Because Republicans’ “huge tax cut for the wealthy” schtick isn’t moving the needle with their voters, Trump and the GOP have settled on their tried and true message to turn out their base: racist fearmongering. The vehicle for their latest scare attempt is a rag-tag band of asylum seekers weeks away from reaching the U.S. border.
Republicans and right-wing media have been pushing baseless conspiracy theories that the caravan is funded by “leftists,” including George Soros, who was the recipient of an explosive device from the MAGA bomber. The pipe bombs failed to detonate, but the conspiracy theories have already resulted in a body count. A right-wing gunman fearful of a Jewish-led “invasion,” shot up a synagogue last weekend, killing 11 people in the deadliest anti-semitic attack in U.S. history.
Of course, Trump isn’t letting any of these attacks slow down his efforts to whip his fan base into a racist frenzy. In fact, he’s accelerating them. He’s tasked Defense Secretary Mattis with dispatching thousands of U.S. troops to “secure the border” against the threat of unarmed families—still almost a thousand miles away from the border—fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries. He’s also given troops orders to combat any potential rock throwing with deadly force.
He recently said he considers rocks as dangerous as firearms,
“I will tell you this, anybody throwing stones, rocks, like they did to Mexico and the Mexican military, Mexican police, where they badly hurt police and soldiers of Mexico, we will consider that a firearm. Because there’s not much difference. When you get hit in the face with a rock, which as you know, that was very violent a few days ago. Very, very violent.”
The Nigerian Army was apparently listening, because they used Trump’s remarks to justify slaughtering Islamic protesters who threw rocks at them during a recent protest. In a (since deleted) tweet they featured Trump’s threats against imaginary rock-throwers in the caravan saying “Please watch and make your own deductions.”
Melanie and John, would you care to comment on these screenshots from the Nigerian Army’s verified handle? The video in their tweet was about 1 minute-long. pic.twitter.com/97jbmfphqV— Rosemary: is the R in VAR! (@RMAjayi) November 2, 2018
According to Amnesty International, the army killed almost 40 protesters, shooting some of them in the back when they tried to flee. The New York Times received a statement from a Nigerian Army spokesman crediting Trump and using a dubious justification from the Bible.
“We released that video to say if President Trump can say that rocks are as good as a rifle, who is Amnesty International?” he said. “What are they then saying? What did David use to kill Goliath? So a stone is a weapon.”
(They might want to check their Old Testament again, because David was supposed to be the good guy in that story. Also it was, you know, a story and not a real-life event.)
Of course there’s no way of knowing if Nigeria’s post hoc justification of the atrocity means they believe Trump’s words gave them permission to commit it, but it’s still yet another stain the Trump administration has brought on the reputation of the United States. There was a time, not too long ago, when our country stood up to authoritarians, dictators, and human rights abusers rather than courting them as partners and allies. Hopefully we can return to that time soon, but in the meantime the bodies continue to pile up.
h/t: New York Times