nazism also has remained a threat, most recently seen en masse in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, but its threat to overrun the world and enslave and entire cultures has subsided.
With those fivereasons combined, I don’t think we will see (at least for a long time) a silly weeknight sitcom poking comedic jabs at kafia-wearing Muslims hellbent on the destruction of America. And that’s probably a good thing…