President Trump used yesterday’s chain of car-ramming attacks in Spain for promoting fake news, alternative facts, and even for approving mass murder of Muslims on his notorious Twitter feed. His surety of “terror” in this case and his bloody incitement against the ‘one side’ (Muslims), stand in stark opposition to his ambiguous response on the Charlottesville terror of last weekend and its “many sides”.
Trump had no doubt who was responsible for terror in Barcelona; he named them yesterday in a tweet:
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
Now let’s summarize the latest facts known about Barcelona.
CNN, reporting today (9:30 AM Denmark time, several hours after Trump’s response), writes that the first major ramming attack which occurred at 5 PM yesterday Spanish local time (and killed 13) was described by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as “jihadi terrorism” during a news conference late Thursday. But CNN also reports that the perpetrators’ motive is still unclear. CNN did report that “ISIS’ media wing, Amaq, issued a statement that said the attackers are ‘soldiers of the Islamic State,’ although ISIS has not explicitly claimed responsibility for the attack. The terror group has not mentioned any names nor did it post any photos or additional details about the perpetrators.”
A bit ambiguous, I would say with all fairness. Indeed, CNN states after the latter: “It’s not clear”.
But for Trump this was all crystal clear.
Now let’s remember, that as late as Tuesday, Trump was being asked by a reporter about Charlottesville: “Was this terrorism?” At that time, the name and alleged ideology of the Charlottesville driver, James Alex Fields Jr., were known.
“Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and this country, and that is — you can call it terrorism, you can call it murder, you can call it whatever you want.”
He even added:
“Before I make a statement, I need the facts, I don’t want to rush into a statement.”
Now let’s compare to Trump on Barcelona: First he condemned the “terror” (here he was unambiguous):
“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!”, he tweeted at 8 PM.
But merely 45 minutes later, Trump tweeted again, this time promoting a widely discredited myth:
“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”, he wrote.
Here Trump is referring to a myth about General John J. Pershing who fought in the Philippine-American war of 1899-1902. Trump explained the myth in detail during his election campaign in February 2016:
“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do,” Trump said. “And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. 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? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.”
The myth was rated “pants on fire” on Politifact.com.
The assumption of the myth is that pig’s blood would be considered defilement for Muslims, and therefore a deterrent, in that it would ‘send them straight to hell’. Let’s put aside for now the fact that “there is no penalty for coming into contact with pork given by the Quran,” as Shannon Dunn, an assistant professor of religious studies at Gonzaga University said, as well as “there is no evidence that Pershing himself committed these acts, there is nothing said about the use of 50 bullets dipped in pig’s blood, and most important, there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that this tactic was effective in stopping violence — or that it would provide a useful policy today,” as Politifact said in its story debunking the claim.
Let’s put all of the nonsense aside, and relate to what Trump means, because this is the real issue here:
This is Trump’s advocacy on the backdrop of Barcelona. He’s certain it’s terror, he’s certain it’s radical Islamic terror, and he knows exactly what to do about it: Line up Muslims in a row and murder them, to set an example.
Trump, the “fact checker”, is not worried at all now, that he hasn’t got all the facts clear, or that he is, once again, disseminating not only a false and discredited myth, but one that incites to racial violence against the cynical backdrop of a series of attacks, the actual motivations of which are still somewhat unclear.
Whether the Islamic terror lead becomes confirmed as true or not, is not the question here. Trump’s response is a story in itself. He is telling us his own story, based on what he wants to see. But when the events don’t seem to fall in line with his white-nationalist and anti-Muslim agenda, they are simply relegated and diluted to “many sides”. When events do seem to hint at possibly falling into his agenda, into his story, he can’t wait to use them towards incitement for massacring Muslims, as collective punishment, just to serve as an example.