President Donald Trump created a minor uproar last week when, during a press conference about infrastructure, said that his initial “many sides” comments over the death of Heather Heyer at a white nationalist rally came because he liked to wait to get all the facts before responding.
Regardless, three days later, he still refused to call it a terror attack.
On Thursday, a truck drove through the crowded Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Spain, killing at least 13 and wounding at least 50. The American president was on Twitter immediately.
First, he instantly called it a terror attack, something he remains unwilling to do regarding the man who drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring some 20 others.
The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help. Be tough & strong, we love you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
But Trump went a step further next, tweeting about a U.S. general during the Philippine-American War in the 1900s.
Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
If you are unfamiliar with that anecdote, it’s fine. Because it’s not true. But it ma ers, because it’s one of the more heinous things the president has said.
Back in February of 2016, well before Trump had the Republican nomination, he told this tale at a rally in Charleston, South Carolina.
“They were having terrorism problems, just like we do. 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.”
In Islam, pigs are considered an unclean animal, and members of the religion are not supposed to even handle the carcass of a pig.
People immediately cast doubt on Trump’s story. Politifact researched the claim and found that there was no truth to it. Although it was reported that Pershing possibly sprinkled pig’s blood on Muslims, and maybe buried insurgents with pig carcasses, there was no veracity to the wholesale slaughter of Muslims.
The U.S. has had a complicated relationship with treating suspects of terror, deeming them “enemy combatants” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and determining the Geneva Convention—which the U.S. is a party to—did not apply to them.
The Geneva Convention does explicitly outlaw the murder of prisoners of war as well as violating prisoners’ religious rights.