Trump's treatment of Gold Star families a far cry from presidential

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support for as little as $5 per month!

Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr

On the morning of Tuesday, June 8, 2004, a taxi navigated the serpentine barriers toward the gate of Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Baquba, Iraq. A U.S. Army officer who was on watch saw it and ran forward toward the vehicle. That is when it exploded, killing the soldier, Capain Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, and two Iraqis who stood nearby. Khan was a Muslim-American, killed by a suicide bomber who was likely of the same faith. He was laid to rest in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, along with thousands of others killed in the so-called Global War on Terror. His family privately mourned their loss daily, frequently visiting his gravesite. Then the openly racist presidential campaign of Donald Trump swept them into the center of a political storm.

Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric and pledges to ban all Muslims from entering the country incensed Humayun Khan's parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Natives of Pakistan, they are extremely proud of their U.S. citizenship. Khizr Khan was invited to address the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July 2016.

"If it was up to Donald Trump, [my son] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country," Khizr Khan said, with his wife at his side. "Donald Trump, you're asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy." The thousands of delegates rose in thunderous applause at his remarks, as he held his pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution aloft.

Khan continued, "Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending [the] United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

Trump wasted little time attacking the Gold Star family: "I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably -- maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that." Ghazala Khan replied in a piece published in The Washington Post: "Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother...The last time I spoke to my son was on Mother's Day 2004. We had asked him to call us collect whenever he could. I begged him to be safe."

Trump, who boasted at a rally last July, one year after attacking Mrs. Khan, "with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that's ever held this office," has now attacked a Gold Star widow, Myeshia Johnson, whose husband, Sergeant La David Johnson, was killed October 4 in Niger. Trump made a condolence phone call to Myeshia Johnson as she was in a car en route to meet her husband's casket. "The president said that 'he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway,'" she said on ABC. The insensitive remark was overheard by others in the car, including Representative Frederica Wilson, a Democratic member of Congress who is a dear family friend. Instead of apologizing, Trump went on the attack against Wilson, calling her "wacky." His chief of staff, former Marine General John Kelly, doubled down, calling Wilson an "empty barrel" while lying to the press about her record. Neither Trump nor Kelly will correct, retract or apologize for their comments about the two African-American women, the pregnant widow and the congressmember.

During the intense years of combat at FOB Warhorse in Iraq, concrete blast walls were used for an ad hoc memorial, inscribed with the names of soldiers killed in action. Captain Humayun Khan's name is there, as is first Lieutenant Andrew Bacevich, who was killed three years later, on May 13, 2007. His father, retired Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich, opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and wrote of the war in the Los Angeles Times, just one month before his son was killed, "We are spectators, witnesses, bystanders caught in a conflagration that we ourselves, in an act of monumental folly, touched off."

Khizr Khan also opposed the war. As he travels the country, speaking about his new book, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice, he described on the Democracy Now! news hour how he felt about anti-war protesters as his beloved son was deployed: "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."

This column was first published on Democracy Now!

Photo: Disney | ABC Television Group/Flickr

Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.