Politics & Policy

Trump’s Praise for Saddam Hussein Is an Insult to the Veterans He Claims to Love

A Marine tears down a poster of Hussein in Safwan, Iraq, in 2003. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Not content to stop at adopting the radical Left’s feverish “Bush lied, people died” trutherism, Donald Trump is now praising Saddam Hussein as a man who “made a living off killing terrorists.” No, really:

Here’s the quote, in context:

Now, I’m a Republican, I’m a conservative, so many lies are made. But the truth is, we started the war in Iraq. We spent $2 trillion on that war. We lost thousands of lives. We have wounded warriors who I love all over the place. It shouldn’t have started — we would have been so much better off if Bush and the rest of ’em went to the beach and didn’t do anything. If you had Saddam Hussein — who was a bad guy and all of that, but he made a living off killing terrorists — now, if you want to become a terrorist, you go to Iraq, that’s like the Harvard of terrorism, OK? So . . . look, it was not a great job.

It is hard to overstate the malice and ignorance on display here.

Hussein didn’t “make a living off killing terrorists.” He was a terrorist — an evil mastermind who worked every day to try to kill Americans, kill Israelis, and destabilize the Middle East. He was one of the prime financial supporters of a suicide-bombing campaign that caused greater relative casualties in Israel than 9/11 did in the United States. He funded Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. He plotted to kill a former president of the United States. He gave one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Abu Nidal, access to a government office. He sheltered Abu Abbas, responsible for the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, and Abdul Yasin, a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

As if all of those crimes weren’t enough, Hussein repeatedly defied U.N. Security Council resolutions, invaded his neighbors, committed genocide against his own people, and persisted in attempting to shoot down and kill American pilots enforcing humanitarian no-fly zones. Of course, he also maintained a massive stockpile of chemical weapons.

#share#In the bigger picture, the conventional wisdom about Hussein was wrong. He worked through his “faith movement” to begin transforming Iraq into an “Islamist state,” fueling the rise of radical, Salafist Islam that ultimately brought us ISIS. Respected Middle East analyst Kyle Orton wrote just yesterday in the New York Times that Hussein “incubated” “religious militancy and sectarianism” and “prepared the ground for an armed Salafist movement.”

“The Islamic State was not created by removing Saddam Hussein’s regime,” Orton concludes. “It is the afterlife of that regime.”

None of this seems to bother Trump, who has made ignorance an asset throughout his improbable presidential campaign. Locked in a reality of his own making, he can nurse his rage against Jeb Bush by telling himself “truths” that exist only in his own mind, plucked from the intellectual abyss of the conspiracy-mongering Left.

It was only a matter of time before Trump’s well-known affection for strongmen veered into an actual compliment for one of modern history’s most vicious dictators. In Trump-world, everything is extreme. Bush can’t have made a mistake; he must have lied. Saddam Hussein was strong, so he must have been better than almost anyone in the West thought.

#related#Trump’s sudden rhetorical turn toward the ideological fringes makes his oft-expressed love for veterans all the more offensive. It amounts to a dismissal, a contemptuous pat on the head for all us fools and dupes who volunteered to be participants in the greatest crime in American history. The families of the fallen can’t feel good that their sons and daughters died as victims of a deceitful president, deposing a man who actually “fought terrorists.”

Many of us volunteered because we knew more than Trump did. We knew who Saddam Hussein was, and we knew that defeating not just him but the Salafist movement he incubated was vital to American national security. Trump’s ignorance isn’t just strategically dangerous — it minimizes the meaning of American sacrifice. If he really loved veterans, he’d stop insulting our intelligence and complimenting our enemies.

— David French is an attorney, a staff writer at National Review, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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