Muslim-American Gold Star Parents, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

The most stirring and consequential speech at the Democratic National Convention was given by a Muslim-American Gold Star father, Khizr Khan – with his tearful wife, Ghazala standing beside him. In 2004, their 27-year-old son, U. S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, gave up his life in Iraq to save soldiers in his unit from a suicide bomber. With such powerful patriotic credentials, Mr. Khan proceeded to lay waste to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, as Democratic Convention delegates roared their approval. What brought the delegates to their feet was not any talk about the immorality of the U.S. war against Iraq, but the patriotism of two of its victims – which served to further sanctify the criminality of that war.

Regarding his son, Khizr Khan told the applauding Democratic Convention delegates, “If it were up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.” He then denounced Trump’s smearing of Muslins, minorities, women, judges and others and his “vows to build walls and ban us from this country,” Khizr Khan became direct: “Donald Trump . . . Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution?” He pulled out his pocket-sized copy, offered to “gladly lend” it to Trump, and told him, “Look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’” Khan then went to Trump’s white-Euro-nationalistic-core: “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go,” he declared, “look for the graves of the brave patriots who died defending America – you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities.” The Muslim-American father then lowered the boom on the Republican candidate’s narcissistic core: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” (“Transcript: Khizr M. Khan’s speech at the Democratic National Convention,” By PHILLYVOICE STAFF, phillyvoice.com, July 28, 2016)

Donald Trump did not have an empathetic clue of what the Muslim-American father and mother experienced and meant by “sacrifice.” In an ABC News interview, he said, “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices.” His narcissism then took over: “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.” (“Donald Trump: ‘I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,’ billionaire would-be president tells father of slain soldier,” http://www.abc.net.au/news, July 30, 2016)

The Republican presidential nominee proceeded to put his other foot in his mouth. He wrongly implied that the still grieving Muslim-American mother’s faith required her to remain subserviently silent. “’If you look at his wife,’” Trump said, “‘she was standing there. She had nothing to say’ . . . adding that ‘maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.’” (Ibid)

Khizr and Ghazala Khan effectively exposed the hollowness, hypocrisy and hatefulness of Donald Trump’s campaign for president – providing a most important service to all Americans. But the Khans were also used by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to legitimize an unnecessary, falsely-based, pre-emptive, criminal war against the people of Iraq. An immoral war in which their son — and almost 4500 other U. S. military persons — did not need to die. A war that left some 100,000 Americans maimed in body and spirit.

A UN-judged “illegal” war – launched by the George W. Bush administration — in which over one million Iraqi civilians were killed, over four million displaced, between one and two million women widowed, and an estimated five million children orphaned. ( See, “Iraq’s Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4-5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans,” By John Tirman, The Nation, Alternet, Feb. 1, 2009) A war that turned Iraq into a failed state, and helped to lay the foundation for the birth of a vengeful ISIS.

A war that then Senator Hillary Clinton voted for, and continued to support. Much later, she called her vote a “mistake” – after most of the electorate stopped supporting the war and when she decided to run for president again in 2016. Hindsight that revealed a lack of insight, but demonstrated political foresight.

While Khizr and Ghazala Khan expressed much needed moral clarity about Donald Trump, their testimony helps to further remove from national consciousness and justify the immorality of our bi-partisan government’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.  A war that world-renowned political analyst, activist and author Noam Chomsky has called, not a “mistake” but “the worst war crime in this Century.” (“Noam Chomsky: 2003 ‘Invasion of Iraq is the Worst Crime of 21st Century,” sputniknews.com, 10-28-2015)

Three days after Khizr Khan’s powerful speech, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, speaking in a church, distanced herself from her support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and turned morality on its head. She said to a Christian congregation, “Mr. Khan paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn’t he? . . . And what have we heard from Donald Trump?,“ she continued. “Nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great.” (“Donald Trump’s Confrontation With Muslim Soldier’s Parents Emerges as Unexpected Flash Point,” By Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker, The New York Times, July 31, 2016) Never mind that Clinton herself is directly implicated in the unnecessary “ultimate sacrifice” of Khizr and Ghazala Khan’s son. Here, “what makes our country great” requires the all-encompassing moral universe to disappear for Iraqi children and mothers and fathers.

In her speech to the Democratic National Convention delegates, Hilary Clinton referred to her Methodist upbringing. She said that her mother “made sure I learned the words from our Methodist faith: ‘Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.’” (”Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech, annotated,” By Los Angeles Times staff, www.latimes.com, July 28, 2016)

“Do all the good you can for all the people you can.” Tell that to the people of Iraq. And to the people of Libya, who now also live in a failed state. Journalist Joel Gillin refers to “several reports” showing that Hillary Clinton, when Secretary of State, played a pivotal role in convincing President Obama that a “humanitarian” intervention – in the form of military force – was necessary “to stop the imminent slaughter of civilians in Benghazi” by Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. Contrary to Clinton’s assessment, Gillin stated, “According to members of the intelligence community . . . no solid intelligence existed [including that of Human Rights Watch] to back Clinton’s statements of the impending bloodbath in Benghazi.” (“Benghazi Won’t Stick to Hillary Clinton, But the Disastrous Libyan Intervention Should,” New Republic, May 27, 2015)

There was a “bloodbath” in Benghazi, and it was committed by the US-led NATO forces, not by Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, and the country’s infrastructure devastated. (See Professor Hugh Roberts, “Who said Gaddafi had to go?,” London Review of Books, Nov. 17, 2011)

Col. Gaddafi’s crime? He refused to buckle under and allow America and other Western powers to exploit his oil-rich country. As reported, he invested that wealth to improve health care, educational opportunities and housing for the Libyan people. He also provided leadership and resources to other African nations, including South Africa, in their struggle against apartheid and the plunder of Western colonialism. (See “Muammar Gaddafi, the African Who Cleansed the Continent from the Humiliation of Apartheid,” By Alexandra Valiente, libya360wordpress.com, Dec. 20, 2013)

When Col. Gaddafi’s government was toppled by the US-led “humanitarian” military intervention, he was brutally murdered. In response to his death, Hillary Clinton appeared on television, laughed and chuckled, “We came, we saw, he died!” (“Flashback 2011: Hillary Clinton Laughs About Killing Moammar Gaddafi: ‘We came, We Saw, He Died!,’” www.realclearpolitics.com/video, Posted June 19, 2015)

Hillary Clinton is known for “doing all the good” she can for children. But her moral Methodist principle skips over the State of Israel’s long oppression of Palestinian children and their families. In her nomination speech at the Democratic Convention, she declared, “We must keep supporting Israel’s security.” (“Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech, annotated,” Ibid) That security is at the expense of the Palestinian people.

According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, during Israel’s 2014 military aggression against the defenseless people of Gaza, the UN reported that “at least 1473 of the dead were civilians, including 501 children and 257 women.” Also, “18,000 housing units were totally destroyed or severely damaged.” The Institute also stated that “Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented evidence of widespread violations of the laws of war committed by the Israeli military during ‘Operation Protective Edge.’” The violations include “the reckless and disproportionate use of deadly force . . . attacks on medical facilities and workers and UN schools . . . and attacks on civilians and the targeting of civilian infrastructure and the homes of Palestinian political and military officials.” (“50 Days of Death & Destruction: “Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge,’” imeu.org, Sept. 10, 2014)

“Do all the good you can for all of the people you can.” Consumer advocate and political activist Ralph Nader exposes Hillary Clinton’s circumscribed morality in a Counterpunch article on “Hillary’s Convention Con.” Nader writes;

‘Caring for kids’ doesn’t extend to encircled Gaza’s defenseless children, hundreds of whom were killed by American-made weapons wielded by the all powerful Israeli military. Gaza is the world’s largest open air prison and under illegal blockade. Remember, as Secretary of State, Hillary fully backed war crimes, condemned by almost all countries in the world. On the stage in Philadelphia, she spoke of backing Israel’s security without any mention of Palestinian rights or the need to end Israel’s illegal occupation of the territories. (July 29, 2016)

“Do all the good you can for all the people you can.” Hillary Clinton declared to the Democratic Convention delegates , “Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do, it will be my highest priority.” (“Transcript: Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech, annotated,” Ibid) Yet, she supports the Obama administration’s unlawful drone warfare that violates other countries’ national security, fills their skies with terror, and kills and wounds innocent children, women and men in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The criminal drone warfare, that creates endless enemies and blowback violence. Clinton is not about “keeping our nation safe.” Her aim, as before, is to continue America’s so-called “global war on terrorism” in pursuit of world domination.

“Keeping our nation safe.” Ironically, citizens of many nations are concerned about keeping themselves safe from the United States. The greatest threat to peace and safety in the world? Former World editor of AlterNet, Alex Kane cites a 2014 Gallop International/WIN global survey that consisted of interviews with “1000 people in 65 different countries,” and found, “The most startling statistic was that 24 percent of people around the world believe that the U.S. poses the greatest threat to peace. The runners-up were far behind.” Why such fear of the United States? Kane explains: “Since 1945, the U.S. government has meddled, intervened, overthrown and/or invaded the government of dozens of foreign countries . . . creat[ing] an arch of violence and chaos stretching from Latin America to the Middle East and beyond.” (“The #1 Threat to Peace in the World – Guess Who? It’s U.S., AlterNet, Mar. 11, 2015) A world-wide commentary on America’s circumscribed morality.

Jesus is recorded as teaching, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7: 12) It is not about “doing all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for long as you can.” That slogan does lead people to do “good works” for others. But it is a slogan that can breed paternalistic relationships, in which those with power determine what is “good for all the people,” rather than asking them and being guided by their words and involvement. It is also a slogan that focuses attention on helping individuals, rather than on addressing the oppressive political, economic and legal realities that are hurting them.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” is about creating equality in human relationships. And equality depends on empathy: the realization that whatever our different ethnic, racial, political, religious and sexual identity, everyone shares a common humanity – the human need to be loved and to love; the human need to be and to belong and to become.

Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His newly published book, The Minister who Could Not Be “preyed” Away is available Amazon.com. Alberts is also author of The Counterpunching Minister and of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review of the book in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is wm.alberts@gmail.com.  

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