Trump, Saddam, and the Presumption of Innocence

The horrifying thing about Trump’s recent remarks about Saddam Hussein is not that he expressed admiration for the late Iraqi dictator – in fact Trump called him a “bad guy” three times. What is horrifying is that Trump seemed envious that Saddam could “kill terrorists” without due process – the most important element of which is the presumption of innocence, which places the burden of proof of guilt squarely on the government’s shoulders. “He killed terrorists” Trump said of Saddam. “He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk.” (Emphasis added.)

This should concern any Trump fans who believe that criminal suspects should be protected against the state. Trump was clearly signaling that he wants the government (which of course he aspires to run) to have the power to kill people suspected of planning or having committed politically motivated violence against noncombatants. Let’s be clear: Trump wasn’t endorsing capital punishment for convicted terrorists. (I ignore here the objections to state executions.) He was praising the killing of suspected terrorists without charge or trial in which the prosecution has the burden of proof. Dictators always find due process an obstacle to efficient and decisive action against threats real and imagined. But Americans supposedly believe that the rights of the accused are more important than the state’s convenience.

The securing of due process was the result of a nearly thousand-year struggle against western tyrants. It is certainly true that due process has been badly eroded, especially since 9/11. But this is the first time I can recall a presidential candidate celebrating a dictator’s freedom from due-process constraints at a campaign rally. This certainly distinguishes Trump from his predecessors and opponents. That the throng, wearing their Make America Great Again caps, responded enthusiastically is ominous indeed.

Trump’s remarks are consistent with his earlier expressions of admiration for the “strength” of despots such as North Korea’s Kim Jung Un and the Chinese rulers who slaughtered pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. The remarks also flesh out his promise to use water-boarding and more against terrorism suspects and his belief that the families of suspects should also be killed.

Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at His latest book is America’s Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited.

17 thoughts on “Trump, Saddam, and the Presumption of Innocence”

  1. A vote for Trump is a vote to eviscerate the constitution. Period. End of subject. Some f**king alternative. Third party is the only rational option left.

    Side note: I vaguely remember Dubya wishing out loud that he could be a dictator while president. So this kind of thing is sadly not totally unprecedented.

      1. John Adams had a warrant issued for Thomas Jefferson on a charge of sedition. Also, Due Process and any other portion of the Bill of Rights was not voted in to the constitution. At a time when most adult americans were not permitted to vote. Women, paupers (people who didn’t own land) slaves, American Indians, all forbidden to vote. There’s not much focus on that in American education. A publishing company affiliated strongly with the Bush family owns the school curriculae for most of americans. Might not be a majority of the land mass, but the population centers. The youngest Bushwanker, Neil, was a top representative by the company at the time two of his brothers were governors of large population states where the Governors had the power to set the curriculum for the entire state. Since that has been going on for nigh on to two decades, and it spreads beyond Texas and Florida, the most evil facets of The State have had full control of what the kids have learned in school. History is a totally biased enterprise. No two people are going to perceive or recall the same event exactly alike. A little political manipulation along the way, especially by those with the most power, badda bing badda boom. We come up with a distorted vision. All the rights and freedoms we think we have had since the beginning, well, we haven’t. It’s a constant struggle and we have to keep it up, or sink into universal slavery. Oh, and Due Process was in the English Constitution before England became the United Kingdom. Donald and Hillary are both trying to lose. There’s a reason and it probably has to do with the very messy imperial war which is pending. I believe, but not sure, neither party wants the bloodstains of that on their record. They don’t mind having it on their hands though.

      2. I guess I should have said a vote for Trump is a vote to FURTHER eviscerate the Constitution, but you get what I’m getting at here. Any remaining illusion that this pr*ck is a friend to libertarians or constitutionalists should be officially shattered at this point.

        Johnson and Stein are far from perfect but there both morally sensible options for peace and freedom loving Americans. The only ones south of full-tilt revolution we have left.

        1. Can you give one single example of something that old consteetooshun could do to stop the government’s agenda that is so upsetting to libertarians? i thouht not!

          luv from Canada.

          1. How about Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 giving Congress, not the President, the exclusive (i.e., non-delegable”) power “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.” The USA has not declared a war since 1941 and all of its wars since World War II have been unconstitutional.
            Clause 10 along with Clause 11’s provision on letters of marque and reprisal give Congress the exclusive authority to declare rules of engagement with privateers – non-governmental foreign adversaries, i.e. terrorists. As Ron Paul argued the Constitution makes Congress, not the President, responsible for making national policy in the war on terrorism.
            Clause 12 prohibits any allocation to the military for a period of more than two years. The intent of the Founders was to prohibit the institutionalization of a standing army in times of peace, but to permit Congress to raise armies in defense of the nation. But Congress, not the President, has the task of defining and limiting the mission of the armies, And to prevent institutionalization of the military after its mission is accomplished the Constitution requires that Congress reconsider the country’s commitment to a military campaign that lasts more than two years.
            Following World War II Congress acquiesced to an imperial presidency in much the same way the Roman Senate permitted Augustus to transform the consulship into an imperial office.

          2. The vote of 1941 it was not necessary because Hitler had already declared war on the US before our Congress acted and Pearl Harbor had already been bombed. At the time of that vote we were already legally at war with Germany and Japan.

          3. The U.S. was in it up to their Merchant Marine arse. As soon as the government unofficially sent mercenary pilots, the Flying Tigers, to Asia. Not more nor less wrong than Mussolini, Franco and “volunteer” pilots who would make the core of the LuftWaffe conspiring to bomb the living dogshit out of Ethiopia and Guernica. Among others. And the Germans enforced their blockade of England by destroying quite a lot of American shipping. And two decades earlier there was the Lusitania. And others. Not that any of it was right, and all the excuses for these actions come in shades of grey.

            By the time Eisenhower started sending advisors to VietNam in the first years of his regime, the “intervention minus congressional approval” unofficial policy was squarely set.

    1. You people need to spend a lot less time worrying about that ol consteetooshun and spend more time facing 21st. century reality. There’s nothing in it that can’t be turned upside down by creative thinkers in government. One of the most egregious examples of that was the Iraq war. What could be more egregious than the slaughter of half a million innocents. Your silly constitupation didn’t prevent that now did it?

      Glad to see you’re solidly against Trump now! Go for third party because it’s looking promising for Johnson. You, Thomas, and maybe Raimondo are a quorum. Or should I say, a small covey?

      luv from Canada.

      1. The paperwork serves mostly to reprove the reprobates. The ones who speak mighty winds of Patriotic mouth-farts are the ones most easily managed by the Constitution. More like, by their own vanity. They want to portray themselves and be worshiped as heroes, they want the praise, and to be shamed is the harshest thing their nasty little souls can suffer. The others, the ones who work almost anonymously in some cubicle, and don’t have to worry about any reputation, they do the daily grunt jobs that keep the Empire running. And they give not one percent of a fat rat’s ass about the constitution.

  2. More than a little bit of a stretch don’t you think? No I’m not saying Donald is perfect but you have to take into account the context in which is was saying this. He’s saying that we shouldn’t go around the world toppling dictators. Would you prefer he talked all kinds of garbage about them and how we should run around the world getting rid of them? I guess if he talked about how horrible these regimes are and how we should fight them he might get himself a Nobel Peace Prize but somehow that didn’t work out so great the last time.

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