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.