Star Trek: DS9 Foreshadowing the War on Terror… or Bush as a Klingon


Star Trek is usually a reflection of its time.  Usually.  During the 1990s, the future seemed bright and as President Clinton said, we were “building a bridge to the 21st Century.”  Little did we know what was on the horizon and, in retrospect, Deep Space Nine is more of an allegory to society in the wake of 9/11 than of when it was actually produced.

The Dominion made their debut in 1994 at the end of the second season (“The Jem’Hadar”).  Wasting no time in making a first impression, they wiped out a Bajoran colony in the Gamma Quadrant and destroyed a starship by crashing right into it.  The USS Odyssey, a Galaxy Class starship: the same class of the Enterprise-D on The Next Generation, the Federation Flagship.  It sent a shockwave through the Federation and the entire Alpha Quadrant in the same way the collapse of the Twin Towers sent a shockwave through America.  Things would never be the same again.

Not only was the Dominion stronger than all the major Alpha Quadrant powers, it could infiltrate them through shape-shifters, better known as Changelings.  Changelings could assume the appearance of anyone or anything and they could be anywhere.

By the beginning of the fourth season, paranoia was at an all-time high.  The Klingons’ response to the Dominion threat was to invade Cardassia.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Bush’s eventual response al-Queda destroying the Twin Towers on 9/11 was to invade Iraq.  The change in government on Cardassia was all the evidence Gowron, Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, needed to invade Cardassia.  The possibility of Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction and a Smoking Gun was all the reason Bush needed to invade Iraq.

When it turned out Changelings weren’t involved with the change in government on Cardassia?  Gowron maintained the Alpha Quadrant was safer with the Klingons in control of Cardassia.  When it turned out there weren’t Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?  Bush maintained the world was safer with a free Iraq and that, after 9/11, we couldn’t afford to take chances with our safety.  Whether or not any justification was under a false premise was beside the point.

Meanwhile, Starfleet was screening Federation citizens In “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost”, Starfleet was screening people by drawing blood to make sure they weren’t Changelings.  So paranoid was Captain Sisko when his father, Joe Sisko, refused to submit to a blood screening, that he wondered if his own father was a Changeling.  This type of paranoia was paralleled by fear of terrorists on American soil which led to the militarization of the police and the founding of the Transport Security Administration (TSA) which started padding and screening people at the airport to make sure they weren’t terrorists concealing weapons.

The continued existence of the Guantanamo Detention Center, allowing suspected terrorists indefinite detention without trial and resorting to waterboarding in Guantanamo Bay has shown America being willing to dispense with its principles for the sake of safety.  In a similar vein, the Federation was also willing to set aside its principles by infecting the Changelings with a disease without a known cure (“The Changing Face of Evil”) and resorted to fabricating evidence to persuade the Romulans into joining the war against the Dominion (“In the Pale Moonlight”).

In a third season two-parter (“Past Tense”), when Sisko and Bashir were accidentally sent back to the early-21st Century in a time ravished by a bad economy – another foreshadowing – Bashir asks, “If push comes to shove, if something disastrous happens to the Federation… if we are frightened enough, or desperate enough… how would we react?”  Sisko reassures Bashir that it’s his job to make sure they never have to find out but, over the course of the rest of the series, the Federation and its allies do find out.