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Gold Star Father on Anti-Iraq War Protesters: “History Has Proven They Were Right. We Were Right.”

Web ExclusiveOctober 25, 2017
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In an extended interview, we speak with Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who has just published his new book, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. 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.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is Khizr Khan. His new memoir is just out; it’s titled An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. He has also written a young people’s book, This is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star [Father]. Of course, Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala are Gold Star parents, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 by a suicide bomber in Iraq. The Army posthumously awarded Captain Khan a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was the highest-ranking Pakistani American to die in Iraq, buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

I know you have to leave soon, but I wanted to ask you, Khizr Khan—in June, you set up a scholarship in honor of your son at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

KHIZR KHAN: Yes. From the proceeds of these both books, we have established a scholarship in perpetuity. It’s titled Captain Humayun Khan Memorial Fund Scholarship. And it’s already established. It’s in place.

Second book, that is about—came into being when I went to a middle school, and I saw middle-class middle school children with Constitution printed from internet, pasted on papers and all. So I asked their teacher, “Is there a book which is for the middle school students that we could provide them in an interesting way?” They said, “No, there isn’t any.” That is what—and it is dedicated to the middle school children, our future leaders of this country, and to their teachers.

And there is something that I always point out, which when children see it, they chuckle: this cartoon. Maybe they would—you would like to show it to your audience. That’s on page 154.

AMY GOODMAN: This is a picture of Uncle Sam, except—you know, with the red, white and blue hat, and as a top hot, but Uncle Sam is Khizr Khan. Uncle Sam is Khizr Khan, and it says, “I want you to read the Constitution.” And there is his copy of the U.S. Constitution.

KHIZR KHAN: This is an effort to put the love of this foundational document in an interesting way in the hearts of that age children. And it is dedicated to our teachers and the middle school students.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the ceremony for the scholarship at University of Virginia, you held in June. Two months later, Klansmen, self-professed fascists, white supremacists marched through that campus. President Trump would go on to talk about some of the “very fine people” who were in that crowd, as they chanted, “Jews will not replace us! You will not replace us!” You said you were caught in a traffic jam that night—


AMY GOODMAN: —in Charlottesville, where you live.

KHIZR KHAN: I was unaware that this march is taking place. I was going to collect my books that have arrived. I took a different route than where the rally and where the marches were. But this was taking place close to the medical center, going towards the blessed grounds of University of Virginia.

And I heard the chants, and I could not believe that with the chants, with this demonstration, with this ugliness on the streets of Charlottesville, there was a Nazi flag in the hands of—I was shocked to see. We buried that flag and that hatred in Second World War, after sacrificing thousands of my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters. We defeated that. We left it behind. We swore we will never see it again. And there it was in full glory and support on the streets of Charlottesville.

But look what happened on Wednesday. Entire Charlottesville showed up with the peace march, with the families and children, to repel that ugliness. We have a 26-page letter, and I mention that in the book in detail. And a Second World War retired Army nurse wrote to us, telling us about this story. And then, at the end, she says this: “Mr. and Mrs. Khan, continue to speak. We wish more people would have spoken before Second World War. The atrocities that were committed by Nazis, especially against our Jewish brothers and sisters, could have been avoided. Continue to speak, even if you’re left alone, standing and speaking.” So we continue to speak.

AMY GOODMAN: What were your thoughts during the Iraq War, when your son was there, about the people who were protesting at home in the United States and in other places in the world?

KHIZR KHAN: Well, I was—in spirit, in every which way, I was with them. I supported them, because they were right. Time and history has proven they were right. We were right. And that is why I pay tribute to Democracy Now!, because such voices are necessary. Democracy thrives based on difference of opinion, based on respecting one another, based on making sure that we guide our nation in the right direction. That balance is created with difference of opinion, and voices like Democracy Now! are absolutely, absolutely necessary, especially this tumultuous time, for us to be reminded of our values, for us to be reminded to remain a beacon of hope. You don’t become beacon of hope by controversies, but by spreading the good word, as you are doing.

AMY GOODMAN: In your hometown right now of Charlottesville, there was yet another rally that Richard Spencer led, in the last few weeks. President Trump did not tweet against it, but he spent that weekend tweeting against the black athletes who are taking the knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at football games and also taking the knee in basketball games. Your thoughts on what they’re doing and on President Trump, where he stands?

KHIZR KHAN: As I say, in brief, this is an anomaly that has taken place. This nation has—a minority of this nation—we must remember that—has elected a president who has no direction. And we see, we are witnessing our foreign policy, our domestic policies, no direction, political expediency—what suits me, I’m going to say, I’m going to do, the entire White House is going to say, going to do, regardless of what it is. When you have lack of compass, lack of direction, this is what happens, that we cannot—this president cannot muster enough courage to reject what we defeated in Second World War. Most ugliest sign of Nazism was displayed, and he could not muster enough courage. His adviser, John Kelly, stood next to him in disgust. If you see that scene, with his head down, amazing disgust on his face, but he stood next to Donald Trump, who could not muster—he will never be—Donald Trump does not have that character or that courage to stand for the values of this country. This is all selfish. This is all selfishness. But you and I, we become the voice of this nation. Your program becomes the voice of the true principles of this nation. And I remain standing with you. I remain standing with your voice.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts when the Muslim ban was first imposed, and this spontaneous reaction in airports all over the country, thousands of people going to the airports, saying, “This does not represent me”? Were you surprised by that reaction?

KHIZR KHAN: I was heartened and surprised. I have always had the belief in the goodness of this country, in its full realization of the protections that our founding documents provide. The nation saw that this is a violation of the basic principles of this nation, and the nation stood up and remains standing. This is 2017. This is not 1917, that they may be thinking in the White House. This is 2017. Mankind, my nation and my country has moved on to guarantee the dignities that are enshrined in our documents. And we are proud of that. It may be a difficult moment, but we will prevail. We will overcome this difficulty.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts, finally, overall? Right now, front page of the Times, CIA will be moving more into Afghanistan, the war continuing to expand there. Through the Middle East, we see the same thing happening. Your thoughts on this expanded war abroad and also the attitude toward Muslims here at home?

KHIZR KHAN: Two thoughts. One is that war is not the solution. Expansion is not the solution. There are smart people that have stood for the peaceful solution of all resolutions. That is how we win the hearts and minds of the people and the world. So my suggestion, my thoughts and my prayers are that we will move towards the peaceful solution of not only this conflict, but throughout the world, all conflicts. That’s one.

Second, Muslim bans and other violation of principles, I am heartened that the rule of law will prevail. I am a firm believer in rule of law. I am confident that regardless of this president, this White House, continuing to malign our rule of law, our court system, our judicial system, but our principles will prevail.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, what is the prevailing feeling among Gold Star families—you spend a lot of time among them; you talk about the sons and daughters have died, the mothers and fathers, as your children, your relatives, as well—around the issue of war?

KHIZR KHAN: I don’t wear this Gold Star pin just because of Captain Humayun Khan. I wear it to commemorate thousands who have given their lives. No one wants to wear this Gold Star. No family wishes to receive it. No family wishes to wear it. But this represents the sacrifice that thousands of our brave soldier men and women have given.

If you would ask any Army family, you will see that they are most against the war, because they are the one that pay a price. They are the one that their loved ones go and fight sometime totally unnecessary, avoidable wars. But they are going there because they have chosen to defend the country. They have chosen this honorable profession. But they are most against them. I communicate, I talk, I sit, I listen, I participate. They are the most—they are the people that are most against the war.

And so should our peaceful nation be. Our focus should be on peace building. Our focus should be resolving world dispute through peace and through negotiations, through conversations. Sometime it is necessary to defend ourselves, but that should be at minimum.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Khizr Khan, I want to say thank you so much for being with us. Again, his new memoir, just out, is titled An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice, also author of the young people’s book, though many older people should read this, This is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star [Father].

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. To see Part 1 of our conversation, please go to democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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