Exclusive: President Trump may see his tough-guy rhetoric as just part of the reality TV show that he’s putting on, but violent talk often goes hand-in-hand with real-life violence as in the Philippines, notes Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently confirmed that President Trump will soon meet his Philippines counterpart, President Rodrigo Duterte, during a tour of Asia to “underscore his commitment to long-standing United States alliances and partnerships.”
The meeting will give Trump a chance to reaffirm his April 29 telephone call to “congratulate” Duterte on “what a great job” he has been doing to fight the scourge of drugs. “Keep up the good work, you are doing an amazing job,” Trump gushed.
Human rights workers don’t share Trump’s enthusiasm. They accuse Duterte of presiding over the extrajudicial murder of more than 10,000 people — including dozens of children and several noted political opponents — by police death squads in a nationwide war against drug addicts and dealers. Although the bloodbath has been condemned by United Nations-sponsored investigators, not a single police officer has been convicted.
The country’s Catholic Church has begun tolling church bells every day to acknowledge the victims. Manila’s archbishop recently offered sanctuary and legal assistance to police officers and vigilantes who come forward to testify about their participation in the government’s campaign of mass murder.
Yet Trump apparently finds all this easy to overlook. He and Duterte have become brothers in arms.
The two leaders have much in common, starting with a loathing of Barack Obama. The Philippines president must have warmed Trump’s heart by calling President Obama a “son of a whore,” an epithet he also used to describe another Trump enemy, Pope Francis.
Equally important, Duterte has been kind to Trump’s commercial interests, which include a multi-million-dollar licensing deal that put Trump’s name on a 57-floor apartment building in Manila. Last November, Duterte appointed as his new trade envoy to Washington the chairman of the company building the Trump Tower. For months thereafter — until the Washington Post began asking questions — the project continued to feature promotional videos by President Trump and his daughter Ivanka, lauding the tower as a “milestone in Philippine real estate history.”
Violence and Vigilantism
On a deeper emotional level, the two men share a fascination with violence and vigilantism.
Donald Trump boasted early in the 2016 presidential campaign that he could “stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing any of his supporters. The wildly popular Duterte did him one better, telling a group of businessmen last December that he personally did murder suspected criminals in the city where he was once mayor:
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police] that if I can do it why can’t you. And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike, and I would just patrol the streets looking for trouble also. I was really looking for a confrontation so that I could kill.”
Although one senior Philippines official suggested that “Duterte Harry” was just exaggerating for effect, a former hit man for the Davao death squad testified before the country’s Senate that Duterte personally gunned down as many as eight victims between 1998 and 2000.
His explosive story was subsequently corroborated under oath by a retired police officer and death squad leader who recalled that Mayor Duterte told his unit to kill their victims and then “throw them in the ocean or in the quarry. Bury them. Make sure there are no traces of the bodies.”
This July, speaking before a group of law enforcement officials on Long Island, Trump sounded much like Duterte as he painted a frightening picture of communities across the country victimized by ruthless gang members who “butcher those little girls, they kidnap, they extort, they rape, they rob . . . they prey on children. . . they have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields.”
Trump then praised ICE Director Tom Homan for working to “rid out nation of cartels and criminals who are preying on our citizens.” Noting how much he liked Homan’s “very nasty” and “very mean” looks, the President recalled asking him how tough foreign gangs really are: “He said, they’re nothing compared to my guys. Nothing. And that’s what you need. Sometimes that’s what you need, right?”
Unleashing Death Squads
Trump sounded like he might not mind unleashing death squads himself if he were not more restrained than Duterte. “The laws are stacked against us, but we’re ending that,” he promised.
As it was, Trump promised to “support our police like our police have never been supported before” so they could wipe out vicious immigrant gangs. “One by one, we’re liberating our American towns . . . like in the old Wild West. . . And when you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay? (Laughter and applause.)”
A couple of weeks later, Duterte again showed Trump how it really works when there are no holds barred. Security forces in Manila and a neighboring province killed 60 people in a sweep aimed at rounding up drug users and dealers. Duterte said he would pardon and promote any police officers involved in extrajudicial murders, and ordered police to shoot any human rights observers on the scene.
“Let’s kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” he said.
Coincident with Duterte’s expressed blood lust, Trump again unveiled his dark id. He tweeted, in reaction to the Barcelona terror attack but with the Philippines in mind, “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!”
The story behind that tweet is ugly. Trump was referring to an apocryphal story he told during the Republican presidential primary about General “Black Jack” Pershing who led counterinsurgency operations against Muslim rebels after U.S. troops invaded the Philippines in 1898 to replace Spain as colonial ruler.
“He caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage,” Trump claimed, “and . . . dipped 50 bullets in pig’s blood [which is considered haram]. . . And he has his men load up their rifles and he lined up the 50 people and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, you go back to your people and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem.”
The moral of the story, Trump said, is “we’ve got to start getting tough and we’ve got to start being vigilant and we’ve got to start using our heads or we’re not gonna have a country, folks.”
In other words, Trump, like Duterte, glorifies state-sanctioned murder.
We have a long way to go before the United States resembles the Philippines — but not an inconceivably long way. Trump’s violent rhetoric, reflecting his obvious admiration for death squad tactics, is chipping steadily away at the legal norms that help keep our nation civilized. His planned visit to the killer of Manila next month should remind us all of the danger Trump represents to American democracy and human rights.
Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international relations and history.
in china, after the liberation, chairman mao facing 50 % of his adult population on opium and others gave the
dealers and the users 90 days to clean up. after that period, he gave the rights of each villages to form their own
peoples ‘s tribunals and they executed at least 250,000 drug dealers and users. which means, he won the war on drugs. not so in western countries, as drug dealers are not afraid to show themselves in public (bikers and others)
as our leaders admit to have lost the war on drugs, they legitimise cannabis and are pushing also for other drugs.
the responsibility of parents is to protect their children, but nobody comes to their rescue, not the hollywood and
music culture influencing our children. their influence is powerfull. as soon as somebody tries to fight the problem
these human rights fellows brand names like facism etc. but never have solutions. look at the opposition of
marijuana, if they win on 1 election, they are defeated at the next one. after they have won, it is going to be very
hard to reverse it. As revenue comes in parents and victims will pay for it. like casinos, when it is installed
it profits a few at the expense of the peoples that lives in their surroundings never calculation their social costs.
KILL…KILL…KIL… the more you kill, the more you pleased me..!
To follow up on Oz’s comment:
At the risk of my membership in the internet commenters union, I don’t want to be completely reductive about this, but anyone writing for ConsortiumNews would I hope recognize that all the deep Liberal Concern we hear in the U.S. media about Pres. Duterte is not *entirely* to do with his violent crackdown at home, but maybe could also be related to reports such as this, from a year ago (in Time Magazine):
“The Chinese and American military maneuvers in the South China Sea formed a threatening backdrop to South China Sea geopolitics, even as tensions have eased dramatically between two key players: China and the Philippines. Last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited Beijing, lavishly praised his hosts and proclaimed his nation’s ‘separation’ from the U.S., a longtime ally of the Philippines. Agreeing to bilateral talks on the South China Sea dispute, which Beijing had been urging for years, Duterte also played down an international tribunal’s July ruling in favor of the Philippines, which dismissed China’s historic claims over the South China Sea.”
Now, in the months since, Duterte has been more confrontational with China on the South China Sea, announcing he would strengthen Philippine occupation of China-claimed islets it controls (I don’t know how much he actually did about it), but he has nonetheless shown that under his governance the Philippines may not be the reliable player in Team USA it always has been.
I’m not dismissing the violence and lawlessness Duterte has unleashed against his own people, but I think everyone should give some thought to why we hear so much about that, and nothing at all in the MSM about, say, Shiites struggling for their rights in Bahrain, or corruption and mysterious killings of government critics in post-coup Ukraine, or any number of other situations around the world which might arouse more mainstream Liberal Concern were the local governments less amenable to U.S. dominance.
David G the concern you have is what I was referencing too in my comment above. Here is an article from Oct 7 2016 from thehindu.com ….
“Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday dared the United States’ CIA to try and oust him, as he branded Western critics of his deadly crime war as “animals” and vowed many more killings.
In two fiery speeches to mark his 100 days in office, Mr. Duterte repeatedly raised the prospect of local or foreign opponents seeking to remove him from power in an effort to stop the violence. But he insisted he would not be intimidated.
“You want to oust me? You want to use the CIA? Go ahead,” Mr. Duterte said in a speech in his southern home town of Davao city, while railing against U.S. President Barack Obama and other critics.
Last month Mr. Duterte had accused the CIA of plotting to kill him, but gave no specifics.”
So when you think back it would seem reasonable to believe that the CIA has a mean bone to pick with Duterte. My fear is that the noise over Duterte will be in time discovered to be a lot of the same noise we all heard about Gaddafi killing babies, and handing out Viagra blue for his soldiers to be able to rape better. The only thing that gives any weight to this story, is because it is Jonathan Marshall I will error on the side to if there is smoke there must be fire, and hope that I got it right.
Deception is heavy in the air, for these complicated times we live in David G as you well know, but our being sure to rein down on the guilty must be absolute, or we will have proved to be no better than those of who we have accused. Joe
Duterte had been in power for barely a year, when the world’s mass murderers par excellence accused him for human rights violations, support for police brutality etc. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. And Marshall’s article is again one sided and off the mark. His hostility to Trump has affected his judgement.
Philippines isn’t a peaceful country with a mild drug problem. Entire neighborhoods have been under the control of drug barons. This is a country where ISIS made a sudden appearance and seized a town. So to demand from Duterte act as if he was president of Iceland is laughable and hypocritical, especially when the criticism comes from war criminals of such a record that make him look like a dog molester at worst.
And yet, one cannot avoid the suspicion that this self-righteous indignation may have something to do with the fact that Duterte, for the first time in decades has attempted to pull Philippines out of Washington’s orbit. Even the military action by ISIS looks suspicious in this context. This is yet another leader whose popularity is sky-high, but is demonized by the western establishment and its mouthpieces in the MSM.
Beautifully writen and down to earth.
your reply is excellent and covering the problem well.
Thanks for the reply, Joe.
Your first comment went up while I was writing mine; that’s why I didn’t acknowledge it along with Oz’s.
Fwiw, I’m not too dubious about the bare facts of what is being reported about Duterte’s actions: I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Kuwaiti incubator babies *factually*. And I respect people who have sincere concerns about what may be going on in the Philippines.
The problem is the use of the facts as PR for concealed ends far distant from the rule of law or humanitarianism.
I have connections, and I’ve done my hearing away from the MSM. The MSM may be trying to play it (for whatever reason), but there’s no fakery happening, the shit there is real.
I’m not disputing the accuracy of the reporting *at all*.
My point has to with the U.S. government’s and MSM’s (and today, CN’s) use of supposedly humanitarian concerns to manipulate public opinion to serve very different ends.
After all, there *were* civilians trapped in eastern Aleppo as the Syrian army retook it, and of course they suffered. And Saddam Hussein *did* “gas his own people”, at some point, years before the U.S. invasion.
The facts can be accurate and still function as propaganda.
I’m going to sit this one out, and put my hopes on the Filipino people get justice served.
Oh Mr Marshall if it were not for your credibility, and your expert reporting, I would hedge away from any idea of my possibly once again jumping onto the bandwagon to demonize another country’s leader, since our war criminals took out Gaddafi the way they did. Only if Duterte is as bad as you describe, then why can’t an international body of human rights advocates, aided by a UN military presence go in and take out this horrific leader? I mean I’m just asking.
Trump is one scary dude when he starts his rants about how to take down the bad guys. Maybe Trump deep down is a police loving nut, but I also see another angle being served. There have been articles written about this, and most of it is clearly out in the open, but the question is, is Trumping stacking his deck for his own personal security by showering his love over the military and the police security, agencies we have so many of? History tells us, of how many an emperor retained their throne through having a tight and personal relationship with the army. So could Trump be just duplicating an old Roman Emperor trick? Who knows, but Trump being what he appears to be, seems like he would not hesitate one bit to call out the guard and put in place Marshall Law, if he seemed so fit to do. Fascism is now officially here in America people, so enjoy it if it makes you feel ‘great again’.
Trump is a typical fascist monster. Might makes right is their mantra.
Joe, of course you’re being a bit sarcastic. Just like with the crimes that Israel commits (at a much larger scale), it goes unpunished because of its BIG friend the US. The Philippines, just as every other two-bit dictator that bows to the US has, is the recipient of the “free pass.”
Yes, Duterte IS as bad as noted in this article.
Wonder how Trump and his disdain for non-white people is going to hold up dealing with a dark-skinned person like Duterte.
I can’t help but suspect that Duterte has become the latest “Hitler of the Month Club” candidate for Regime Change not because of his War on Drugs, but because unlike his predecessors he he does not act as the local comprador for the Anglo-American oligarchy.
So the poor guy gets a pass?
Here’s what your deep state looks like folks. Call it the Great Satan, since it is inspired by the actual Satan.
The darkness wears many faces.
If an ISIS suicide bomber would do his thing in the presence of Mr. Trump, there would be dancing in the streets worldwide. Among the dancers would be Mrs. Trump.
What do you expect from a vicious white racist fascist thug? You get the whole package in Trump.
Same thing we got from Obama, except for the spoken word, oh so precious reach around feel good manual release LIEberals need so desperately. That’s what I expected, so far it hasn’t disappointed in the least.
Any chance to take a swipe at Obama, eh?
I wish you would just shut up about killers around the world,before you clean up your own mess!You have littered the world with your own vigilantes, an d no matter how you name them, that is what they are, no matter what you call them!They have no legal right to do, what they are doing around the world!Spreading democracy and freedom, my ass!
A rather onesided analysis. No mention of the American inspired and rampant gun culture that has for decades placed their most vulnerable at the end of a gun barrel. Much like Puerto Rico, their economic life, has also been held hostage by corrupt beneficiaries and likewise, enforced by the law of the gun. Yet, isn’t that also the praxis of imperialism?