Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Khan Game

--Political Dead Letter Box;
Gatis Sluka (Latvia)

This is what he truly envies of these people,
the luxury of terror as a talking point
 --Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk,
 Ben Fountain

 Since Persia fell at Marathon,
The yellow years have gathered fast:
Long centuries have come and gone.

And yet (they say) the place will don
A phantom fury of the past,
Since Persia fell at Marathon
--Villanelle Of Change,
Edwin Arlington Robinson

There is nothing fair in this world
There is nothing safe in this world
And there's nothing sure in this world
And there's nothing pure in this world
--White Wedding,
Billy Idol 


Subtitles: "Khan Men"; "The Greatest Khan of All", and "Pro or Khan". [Sometimes it is hard to choose correctly.]

This past weekend Ranger attended his local Military Order of the Purple Heart [MOPH] banquet (August 7 is Florida's official Florida Purple Heart Day.) Gold Star families were also in attendance as special guests.

Gold Star families have lost a family member in an overseas conflict. They were invited to show sensitivity to the harsh sacrifice which they have also rendered our nation. It is a quiet and somber recognition the nation renders them, and these families are never to be exploited.

But while the privacy of these parents is sacrosanct, this rule was superseded the moment Hillary Clinton and the Khan family gathered on the stage and politicized the death of their son, parlaying their loss into a campaign coup. They fired the first salvo and no one should be surprised that they received return fire. While Mr. Trump may be ill-advised to have shot back, he was well within the rules of engagement.

While my sympathy abounds, the family voluntarily surrendered their attack-exempt status when they stepped up to the microphone.

The Khan's son died for their country, not for Mrs. Clinton's aggrandizement or gain, or to provoke Mr. Trump's reaction. Captain Khan did not die to be used in the partisan political arena.

To have done so was gauche, gross and a disrespect of the dead soldier. Mrs.Clinton showed herself to be as tone deaf as fictional senator Ray Wheatus in the series "BrainDead", when he propped up a dying soldier in his hospital bed for some publicity photos.

The Khan's were portrayed as raw and grieving parents, but their son was in fact killed in 2004 (12 years ago.) If one were cynical, one might imagine this was the only Gold Star family willing to shill for Mrs.Clinton.

Even death has a shelf life.

It is especially difficult to understand the cynical nature of putting Gold Star parents on a political convention podium as attack dogs when candidate Clinton has never attended an MOPH or Gold Star event in her entire political career.

We veterans and surviving families are not set pieces to be trotted out to entertain the nation in political elections. If this is how Mrs Clinton views the purpose of dead soldiers, how will she treat live soldiers if elected?

It is a sad politician that would exploit a soldier's death as blatantly as did the Democrats in Philadelphia.

{cross-posted @Rangeragainstwar.]


  1. Ah, but it worked. Khan was a highly successful troll in that it got Trump to respond to a topic of Clinton's choice, rather than Trump driving the media conversation. We all know the important of seizing and maintaining the initiative.

    Further, neither Clinton nor Trump shows evidence about caring about human lives when embarking on foreign adventures, so it isn't surprising that they would not hold sacred the memory of someone killed in such an adventure.

  2. "We veterans and surviving families are not set pieces to be trotted out to entertain the nation in political elections."

    Agreed, but then both sides do it and act scandalized when the other side does. Face it Jim, we veterans are a slice of America both red and blue. The members of my smalltown VFW chapter are as fragmented as the community on the election. But even the reddest of them all feels Trump should apologize, if not directly to Khan and McCain, then to veterans in general. He won't apologize of course, as he seems to think it shows weakness, and he is above all that.

    To my knowledge every veterans organization in America has asked him for an apology, including two of the most conservative: MOAA and the American Legion.

    Trump would never have been castigated for this if he had not him self been a draft dodger and then lied about it.

    "Sarge, I'm only eighteen, I got a ruptured spleen
    And I always carry a purse
    I got eyes like a bat, and my feet are flat, and my asthma's getting worse
    Yes, think of my career, my sweetheart dear, and my poor old invalid aunt
    Besides, I ain't no fool, I'm a-goin' to school
    And I'm working in a DEE-fense plant

    I've got a dislocated disc and a wracked up back
    I'm allergic to flowers and bugs
    And when the bombshell hits, I get epileptic fits
    And I'm addicted to a thousand drugs
    I got the weakness woes, I can't touch my toes
    I can hardly reach my knees
    And if the enemy came close to me
    I'd probably start to sneeze"

    Draft Dodger Rag by Phil Ochs

  3. mike,

    Respectfully, this is NOT a piece about Trump (as my previous piece here was not, either.) This piece, of course, was written by Jim.

    Somehow, everything which occurs in the political sphere is warped by the Left into a slam on Trump. This, I do not understand.

    How is that? It seems a great barrier to understanding, and to honest investigation into a question. It is a needless distraction.

    We do not write in a partisan or incendiary way. We write in order to share and gain understanding. When all we are is an echo chamber for our clan, we see nothing new, ISTM.

    1. The reason, Lisa, is that the GOP has used soldiers as props for their thesis that all liberals and democrats are traitors, cowards, and in league with the terrorists. That's the boilerplate that Trump as the Republican standard-bearer uses on the stump.

      As mike points out, the apparent outrage here is not that these people were used as "props", but that they were used as props by Democrats. When Rush Limbaugh trots out a color guard at his umpteenth wedding, when the GOP hauls out the widow of a slain State Department grunt to accuse HRC of treason, when the battle cry of every Trumpenproletariat GOP rank-and-file that the Defeatocrats are in league with IS...where's the outrage? Where's jim fulminating about the cowardly GOP draft dodgers?

      I mean...I HOPE he thinks that way, too, if he's all pissed off over the Khan's DNC appearance. But as mike points seems very peculiar that jim's recent posts have all been hammering away at the mote in the Democratic Party's eye while ignoring the beam in the GOP's...

  4. Losing a family member does not rescind freedom of speech.
    There are few things restricting freedom of speech:
    - joining the military
    - secrecy classifications
    - private sector and court confidentiality agreements
    - anti-sexual harassment laws
    - libel and anti-hate laws (in Germany some Nazi stuff is outlawed, but we know no "hate crimes")

    Losing a son in military service is not in that list.

  5. S O,

    We dd not say the family's freedom of speech was restricted, but rather, that they abdicated their right to indemnity by entering the political fray on behalf of furthering a candidate's campaign.

    They have become partisan, and are fair game now for scrutiny. For all that, as Jim, said, it is THEY who fired the first salvo.

    You can't do that and then duck behind a bush and say, "Just kidding; leave me alone, now".

    And that is what the press would have you believe: that the Khan family are innocents being dealt with harshly. It is nothing of the sort.

    We are not being truthful in our observations when we believe that sort of thing, and cannot imagine ourselves serious people, despite our political affinities.

  6. @Lisa: ”They have become partisan, and are fair game now for scrutiny.
    I have no beef with Jim for his scrutiny and return fire. Trump has no such right. And neither do Trump’s non-veteran cheerleaders in the right wing media. Jim earned the right to express his opinion on this subject. I’d love to sit down with you and Jim with us all drinking your favorite beverage sometime in a friendly debate if I can ever get off my butt and get to your great corner of this nation. Although I fear you will talk circles around me as I’m a little slow-witted in person always remembering what I should have said half an hour late.

    ”When all we are is an echo chamber for our clan, we see nothing new, ISTM.”
    True! And I try not to walk in lockstep with my political clan. I differ with them on more than one issue, even today. In the past I have changed clans more than once: bed rock Republican who voted for Goldwater; independent after the Nixon horrorshow; and later registered Democrat in protest against the lying bloviation of Rush Limbaugh.

    ”Respectfully, this is NOT a piece about Trump . . .”
    Resectfully, you cannot ban Trump from this discussion. Any ‘honest investigation’ into the issue of Captain Khan and his surviving family has to take Trump’s treatment of veteran’s and Trump’s Selective Service history into account.

  7. I'd love to meet you one day, mike, in a spirit of bonhomie. We are all friends, here, after all.

    Forgive my directness, by it is not only Jim who has earned the right to express his opinion on the topic -- any topic. We ALL have that right as citizens, including Mr. Trummp. And in a campaign, Mr. Trump (and all candidates) esp. has a responsibility to answer when challenged.

    I have no intention to ban anyone from the discussion -- no holds barred! I merely point out that this piece is addressing the wisdom of Mrs. Clinton's Machiavellian tack, which is to say, her stock in trade as a politician.

    If one wants to look at the Clinton's and Trump's respective non-service, that is fair. But it need not be done through some misplaced attack from a dead soldier's family. It is simply gross to use the deceased as a playing card.

    To be fair, a Gold Star mother has laid the death of her son at Mrs Clinton's foot in the past, too.

    It's the exploitation of a dead soldier for political gain which makes this episode so skeevy, IMHO.

  8. Here's the thing, jim;

    The issue isn't that the GOP has gone after these people. You're quite right; by bringing themselves into politics they made themselves political and subject to political attack.

    The issue is the sheer skeeviness of the GOP attacks. Smearing the dead officer as some sort or proto-terrorist? Suggesting that his mom didn't speak at the DNC because of some sort of fucking sharia? Smearing the dad's politics?

    The issue is that this is bog-standard GOP tactics only this time the targets are Gold Star parents, and because of this the tactics look like what they are; creepy and skeevy smearing of the McCarthyesque variety. It's really no different than the Swiftboaters or claiming McCain had a mulatto kid or Cruz's daddy assassinated JFK or Vince Foster or...well, hell, we can stop there because otherwise we'd be here all day.

    As I noted to Lisa, the GOP does this "wrapped-in-the-flag" shit all the time. Dubya and Dick and Ronnie Ray-gun used soldiers and their families for props to prove the the GOP is really the Party of Patriotism. This seems shocking when the D's do it just because the Democratic Party has been in a defensive crouch on "patriotism" for so long we just assume that they WON'T use soldiers/families as political points.

    Frankly, the simple solution to this would have been for Trump or one of his people to have said:

    "Mister and Missus Khan, we have no words to express our sorrow over your loss. Your son gave his life in the service of our country, and there can be no grief deeper than for a father and mother to bury their son. We disagree with your positions and we have, indeed, read the Constitution and believe in it with all our hearts as did your son, who "defended it against all enemies, foreign and domestic" to the last measure. We regret that you feel strongly against us but are confident in our beliefs as you are in yours, and in our regret for your loss as you are grieved for it."

    See how easy that would have been?

  9. Chief,
    we are trained and expected to button our lips when appropriate.
    that's a basic of soldiering and smart living.
    i'm starting to think that recent elections are a form of pornography.