Charlottesville and Barcelona: fearful symmetry

Trump's disparate reactions to the similar attacks in Charlottesville and Barcelona provide an obvious but inevitable study not only in double standards, but (worse) the president's actual embrace of racist terror. Whether opportunistically or not, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Barcelona attack, in which a motorist ploughed into pedestrians on Las Ramblas, a pedestrian thoroughfare packed with tourists, killing 13 and wounding scores. Just five days earlier, a neo-Nazi did the same thing to a crowd of antifa counter-protesters in Virginia, killing one and wounding  19. Mother Jones is among those to provide a sampling of the presidential statements and tweets in response to the two like attacks, just days apart. Regarding Charlottesville, Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence, and said there were "fine people" on the side that was flying the Nazi flag and committed an act of terror. He's also been waxing maudlin about the "beautiful" statues of Confederate generals now coming down around the country. This of course squanders all credibility to tweet that he "condemns the terror attack in Barcelona." But it gets much, much worse…

Trump also again regurgitated his claim about Gen. John Pershing using a particularly ugly—indeed, criminal—tactic against Muslim insurgents in the Philippines: "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!" The full claim, which Trump repeated several times during the 2016 presidential campaign, is that in the counterinsurgency against the Moro rebels of Mindanao during the Philippine-American War, Pershing had his men dip 50 bullets in pig's blood and use them to kill Muslim prisoners. One prisoner was spared, and told to relay the experience to others. Both the Washington Psst and LA Times call this tale out as apocryphal. "This story is a fabrication and has long been discredited," Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University historian, told Politifact. "I am amazed it is still making the rounds."

US forces committed plenty of real atrocities in the Moro war—but probably not that one. Historical accuracy aside, however, what Trump is openly calling for—indeed, glorifying—would be a clear war crime: not only for use of religious persecution as tactic of intimidation but even more fundamentally for executing prisoners of war. (See Third Geneva Convention.) Trump is also reversing the politics of the war in question, which was basically a continuation of the Philippine independence struggle against the archipelago's new colonial masters. Who were the "terrorists"—the Moro rebels or the US forces that committed horrific massacres in the campaign to pacify Mindanao?

The Charlottesville and Barcelona attacks were obviously both terrorism, by any single-standard definition of the word. The same fascist imperative is manifested in the "Car Intifada" attacks now seen from Spain, England, France (repeatedly) and elsewhere around Europe and the Middle East, and in the identical method used by an heir to the long legacy of lynch-mob terror in the American South.

Fortunately, many get this. Inspiring photos were posted on Instagram showing members of the Yazidi Sinjar Women's Units (YJS), currently fighting ISIS in northern Syria, holding signs honoring Heather Heyer, the anti-fascist activist killed in Charlottesville, with the statement "UNITE AGAINST FASCISM."

The Yazidis have been targeted for actual genocide and slavery by ISIS, and these women astutely recognize the Nazis and Klan as equally an exponent of exterminism.  The anti-fascists in Charlottesville and the Yazidi women are on the same side. So, ultimately, are Trump and the Nazis.


  1. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’

    A good thing this wasn't a terrorist attack. That would have sucked. From the BBC:

    Marseille bus stop hit by van, one dead and driver arrested
    A woman has been killed after a van struck a bus shelter in the southern French city of Marseille, police say.

    The driver has been arrested. His vehicle had struck another bus shelter in a different district of the city earlier in the morning, seriously injuring one person.

    French prosecutors say the case is not being treated as a terrorist incident.

    French media reports say the driver is known to police and may have mental health issues.

    The unconfirmed reports say he has a criminal record but is not known to the intelligence services.

    And then we have the tiresome semantic question again. The Guardian calls this a "crash."

  2. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’ (redux)

    A good thing this wasn't a terrorist attack. That would have sucked.

    From the Daily News, Aug. 24:

    Driver rams into three protesters with his car in St. Louis
    A man hit three protesters while he was trying to drive through a march in St. Louis on Wednesday night.

    The black Mercedes collided with protesters marching in honor of Kiwi Herring, a transgender woman shot dead by police on Tuesday, FOX2 reported.

    A man and two women sustained minor injuries, and the driver was taken into custody about one block away from the scene for felony fleeing, according to St. Louis police spokesperson Schron Jackson.

    Of course there are now bills in several states to legalize this kind of thing.

  3. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’ (redux)

    An unbelievably garbled account from the Daily News, Sept. 3 (see our comments below if you don't catch the distortions and contradictions yourself):

    Man accidentally crashes car into Staten Island laundromat, six injured

    A man accidentally gunned his car in reverse early Sunday as he was backing out of a parking spot in a Staten Island mall — plowing into the center of a laundromat, authorities said.

    The 74-year-old driver was in a shopping mall on Page Ave. near Amboy Rd. in Tottenville around 8 a.m. when he sent his vehicle flying in the wrong direction, police said.

    Bradley Grantham, 26, was inside a nearby business when he hear a loud noise that "almost sounded like an explosion."

    He ran into the laundromat and saw the white Ford SUV had barreled deep into the store.

    "The car was all the way in the back. Maybe 30 to 40 feet in. There were three people pinned against the wall. Several other injured people were lying to the side," he said.

    Grantham said he tried to free the trapped customers but couldn't budge the truck. Emergency crews arrived within minutes and pulled everyone to safety, witnesses said.

    The sudden Sunday morning crash left three people with serious injuries that were not considered life-threatening and three others with minor injuries, police and fire officials said.

    "No serious injuries," said Grantham. "It could have been worse."

    All six were transported to Staten Island University Hospital, authorities said.

    Utterly embarrassing. First, we are arbitrarily told this was an "accident," when it is clear that the driver pulled out of his parking space at a reckless speed. The vehicle is alternately referred to an SUV and a truck. And we are told that "the crash left three people with serious injuries" and that there were "No serious injuries."

    Cut back on copy-editors have we, Daily News?

  4. ‘Car intifada’ comes to New York

    Whatever ideological superstructure is imposed (by perp, media and prosecutors alike) on the Hudson River Park attack that left eight dead Oct. 31, it was fundamentally an attack by a motorist in a truck on bicyclists and pedestrians. Among the dead were five Argentine cyclists who were visiting the city. (The Villager, WaPo)

    The city Transportation Department is now installing concrete "blockers" along the park's bikeway, which are restricting the movement of cyclists. Bicycle advocate attorney Steve Vaccaro said: "I don't know. It doesn't allow people to pass each other at each of the many pinch points. In the high [biking] season, this will definitely cause crashes. This is not a permanent solution and should be remedied no later than March." (Villager, Villager)

    Meanwhile, note that accused perp Sayfullo Habibullavic Saipov (an immigrant from Uzbekistan) is being charged with "provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization," despite the fact that ISIS is only opportunistically claimg credit for his attack after the fact and nothing indicates he had any actual contact with the organization. (Jurist

    And note that he wasn't charged with use of a "weapon of mass destruction," as the Chelsea bomber was. So a pipe-bomb is a "weapon of mass destruction," but a truck isn't? Despite the fact that the guy in the truck succeeded in taking lives, while the guy with the pipe-bomb did not.

  5. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’ (redux)

    A good thing this wasn't a terrorist attack. That would have sucked.

    From BBC News, Dec. 21:

    Melbourne crash: Driver arrested after hitting pedestrians
    The man who deliberately drove a car into a crowd in Melbourne is a drug user with mental health issues but no known terrorism links, police say. The Australian citizen of Afghan descent was taken into custody after a struggle at the scene of the incident. The car the 32-year-old was driving hit a number of pedestrians on Flinders Street, a busy thoroughfare in the city centre, said Victoria Police. Fourteen people have been injured, with several in a critical condition.

  6. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’ (redux)

    From The Guardian, April 7:

    Two people were killed and about 30 injured after a van drove into a crowd in the western German city of Münster. The driver of the vehicle, who had not yet been officially identified on Saturday night, also died after shooting himself at the scene. Authorities have said that there is no indication that it was an Islamist attack.

    State interior minister Herbet Reuel said that investigators believe the perpetrator is a German citizen. Local media reported that he was someone with mental health problems. No one else was being sought in connection with the incident.

  7. It’s OK, this one wasn’t ‘terrorism’ (redux)

    So 10 people are dead and15 injured after van ploughed into pedestrians in Toronto. (Globe & Mail) Of course we were treated to the breathless anticipation about whether the killer was a Muslim or a white supremacist or just a sociopath with a psycho-sexual grudge (it seems to have been this last category), while everyone overlooks the far more fundamental reality that he was a motorist.