Friday, August 18, 2017

Donald Trump's Pershing Problem

Donald Trump speaking to an audience in North Charleston, South Carolina, February 2016:

"He [Pershing] 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. OK? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem,"

I don't know where Trump got this story - maybe he got it from one of the traveling meme salesmen who like to visit him at the golf course or his parapet in Manhattan - I dunno. It doesn't really matter. The story is bunk regardless. An example of fake history.

What follows is an account of the incident, which Trump misrepresents, excerpted from Black Jack Pershing, by Richard O'Connor; Doubleday & Company, NY, 1961.

[Pages 62 - 63]

Despite all his diplomacy and hospitality, a number of sultans in the lake region refused to come in and parley with Pershing. The sultans of Maciu, of Bacolod, of Bayabao, and of Calabui, and the lesser datus and panglimas who sympathized with them, now saw quite clearly that their authority over the tribes would be sharply reduced if they submitted to the Sultan of Camp Vicars. They had no intention of sharing their ancient powers with an American officer. It was time to discourage his attempts to pacify the lake country.

He was not easily dissuaded that peaceful methods would work and even used what must have seemed like white witchcraft to impress the natives. A number of Moro chiefs, on the verge of warring among themselves, were summoned to a peace conference but balked at signing a treaty. Pershing ordered his aides to bring in an Edison "talking machine," which had just been developed and put on the market back in the States. Helen Gould, the daughter of financier Jay Gould, had purchased ten of the machines and presented them to the Army for recreational purposes. One of these had been sent to the Philippines and was passed along, by coastal steamer and pack train, to Camp Vicars.

Pershing played a musical selection, which only bored the Moros, who regarded tjieir own gong, cymbal, and bamboo flute music as superior. Then he put a cylinder titled "A Day at the Farm" on the machine. The sounds of an American barnyard delighted his guests, but they still refused to sign the treaty.

Pershing nodded to another officer, and a moment later two order- lies appeared. One carried a dead pig, the other a bucket of pig's blood. More than anything else, the Moros feared contamination by a pig, which would bar them from the Mohammedan heaven. Pershing scooped up a dipper of the blood, enough to spatter the whole assemblage, then pointed to the treaty. There was no further argument from the chiefs. One by one they stepped forward and agreed to the treaty.

These various techniques, friendly and forcible, proved their value in the hard campaigning ahead. Pershing had only 700 men under his command and could have been wiped out in the coming year of marching and fighting if the thousands of Malanaos in the lake districts decided to rise up against him.

Apparently this did not completely solve the problem of Moro attacks against Pershing and his men and so, on pages 68-69, we read this:

Accompanied by an escort of infantry and a battery of artillery, Pershing smilingly presented himself at the Sultan of Bayan's craggy headquarters. Since there was no gate in the fort, he and his companions had to climb over the walls on ladders. Once there, he raised the United States flag over the fort and fired a twenty-one gun salute. The Moros were especially impressed with the booming artillery, as Pershing had intended. The sultan, no less impressed, asked Pershing to become the adopted father of his wife. Pershing also adopted four children of the tribe, one of whom he described as "a bright, clean little fellow who has the airs of a Prince of Wales."

Before the visit ended, the sultan and his court decided that an unprecedented honor should be conferred upon Pershing. He was to be consecrated a datu "by the law and rites of the Koran," making him a tribal chieftain, blood relative, and counselor of the Moros of Bayan. Never before and never again would a Christian be made a Moslem prince. With a grave, Moro-like dignity, he submitted himself to the consecration ceremony, possibly wondering what his old Sundayschool teacher in Laclede would have thought of him in that heathen circle.

Pershing, as one of his officers observed, "unflinchingly returned the embrace and kiss on each cheek of the Datu Sadji," even though the datu "had a thick black beard and chewed betel nut . . . and some of the juice thereof had trickled into his beard." There were no comic overtones, however, in Pershing's own account of the Moslem ceremony:

"Each sultan and datu, with his prominent followers in his rear, sat on his heels, the whole forming a circle. The sacred Koran was placed on a mat of native fiber in the center of this circle, guarded by an aged Mohammedan priest, gorgeous in trousers of all colors and a yellow silk upper garment, over whose head a slave held a beautiful silk sunshade. Silver boxes, beautifully engraved, containing betel nut were passed around the circle and then the speechmaking began, each chief in turn giving his opinion. ... At the conclusion, all the rulers
and myself, placing our hands upon the Koran, registered a vow of eternal friendship, allegiance to the United States, and agreed upon a cessation of warfare against each other."

On his return to Camp Vicars, Pershing was so exhilarated by his bloodless victory at Bayan, and more especially by his new rank of datu, that he wrote of his many Moro friendships, "If I should say: 'Go and kill this man or that,' the next day they would appear in camp with his head." From the Manila Times he clipped an editorial praising him for "having won the submission of Bayan through diplomacy" and having acquired a "distinction never before enjoyed by an American."

Well that's a lot different than the story Donald tells isn't it?

On pages 93 and 94 O'Connor's describes an alternative plan of action offered to Pershing with respect to the Moros. A method Pershing rejected in favor of the more diplomatic approach.

General Bliss, commanding the Philippine Division, suggested to Pershing on May 23, 1911, that he adopt the methods used by the British in India to deal with Mohammedan fanaticism. Juramentados, Bliss recommended, should be buried with the carcass of a pig or encased in a pigskin, which meant to any Mohammedan that he would spend eternity in a state of contamination. "This I think a good plan, for if anything will discourage the juramentado it is the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven," Bliss wrote. He recognized that there
might be an outcry of protest from humanitarians over such a measure, but "you can rely on me to stand by you in maintaining this custom. It is the only possible thing we can do to discourage crazy fanatics."

Pershing, however, realized that General Bliss's suggestion, while ingenious, might arouse an enduring bitterness among the whole Moro population. The British in India, for all their condign punishments, including the practice of shooting natives out of cannon, had never managed to rule except by the exercise of force, and he was intent on conciliating the Moros to the extent that they could soon be handed over to civilian administrators.

His approach was paternalistic and would probably have seemed to verge on the maudlin to any proper British colonial officer. It was exemplified by a letter he wrote the Moros of the Taglibi district on Jolo: "I am writing this letter that you may know that I want my children to come in and stop fighting. We do not want any more fighting. Too many Moros and their women may be killed. . . . These guns are not worth fighting for. . . . Your people are better off not to have these guns as we can then have peace in the island. The government will pay for all guns. ... If your people need rice to eat, the government will give it to them. . . . I want to see all of my people and speak to them so that we may forever be friends."

The letter was one of several he collected years later for the memoir of his early career that was never published. "This letter," he later wrote on the top of it, "might be interesting to quote to show simplicity required."

Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1927:


It was into such a situation as [unreadable] then, that Gen. Pershing, then known to the army as "Black Jack" Pershing stepped when he was sent down to subdue the Moros. The story of how he stopped the Juramentados from running amuck [sic], with knives strapped to their hands, and killing as many Christians as possible before they themselves were slain, is well known.

For each Christian they killed they believed they received higher rewards in the after life. By the same token they thought that if they ever were sprinkled with pig's blood they were doomed forever to their own particular hell. With much ceremony Pershing sprinkled some with pig's blood and let them go. Then he announced that any Juramentado thereafter would be sprinkled with pig's blood. And those drops of porcine gore proved more powerful than bullets.

Donald J. Trump should follow his own advice and study what General Pershing of the United States did before he starts jabbering about what he didn't do.

Simplicity provided: the complete text of Black Jack Pershing, by Richard O'Connor can be found at - HERE

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