Donald Trump Repeats Bigoted Pershing Myth
No, a U.S. Army general didn't execute Muslim prisoners with bloody bullets
U.S. president Donald Trump repeated a widely-discredited and bigoted myth in the aftermath of an Aug. 17, 2017, terrorist attack that killed 13 people in Barcelona.
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught,” Trump tweeted. “There was no more Radical Islamic Terror [sic] for 35 years!”
U.S. Army general John Pershing led America’s brutal campaign against insurgents, including Muslims, in The Philippines in the early 20th century. Trump was referring to a Pershing myth he had previously pushed at a campaign stop in North Charleston in February 2016.
“He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said, describing what he claimed was Pershing’s treatment of Muslim prisoners. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, okay?”
The Pershing story is untrue. And the Islamic insurgency in The Philippines continues to this day. Those facts did not deter Trump-the-candidate from warning against the dire consequences if America didn’t elect a leader who tortures prisoners and devises tactics specifically to offend Muslims.
While campaigning, Trump called for the United States to torture insurgents and terror suspects — starting with waterboarding. “Is it torture or not? It’s so borderline,” Trump said of waterboarding, according to MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin. “It’s like minimal, minimal, minimal torture.”
Torture, including waterboarding — the practice of repeatedly nearly drowning a suspect during interrogation — is illegal under U.S. law. The CIA illegally waterboarded terror suspects under Pres. George W. Bush. Experts agree that torture does not produce good intelligence.
“We better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks,” Trump said, according to Sarlin. But Trump’s election, his advocacy of torture and attempts to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States — not to mention his repetition of a bigoted myth — have not ended Islamic terrorism.
And even though terror endures, so does the United States.