Rep. Russell: Absurd for Trump To Think the World Would Be Better with Saddam Around

‘He ranks as one of the worst dictators of the 20th century in terms of human loss’

TAPPER: “Republican Congressman Steve Russell served in Iraq. He’s retired lieutenant colonel. He was part of the team that tracked down Saddam Hussein. Congressman, I know you feel very strongly about this. Donald Trump, is he wrong?”
RUSSELL: “He’s wrong. Regardless of what people think about the Iraq war, human rights advocates worldwide believed that the one silver lining that came out of the war was the demise of Saddam Hussein.”
TAPPER: “So the world would not be better off in your view?”
RUSSELL: “Absolutely, 350,000 Kurds and Arab Shias murdered.”
TAPPER: “By Saddam Hussein?”
RUSSELL: “By Saddam specifically. Entire villages gassed. He attacked every neighboring country except Baathist Syria. The Marsh Arabs went from a population of 250,000 down to 30,000. He killed 20,000 of his own Sunni Arab political opponents, murdered his own son-in-law. I mean, are we kidding? This just demonstrates a complete lack of the facts and a complete lack of understanding of foreign policy.” 
TAPPER: “With all due respect, you are alone in expressing outrage about this among Republican — I mean as opposed to Republican presidential candidates. They’re not out there criticizing Donald Trump on this. And he is your frontrunner.”
RUSSELL: “Well, I approach it as a soldier who happened to be involved with his demise. And it is absolutely absurd to think that the world would be a better place. He ranks as one of the worst dictators of the 20th century in terms of human loss. He also had Joseph Stalin as his model. Are we to say, well, you know, gosh, Mussolini at least he let the trains run on time, we should have left in power? What an absurd notion.”
TAPPER: “Well, there is this school of thought, conservative thought really that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t and the U.S. would be better off with strong men in the Middle East. Vice President Cheney was very upset when President Obama in Cheney’s view turned his back on Mubarak in Egypt for the same reason.”
RUSSELL: “Well, the difference you saw there in Egypt was Al Sisi and the Egyptian army, which we’ve had a very good relationship with, they stepped up and made sure that the constitution of Egypt was upheld.”
TAPPER: “It’s not a perfect metaphor, I agree.” 
RUSSELL: “But nevertheless what we see with Iraq had we had the political will, let’s not forget the men and women in uniform with great sacrifice and great bloodshed did turn the place around. And America abandoned its commitment to Iraq which also contributed some of that.”
TAPPER: “Trump has suggested that watching the chaos unfold in Syria and allowing Russia to meddle there so long as they also kill ISIS terrorists in the process, that that might be the best course of action for the U.S. What do you think?”
 RUSSELL: “There’s a lot of missed opportunity with Syria. One, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Russians have an interest in Syria. It shouldn’t have taken us a year and a half to figure out they have a naval base at Tartus and an air base in Latakia. They’ve got a mixed married Russian-Syrian population, much similar to as we’ve been based around the world, we get very integrated with communities. So, Russia has an interest there. There’s a lot of misreading of the entire Syrian situation.” 
TAPPER: “I want you to take a listen to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair who apologized for the false intelligence that prompted the Iraq invasion. Take a listen.”
[clip starts]
BLAIR: “I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. But I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam, I think even from today in 2015. It is better that he’s not there than that he is there.”
[clip ends]
TAPPER: “Do you think President Bush needs to apologize?”
RUSSELL: “Absolutely not, nor does anyone that faces down evil and fights tyranny. Look, the minute the United States begins to say we’re not going to call for the removal of absolute tyrants and barbarians, we’re talking half a million dead, one million ancillary, hundreds of thousands of Kurds that were forced into asylum and fleeing the country. All you have to do is look at Saddam’s track record. The minute that the United States loses that goodwill to take objective, looks and says it’s better that tyrants remain in power and kill by the half-million, we’ve lost our way.”
TAPPER: “Congressman, thank you so much for coming.”
RUSSELL: “Thank you.”

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