Posts Tagged ‘General Pershing’

The Young Turks on Trump Wanting to Kill Muslims with Bullets Dipped in Pig’s Blood

February 23, 2016

Trump & Hitler

More verbal brutality from the prospective generalissimo of America. In this clip from The Young Turks, the anchors Bill Mankiewicz and Elliot Hill discuss another piece of raging, vile rhetoric from the current Republican front runner. In one of his speeches, Trump glowingly recounts an incident from ‘back a bit’ in the early 20th century, when the Americans were faced with a series of terrorist outrages. General Pershing responded by rounding up fifty of the terrorists. 49 of them were shot out of hand with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. The fiftieth was then released to tell his comrades about what happened. ‘And do you know,’ Trump concludes, ‘that for twenty-five years afterwards we didn’t have any problems. We need to do this, or else we’re not going to have a country’.

Trump claims that this story can be found in the history books, but ‘not many, ’cause they don’t like putting it in. Only some.’ Mankiewicz and Elliot point out that the real reason it’s not in the history books is because it didn’t happen. It’s mythical. The incident Trump refers to supposedly happened during the Spanish-American War, when America took the Philippines from Spain. The Philippino people resisted. Mankiewicz points out that as they were the original people, they wouldn’t have wanted either Spanish or Americans. Trump calls the resistance fighters terrorists, but if they had been Americans fighting for America, or on the side of America, they would have been called ‘freedom fighters’. It’s horrible story, but it didn’t happen. He compares the incident, and the way it’s been left out of conventional history books because of its entirely fictional nature, with the way Republicans are trying to sanitise American history. In Texas, for example, the school board has voted to use books that don’t mention slavery, or don’t call it what it was, because it makes America look bad. This is one case where an incident that makes America look bad isn’t in the history books. Mankiewicz points out that if historians really were intent on putting in material just to denigrate America, that incident would be in there.

Mankiewicz and Elliot also discuss the way Trump’s brutal rhetoric, combined with his confidence and easy oratorical style – for example, he asks his audience if they want to hear the tale – is actually desensitising people to the viciousness of what he says. He describes waterboarding as only a very small torture, for example. They point out that this is actually worse than if he’d said it actually was torture, but he believed that it worked and so was justified to protect America from terrorism. This wouldn’t justify it to them – it would still be horrible, but not as vile as simply calling it ‘a very small torture’. But there’s a tendency for people just to laugh it off, and say, well, it’s only Trump being Trump. And that’s dangerous, because it makes light of what he says and what he could clearly do.

It’s a good point. Regarding the supposed use of bullets dipped in pig’s blood, or other pork products, the Israelis were supposed to be using them against the Palestinians. The idea is that some Muslims feel that they will go to hell if they eat even a scrap of pork. And so one of the newspapers over here reported that the Israeli army was using bullets containing small pieces of pork as part of a psychological weapon against them.

As for its use in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, that may be entirely mythical, but the Americans did carry out atrocities there with the intention of spreading terror. For example, after shooting Philippino freedom fighters, they tied inflatable bladders to the corpses and set them floating down rivers in order to make an example of those shot.

And the warning about not taking Trump’s brutal rhetoric is also entirely correct. We’re back to Godwin’s Law again, but it needs to be brought up. During the Weimar period, there were Germans, who went to see Hitler speak simply because it was laugh. They wanted to see who he’d attack next. And very many Germans, and the British politicos too, really didn’t believe that he’d actually do what he said he would, in his speeches and Mein Kampf. Once in power, they thought he could be tamed and controlled into becoming a responsible, conventional politician. They were wrong. And in the resulting War that followed, forty millions died.

There’s a bit in the Bertolucci film, The Conformist, where one of the characters tells the other that when he was in Austria, there was a man, who used to go round bars ranting. No-one took him seriously. ‘We all threw beer bottles at him’. The speaker abruptly concludes, ‘That man was Adolf Hitler’.
It’s the same with Trump now. The temptation is not to take him seriously, because what he says is so outrageous, and the man himself so much a buffoon. But that’s underestimating him. The danger is, he means exactly what he says.