Trump on Barcelona: Recalls US War on Spain, Brutal Occupation of Filipino Muslims

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A vehicular terror attack in Barcelona that left over a dozen people dead and 100 injured has been claimed by ISIL. Another terrorist attack in the small city of Cambrils was thwarted by Spanish police. The terrorist organization has repeatedly threatened Spain for its logistical and other support to the NATO effort to destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Spain is also of special interest to far right wing Muslim groups because of the nostalgia factor. Southern Spain was once Muslim, until the Castilians completely conquered it and expelled the Muslims in 1492. ISIL once boasted of being a state, but it has only a few pockets of territory left in northern Iraq and in eastern Syria. That territory is shrinking daily. One strategy defeated terrorist groups sometimes adopt is to “haunt” the victors with revenge attacks. It is difficult to imagine that driving down tourists in Barcelona would have a significant impact on the Coalition war on ISIL. ISIL is also interested in polarizing the relations between Christians and Muslims, and this plot may lie in part behind the attack.

My heart goes out to the people of Barcelona, which I have visited on several lovely occasions.

President Trump responded by telling again the false story that Gen. John Pershing executed Muslim POWs in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pigs blood, and that thereafter they were quiet.

It was a shocking story to tell on the day of an attack on Spain.

It would be sort of like if God forbid Tokyo were attacked and Trump tweeted about how the US showed them at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Because Pershing was part of the naked act of US aggression on Spain in 1898. Under the guise of sympathizing with Cuba’s desire for independence, the US usurped Puerto Rico and Guam, and forced Spain to sell it the Philippines for $20 mn.

Despite the cover story of sympathizing with Cuba, the US went on to occupy Cuba three times for several years each, to usurp land for a naval base at Guantanamo, and to practice indirect neo-colonialism in Cuba and direct colonialism in the other Spanish possessions it stole. It still won’t give Puerto Rico statehood or let it become independent (being of in-between status is destroying the island). Guam is also still just a “territory” (do democracies have colonial territories?) and more recently is emerging as a North Korean target.

As for the Philippines, like Cuba its people actually wanted independence from the Spanish Empire.

But the Americans who invaded it and detached it from Madrid had different ideas.

In one of the most shameful and brutal actions of the American Empire, the US repressed Filipino uprisings, becoming responsible for killing 20,000 freedom fighters and 400,000 civilians. When villages rose up or sheltered guerrillas, the Americans ruthlessly rounded them up and put them in concentration camps, where unsanitary conditions led to disease outbreaks.

That is, all those American politicians who condemn Bashar al-Assad for atrocities in Syria should remember that the US did worse to the Philippines than al-Assad has done to his country. (Al-Assad should be condemned, but not by people who think the US occupation of the Philippines was all right).

One group that showed special spunk in standing up to the American invasion and occupation of their territory was the Moro Muslims in the far south. Pershing served as military governor of this province and had the rebels killed. In 1913 the US reduced a Muslim fortification and killed all the fighters, refusing to take prisoners (a war crime).

Let me underline this. The only reason Pershing had to deal with Muslims was that the US aggressively attacked Spain on the pretense of sympathizing with rebellious colonial subjects, then promptly imposed American subjection on the Filipinos, and polished off 420,000 of them for not going along with this shameful proceeding. Americans who threw off the British in New York and Massachusetts are celebrated in the US, but Filipinos, including Moro Muslims, who similarly attempted to throw off an occupation army are denigrated as terrorists.

Pershing did kill Moro Muslims, but not with pig’s blood. As Wajahat Ali has pointed out, pigs are not kryptonite for Muslims. Moreover, Moros never gave up the fight for more control over their own destinies, so Trump’s fantasy that they were repressed for 25 years or 35 years is incorrect.

Worst of all, Trump has played into ISIL’s hands by identifying a legitimate national liberation movement in Moro under Pershing with terrorism.

Trump is broadcasting ISIL propaganda, that the US is a colonial power brutalizing Muslims and just brandishing the term “terrorism” to hide its own crimes.

So Trump could not have been more rude to Spain, in recalling 1898. And he could not have been more accommodating to ISIL’s narrative, that the US is a brutal war criminal repressing Muslims with its colonialism, if he took out television ads for Caliph al-Baghdadi himself.


Related video:

The Young Turks: “DEBUNKED: Trump Pushes False Anti-Terror Story”

11 Responses

  1. Only a not so smart person will continue to keep spewing an already de bunked story, only someone who does not care for facts will peddle lies not caring for the consequences. Only a beauty pageant organizer/reality show host will not care to act like a President, nor be aware that what Presidents say will be analyzed for truth. This shameful man does not know what it is to be President. It is becoming obvious that he has mental issues and cannot lead this country.

  2. Incompetent President Trump will not resign until he can throw a son or son-n-law under the bus in his attempts to continue to infest our White House or as Resident Trump calls it “a dump.”

    Trump’s resignation will be the end of narcissistic buffoonery and the onset of stone-cold Dominionist meanness and far-right religious stupid.

    The pending odious transition coupled with disgraced Trump exhorting his followers after he resigns will make our streets and homes far less safe.

    Under President Pence, expressing a religious preference will take on new meaning in a country where “God’s will” is moved forcefully ahead of the will of the people.

    But Trump WILL RESIGN, eventually.

  3. I live in Spain and I know no one who pays any attention to anything Trump says or would make a connection between his views on Pershing and the atrocity in Barcelona they did. I am not sure his remarks have even been reported anywhere here although, scanning for clues, I see reports of US media reports of the impending dismissal of Bannon El llamado “Rasputin” de la Casa Blanca . Even if I outlined what he said the people I know would likely look blank or shrug their shoulders. His comments may offend some historians though I doubt they would do more than confirm his lumpen ignorance. It is irrational, surely, to be offended by the comments of those who have no idea what they are talking about.

    • I watch Spanish news and read La Vanguardia and El Pais occasionally. Trump’s remarks were reported, as having been falsified. I did not maintain that the Spanish themselves saw a connection between what he said and 1898, I simply asserted that there was one and when that it realized it is rather disgraceful.

      • I may have misinterpreted your concern. I thought it was that Trump had provoked or offended Spain and the Spanish in some way. I am sure many sensitive Americans find much about Trump disgraceful.

  4. Many thanks for this historical “fact-checking” about Filipinos, Pershing, etc, and for the link between the Spanish war of 1898 and Barcelona today.
    Resident (I love this typo) Trump’s bad taste and lack of knowledge are beyond words.

  5. I think similar rumors about muskets loaded with wadding that included animal fat was part of the legacy of the 1857 uprising against British colonialists in India.
    Like Trump’s story about the Moro campaign, the story about pork and beef fats being used (one to offend Muslims, the other to offend Hindus) was false, but it led to confusion, anger and bloodshed. Maybe Mr. Trump was doing some reading a la commode and got his history lessons mixed up?

  6. The Philippines held elections in 1907. After that the US and Philippines could not reach an agreement on independence. America wanted an excuse to leave the Philippines and cut off foreign aid to the Philippines.

    The Philippines wanted:

    1) The US to commit to the long term protection of the Philippines from other colonial powers, mostly the Japanese, and long term training and equipping of the Filipino armed forces. The US was reluctant, because this would cost US taxpayer money.

    2) Long term US aid guarantees, which the US wasn’t eager to provide.

    3) The US to allow large scale Filipino immigration to the US; which the US pushed back on.

    This is why Filipino independence took so long. Plus Filipino governance institutions were weak in the early 1900s.

    The number of 400 K civilians who died in the Philippines comes from outbreaks of disease that Filipino health systems were unequipped to deal with; and were ultimately dealt with via American help. This was yet another reason Filipino nationalists didn’t want to give Americans an excuse to leave the Philippines before the Philippines had greater capacity.

    What you are referring to as the Moro muslims were extreme militant islamists who were upset about the banning of slavery and fighting a war against nonmuslim Filipinos and “fake” muslim Filipinos in addition to Americans. Americans soldiers sent to fight the Moro muslims sometimes felt that the US didn’t have a dog in the fight and that the Moro muslims didn’t have any beef with the US.

    Puerto Rico voters have repeatedly rejected independence and US statehood; albeit support for Statehood is growing.

    Guam doesn’t want independence. I believe that all US territories should get collectively get electoral votes in Presidential elections a la Washington DC. I think this would need an amendment to the US constitution.

  7. ISIS and AQ both believe that Spain belongs to the ummah and are trying to reconquer Spain and add Spain to the global caliphate.

    Osama Bin Laden repeatedly said this in public in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    I think part of the purpose of the attack was also to target Spanish “fake” “traitor” muslims; and to target immoral ammoral westernized culture (that Islamists believe were seducing and corrupting young muslims).

  8. Thank you, Professor Cole, for your comments on my country of birth’s history. I have quoted some of your past columns in my digitized newspaper with proper accreditation. It is sad that Mr. Trump has called my country, the Philippines, as a terrorist one, and that my people are “animals,” and then turns around to build a Trump Tower in posh Makari that he’d inaugurate in November this year, on the pretext of attending the 31st ASEAN summit for international leaders. And then says, “I love the Philippines!”

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