There's a debunked urban legend about an American general who fought Islamic terrorists by dipping bullets in pig's blood before firing them, and on Thursday, President Trump gave new life to that myth. "Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught," the president wrote on Twitter, alleging that "[t]here was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!" As it happens, some members of a right-wing militia did "study" General Pershing in 2016, and it didn't turn out very well for them.
General Pershing was indeed a real general, and he did lead U.S. forces against a Muslim population in the Philippines during the Moro Rebellion (1899-1913). It's long been alleged that Pershing dipped bullets in pig's blood before firing them at his Muslim enemies in an attempt to dissuade them from future attacks, as pig's blood is considered unholy in Islam. To be clear, there's no evidence that this ever happened, but the myth won't die, and Trump himself spread it as far back as February 2016.
He did so again on Thursday, and actually told his supporters to "study what General Pershing" did in the Philippines. In fact, a few people already did that, and were promptly arrested by the FBI.
According to the FBI's affidavit, three members of a fringe extremist movement concocted a plot to kill Muslim immigrants in Kansas on the day after the 2016 election. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright, and Curtis Allen stockpiled weapons and explosives, according to the FBI, and discussed various ways of killing Muslim immigrants, specifically Somalis.
"The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim," Stein allegedly said. "When we go on operations, there’s no leaving anyone behind, even if it’s a 1-year-old. I’m serious."
The FBI said that one of the methods the trio discussed included, yes, dipping bullets in pig's blood before firing them at Muslims. Thankfully, all three were arrested on terrorism charges before they could carry out the heinous plot.
Months before the arrest, Trump specifically identified Somali immigrants as a threat to the United States, saying in an August 2016 speech that Somali refugees in Maine would create "a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terrorist groups." After the three would-be terrorists were arrested, one told The Guardian that the presidential election "encouraged" their actions.
So, as it turns out, some folks already did "study" General Pershing, and arrived at the incorrect belief that Pershing once used pig's blood to deter Muslim terrorists. These folks proceeded to plan a terrorist attack against refugees modeled on that historical non-event, and now, they're behind bars. Perhaps it's not a great idea to "study" General Pershing after all, Trump's advice notwithstanding.