There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Capt. Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan was deployed to the Middle East. There was no ISIS when Khan was killed near Baqubah, Iraq, in 2004.
Humayun Khan was deployed to fight a war of choice.
In 2003, the military might of the United States of America was tasked by politicians in Washington and London to engage in a war that was to become the single most destabilizing civilizational conflict in generations – an ongoing conflict for which we’re all still paying an all-too-dear price.
Khan served alongside Americans who, like himself, had selflessly volunteered to serve.
Unfortunately, too many of them fell victim to the grandiose adventurism of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair, who were in turn fed in their delusions by a cabal of conspiracists and assorted warmongers and chickenhawks conspiring to try to rewrite the map of the Middle East in their own image – and they failed.
For that failure approximately 4,500 Americans selflessly gave their lives in Iraq – an all-too-dear price – among them Humayun Khan.
Today, we’re all paying, still, for that adventurism.
And recently, on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, we witnessed one of the results of that failure, a reflection upon the adventurism, a tribute to Americans’ strength and diversity.
We know that the families of thousands of other fallen soldiers could have been called upon to speak at the DNC – no one’s valor, no one’s loss was greater than another – and no one knew that more, I believe, than Humayun Khan’s mother and father.
But no one else’s community had been as vilified as was the Khans’.
Khizr and Ghazala Khan appeared, by invitation of Hillary Clinton, because they represented a group of Americans who, in spite of the increase in Islamophobia and vilification of Muslims, continue to honorably serve alongside other Americans in defense of their nation’s values.
While many have come to learn that Muslims have been in America even before there was a United States of America, fewer know that Khan’s service was but another in a long well-documented line of service of American Muslims who served in the War of 1812, Civil War, First and Second World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.
Service that parallels along the same continuum as the contributions of all American communities.
It’s well-documented that American Muslims died as civilians on 9/11 and they died as rescuers on 9/11 and that today they continue to serve in our military, police and intelligence forces as invaluable assets in our national defense.
Before 9/11 no one thought about American Muslims because they were so well assimilated.
While the time after the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, was difficult, many Muslims understood the trauma and suspicions and worked to get through it. Some, like Humayun Khan, responded to 9/11 by enlisting in our armed forces.
Today is different.
Were it not for the prejudice, bigotry and xenophobia, demonized and exploited by demagogues like Donald Trump, Muslims would not be distinct from any other group in this nation because they, too, are part of the many who became one.
From America’s first slaves, from the first mosque built on the North Dakota plains to the Albanian Muslim textile workers who lived, worshipped and are buried in the town cemetery alongside fellow citizens in Biddeford, Maine, Muslims have been part of the hundreds of thousands, millions, of refugees that make up this country.
So when, as he did this week in Portland, Maine, Trump says, “We’ve just seen many, many crimes getting worse all the time, and as Maine knows – a major destination for Somali refugees – right, am I right? . . . Maine. Somali refugees. We admit hundreds of thousands – you admit, into Maine, and to other places in the United States – hundreds of thousands of refugees,” he is elevating levels of intolerance that not only directly contradict the aspirational hopes of this nation’s founders but deliberately paints targets on the backs of every Muslim in America.
Trump’s response to the Khan family appearance at the DNC was cold and uncaring. He dehumanized the noble sacrifice of Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star hero, by diminishing and challenging the grief and pain of Khan’s parents.
Not even as a parent could he express empathy or sympathy.
Today, I believe that Donald Trump’s response to the Khans’ grief was not just tone deaf and uncaring but that it was, counter-intuitively, calculated and deliberate – a deliberate dog-whistle calling for more Americans to pick up paint brushes.
Trump, flaunting his insulting faux-Purple Heart, isn’t interested in service or sacrifice.
He isn’t interested in military families or in Bronze, Gold, Blue or shooting stars. His interest in the Stars and Stripes extends only to their use as a backdrop for his narcissism and demagoguery – a patriotic backdrop in front of which he can unashamedly flaunt his unpatriotic ignorance in public.
Trump’s response was deliberately coded to his followers: “How dare these people – these foreigners – speak to me in this disrespectful way? How dare these Muslims claim even a small patch of ‘our’ Public Square? These foreigners (i.e., Muslim terrorists, refugees, free-loaders) are threatening ‘our’ way of life.”
We have met America’s true enemy, and it is Donald Trump.