Election 2016

Trump Approvingly Recounts Urban Legend of US General Who Had Muslims Shot With Bullets Dipped in Pig's Blood

At a South Carolina rally Donald Trump invoked a debunked story of a WWI general executing 49 Muslim terrorists.

Photo Credit: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.com

In his final campaign rally before the South Carolina primary, Donald Trump repeated an urban legend about John Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, committing war crimes while serving in the Philippines. Trump seemed to endorse these actions as well. 

Trump claimed that Pershing summarily executed “50 terrorists”. In the real estate mogul’s telling, “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 pig’s blood.”

Trump continued that Pershing then “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.”

The story seems to stem from Pershing’s stint commanding an American garrison in the Philippines where he helped put down a rebellion in the Muslim region of Mindanao from 1909-1913.

Despite Trump’s pledge that “this is something you can read in the history books,” the story has been debunked by the myth-busting website Snopes.

Trump also told attendees that the lesson to be learned was “we better start getting tough and we better start getting vigilant, and we better start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country.”

Pershing, a decorated combat veteran who helped lead the US to victory in World War I, is one of the two men to hold the title General of the Armies in American history. The other is George Washington. Pershing’s tenure administrating Mindanao was also marked by his comparative tolerance of Islam and his appointment of Muslims to serve under him as deputy district governors.

At the Friday rally, which was held in a packed convention center, Trump also reiterated his support of waterboarding. “It’s borderline,” Trump said. “Minimal, minimal torture.” Trump previously said of the practice, considered torture, he’d approve it even if it didn’t work because “they deserve it anyway for what they do to us”.

Trump is currently favored to win South Carolina’s Republican primary and most polls give him a double-digit lead in the Palmetto State.

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Ben Jacobs is a political reporter for Guardian US based in Washington DC. He was previously a reporter for the Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @bencjacobs