President Trump is having himself quite a week of cutting capers beyond the bounds of acceptable opinion. Today, in an apparent response to the deaths in Barcelona (which he was willing to diagnose instantly, unlike the white supremacists’ activity last weekend in Charlottesville), he offered this tweet:
This is an allusion to a story of very dubious provenance that he once told on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. As the Washington Post explained at the time, it was an apocryphal tale of a tactic Pershing was supposed to have used against Muslim insurgents when the United States controlled the Philippines:
“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.”
This was part of Trump’s “torture works” argument for engaging in despicable and illegal torture of terrorism suspects.
At the time, fact checkers consulted historians and found little credence in the tale:
“This story is a fabrication and has long been discredited,” said Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University historian and author of Guardians of Empire: The U.S. Army and the Pacific, 1902-1940. “I am amazed it is still making the rounds.”
That hasn’t kept Trump from repeating it once again.
I don’t know what’s worse: the president of the United States for a second time repeating this b.s. legend in the disreputable cause of endorsing torture; or the president of the United States encouraging antiterrorism tactics based on religious insults.
The common thread connecting Trump’s explosions this week is that he’s pretty clearly broken whatever restraints his staff and his advisers had earlier imposed, and is enjoying himself as the exponent of the brutal, bigoted views that made him such a scandalous figure on the campaign trail last year. Donald Trump is bustin’ loose, Lord helps us, and Lord only knows what’s next.