Trump is preparing for more American carnage

In order to run to Ron DeSantis' right, Trump to paint a picture so grim of America he'll bring back firing squads

By Heather Digby Parton


Published February 15, 2023 9:00AM (EST)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

When Donald Trump took office in 2017 he was determined to best Barack Obama in every way and, as absurd as it was, he was especially determined that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize as Obama had done in his first year in office. Trump even went so far as to ask then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to nominate him (which he dutifully did). At times he also went around saying that because a couple of right-wing European randos had also nominated him, he'd actually won it, claiming that he was bringing world peace and so deserved it.

This ruse played into Trump's cultivated image as some sort of peacenik, despite the fact that he is one of the most bloody-minded public figures in American history. Sure, he managed to avoid getting into a major war during his term but that was mostly a combination of luck and adversaries who knew a sucker when they saw one. But it was always clear from his history and his rhetoric that Donald Trump had a very violent imagination. Recall his repeated retelling of assaults by undocumented immigrants and gang members, mesmerizing his followers with explicit, lurid details. Here's one from the 2018 midterm campaign:

Trump is a big believer in summary execution. One of his other favorite tales during that campaign was the account of Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier in Afghanistan who had wandered off and was captured by the Taliban who then brutally tortured him for nearly five years before he was returned to the United States. The right called him a deserter and stated that five years of torture wasn't bad enough. Trump said repeatedly that back in the good old days, "when we were strong," Bergdahl would have been summarily executed, at which point Trump would pantomime committing a killing, to huge cheers from his supporters.

His worst was this apocryphal horror story:

They were having terrorism problems, just like we do. And he caught 50 terrorists who did tremendous damage and killed many people. And he took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs' blood — you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs' blood. And he had his men load his 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. Okay? Twenty-five years, there wasn't a problem."

Again his supporters cheered madly.

It was always clear from his history and his rhetoric that Donald Trump had a very violent imagination.

This was the essence of what they loved about Trump. He was refreshingly open about his grisly anti-social fantasies in a way that validated their own. He unleashed their primitive beast.

Trump was particularly in love with the idea of imposing the death penalty for drug crimes. Early in his term, he shocked his foreign policy advisers by inviting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, complimenting him on his brutal and deadly drug policy. Trump told him, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem." That job was "a bloody extermination campaign against suspected drug dealers and users, which has included open calls for extrajudicial murders and promises of pardons and immunity for the killers." Throughout his term Trump came back to the idea of quick executions of drug dealers, often telling his staff "you know the Chinese and Filipinos don't have a drug problem. They just kill them."

Trump didn't make as much of that sort of thing in 2020 but it looks like he's reviving his ghastly homicidal rhetoric for the 2024 campaign.

A new campaign video in which Trump promises to "wage war" on drug cartels by "deploying all necessary military assets" including special forces and cyberwarfare capabilities was just released. In it, Trump is reprising his commitment to "quick trials and immediate execution" of drug dealers. At his recent rallies, he's said that they will then "send the bullet to the family and have them pay for the bullet." (No mention if it will be dipped in pig's blood.) 

Furthermore, Rolling Stone is reporting that Trump is "still committed to expanding the use of the federal death penalty and bringing back banned methods of execution" such as firing squad, hanging, and "possibly even by guillotine." He has "mused about televising footage of executions, including showing condemned prisoners in the final moments of their lives" and is also intrigued by the idea of group executions.

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Trump has long been a huge fan of the death penalty, making one of his earliest forays into politics when he took out that famous full-page ad back in 1988:

He refused to apologize after the Central Park Five were exonerated, suggesting they weren't actually innocent.

As it happens, Trump did get his chance to "bring back the death penalty" when he and then-Attorney General Bill Barr removed the federal moratorium and went on a killing spree in the final months of his presidency, executing 13 people. He had pardons for his cronies and war criminals but didn't spare the time to even look at reports from the Office of the Pardon Attorney recommending clemency. 

Trump's bloodlust knows no bounds.

Ron DeSantis may be running as hard as he can to capture the right wing with his war on "woke". He's banning books and curbing voting rights and humiliating LGBTQ kids and parents in order to suck up to the people who think the biggest threat to America is drag shows and a gender neutral Potatohead doll. Trump has something else in mind altogether: he's going to go even further to the right than DeSantis by running a savage, bloodthirsty campaign against crime with proposals to crack down hard with the full force of the law and even vigilantism if necessary. He will paint a portrait of America that is so dangerous and chaotic that only he can put it straight: American carnage, redux.

Trump was always a warmonger, it's just that his war was always going to be waged against his enemies at home. Can DeSantis beat that by fighting teenage trans kids? 

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Commentary Death Penalty Firing Squads Executions