In a bizarre 11th hour demand for attention before the crucial South Carolina presidential primaries, Republican front-runner Donald Trump attempted to proverbially jump the political shark for the umpteenth time, citing a horrifying hoax chain email myth as an apparent national security policy while doubling down on his support for reinstating the illegal torture program.
Trump regaled his audience with the tall tale of U.S. General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, who served in America’s turn-of-the-century colonial wars in the Philippines and in particular, the repression of the Moro Rebellion by ethnic Filipino Muslims. “He was a rough guy!” said Trump, before telling the audience that:
He caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage…and he took the 50 terrorists and he took 50 men and dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood. You heard about that? He took 50 bullets and dipped them in pig’s blood [which is considered haram]. And he has his men load up their 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.
There are so many problems with this statement it’s hard to know where to begin. Firstly, they weren’t terrorists, the Moro were fighting for their independence against a colonial power who had “won” the islands as part of a settlement from a separate war. Secondly, the whole story is an utter myth that was widely circulated among the inboxes of terrified conservatives after the September 11th terrorist attacks but has been discounted as a ridiculous legend by fact-checking website Snopes. Thirdly, a cursory look at a history book will tell you that far from 25 years of peace, the Moro Rebellion continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, when the islands were seized by Japan.
Finally, it is beyond belief that a presidential candidate would stoop so low as to cite this degrading rumor as an implicit policy proposal. Vicious barbarism would prove to be the theme of the night, however, when Trump later doubled down on his support for bringing back the waterboarding of detainees, a procedure which we are astonished to have to remind Mr. Trump is in fact illegal and against international laws that the United States are signatories of: “Is it torture or not? It’s so borderline. It’s like minimal, minimal, minimal torture.”
It is not “minimal torture,” which is an oxymoron in the first place. It is counterproductive and inhumane; simply consider this description of the horrific act:
The head is tilted back and water is poured into the upturned mouth or nose. Eventually the subject cannot exhale more air or cough out more water, the lungs are collapsed, and the sinuses and trachea are filled with water. The subject is drowned from the inside, filling with water from the head down. The chest and lungs are kept higher than the head so that coughing draws water up and into the lungs while avoiding total suffocation. “His sufferings must be that of a man who is drowning, but cannot drown.”
The constant right-wing dehumanization of Muslims is as appalling as it is short-sighted. The “terrorist” has become less than sub-human for the racial and religious supremacists in the Republican Party, an existential boogeyman that does nothing but plot against the United States, jealous of our “freedoms” and our prosperity. Trump and his cronies only see the people of the Middle East as tools to be exploited or vermin to be extinguished; they refuse to acknowledge our own role in provoking these conflicts – and how much ignorant and hateful statements by our politicians exacerbate the divide and put our nation in further danger.
You may watch Trump make his remarks here, if you must:
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.