The Corner

Trump, Saddam, and Us

Yesterday, Donald Trump was at it again, defending and praising Saddam Hussein. To see the video, go here.

Trump has long said that Saddam, bad as he was, killed terrorists. Therefore, the U.S. and its allies should not have deposed him. This is what Trump said again yesterday.

Specifically, he said, “Do you know what he did well?” (Trump was speaking of Saddam, remember.) “He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read ’em the rights. They didn’t talk. They were a terrorist, it was over!”

No one wants to remember Saddam Hussein and Baathist Iraq — because everyone prefers to denounce George W. Bush and the Iraq War — but let’s review, just a little.

Saddam Hussein was a shelterer and funder of terrorists. Abu Nidal was in Iraq. So was Abu Abbas, the leader of the Achille Lauro hijacking. (This was the episode in which a wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, was shot in the head and dumped into the sea.) Zarqawi, of al-Qaeda, was in Iraq.

So was Khala Khadr al-Salahat, believed to have made the Lockerbie bomb. (More than 250 people were killed in that act of terror.) So was Abdul Rahman Yasin, a 1993 World Trade Center bomber. So, in all likelihood, was another 1993 bomber, Ramzi Yousef.

Saddam supervised terror training camps in his country. And, famously, or infamously, he paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers 10 grand. Later, feeling more generous, he upped the reward to 25 grand.

I concede that not many care about this, because what’s important is to denounce Bush and the war. But listen: It’s possible to oppose the Iraq War, and Bush, without defending and praising Saddam Hussein. But this, the Republican presidential nominee can’t do.

The President Bushes — 41 and 43 — have generally refrained from political comment in their post-presidential years. By and large, I admire this reticence. It is an old-fashioned virtue. But sometimes even virtues can go too far: and I think 43 should speak out about Trump, Iraq, and Saddam.

Bush is virtually friendless, I realize. The Left hates him, of course, and so does the Trumpite-Buchananite Right — the new GOP. But I’m talking about truth, more than politics. Bush, among others, should tell it.

Because the Iraq War is undefended, revisionism sets in: a false revisionism. The only politician I know of who defends the Iraq War, intelligently and eloquently, is Michael Gove, who is running in Britain. And not doing very well at the moment.

In a campaign stop last December, Trump said, “Saddam Hussein throws a little gas. Everyone goes crazy. ‘Oh, he’s using gas!’” See how they belittle it now? See how they minimize Saddam and his horrific effects?

The Republican party is nominating for president someone who claims that George W. Bush lied us into war; says that Bush ought to have been impeached; and defends and praises Saddam Hussein. This is why I can’t belong to that party anymore.

What about Trump endorsers who know the truth about Iraq? (I think of John McCain, Rob Portman, and Tom Cotton, off the top of my head.) What do they think about Trump and Saddam? Party loyalty is important. But sometimes, as a president said, it asks too much. Honor kicks in, and party loyalty just has to take a backseat.


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