Donald Trump, frontrunner in the Republican presidential primaries, told a rally of admiring supporters an apocryphal story about an American general who, faced with Islamic terrorism a hundred years ago in the Philippines, lined up 50 captured Muslim terrorists and had 49 of them executed with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. He let one go to tell the story about the executions to his comrades. It worked. Apparently the idea of being executed with a bullet dipped in pigs’ blood is so repulsive to Muslims that the general’s action put a stop to the terrorism altogether. This story is entirely plausible to those who believe Bruce Willis action movies are realistic, President Obama is a Muslim, 9/11 was an inside job, and aliens built the pyramids.
The context of the story about executing Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood is Trump’s contention that Americans have to get much tougher when dealing with Islamic terrorists and go way beyond water boarding, a means of torture that one of Trump’s sons compared to a college fraternity prank.
Some fainthearted Democrats and others fear that engaging in torture and anti-Muslim gestures amounts to trashing American values. But there is a big downside to using such methods quite aside from values. Executing Islamic terrorists with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood would be an invitation to ISIS and other Islamic Jihadists to use similarly heavy-handed symbolism in their executions. As it is, ISIS regularly beheads its captives and videotapes the beheadings, which is certainly barbaric enough. But if a President Trump—it could happen— started having captured Islamic terrorists executed with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, it could easily result in an escalation of creative barbarity.
It is not hard to imagine ISIS, say, forcing captives to comb their hair with combs dipped in bullshit just before beheading them. This would clearly be a brilliant symbolic reference to both Trump’s ideas and his hairdo. The indignity of dying with hair that looks like Trump’s would be so repulsive to the average American male that desertions from American forces in the Middle East would skyrocket and recruits willing to risk such a fate would plummet.
We have to think of untended consequences, which is exactly what Donald Trump represents for the Republican establishment.