Although we may currently be forced to bear witness to each rant and tweet Trump produces as president -- and watch as there are little consequences for him -- we can still fact check him. And that is precisely why he won't stop calling the news fake: He crumbles when he's called out. Today, not even a week after his failure to condemn neo-Nazi extremism, Trump posted an aggressive tweet citing an act allegedly carried out by an American general, which allegedly stopped Islamic extremist terrorism for 25 years. This tweet not only left many people disgusted, as it seems to encourage violence, but also left a lot of people with one burning question: Who is General Pershing?
Trump's fixation on General John Pershing began during his candidacy, at a rally in South Carolina. He begins talking about Pershing to the crowd -- but not before almost shockingly coaxing them, as if he's the host of a daytime game show. He calls, "Should I tell you? Or should I not?" And the crowd responds with cheers.
Trump admits early on in the speech that his story isn't exactly cited. He tells the crowd, "This is something you can read in the history books. Not a lot of history books, because they don't like teaching it.'' Then he tells the story of General Pershing, who according to Trump, once rounded up 50 terrorists, and shot them all -- except one -- with bullets dipped in pig's blood. Instead of killing the last terrorist, he told him to go back to where he was from and explain what he had just witnessed, and that because of that, there was no terrorism in the country for 25 years.
Trump's story is met with audible applause from the crowd, along with a final warning from Trump. "So we better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant and using our heads," he said. "Or we're not going to have a country, folks."
So, Who Is General Pershing?
Trump brought up General Pershing again today, when he tweeted,
Study what General Pershing of the United states did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
General Pershing was, in fact, a real American general who was a senior Army officer, according to Wikipedia. He served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during WWI from 1917-1918. And also fought in Spanish-American war, particularly, in the Philippines, where this pig's blood tale is said to have taken place. However, according to Snopes, which did a full fact-check analysis of this story, there is no mention of General Pershing killing large amounts of terrorists with pig's blood with no remorse in order to prove a point about terrorism.
In fact, there is documentation that proves Pershing felt some remorse at what went down in the Philippines, particularly when he recalled his solders having to kill soldiers of the opposing side when they refused to turn over their weapons. The letter, written by Pershing according to Snopes, revealed the following:
I write you this letter because I am sorry to know that you and your people refuse to do what the government has ordered. You do not give up your arms. Soldiers were sent to Taglibi so that you could come into camp and turn in your guns. When the soldiers went to camp a Taglibi, your Moros fired into camp and tried to kill the soldiers. Then the soldiers had to shoot all Moros who fired upon them. When the soldiers marched through the country, the Moros again shot at them, so the soldiers had to kill several others. I am sorry the soldiers had to kill any Moros. All Moros are the same to me as my children and no father wants to kill his own children …
This letter reveals a far different man than the one Trump paints Pershing to be. Of course, a military leader could have many sides of him and many points of strength and weakness throughout his time leading troops in war, but the problem is, multiple news outlets report there being absolutely no evidence of Trump's pig's blood tall tale.
Snopes even goes as far to suggest that Pershing was clear on his intent to avoid "radical religious fanaticism" in his enemies in Pershing's own published recounts of what happened.
Why Is This Tweet Problematic?
Trump brought up his believed tale of Pershing a few hours after a car plowed into pedestrians on a street in Barcelona, Spain. Like he has done so many times before, Trump used a moment when Americans and European countries around the world are hurting and frightened in the face of terrorism, and suggested a brutal solution (like the one he believed Pershing supplied) to Islamic extremist groups.
A president who cites his own history books, and never waits until he hears all sides of the story -- unless he's looking for a reason to go easy on Nazi hate groups -- is making decisions about how to handle ISIS. It's time to stop making excuses for Donald Trump and start calling out the seriousness of his claims and the potential danger they can have for Americans and people around the world.