From a young age, Humayun S.M. Khan loved America. He became thoroughly entangled in the life and work of Thomas Jefferson, and even spent his high school years teaching disabled children how to swim. Khan eventually enrolled in the Army to help him afford law school and proved to be a gifted soldier, ascending to captain. On June 8, 2004, while stationed in Iraq, Khan spotted a suspicious vehicle heading toward him and his men by a checkpoint. His fellow soldiers told The Washington Post that Khan “yelled for everyone to hit the dirt. Then, as was his nature, he went running toward it.” The vehicle was outfitted with an IED, and “the explosives detonated before the car could ram the gates or the mess hall nearby, where several hundred soldiers were eating breakfast,” claiming Khan’s life but saving the lives of countless U.S. troops.
Capt. Khan was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery alongside fellow heroes on June 15, a week after his death. He is also a Pakistani American, and a Muslim.
This past week, Khan’s father, Khizr Khan—flanked by his wife, Ghazala—delivered an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention railing against Republican nominee Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban, which would have prevented a hero like Capt. Khan—whose family came to America from the UAE—from sacrificing his life for his adopted country.
“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,” proclaimed Khizr Khan, waving his pocket copy of the Constitution in the air.
During his HBO series Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver called Khan’s speech “the emotional highlight” of the DNC, and relished “an American founding document being inspirationally used as a middle finger” to Trump. He then cut to what he called the “most devastating part” of Khan’s speech, addressing Trump: “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots defending the United States of America. You’ll see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one!”
Trump, who’s denigrated Sen. John McCain for being “caught” as a POW during the Vietnam War, had to be publicly pressured by The Washington Post to donate the charitable funds he’d promised to a veterans group, and himself used deferments to dodge the Vietnam draft, has said a lot of crazy things this campaign. Oliver likens it to the “bed of nails principle”: “if you step on one nail, it hurts you; if you step on a thousand nails, no single one stands out, and you’re fine. That is how Donald Trump has managed to say pretty much anything in this campaign, seemingly without consequences,” said Oliver. “And yet, even with that caveat, his response when asked about that speech from Khizr Khan stands out.”
Yes, Trump went on ABC News’ This Week with George Stephanopoulos and, when asked about Khan’s speech, said the following:
“I saw him. He was, you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me. His wife—if you look at this 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. She was extremely quiet and looked like she had nothing to say.”
If you didn’t get that, Trump implied that Ghazala Khan, the grieving mother of a U.S. soldier killed in action, was pressured not to speak by her husband because of their Muslim faith.
“OK. For a start, his wife has explained that she chose not to speak because she gets too upset when she sees images of her dead son’s face, you FUCKING asshole,” said Oliver. This presumably hit close to home for the comedian, who met his wife Kate Norley, an Iraq War veteran, at the 2008 Republican National Convention.
When Stephanopoulos asked Trump, “What sacrifice have you made for your country?” the real estate heir and former reality show host responded: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. 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…” Those, of course, are not sacrifices. “They are self-serving half-truths from a self-serving half-man who has somehow convinced half the country that sacrifice is the same thing as success,” said an enraged Oliver. “Honestly, the main takeaway from these two [convention] weeks is that, incredibly, we may be on the brink of electing such a damaged, sociopathic narcissist that the simple presidential duty of comforting the families of fallen soldiers may actually be beyond his capabilities—and I genuinely did not think that was a part of the job that someone could be bad at.”