On August 28, 2016, the Democratic Party at its convention for nominating Hillary Clinton as its presidential candidate had Khizr Khan as a political attacker against the Republication Party nominee, Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, with his usual thin skin, retaliated by criticizing the fact that while Mr. Khan talked, his wife sat silently next to him.
Mr. Khan is a naturalized US citizen of Pakistani origin and identifies himself as a Muslim. His son, Humayun was a US Army Captain in 2004, when he was killed while on war deployment in Iraq. Thus, according to US military veteran language, the junior Khan was a “Gold Star” and the Khan family is a “Gold Star Family.” Mr. Khan’s attack against Mr. Trump was due to the latter’s call, in December 2015, for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Donald Trump’s call for banning entry of Muslims in the USA was after the Islamic terrorist attack in San Bernardino earlier in December 2015, where 14 people were killed and 22 injured. Since then, the worst mass shooting in the history of the USA was committed by an Islamic terrorist in Orlando on June 12, 2016, where 49 people were killed and 53 injured. Also since December 2015, several major similar terrorist attacks were committed in Western Europe by people from the same religious group. Thus, Mr. Trump and many in the Republican Party maintain an opposition to allowing Muslim immigration to the USA, and people like Khizr Khan are against the Republicans.
Clearly, Donald Trump’s attack on a mother whose son died on US military duty in a foreign war was in poor taste. He actually could have made the Khan speech at the Democratic Party Convention beneficial to himself by affirming that he was opposed to immigration of Muslims like the killers of Humayun to the USA. Instead, he attacked a grieving mother, and made the dishonest father look bigger in the USA. His words have also made the Muslims look like worse victims in the country than what they actually are. The fact of the matter is that in the USA ordinary Muslims have more dignity and rights than in practically any Muslim majority country of the world. Most Muslims from Muslim majority countries are also fully aware of the horrible treatments that non-Muslims get in their native countries.
However, let us look at what Mr. Khan’s talk was actually worth.
According Mr. Khan him, “Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer … .” Clearly, Humayun did not intend to fight in a foreign war.
According to Mr. Khan, “he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.” Did Humayun volunteer to go to Iraq war in 2004, or he was obligated to do so for the benefits that he had already received from the US military? Did he really give his life to save his fellow soldiers? The fact was that he was killed by a fast-approaching suicide car bomb at his check-post, very likely before he fully realized what was going on.
Also according to Mr. Khan, “If it was up to Donald Trump, he (Humayun) never would have been in America.” This was a very dishonest statement. Humayun came to America at the age of 2 in 1978, graduated from high school in 1996, and entered the University of Virginia, where he joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, graduating in 2000. In 1978 or 2000, no one was talking against Muslims in America.
Now, let us look the America’s foreign warriors a bit.
In 1981 when I came to the USA as a graduate student, I had a white American colleague. We used to work in the same laboratory. We used to chat on various topics. One topic was America’s wars in foreign lands. For the soldiers, his understanding was that they were recruited disproportionately from crime-ridden inner-city neighborhoods, and that it was good for everyone.
The recruit is generally given free education and military training by the US government. From an inner-city criminal that could have been dead due to gang-violence, he becomes a disciplined individual. Of course, for what the government has given him, he is obligated to serve in combat missions. After he completes his obligations, if he comes back alive and takes up a civilian life, he is a disciplined and productive member of the society. If he is dead in a mission, he is a hero that served his country. His family, friends and community are proud of him; as opposed to being sad, if not ashamed, of his death that could have happened due to gang-violence.
My friend’s opinion made sense to me. In fact, it has been widely held in this country. For example, the current US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who was also the Democratic Party candidate for the President in 2004, was against an all-volunteer army in 1972, arguing that such an army would be “an army of the poor and the black and the brown.” Mr. Kerry was also in some political hot water in October 2006, when he told a gathering of students at Pasadena City College, “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” It was interpreted as students who do not do well at school are likely to take the advantage of financial help from the military and then being required to get into wars abroad.
There are numerous examples of members of poor families who were sent in multiple tours of duties in places like Iraq, and surely most of them did not do it willingly; they had to have their obligations for getting help from the military fulfilled.
In fact, the US government has had policies of recruiting foreign nationals in the military, where they would get US citizenship easily, without getting the green card (permanent residency) first. Of course, in lieu of the education, training and benefits they get, they would be required to serve in war zones. And of course, a US citizenship has always been a highly desired benefit for a lot of people from many parts of the world.
Thus, while “Gold Star” is a respectable title, it does not always come from willingness to sacrifice life, especially when America is not at serious foreign wars, such as in the 1990s, when the junior Khan benefited from the US military as a member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. However, any death or dismemberment while serving the country in a foreign war should be appreciated and honored by the nation. Humayun and his family have been honored by the USA with their “Gold Star” status. But, using that honor to exaggerate and manipulate truth for political gain was not only unscrupulous; it was disrespect for the fallen soldier as well.
Clearly, the Khan speech and its display at the Democratic Party Convention of 2016 were dishonest and an exercise in irresponsible political correctness vis-à-vis the serious worldwide problem of Islamic fanaticism and terrorism.
Sukhamaya (Sam) Bain is a rational and secular humanist who is against any kind of injustice, hatred or atrocity on any kind of humans. With a PhD in Chemistry he is a scientific professional. However, he occasionally writes on sociopolitical issues, as he feels strongly that societal justice is vital for the well-being of mankind. A collection of his writings can be found in http://enblog.mukto-mona.com/author/sbain/