Are the Muslim Khans better Americans than Donald Trump?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Donald Trump lashed out on Saturday against Ghazala and Khizr Khan over their speech Thursday night in which they criticized the casino and hotel moghul for his unconstitutional tirades.

The Khans said at the Democratic National Convention in a speech they crafted, that Trump had ‘sacrificed nothing’ for America. It was read by Khizr because his wife said she would break down if she had to talk about her son Capt. Humayun Saqi Muazzam Khan’s death in action in Iraq. The Khans are originally from Pakistan but came to the US in 1980 from the United Arab Emirates, where Pakistanis make up about 12% of the population. Khizr Khan did a masters in law at Harvard University and works as a legal consultant in Charlottesville, Va. 

In response, Trump said,

“I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.”

I never see anyone point out that some of those ‘great structures’ have been casinos, which are a way for the rich to steal from poor and middle class people. (Most games in a casino are rigged 8-11% for the house. If you keep playing, over time the house will end up with more and more of your money. Some games are rigged a third for the house. Gambling doesn’t help people– it redistributes wealth upwards, acting like a Robin Hood in reverse. That vast act of theft from people who can’t afford it is what Donald Trump gave as his sacrifice for the country.

Trump’s reply demonstrated that he simply cannot conceive of the idea of sacrifice. His response was about himself. How he worked hard. How many jobs he created. Hotels and casinos he had built. His success. How much he has done.

He did not say what he had sacrificed for the country.

Trump alleged that he avoided being drafted to serve in Vietnam because of a high lottery number. But by then he had had four college deferments and a medical examination that downgraded his eligibility because of a bone spur in his heel.

I don’t think you had to agree with the Vietnam War or want to serve in it to be a patriotic American (I didn’t, either). But I do think that not having served should make you cautious about making blanket criticisms of those who did and do. Trump dismissed Sen. John McCain’s sacrifices as a POW on the grounds that he was captured (implying that McCain is a yuuj loser.)

Trump attacked American Latinos as criminals, but they comprise 11.4% of those on active duty in our armed forces.

Trump, given his four deferments and his alleged bone spur, doesn’t get to do that. He doesn’t get to dismiss the sacrifices of those who did serve and do serve.

He doesn’t get to diss on Muslim-Americans like the Khan family, who gave us their son, Capt. Humayun Khan.

Trump implied that the Khans didn’t write their own speech. He attacked Mrs. Khan for not having spoken, saying maybe her Muslim family had kept her silent. (The Khans replied that she had felt too much grief over her son to speak publicly about his sacrifice, but had been key to crafting the speech). Trump clearly doesn’t know any Pakistani women.

Attacking a grieving mother with an easy racist piece of stereotyping was just about Trump’s speed.

Late Saturday Trump’s handlers managed to convince him to praise Captain Khan as “a hero to our country and we should honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe.”

But Trump has to square that statement with his assertion that Capt. Khan should have been kicked out of the United States or never allowed to come here in the first place, because of his faith.

Trump also remonstrated with Khizr Khan over his allegation that Trump hadn’t read the constitution. Trump insisted that he has.

But Mr. Khan did not say Trump had not read it. He asked Trump if he had read it, and offered to share his own copy.

The Donald still doesn’t get it. Khan is not interested in merely reading the document. He is talking about abiding by it. He was implying that Trump makes one unconstitutional proposal after another, in contravention of the constitution.

The constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Trump wants to torture people with blowtorches to the genitals.

The constitution forbids a religious test for office and forbids Congress from installing or ‘establishing’ an official US religion that would be favored above others. The 14th Amendment mandates equal protection of the law to all Americans. Trump wants to ban Muslims.

Khan’s emphasis on the constitution shows that he thinks the idea of America is rooted in a rule of law. It is rooted in duty to country. It is rooted, as well, in principled dissent, as he demonstrated in his speech.

Trump dismisses the rule of law. Indeed, he is a serial scofflaw, as with his phony university and other scams. Trump displays no sense of duty to country and never has. He clearly wants to be president to stroke his own ego. And, Trump’s discourse is at the level of a self-absorbed five-year-old, so he wouldn’t recognize principled dissent if it ran him over in a Mack truck.

The Muslim Khans are a thousand times better Americans than Trump will ever be, because they understand what America is about, and because one of their own made the ultimate sacrifice. If we have to expel somebody, as Trump insists, I know which I’d choose.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Khizr Khan & Ghazala Khan Exclusive Interview on MSNBC

45 Responses

  1. Of course they are. So are most Americans. It’s a low bar. They’d probably clear a higher bar too, but certainly that one.

  2. He has too sacrificed! He’s sacrificed investors he’s bailed from in bankruptcies, he’s sacrificed numerous businesses large and small by refusing to pay them for work performed, he’s sacrificed hundreds of others in lawsuit after lawsuit, all in the noble pursuit of his own enrichment and ego…

  3. This author is pointing out that calling them “American Muslims”, instead of “Muslim Americans” makes a difference in people’s perceptions of the Muslims in America:

    link to


    Beyond the power of his son’s story, Mr. Khan and other convention speakers also used powerful language by referring to his family as “American Muslims” rather than “Muslim-Americans.” While the order of the words may seem meaningless, our work has shown that these two constructs evoke surprisingly different reactions.

    Focus group participants discussing this topic associated the term “Muslim-American” with words such as “foreign” and “strict,” and raised concerns about a perceived mistreatment of women. With the order of the words switched, however, the same people responded with phrases such as “came to America for a better life” and “contribute to society.”

  4. Great post Juan! I honestly had a hard time watching both his speech and their long interview on Friday night – both are horribly painful. But this brave couple deserves our ear, and while I seriously doubt it, maybe this will be something of Trump’s Joseph Welch moment in front of McCarthy.

    But we must remember, with the Republicans there already was no bottom – Trumpism has just opened and exposed the Abyss. And as always, pars Republicana delenda est!

    • Probably because the situations aren’t at all comparable. Plus, “this lady” made statements that were factually incorrect and greatly exaggerated. 8 investigations of Benghazi, most by Republicans, none found Clinton responsible for what happened.

  5. I agree with you. Trump is a buffoon in many ways. I don’t support him for President but I cannot support Clinton either. Trump might be a racist but much of what he talks about doing just will not happen. Clinton can and will get us into another war. Americans are left with two terrible choices this election.

    • TRUMP has this rule that a good negotiator begins with maximal demands, then compromises from there. Trump’s demands are to keep Muslims from coming to US (“until we figure this stuff out!”), building a wall at the US border with Mexico and deporting up to 12 million people. He won’t get any of this either because they are too expensive and/or unconstitutional. We don’t know what his fall back positions would because he doesn’t want us to. But his policies will still be as extreme as he can get them. I think the chances of a war starte by Hillary are high, but have been brought down by the Sanders campaign. The Sanders left has proved it can organize itself and make trouble for her.

    • Clinton can and will get us into another war? You realize, don’t you, that Congress may have something to say about that? And just what foreign adventures did Bill Clinton get us into? Bosnia where we intervened to stop ethnic cleansing and lost not one American in combat. Trump is far more than a racist. He is a fascist, a misogynist and a xenophobe who doesn’t want any minimum wage, wants to do away with Obamacare, wants to do away with Wall Street regulation, wants to rip up the treaty with Iran and on and on. All positions opposed by Clinton. You really need to learn more about their policy positions. His co-author on The Art of the Deal who spent a lot of time with him for 18 months has said that if Trump gets the nuclear codes it could the end of civilization. Even 150 Republican national security experts have called him a danger to the country. As someone who has read a fair amount of history, I think Trump is the most unqualified nominee of a major party to ever run for President. I suspect most historians would agree with that statement.

      • Gary,
        Con-gress might NOT have anything to say about an hrc-supported war –
        con-gress gives $$$ to dod, et al, w/out debating the $$$’s uses.
        ¿Did you notice the military brass – aka: pentagon sales force for armament manufacturers – at her coronation?
        Both trump & hrc have bigbusiness rather than Citizens as their guides.

    • You have a binary choice of either Clinton or trump and the math is real simple . . .

      – A vote for Jill Stein (zero chance of becoming president) is a vote for trump.

      – A vote for Gary Johnson (zero chance of becoming president) is a vote for trump.

      – A vote for “none of the above” or not voting is a vote for trump.

      – A vote for trump is obviously a vote for trump.

      – A vote for Clinton is obviously a vote for Clinton.

      ONLY trump or Clinton will be the next president and if you don’t want the terrible future that trump will bring, your ONLY other option is to vote for Clinton because as the math shows, voting any other way elects trump.

      Be a responsible adult, hold your nose and vote.

  6. All the rest of the world can do is marvel at the dysfunction of such a political system. Neither side seems much concerned with Truth; Trump’s elephantine habit of stamping on multiple toes does not automatically ignite any corresponding enthusiasm for Clinton although it is arguable that the general appearance of chaos may enhance Putin’s global standing, particularly if he and Assad manage to liberate Aleppo while all this is going on. In the end the authority of leadership is probably always safer in the hands of the candidate possessing the least inclination to pervert it, and stripping all else away does not appear to leave Trump at a disadvantage in that respect. By the way, it was Assange who deliberately chose the timing for the release of the DNC emails, not Russia. All nations with the capacity for that kind of thing hack each other round the clock, and Russia probably has the Republican emails lying around somewhere as well.

  7. The Muslim Khans are a thousand times better Americans than Trump will ever be, because they understand what America is about, and because one of their own made the ultimate sacrifice. If we have to expel somebody, as Trump insists, I know which I’d choose.

    Having the Khans speak at the convention (while denying the stage or even seats to any critical voices i.e. many if not most of the Bernie delegates) certainly was a stroke of genius in a sea of blandness that was the DNC.

    Trump took the bait and now we talk more about him and about his potential expelling of more people – quietly forgetting that the Obama administration set the record for expelling people within the already punitive legal system.

    We also are supposed to somehow forget that HRC could not be bothered to vote against the Iraq war, and that she and her fellow-travelers keep outflanking Republicans from the right, constantly pushing the president to escalate the wars in Libya, Ukraine, and Syria.

  8. Professor, I do not condone Trump’s words or deeds. But I have to issues with your piece.
    1- You dismiss his “discourse” as being at the level of 5-year old. This kind of insulting style ( a la Elizabeth Warren) is self defeating and not helpful. Not everyone can talk like high-minded college educated Americans.
    2 – You do not spend enough ink on criticizing Democrats for using militaristic/ patriotic messages undergirding Khan’s speech. As a Muslim wrote in Guardian, you don’t have to prove your patriotism by participating in misguided, I say imperialistic, wars.

    • ” You do not spend enough ink on criticizing Democrats for using militaristic/ patriotic messages undergirding Khan’s speech.” This is a clear example of politics at work It’s why the Democrats also brought out the longtime Republican operative who supported Clinton. They want to get moderate Republican votes and not just beat Trump, but overwhelm him. It’s not just about winning the presidency. If Trump loses big time the Democrats will almost certainly retake the Senate (thus being able to confirm judicial appointments) and may cut significantly into the Republican majority in the House, allowing for the possibility of meaningful legislation. If the Congress stays substantially the same as it is now, it won’t matter whether Clinton or Sanders would win; nothing will get done. If Trump wins along with a Republican majority in Congress, I would recommend New Zealand. Nice weather, uncrowded, pleasant people, beautiful scenery and far away in case of nuclear holocaust.

  9. EXCELLENT article as well as the associated articles you have offered here. As a ‘waspy’ 71 year-old American woman, I cringe at the whole Trump fabrication. Trump is anti-American and a dangerous sociopath.

    Is there an online place to send appreciative emails to the Khans who should see how much their courage, compassion, and willingness to sacrifice their privacy means to the US citizens with open ears to hear them ?

  10. Yes, they are.

    Not that that’s very hard to do. I’m a better American than Donald Trump; and I’m Canadian.

  11. aisha

    their son died bc of a war by GW Bush. Trump will only feel their pain wen his children join the army

  12. Omg I had enough of this.

    Trump is like this living strawman who is effectively providing an excuse for every idiotic piece of nationalist and corporatist BS out there.

    In the case of this poor family who lost their son, who served honorably, but unfortunately and through no fault of his own, his honorable sacrifice was in service of leaders who lied to the entire country and send him off to get killed in what at the end of the day was a criminal endeavor based on utter lies, under GW Bush.

    So Clinton, after repeating quite similar course of action in Libya, is hiding behind this poor family? Shame!

    Trump’s foolery is just distracting from these more basic facts. He is as poor a figurehead for the anti-war movement as Hillary is for the Democrats, but nevertheless Trump, for all his awful character flaws, did not actively push for and successfully implement policies that killed thousands of people. Not that I have high expectations of him. But this debate has been derailed too far from what is important.

    • Trump hasn’t had a chance to ‘implement policies that killed thousands of people. As commander in chief, he has many chances. Do you want to take the chance? On a clearly disturbed person?

      • I am not suggesting anyone vote for Trump. I am saying that Clinton has a existing, proven track record of the same. Therefore, the only legitimate choice is to not vote for either one, but a 3rd party.

    • This is foolish – we have heard Trump’s rhetoric before and we have learned that we must take people who call for ethnic cleansing, torture, suppression of the press, etc. seriously. See, e.g., Mein Kampf.

      If anyone thinks Hillary the moral equivalence of what Trump would be then I pity their utter lack of clarity or historical perspective and, for that matter, historical literacy. It did not take Hillary the other night – I have been asking people for months, do you REALLY want Trump with the nuclear codes? Really? Or in charge of the Supreme Court?

      As a Bernie guy, I’d rather have Hillary than Trump – at the very least some semblance of an admittedly inadequate status quo will be maintained hopefully on which the Left can subsequently build.

      Perfect? Of course not. But I need someone who at least acknowledges climate change for our kids. That is not foolery – that is understanding an existential threat that Mr. T. dangerously dismisses. You are just wrong.

      And as always, pars Republicana delenda est!

  13. You ask:

    Are the Muslim Khans better Americans than Donald Trump?


    What’s amazing is that Hillary is not farther ahead than Trump, who is a walking, talking non-stop embarrassment. Maybe the fact that he continues to insult the Khans – which is beyond belief – will finally be the wakeup that finally dents his teflon.

    Frankly, I’m stunned that he’s still competitive given the crap that comes out of his mouth seemingly every day. It’s quite remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like this in this country.

  14. It’s even got some Republicans denouncing Trump. For a brief moment at least.

    • HUH! Not in my area of PA. His signs could not be going up any faster after the BU#@S#@T last week. And the people called the CONS… OOPS Kuhns are telling TRUMP to listen to the American people. That sir, is just what he is doing and the DemoRATS can’t handle it. As in ….. the truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • So the Kahns are just animals who deserve to be ethnically cleansed by “real” Americans like yourself, right? How about 100,000,000 American citizens who you call “rats”?
        Why don’t you just admit that everyone different than yourself is just a ni**er in your eyes, including myself?

  15. Since “Trump dismissed Sen. John McCain’s sacrifices as a POW on the grounds that he was captured”, doesn’t it follow that he also dismisses the sacrifices those Killed in Action, on the grounds that they died?
    Let’s face it, if you died you must be a total loser.

  16. “I don’t think you had to agree with the Vietnam War or want to serve in it to be a patriotic American (I didn’t, either). But I do think that not having served should make you cautious about making blanket criticisms of those who did and do. Trump dismissed Sen. John McCain’s sacrifices as a POW on the grounds that he was captured (implying that McCain is a loser.)”

    Your quote, cited above, is absolutely spot-on, Professor Cole. Both those who serve in the armed forces of the United States and those who choose not to deserve respect for their decisions. Neither can, or should, claim moral superiority over the other.

    Regarding Trump’s dismissal of John McCain’s well-deserved status as a hero for having spent years as a POW in North Vietnam after being captured when his plane was shot down, there’s more to the story. When the North Vietnamese found out that John McCain’s father was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command (CINCPAC) they offered to release him. John McCain refused to be released until all American POWs being held by the North Vietnamese were released. Now that is a supreme example of character and courage, something Donald Trump would not recognize if it stared him in the face.

    • Baloney, lots of Russian and Iranian military officers would make that decision. If lots of Russian and Iranian officers would make that decision can it be said to have been a heroic decision?
      Not that it is (was) or is not (was not) the best decision, let alone a heroic one. There are (were) lots of considerations.

      • I have no idea what you are talking about. It certainly was a demonstration of character and courage on McCain’s part to refuse release until all were released.

        And what McCain’s decision as a POW to remain with his comrades has to do with Russian and Iranian military officers is beyond me. They are not even mentioned in this thread.

        Nevertheless, I don’t think you have a clue what Russian or Iranian military officers would do given the same predicament. But whatever they might or might not do does not detract from John McCain’s courage and convictions regarding his fellow POWs at the time.

        By the way, you know you sound just like Trump.

        • I am surprised that I need to spell it out again. With my first attempt I tried to use some humor that clearly went over your head. To put it in plain Human like McCain many people would have chosen to stay behind. The percentage of people with a military background who would have chosen to stay behind would have been even higher.
          When he chose to stay behind he did not demonstrate any courage or character beyond normal. Perhaps there are other things that he has done in his life that demonstrate courage or character. I have not read his biography nor do I have any desire to. I doubt that the courage and character that he has demonstrated in his life would hold a candle to Medgar Evers, James Zwerg, Chelsa Manning, Thomas Paine, John Brown, Stan Goff, Ehren Watada, Russel Means, James Reeb, Daniel Elsburg, Viola Liuzzo, Ceaser Chavez, Phillip Berrigen, Daniel Berrigen, Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Cynthia Mckinney, and every Coast Guard Lifeguard in the USA, every member of the Saint Patricks Brigade, and every small town volunteer fireman on planet earth.
          After I have read the biogrphies of all of these people I might consider reading the biography of McCain before I read the one about Joseph McCarthy.

        • If you wish to continue channeling Donald Trump in your dismissal of John McCain’s obvious courage and character in his conduct while undergoing torture for years as a POW and his refusal of release until all were released, please carry on.

          You give yourself away, however, in your last sentence: “I might consider reading the biography of McCain before I read the one about Joseph McCarthy.” Your attempt at creating a false equivalency between John McCain and Joseph McCarthy reveals an inability to make important distinctions between courage and character on the one hand, and a complete lack of both on the other.

  17. i made an edit to the wikipedia article for Baqubah. it came out like this, with a cite to the Wash. Post article i got details from.

    June 8, 2004. Army Captain Humayun Khan ran towards a taxi that was speedily approaching the guard post he was inspecting. Its driver detonated a bomb before the taxi could hit the post or a nearby mess hall, where hundreds of soldiers were eating breakfast. Khan was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.[10]

    link to

    link to

  18. It is amusing that those like Trump and his ilk who are quick to criticize John McCain’s character and courage as a POW have never faced anything more dangerous than a pimple on their butt.

    • Dear William,
      I am glad to see that you are amazed. My comments about McCain were not only about McCain. He was just a surrogate for BlackFive, which in turn is just a surrogate for McDonald Trump which is in turn just a surrogate for something else which is in turn just a surrogate for something else.

    • I made a mistcake. I was going to let your remarks about my butt pass and I had previously written a reply to your comment. I now think that this reply is the more important one. I have written something along these lines before. It was a while back though.
      In the eyes of my God, qbapiamachacuckoo, who in the pantheon of Gods is so low ranking that the untouchables of India have much more respect among the Brahmin than my God has in the heavens, courage is highly overrated. qbapiamachacuckoo says to me that it is 10,000 times better to die as a dispised coward than a highly honored leader of a democratic empire.
      Now you can choose your God or you can choose my God. But, you can not choose both. You can choose your Saints or you can choose my Saints, some of whom I listed above.
      You can not choose both.

Comments are closed.