- Khizr Khanauthor of An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice and also This is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father. His son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber in Iraq. Khan memorably spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in honor of his son.
We continue our interview with Khizr Khan, one of the country’s best-known Gold Star family members. Khan famously spoke out against Trump at last year’s Democratic National Convention and now reflects on the war that took his son Humayun’s life, the 2003 Iraq War. Capt. Humayun Khan died while fending off a suicide bomber outside the gate of his troop’s Army compound.
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Khizr Khan: Trump & Gen. Kelly’s Handling of Call to Gold Star Widow Exploited Her Grief
- Part 2: Gold Star Father Khizr Khan Speaks Against War & Iraq Invasion: “Look at the Cost of That Mistake”
- Part 3: Gold Star Father on Anti-Iraq War Protesters: “History Has Proven They Were Right. We Were Right.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest, Gold Star father Khizr Khan, for the hour, his son killed in action in Iraq in 2004. In your book, Khizr Khan, An American Family, you write, “'You know I'm against [this] war,’ I told Humayun. He creased his mouth into a tight smile, nodded. 'I know.'” What are your thoughts about the Iraq War?
KHIZR KHAN: I was—this is nothing new. This is nothing secret. I had been against that. There’s a reason for that. I know some history of that part of the world, centuries-old history, the conflicts that have existed there. For my nation, for my country, to get involved in that, I was with the people that had disagreed with that. There was no American interest to be served there. That war had not served—we are proven right—American interest. We could foresee that involvement in that part of the world with American blood and treasure will be a mistake. I was vocal about it at home, outside. I remain vocal about that.
So I shared that with Humayun, and he knew that, because he used to hear us speak that this is not going to serve our nation and its interest. But here it was. And his response was to me, he called “Baba,” which is equivalent to “father,” and he said, “Baba, you know that I’m a military officer. I am going there to protect my men and women. I am responsible for them, and I don’t think on the political line. That is Washington’s decision. We, members of the armed forces, serve and obey the orders that are given to us by our seniors. And my task, I see it, is to protect. And that’s why I’m going there.”
AMY GOODMAN: I was wondering your thoughts back in 2004, when—I think it was the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. President Bush, he made that video joking about the failure of the U.S. to find weapons of mass destruction. This is what he said, as he narrated a slideshow of pictures from the White House showing himself looking under a piece of furniture. This is a clip of Bush’s joke.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere. Nope, no weapons over there. Maybe under here!
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Bush, a few months before your son was killed.
KHIZR KHAN: Yes. I could not see it now or could not—don’t want to hear it. Look at the cost. Look at the cost of that mistake. I go to Arlington Cemetery. I not only stand at the grave of Captain Humayun Khan. Then I come out, and I stand at the corner, where I can see all of my young heroes, my sons and daughters, in Section 60. That’s where most of this country’s best are buried, because of that, because of that mistake. I didn’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear it. Such mistakes should not be made. More deliberation, more thoughtfulness, before sending my best of my country to these missions and these—trying to stop terrorism. The menace of terrorism must be defeated and all, but that was a mistake. And I’m not saying just because Captain Humayun Khan died there. I’m speaking on behalf of those almost 5,000 men and women that are in Section 60, where I go quite often to reflect.
AMY GOODMAN: People may not remember that your famous speech at the convention was really about the Muslim ban. Now, Donald Trump wasn’t president then, but soon after he became president, he instituted one and then another and another, most recently struck down just in the last weeks. Your thoughts on this? I understand that you were supposed to give a speech just a few months ago in—where was it? In—
KHIZR KHAN: Canada.
AMY GOODMAN: Canada. And is it true that you—the Toronto organizers had to cancel the event because you were reportedly told your travel privileges are being reviewed? You’ve been a citizen for more than 30 years of this country.
KHIZR KHAN: Yes, yes. What was taking place then, which has been streamlined now, that Muslims, whenever they would travel back to United States after traveling, DHS was asking password to review their laptop and their telephones. So you refuse. You say, “I am a citizen. I’m not going to give you my password so you can see my telephone and my—search my telephone or my laptop.” They would ask you to wait, and it will be hours and hours and hours. And there are some lawsuits that were filed at that time. I was advised that it is not prudent at this moment, up until this glitch is cleared: “Lots of Muslims are facing this difficulty at the airports, and you are possible target for that.” And so I refrained. That is what caused me. But since then, I have traveled to England, I have traveled to Europe. And I was concerned. I was—in my heart, when I was standing in the line to check back in, was—I had called home before leaving, that “Please keep an eye on my arrival,” because that was my concern and for that purpose. But there was no difficulty afterwards.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’m wondering, given your electrifying presentation at the Democratic convention and the—your reaction to the election of President Trump and to the fact that a significant portion of the Republican Party base, no matter what he has done, continue to loyally support him? And how do you assess that?
KHIZR KHAN: First, I was heartbroken, very sad, could not comprehend how this could happen, how this could happen. But now, as we are looking into the details of it, this foreign intervention had been an element in Donald Trump’s victory. I trust, and this nation trusts, the statements of this nation’s most prominent security advisers, national security advisers, that have given a statement telling that, yes, there had been a foreign hand in destabilizing our democracy, our electoral system. And that is what they were aiming, to create division and the division within. And look what has happened.
And as I mentioned, I come from Charlottesville, Virginia. I was—I witnessed with my own eyes that march on August 12, Friday night, that took place. I was there in the traffic, stuck. I was standing outside, but out of fear, I sat down in my car. I saw rifles and multiple guns. And the worst thing—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We have about 10 seconds.
KHIZR KHAN: The worst thing I saw was Nazi flag on the streets of United States of blessed city of Charlottesville.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to continue this discussion and post it as Part 2 at democracynow.org. Our guest has been Khizr Khan. His new memoir is just out; it’s called An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. And he has a young people’s book, This is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father. We’ll post Part 2 at democracynow.org. Thank you.