Risks from Trump’s Reckless Invective

Donald Trump’s invective – suggesting a “Second Amendment” remedy to Hillary Clinton’s gun control or calling President Obama the ISIS “founder” – may be how he intends to win but his words carry real danger, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

One of the more pertinent observations about Donald Trump’s comment this week on what gun owners could do about a Hillary Clinton presidency comes from columnist Thomas Friedman, who recalls the assassination in Israel 21 years ago of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The assassination was preceded by a stream of hateful invective with violent overtones directed by elements on the Israeli right against Rabin — for his having taken a step, in the form of the Oslo accords, toward making peace with the Palestinians.

The invective was condoned rather than condemned by prominent political leaders on the right, including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The inflammatory rhetoric and its widespread toleration helped to convince the assassin that his lethal act would be not only widely accepted but even legitimate. This whole tragic and abominable story is told in detail in Dan Ephron’s gripping book Killing a King, which I reviewed for The National Interest.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in 1995.

The process that took place then in Israel and that Trump’s remark about the Second Amendment increases the risk of taking place in the United States is related to one of his slightly earlier comments: the one about how if he loses in November it will be because the election was “rigged.”

The implied consequences in this instance may be somewhat different from those associated with the comment about guns but the underlying dynamic is basically the same: the inculcating in large parts of the population of the idea that other parts of the population or other leaders are less than legitimate. This in turn bestows a sense of legitimacy on extra-constitutional or even violent actions directed against the despised leaders or sub-populations.

Assassination of a leader is one of the most shocking forms that such action can take. In Israel it took that form with the murder of Rabin. Here in the United States we can hope that the Secret Service is on the case and can prevent a comparable crime.

Violence not against an individual leader but instead against ordinary members of a sub-population is another form such invective-stimulated action can take. Here the Trump rhetoric to worry about is his stream of comments about Muslims and Mexicans. And once again Israel provides an example of the sorts of things that can happen. With even leaders such as the Israeli minister of justice dispensing rhetoric bound to intensify hatred of Palestinian Arabs, the unsurprising result is anti-Arab violence, both official and unofficial, that is so routine and so broadly tolerated that the great majority of it doesn’t even make the news.

Mostly it is the stuff of specialized reporting by human rights organizations. It usually is only when an incident happens to be captured on video that the rest of us view directly the consequences of an entire subjugated population being viewed as illegitimate — as even having less of a right to live than those in the dominant population.

Israel is a disturbing demonstration of how far violent intolerance involving ethnic and religious prejudice can go. Americans should be vigilant regarding any signs of anything like this happening in the United States.

A sign supporting Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. June 18, 2016 (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

A sign supporting Donald Trump at a rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. June 18, 2016 (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The phenomenon of antagonistic attitudes held by the many lending legitimacy to extreme actions committed by the few can be found elsewhere. It is a factor in anti-U.S. international terrorism. The vast majority of people having anti-U.S. views, even strong ones, do not become terrorists. But they constitute a population from which terrorists emerge.

More to the present point, they provide attitudinal support, wittingly or not, to anti-U.S. terrorists and help to convince the latter that they are acting nobly on behalf of a cause much larger than themselves. All this is why it is a mistake to focus narrowly on those who have already crossed the line into terrorism. It is just as important a part of counterterrorism to pay attention to the attitudes of the larger populations that form the terrorists’ constituency, and to whatever policies and actions of the United States affect those attitudes.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is author most recently of Why America Misunderstands the World. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

29 comments for “Risks from Trump’s Reckless Invective

  1. Al
    August 15, 2016 at 15:00

    I remember when a certain Robert Parry was a journalist covering the story of how the corporate media made up the entire “Al Gore invented the internet” story. He showed how political operatives created and fed that line to a corporate press that was more than ready to run with the story in order to favor their selected candidate over another.

    Now, I see the same thing happening again. I’ve read the transcript to the the speech, and Trump never said what the corporate media, and now this website, are going on and on about what he said. Just like with Al Gore in 2000, this is a made up story that’s taking something the candidate never really said and running with it.

    Now, I see we’ve moved on to Phase II, which is the stories that just assumes that the candidate the corporate media hates really said what the corporate media says he said and just does “analysis” that assumes that he said it and goes from there. The fact of what the smeared candidate really said no longer matters.

    Something very familiar too those who once read Mr. Perry’s coverage of how this same smear campaign once worked against a Democrat candidate.

    Too bad we no longer have Mr. Perry as an independent journalist on the job. These days, his website is leading the campaign promoting the smear.

  2. Vincent Castigliola
    August 15, 2016 at 14:45

    I took the time to read a transcript of the Trump speech in which Mr. Pillar finds “reckless invective”.

    I wonder whether Mr. Pillar actually read the speech or did he simply rely upon the advocacy of a third-party? Is not accusing someone of promoting assassination without reading their complete statement itself “reckless invective” ?

    From Trump’s speech, I find an attempt to emphasize the urgency of voting for Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton. I cannot find in the speech as a whole, a reasonable basis for conflating the assassination of an Israeli head of state (or anyone) with the words of Mr. Trump.

    On the other hand, perhaps there is a legitimate connection to be found with the actions, not just the words of the person who will become president if Mr. Trump does not. Was our former Secretary of State in her actions, complicit in the murder of the Libyan head of state? Did she not afterwards boast “we came, we saw, he died?”

    Whether or not one is concerned with the fact that the election of Mrs. Clinton’s would empower her to appoint, very powerful supreme court justices, is it worthy of concern that Mrs. Clinton would likely appoint Victoria Nuland and Mike Morell to positions of substantial power where they could repeat previous provocative acts of regime changes on Russia’s border or follow through on expressed plans to kill Russian and Iranian people?

    I see in Mr. Pillar’s essay more political advocacy than honest analysis. It would likely be offensive, but would it be unfounded to compare his publication here to the reports of CIA “analysts” who provided Bush/Chaney with a “justification” to invade Iraq?
    Regarding Iraq, in assessing Mr. Trump, might one also consider an interview he gave in 2007 in which he expressed, some 9 years ago, an insight regarding Iraq, not found in any other persons with a substantial chance to become president.



  3. John Ellis
    August 15, 2016 at 11:24

    “important a part of counterterrorism to pay attention
    to the attitudes of the larger populations that form
    the terrorists’ constituency”

    Not hardly, for this author is asking us to burn up our emotional capital by focusing on the effects of the problem, which makes it impossible to reach agreement on the root cause and go forward into the solution.

    For we need to pay attention to a large population called our greed driven 51% most wealthy voting majority, a war-hawk population that loved to nuke Japan and now loves the idea of provoking Russia to the point that we can nuke cremate not just 220,000 civilians, but millions upon millions.

  4. August 15, 2016 at 06:59

    I find it very strange the way many people come on this site screaming about the MSM. This is a site where you can get both sides of an issue. But when you get both sides you scream that authors like Paul Pillar and others writing for “Consortium News” are becoming just like the MSM. It destroys much of your outrage against the MSM. Writers on this site have far more knowledge and wisdom than most of the daily complainers. Please support this site and what it does. How can you determine who is more correct without hearing both sides of an issue?

    • dahoit
      August 16, 2016 at 12:41

      Echoing serial liars is not presenting the other side of the story,its almost like Trump is a Palestinian,instead of Americas choice.

  5. Evangelista
    August 13, 2016 at 20:53

    Donald is sure getting publicity mileage out of that “second amendment” reference.

    How many millions of dollars per day would the name-in-the-news coverage he’s getting cost if he was having to pay for it as campaign advertising?

    Has Trump spent any money yet on campaign advertising? Or is he, so far, running entirely on free publicity the over-reaction sets (of all stripes and colors) are throwing into the ring?

    Meanwhile, there are still “Major Republican Donors” who are hoping to quash Trump’s quest for the Whitehouse by ‘starving him out’ of the race, refusing to provide financial support to his campaign…

    Part of the reason, according to news reports, is, or was, Trump’s failuure to ‘play-ball’ by endorsing the current Republican House Speaker, the man in power, offering his endorsement to Ryan’s opponent, who spoke out in Trump’s favor, instead…

    Trump gets the news-coverage exposure campaign help provided by the outraged who want to refuse him their help, and he establishes himself to be independent. Not a party man, or automaton; even if it costs him to stand for himself.

    In addition, we who see the present system rigged to permit money to call the shots and make the decisions, through deciding whose campaign gets financed and whose is to die for want of funding, get a prime example of money-donors out and openly attempting to do exaclty that. Is it obvious, or not, that we need common-pot election financial contribution reform, so that the issues can be put to the forefront, whoever of the moneyed would or would not as soon see them suppressed, or starved out of media-presentation? Or would be starved out, if the candidate were less ‘Newsworthy’ that The Donald…

  6. Bill Bodden
    August 13, 2016 at 18:45

    the one about how if he loses in November it will be because the election was “rigged.”

    The System is Rigged (Only Not in the Way Trump Thinks) by Andrew Levine – http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/12/the-system-is-rigged-only-not-in-the-way-trump-thinks/

  7. GeorgyOrwell
    August 13, 2016 at 18:44

    “………may be how he intends to win but his words carry real danger……”

    Seems to me it’s exactly the opposite? Could this be exactly the way he intends to lose on purpose? Seems like that makes far more sense

  8. Bill Bodden
    August 13, 2016 at 18:42

    More to the present point, they provide attitudinal support, wittingly or not, to anti-U.S. terrorists and help to convince the latter that they are acting nobly on behalf of a cause much larger than themselves.

    “Attitudinal support” is not necessary for a would-be terrorist who is motivated by the deaths of family members and friends when Americans are complicit.

  9. Bill Bodden
    August 13, 2016 at 18:36

    It usually is only when an incident happens to be captured on video that the rest of us view directly the consequences of an entire subjugated population being viewed as illegitimate — as even having less of a right to live than those in the dominant population.

    With sufficient exposure to enough videos the public will be sufficiently desensitized and accept the portrayed violence as normal. Notice the videos of several black Americans being killed in cold blood then consider the protests they evoked. How many non-black Americans were visible in those protests? Very few, probably because non-blacks are not victimized and most have become inured to the crimes inflicted on a race with which they have no empathy.

  10. Bill Bodden
    August 13, 2016 at 18:21

    Israel is a disturbing demonstration of how far violent intolerance involving ethnic and religious prejudice can go. Americans should be vigilant regarding any signs of anything like this happening in the United States.

    How can Americans be vigilant against violence when it is an ingrained part of the American way of life and death – killing and acquiescence to killing at home (30K gun deaths year after year) and globally for decades (approving and condoning massacres in Gaza using armaments made in USA and wars against other nations in violation of international law) – in which the American people and our national leaders in the White House and Congress are all complicit?

  11. D5-5
    August 13, 2016 at 14:09

    I’m no Trump supporter whatever but I think it’s foolish to dismiss his second amendment comment as harmless BS. Over the past year Trump’s behavior in rallies has favored violent rhetoric aimed at dissenters and encouraged violence toward them. This second amendment comment comes contextually with his overall persona as a tough guy who would also commit violence himself. Insinuation is insinuation, and the comment, whatever it means, does insinuate, which could stimulate certain types of people. But what bothers me about Pillar’s piece here is that he seems to be suggesting some kind of innocence and fragility in the American populace and a purity in the system that oh woe is me could be disturbed by Trump, who is actually mild by comparison to the war-mongering brutality constantly being washed over the public, including from the Queen herself and the current Russia BS and her record including chortling over Gaddafi’s death.

  12. historicus
    August 13, 2016 at 08:37

    Inflammatory rhetoric was a staple of political campaigning in the early republic. So were fistfights in Congress, for that matter. Partisans for Jefferson and Hamilton conducted an especially savage media campaign throughout the 1790s. Washington himself was vilified by all sides in his second term. When Hamilton was slain by Vice President Burr, many newspaper editors called for the same fate for President Jefferson. Death threats were a dime a dozen in Andrew Jackson’s campaigns, for the most obvious example. People like Trump and Clinton have always hungered for political power in this country. At least they are not handling out bottles of whiskey (the Harrison campaign, 1840) or bags of money (the Buchanan campaign, 1856) in exchange for votes. I suppose those practices have become obsolete now that we have computerized voting machines that leave no actual ballots to physically count.

    • Bart
      August 14, 2016 at 10:37

      Don’t stop at 1856 when you have the lead up to election 2000 when the media went after Al Gore and so doing helped W. steal the White House. MoDo, Kit Steele, Ceci Connolly, Tweety and others lied, made up quotes for him, and critiqued his choice of clothes (remember Tweety and Gore’s three button suits?).

  13. exiled off mainstreet
    August 12, 2016 at 20:23

    It seems to me that the media’s twist on Trump’s ambiguous statement makes an earlier statement relevant: the Harpy’s statement in July 2008 that she was staying in the race until the convention despite the fact her defeat by Obama had been sealed by then in the hopes of a “Robert Kennedy” incident. This is a direct allusion to assassination as a reason she should stay in. The Trump statement had to be parsed and twisted to an unrecognizable extent. Meanwhile, Assange has indicated that the wikileaks whistleblower was likely liquidated by thugs hired by the Clinton campaign in Georgetown. The Clinton record of war crimes, meanwhile, is clear in Libya. It is also clear as noted again in Danny Haiphong’s column this week in blackagendareport.com that the raghead element sponsored by Clinton to take over Libya engaged in a mass murder of ethnic Africans in Sirte, Libya after their takeover of that city, since the Africans were largely supporters of Khaddafi, who had encouraged their settlement as part of his belief in African unity. Since the harpy seems to be basing her appeal on a desire to punish nuclear armed Russia, she is not only a documented war criminal but a threat to our survival. How can any person of good will support such a war criminal and fascist? It is not only criminal, it is stupid. I am disgusted and profoundly depressed by the whole thing.

    • Annie
      August 13, 2016 at 12:43

      I am really glad that you referred to Trumps comments as ambiguous which I think any fair minded person would do. Many bloggers on the left and right automatically saw his statement as a death threat then used it to push another story, as Mr. Pillar did in his piece. I rarely listen to mainstream media and prefer the net, but it seems too many writers for political blogs have become as unfair and unbalanced as mainstream media. When listening to Trump’s speech, when he was actually addressing his audience and before it became politically charged and offered up as a death threat, I didn’t interpret his comment to mean some 2nd amendment advocate should kill Clinton. I’m not a Trump supporter, and I don’t support many of NRA’s positions. I’m also upset by the overwhelming propaganda used to destroy a presidential candidate. To say it sets a very poor precedent is an understatement. Perhaps more frightening is the collusion of many in the political and non-political arena who are willing to make sure America maintains the status quo, and continues to pursue it’s militaristic ambitions, as well as protecting the interests of the corporate elite and the financial sector while the rest of American citizenry is poorly and inadequately represented by their elected government.

  14. Annie
    August 12, 2016 at 18:52

    I watched Trump’s speech and it never occurred to me he was suggesting that some gun toting 2nd amendment nut should shoot Hillary. Some of the journalists, or writers on the net are just as bad as main stream media in spewing propaganda. I saw the movie, Rabin, The Last Day. It was a consorted effort by many factions in Israel to kill Rabin, and their were even rabbi’s calling for his assassination. Funny that Pillar says nothing of Hillary’s remarks when she was asked to drop out of her presidential race in 2008 to which her response was you never know, look at what happened to Bobby Kennedy, and Obama is the first Black man to run for president. There was a bit of an uproar, but not even close to the nonsense about Trump’s comment that is all over the net and in the mainstream media. For Mr. Pillar to conflate the killing of Rabin and the statement made by Trump is an absurdity at best.

    • Exiled off mainstreet
      August 13, 2016 at 22:20

      Exactly. By bring this up based on a vague ambiguous statement Trump makes, it is sort of like an attorney making a mistake in cross examination which brings up a weakness in his own case, the fact that the harpy openly stated in 2008 that she was staying in the race in the hope that a “Robert Kennedy” incident would seal her victory. Meanwhile, this also brings up the strange accidental death of the UN figure who was to testify at a corruption trial involving a Chinese Clinton crony, and the death of the man Assange hints was the source of the wikileaks documents proving the fraudulent nature of the harpy’s nomination. It is also interesting that a lawyer bringing suit based on the wikileaks documents, which probably did not have a prayer of success anyway based on the post-legal nature of the yankee legal system, was also strangely “found dead”. The Clinton campaign seems to have the characteristics of a bad gangster movie and the sycophancy to power yankee press resembles the press of earlier fascist regimes. Anybody like this writer who invades the small remaining space of alternative skepticism provided by websites such as this one is like the snitch who informs to the prison power structure on resistance actions being taken by the prisoners.

      • Joe B
        August 14, 2016 at 18:51

        I am pleased that you recognize the “post-legal nature of the yankee legal system” but alarmed that “a lawyer bringing suit based on the wikileaks documents…was also strangely ‘found dead.'” If you have a link this would be appreciated. I expect to sue many federal judges for abuse of office, expecting only to make the public statement of course, and may be treated no better.

  15. John
    August 12, 2016 at 18:17

    Is Paul Pillar actually calling for the US to investigate thoughtcrime throughout the world?

    Is not the anti-Russia or anti-China or anti-Syria or anti-Iran rhetoric in the US at least as dangerous as anti-American rhetoric elsewhere (and with far less reason for the sentiment)?

    If we want to decrease anti-American sentiments throughout the world, wouldn’t the most effective strategy be to stop bombing the rest of the world (or threatening to), and to stop continuously overthrowing democratic governments, while supporting the most brutal monarchies and military coups?

    How is it that the Hillbots like Pillar demonize Drumpf for a possible threat (it is as likely he was talking about an electoral solution) but seems to be fine when Hitlery retweets an endorsement from someone who openly stated we should initiate acts of war against Iran an Russia?

    • Wm. Boyce
      August 15, 2016 at 13:04

      I think the writer was referring to stirring up domestic desire to kill political figures such as Ms. Clinton. She is already hated by many, and a lot of it has to do with misogyny more than anything, as very few Americans know or care much about foreign policy.

  16. Abe
    August 12, 2016 at 17:37

    “while the Republican sociopath was issuing his threat, the Obama State Department approved the sale of more than $1 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, no doubt to continue its bloody invasion of Yemen, where the UN recently estimated that two-thirds of the civilian casualties are caused by Saudi air strikes.

    “Where was the Democratic and Republican outrage against those very real, violent threats?

    “When Clinton wins the November election, will we stoop ever farther into an Orwellian world as our first ‘feminist’ president continues to shovel billions in arms to arguably the most anti-feminist dictatorship on the planet?”

    Clintonites Feign Outrage at Threats of Violence
    By Andy Thayer

  17. jdd
    August 12, 2016 at 16:43

    Wait a minute, DId not GW Bush overthrow and judicially murder the anti-terrorist leader of Iraq and Obama and Hillary play a key role in the assassination of anti-terrorist leader of Libya? Did not Hillary utter a blood-curdling joke upon learning of Qadaffi’s brutal murder when sodomized by sword. Have they not targeted Syria President Assad for murder by terrorist forces in the manner that Clinton appointee Victoria Nuland did in orchestrating the coup in Ukraine? Each Tuesday the sitting president of the United States sits down with the CIA and. acting as judge, jury and executioner, decided who he will kill that week, innocent bystanders be damned. The ongoing crimes of the Obama-Clinton team tend to get overlooked in the brouhaha over the incoherent and foolish ramblings of Donald Trump.

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 12, 2016 at 17:07

      jdd, great observation, but still there are those who would defend Hillary, Bush, and Obama, just because it’s different when done officially by our government. Listen to Mike Morell tell Charlie Rose, how we should kill Iranians, Syrians, and Russians, just to send then a message. Remember this, we are the good guys. Just for the record I agree with you jdd.


    • exiled off mainstreet
      August 12, 2016 at 21:15

      These, according to Assange, likely include the liquidation by professional thugs of the man who leaked the documentation proving that the democratic nomination had been obtained by fraud. The strange death of the former UN official who was due to testify in a corruption trial of a Clinton-linked Chinese financier reveals the true nature of the Clinton cabal. They sort of remind me of B-movie gangsters. Any person carrying water for this organization is beneath contempt.

      • Joe Tedesky
        August 12, 2016 at 22:15

        Beware, all of our speculation over these strange deaths (I think it’s up to six) is going to make us all be bestowed with the title of our being called conspiracy nuts. While some of you may want to investigate these murders and any link there is to Hillary Clinton, I’m still trying to figure out how in Iowa Lucky Hillary won all six coin tosses. The Clintons lucky streak has lasted way beyond the odds of it’s overdue date, and all bets are on to when that lucky streak will end. Let’s hope sooner than later, that the Clintons luck will run out. Kind of gives a person a reason to live for, if you get my drift.

        • Exiled off mainstreet
          August 13, 2016 at 22:12

          I’m sure they had plenty two-headed coins available just like they gamed Nevada, and the wikileaks documents prove that the entire primary was rigged. How anybody with any remnants of self-respect can vote for this pile of excrement is beyond me, and I’m definitely no longer friendly with erstwhile friends who drink this foul kool-aid. Now that blackagendareport (Danny Haiphong) published again this week the fact that Clinton’s jihadis perpetrated a mass liquidation of ethnic sub-Saharan Africans as “mercenaries” in the wake of their takeover of Sirte, Libya (I’m not sure, but seem to remember it was Khaddafi’s home town) will all of those who mention this be called conspiracy theorists? Since all of this is only possible because the media is pretty much acting like a “ministry of truth” it is indeed profoundly depressing. One positive aspect is that Green VP candidate Ajamu Baraka has been, I believe, associated with blackagendareport in the past, so if Trump thinks it is too radioactive, maybe the Green campaign will mention it as part of their outreach for Black votes. By the way, the lastest campaign flap over Obama and the Harpy being founders of ISIS is proven by the Libya thing, which, if it did not found ISIS, armed them. If this can somehow move beyond the ability of the power structure to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, it should put paid to the harpy’s “firewall” of minority voters.

          • Joe Tedesky
            August 14, 2016 at 00:49

            I actually had encountered this conspiracy nut problem today. I was with four friends of mine who don’t quite dig into the news the way you and I do. All four of my friends had a real problem accepting the ‘the 911 dancing Israeli’s’ story. I had to suck it in, and let go of pursuing this subject, because they just could not get their heads around it. I blame this on the MSM, and the media’s purposely avoiding their responsibility to report the truth. Like most of you here, I spend a lot of time reading the various alternative news sites, to learn what I know. Most normal people either don’t have the time, or the will to endeavor into finding out the whole story. For this reason I feel sad for my fellow Americans, because when the bad things eventually happen they are going to be clueless to what and who was really behind whatever catastrophe that awaits us comes to be. I’m not looking to be right, or have the ability to say ‘I told you so’, I just want everyone to know what there is to know. It’s one thing without a draft that Americans don’t have any skin in the game, and it’s another thing to be lied too and kept in the dark. Having said this, I’m afraid it’s going to have to take something awfully big and bad to wake America up, and I’m not looking forward to that in anyway. Now, I know why my Dad mostly read the comic section.

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