Most people would be hard-pressed to think of positive things to say about reviled dictators like Saddam Hussein, Benito Mussolini and Kim Jong-un – but for Donald Trump, it’s apparently not a problem.
During a campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina, Tuesday evening, the presumptive GOP nominee praised late Iraqi dictator Hussein for being “so good” at killing terrorists.
“He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights – they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. You want to be a terrorist, you go to Iraq. It’s like Harvard. Okay? So sad.”
It’s not the first time Trump has expressed admiration for Hussein and other world leaders who have committed atrocities against their own people. In October 2015 the mogul said he believed “100 percent” that Iraq and Libya would be much better off if their respective former dictators Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi were still in power because of their skill at killing terrorists.
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He also once dismissed Hussein’s use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, saying, “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy. ‘Oh he’s using gas!’ ”
Trump has repeatedly lauded Russian President Vladi mir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un for their ability to control their people.
“If you look at North Korea, this guy, I mean, he’s like a maniac, okay? And you’ve got to give him credit,” Trump said of Kim Jong-un during a campaign event in Iowa in January. “He goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one.”
And Trump has embraced Putin as a strong leader who he would “get along very well with.” “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” Trump said. In this case the admiration is mutual. When the Russian strongman complimented Trump as “bright,” “talented” and “an absolute leader in the presidential race,” the billionaire businessman said the praise was “a great honor.”
He also said his critics at the time, including Sen. John McCain, were just “jealous” because Putin hadn’t praised them.
And then there was the time Trump retweeted a quote attributed to Mussolini, the founder of the fascist movement.
Trump claimed then that he didn’t know the quote was from Mussolini – but he didn’t seem to care either. “It’s a very good quote,” he said in February. “I didn’t know who said it, but what difference does it make if it was Mussolini or somebody else?”
Asked if he wanted to be associated with Mussolini, Trump replied, “No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes. Hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”
This week, Trump’s latest comments on Hussein have caught the attention of critics on both sides of the aisle, including Republican lawmakers and members of the GOP’s foreign-policy establishment, reports The Washington Post.
“This follows a disturbing trend of Trump relating to the way brutal tyrants executed policy in their countries. I do think that there’s something dark about Trump’s view of the world,” Republican strategist Tim Miller tells the newspaper.
“When a person running for president continually compliments brutal, undemocratic dictators and their methods, I think it’s fair to have some concerns that those are methods that they might be interested in deploying if necessary,” adds Miller, a former Jeb Bush aide who has played an active role in the anti-Trump movement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump, appeared taken aback when he heard about Trump’s praise of Hussein, CNN reports. “He was one of the 20th century’s most evil people,” said Ryan. “He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons.”
And Hillary Clinton‘s campaign was quick to pounce on Trump’s comments, with senior campaign adviser Jake Sullivan saying, “Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds.”
“Trump yet again lauded Saddam Hussein as a great killer of terrorists, noting with approval that he never bothered to read anyone their rights,” Sullivan said in a statement. “In reality, Hussein’s regime was a sponsor of terrorism – one that paid families of suicide bombers who attacked Israelis, among other crimes.”
“Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”