Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, 1987-2007

Elsheba Khan, the mother of Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, at her son’s grave (photo from here  and here).

Like any other political figure, Colin Powell can and should be criticized for his record. As Secretary of State in the first George W. Bush Administration,  Powell more than anyone helped sell the Iraq war to the American public, putting his immense reputation on the line for a dubious cause. The fact that Powell and his staff had private misgivings about the war makes his complicity worse, not better.

Still, Powell remains a formidable figure. His endorsement of Barack Obama was unusually forceful and thoughtful. Particularly noteworthy and admirable is the fact that Powell drew attention to the McCain’s camp fomenting of anti-Muslim feelings, and explained clearly why this political tactic is deeply offensive and even dangerious.

Here is a key passage:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.


I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.


4 thoughts on “Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, 1987-2007

  1. I suspect that Mr. Powell also has used the term “gooks” during his tour in Vietnam.

    I used it, and while in today’s world it is not politically correct, in the time and place it originated, it was not given a second thought.

    In addition, had I been held prisoner by the Vietnamese for as long as John McCain, and treated as he was, I would probably have some harsh feelings towards them.

    The reason you don’t here it from many Democrat pols, is becasue so few served in Vietnam.

  2. Yeah, harldly any Democratic politicans are Vietnam war vets, except for Al Glore, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Max Cleland, Gray Davis, Bob Kerry, John Murtha, and James Webb. Hardly any at all. And of course the fact that the term “gook” was widely used doesn’t make it any less racist, any more than the fact that “raghead” has wide currency right now. In fact, terms like “gook” and “raghead” show why both the Vietnam war and the Iraq war are huge mistakes: you can’t go around claiming your fighting for freedom when you also have complete comtempt for the people whose liberaty is at stake.

  3. The Democrats actually have way more veterans than the Republicans. With the exception of John McCain and Chuck Hagel I cannot think of too many other veterans from a group that thinks they are the guardians of all things American.

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