“You Have Sacrificed Nothing” – How War Rhetoric Remains Relevant

Donald Trump is a busted flush. I am confident that he can not now win the US Presidential election. Which must come as a relief, whatever the shortcomings of his rival, given the nature of his campaign so far, no less the nature of the man.

His doom was sealed when a gentleman called Khizr Khan was invited to speak at the Democratic Convention. His wife standing beside him, Mr Khan spoke of his son, a US Army captain, who was killed during the Gulf War when he told his comrades to stand back while he investigated a suspicious vehicle. The purpose of the speech was to criticise Mr Trump’s comments on “shutting down Muslims” from entering the US (The Khans are Muslim.) However the real victory over Trump was established when Mr Khan instructed him to “go to Arlington Cemetery, where you will find all faiths, genders and ethnicities” (at 4:13 in the Youtube clip.) He then adds:

You have sacrificed nothing – and no one.

There is no possible response Donald Trump could make to this remark that would, erm, trump it, since he dodged serving Vietnam. Any response he made would have been the wrong one, but he went for the low road and decided to pick on Mrs Khan, implying as a Muslim wife she was forced into silence on the matter. (Mrs Khan in response made it clear that she had, in fact, plenty to say, but found recalling the death of her son too upsetting at that time.)

Khizr Khan’s comments make clear that the feelings about military sacrifice are as raw now as they were one hundred years ago and the white feather is still a potent symbol lurking in the background. In my novel, Grace says to Eva, “I’ll tell you what he is. He is a man who won’t fight. You can say whatever you like, but in life a man gets only a few chances to prove himself…He’s failing his king and his country…It’s what a man does that matters, Eva. And he’s doing nothing.”*

There is one important difference though. In the book, Christopher is “doing nothing” because he is appalled at the behaviour of Lord Kitchener, one of WWI’s most notorious protagonists, and wishes to uphold a promise to his brother to have nothing to do with him. To object to service would have been a real sacrifice and risk in that febrile society. In real life, fifty years later, Donald Trump was fit and well, but while many of his poorer friends were sent off to the jungle to die in a war thousands of miles away, he got an exemption because of “bone spurs in his heels”.

Either way, I reckon Trump is done like a kipper, and that’s why.


*Worth noting that Grace goes on to swear that if she could, she would fight herself. Almost one hundred years later, after Kurdish victories in the Syrian war using female troops, she could actually convert theory into practice!


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