SPARKS, Nevada—At a campaign rally yesterday at The Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump doubled down on his claim that the world would be a better place if brutal dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were still alive and in power, and he proposed a military school to train Arab monarchs and military leaders on “authoritarian principles.”
Mr. Trump made the claim about the dictators Sunday on CNN’s State Of The Union political news program in response to a question from host Jake Tapper.
He told Mr. Tapper: “One hundred percent better. I’m not saying Saddam or Gaddafi were good guys. They were horrible guys, but there were no terrorists. They would kill the terrorists immediately. It was a lot better then than it is now.”
Mr. Trump told the Sparks rally crowd, “Sometimes you have to dance with the devil to make the world a better place.”
He also said if elected he would have the Department of Defense create what he called a School of the Middle East, which would be modeled after the controversial U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), to train Arab leaders who would “keep the lid on the Muslims.”
“It’s better to have their leaders keep tabs on them instead of risking the lives of brave American troops fighting them over there,” Mr. Trump said. “The School of the Americas has been very successful in training Latin America leaders. I mean just look at those countries down there now. They’re thriving.”
The School of the Americas (SOA), renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in January 2001, is a military training school for Latin American soldiers operated by the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Over the years, critics of the school have called it “School of Dictators” and “School of Assassins” because many graduates from the 1960s to the 1990s become some of the most abusive and repressive dictators and military leaders in Latin America, linked to the overthrow of democratically election governments in Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia.
Some of the more infamous graduates are military dictators Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Manuel Noriega of Panama, and Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala
SOA Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group founded by a Roman Catholic priest after the 1980 sexual assault and murder of four U.S. nuns by members of the National Guard of El Salvador, has long opposed the school and holds frequent protests out the gates of the school.
Responding by email from Ecuador, Alejandra Teresa Santiago-Romero, South America Field Director for SOA Watch, said another school like SOA would only further destabilize the Middle East.
“I’m certain that based on the thousands of torturers, murderers, and right-wing death squads graduates of SOA created in the southern Americas that any leaders trained at such a school would make ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terrorist group] look like the Peace Corps,” she wrote. “SOA graduates have shown that they are not interested in creating democratic institutions.”
Mr. Trump told the crowd at The Nugget Casino rally that democracy should not be a U.S. foreign policy goal for “Muslim countries.”
“Those people in that part of the world only understand totalitarian kings and powerful, strong-armed dictators,” he said, “and under any other type of government most of them will turn jihadists and just cause chaos worldwide. You have to keep a firm boot on their necks.”
In his speech, Mr. Trump did not provide specifics about creation of the school. He said his advisers are still working out the details.
Holleran N. Yellen II reports on dynamics of 2016 presidential election campaigns.
Trump Photo: John Pemble/Flickr — https://goo.gl/5YvhVZ