At a rally in North Carolina Tuesday night the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump called the brutal former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “a really bad guy.”
He should have stopped there, but surprisingly he offered a “but.”
“But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists,” said Trump. “He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were terrorists – it was over.”
Suggesting Hussein killed terrorists “well” is a bizarre, if not shockingly scary, comment from a leading presidential candidate.
Hussein led one of the three nations considered the “axis of evil” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The “Butcher of Baghdad,” as he was known, was a major sponsor of international terrorism, including attacks on Israel where he used scud missiles. Hussein’s security forces would regularly torture political opponents, including dripping acid on their skin, burning them with blowtorches, and ripping out their fingernails. Hussein also murdered 5,000 of his own people, lethally gassing them in 1988.
Last December, Trump made reference to the Halabja attack saying, “Then Saddam Hussein throws a little gas, everyone goes crazy, oh he’s using gas.” The “little gas” was the largest chemical-weapons attack on civilians ever.
The Clinton campaign responded, “Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds.”
On the Republican side, Trump’s comment left House Speaker Paul Ryan bewildered.
“Saddam Hussein was one the 20th century’s most evil people,” said Ryan. “He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons.”
Trump has said that former President George W. Bush should have been impeached for taking the country to war in Iraq.
“Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” said Trump tonight. “You want to be a terrorist, you go to Iraq. It’s like Harvard, O.K.? So sad. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. We need somebody with a tough temperament.”
Earlier in the year, during a GOP presidential debate, he also said that Bush was responsible for 9/11.
Bush and his father, former President George H. W. Bush, have said they do not support Trump and will not attend the Republican convention later this month.
Hussein was captured by American troops in 2003. He was executed in 2006 after being found guilty for crimes against humanity.