- Jon Alpertco-director of the HBO film Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery. He’s an Emmy Award winner and Academy Award nominee.
As Donald Trump continues to attack Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who died in Iraq, we turn to a side of the Khans few have seen. In 2008, the couple were filmed visiting the grave of their son in the HBO documentary “Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery.” We air an excerpt and speak to filmmaker Jon Alpert.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In news from the campaign trail, top Republicans and veterans groups are criticizing Donald Trump after he refused to back down from his comments attacking Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who died in Iraq. On Monday, Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, wrote, quote, “I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates,” unquote. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also publicly criticized Trump. None of the three, however, pulled their endorsement of Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: Khizr Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, was killed by a car bomb while serving in Iraq in 2004. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Trump’s attacks against Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, began when Khan addressed the Democratic National Convention Thursday night.
KHIZR KHAN: Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will—I will gladly lend you my copy.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Sunday, Trump responded to Khan while on ABC, implying Khan’s wife, Ghazala Khan, had not spoken at the convention because she was not allowed to as a Muslim woman.
DONALD TRUMP: I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we turn now to a side of Khizr and Ghazala Khan few have seen. Years before they became the target of Donald Trump’s attack, the couple were filmed visiting the grave of their son, Captain Khan, in the HBO documentary Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery.
KHIZR KHAN: I’m father of Captain Humayun Khan. Humayun passed away in Baquba, Iraq, on June 8, 2004. We moved to United States 25 years ago and made it our home because of the opportunity and freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
GHAZALA KHAN: [reading prayer] God bless—God bless everybody, everyone here.
KHIZR KHAN: Prayer reminds us that we all are here with a purpose.
GHAZALA KHAN: I just miss him a lot, especially every day in the morning, every evening. Sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Those are the Khans remembering their son, Captain Humayun Khan, who is buried at Arlington. That’s an excerpt of the HBO documentary Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery. And we’re joined now by the film’s co-director, Jon Alpert, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Academy Award nominee.
Jon, talk about this moment. You spent months at Arlington.
JON ALPERT: I really appreciate the opportunity to share the dignity that we felt when we met the Khans. You can see their emotion, but their inclusiveness. When she says her prayer, she says the prayer is for everyone. They are among the most respected Gold Star parents of all the parents who have sacrificed their beloved in Arlington Cemetery. And I think that’s why there’s so much shock that anyone would attack them and the sacrifice of their family and their son.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you meet them?
JON ALPERT: We watched them come to the grave of their sons. As filmmakers, you want to rush up. You see a moment happening. But these are private moments. These are very emotional moments. And we held back, and then, afterwards, went up and introduced ourselves to the Khans and said we were making a movie about Section 60. Section 60 is called the saddest section of America, but it’s also the most honored section of America. And I recommend that anybody who goes to Washington go and visit Section 60.
AMY GOODMAN: What is it?
JON ALPERT: It’s where the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. In Arlington, there’s a general policy that you cannot adorn the graves, and the starkness of the tombstone speaks of the sacrifice of the people who have died for our country. But the parents and the relatives and the friends of people who have died in Section 60 don’t obey that rule. And you’ll go there, and you’ll see mementos, teddy bears, notes. And you’ll meet the parents, and you’ll talk to fine people like the Khans. And you’ll understand who are really good, strong Americans.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Jon, I think Donald Trump’s latest attack on the Khans is that Mr. Khan is a lawyer and is counseling more Muslims in how they can immigrate into the United States, and he was upset by the Trump prospect of a Trump ban on Muslims because of that.
JON ALPERT: Donald Trump is very creative with the insults that he comes up with. I think that you see the dignity that the Khans exude. They’ve been embracing our country for more than a decade, in terms of the way in which they tell people about their sacrifice and the sacrifice of all the families whose kids have died. But it’s shocking that he would do something like that. The Khans can speak well for themselves, and you can see Mrs. Khan can be quite eloquent.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, Gold Star families have come out with a statement. They’ve published a letter demanding Trump apologize for his statements about the Khans. The families, Gold Star families, are that have lost sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan or in war. The letter reads, quote, “Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.” And the Gold Star mother who spearheaded this letter said she would often pass the Khans at Section 60, that so many people know them at the cemetery.
JON ALPERT: Section 60 talks a lot about America. It talks about who pays the price when we go to war. And if people would like to see it, they can go to HBO GO or HBO NOW. There are many families that have made sacrifices like the Khans. Real patriots.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Jon, for sharing this video and the Khans with us.
JON ALPERT: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Jon Alpert, co-director of the HBO film Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery. Jon Alpert is an Enemy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated filmmaker. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.