Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast - In a season full of comments we never thought we’d hear during a modern American presidential campaign, this one, spoken at the debate Tuesday night by of course Donald Trump, is arguably the most shocking: “I would be very, very firm with families. Frankly, that will make people think because they may not care much about their lives, but they do care, believe it or not, about their families’ lives.”
It’s not the
first time Trump has said it, but it hasn’t gotten the focus it
deserves. This idea of punishing or somehow threatening the family
members of criminals has a name. It’s called collective punishment. And
it has a history, which as you’d imagine is not pretty—think, oh,
Stalin, for starters. And finally it has a status in international law.
Under the Geneva Conventions, collective punishment is a war crime.
punishment can take and has taken different forms. It doesn’t have to
mean family members. In many cases it has meant the
relocation/eradication of entire villages in response to rebellious or
perceived treasonous acts by a few. It might also mean a kind of
generalized and indiscriminate violence visited upon a population.
Scholars debate, but surely Southerners would all agree, that William
Tecumseh Sherman engaged in collective punishment during his infamous
March to the Sea. You know, the one through that state, Georgia, where
in the latest poll Trump holds a 27-point lead.
in many cases, it does refer to families. Trump’s antecedents here are
chilling. The Nazis used collective punishment against Poles and others
who harbored Jews. The website of Yad Vashem tells the horrifying story of the Ulma family,
who hid a Jewish family on their farm in 1942. They got ratted out, and
the entire family, including six living children and one more in utero,