On Tuesday night, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump repeated one of his few consistent foreign policy views. Speaking in North Carolina, the mogul said, “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy … but you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good.”
Unlike most of Trump’s positions, he has actually been consistent on this one. The candidate previously valorized Hussein’s purported counterterror prowess in New Hampshire back in January 2014, then repeated the claim again on Fox News in December 2015.
Like a great many things Trump says, however, this assertion is not only incorrect, but the opposite of the truth—as any Israeli would tell you. To begin with, Hussein infamously terrorized hundreds of thousands of Israel’s civilians in 1991 by rocketing Tel Aviv and Haifa with scud missiles during the Gulf War—even though Israel was not a party to the conflict. (He was cynically attempting to provoke an Israeli entry into the war to break up the Arab coalition against him, and used the lives of innocent Israelis as pawns in his sadistic game.)
Hussein also personally bankrolled Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians. As numerous media outlets reported in 2002, the Iraqi dictator issued scores of payouts to the families of suicide bombers for sums reaching $25,000. Hussein’s incentives appeared to have an impact. As CBS reported in April 2002: “Since Iraq upped its payments last month, 12 suicide bombers have successfully struck inside Israel, including one man who killed 25 Israelis, many of them elderly, as they sat down to a meal at a hotel to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. The families of three suicide bombers said they have recently received payments of $25,000.”
In 2004, a congressional investigation found that Hussein had stolen the funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program. According to Palestinians, the sum total of this blood money ultimately reached an astounding $35 million.
That Trump would whitewash the record of a brutal dictator like Hussein—who notoriously gassed his own people, murdering thousands of Kurds—should not surprise. After all, Trump has also lavished praise on other vicious authoritarians, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. What would truly be surprising is if any serious person continues to claim that Trump is a “pro-Israel candidate” after he excused and erased an ugly history of terrorism against the Jewish state’s population.