Friday 19 January 2018

'Pig's blood': Donald Trump responds to Barcelona attack by reviving debunked myth

This is the second time Trump has mentioned the deeply controversial story about General John Pershing, which has been widely discredited.

Trump and Pershing
Trump and Pershing

By Edd Dracott

Donald Trump has seemingly referenced a highly controversial and dubious legend about killing Islamic militants with bullets drenched in pig’s blood – in the wake of the Barcelona terror attack.

The US president earlier condemned the attack, which saw a van drive through crowds in the popular tourist district Las Ramblas and cost the lives of at least 13 people and injured around 80 more.

Shortly afterwards however he sent a rather more cryptic tweet, asking people to study the actions of John Pershing, a US Army commander active 100 years ago.

General Pershing became famous for his leadership in World War I, but was governor of the Philippines’s Moro province – a mainly Muslim area – between 1909 and 1913.

So, what is Trump going on about? Well, he has referenced the legend of General “Black Jack” Pershing before – at a rally in South Carolina last year while Trump was on his campaign trail.

According to Trump back then, Pershing had managed to halt Muslim attacks in the Philippines where he was based by shooting Islamic militants with bullets dipped in pig’s blood – pork being a taboo in Muslim culture.

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John J. Pershing appears in uniform at Armistice Day, 1942

“He caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people,” said Trump at the rally. “They shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.”

Trump claimed “for 25 years there wasn’t a problem” – a number he has seemingly increased to 35 in his tweet.

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Trump in front of a picture of George Washington

Trump’s story was widely discredited and debunked, with fact-checking organisation Politifact rating the claims about Pershing as false. However, they note the general did write in a memoir that he saw other commanding officers publicly burying Muslim insurgents in the same grave as a dead pig.

“It was not pleasant to have to take such measures, but the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven sometimes deterred the would-be assassins,” wrote Pershing.

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Pershing at the peace conference in Paris, 1919

Lacking more specifics, it is not certain Trump is referring to the same story he gave in February 2016 in his latest tweet – but the allusion to it in the wake of the fatalities in Spain has drawn severe criticism.

Whether Trump will explain himself further, time will tell.

Watch this space.

Press Association

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