He told supporters at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday night: “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? But you know what he did well? 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.”
Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, has previously said the world would be “100 per cent better” if dictators like Saddam and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi were still in power.
In 2003 then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed that Saddam was offering financial rewards of up to $25,000 to families of suicide bombers and before the US invasion of 2003, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Jake Sullivan, a Clinton senior policy adviser, said Trump’s “praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds”.
He added: “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.”House speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump, attempted to distance himself from the comments in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.
“He was one the 20th century’s most evil people. He was up there. He committed mass genocide against his own people using chemical weapons,” Ryan said. “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy.”
However Chris Collins, a New York Republican representative, defended Trump, saying: “His comment was just a factual comment that Saddam Hussein did not have a terrorist problem.”