Election 2016

In Donald Trump's America, Freedom From Due-Process Constraints

The GOP candidate expressed envy that Saddam Hussein could "kill terrorists" without due process.


Andy Martin Jr./ZUMA Press/Newscom

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 Tienanmen 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.

Throughout his campaign Trump has shown impatience with procedures that brake government activity. He often bashes politicians who are "all talk and no action." So his envy of dictators should surprise no one.

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

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  1. Hey Richman, how is that Iran deal working out?


    Not so well it appears. No wonder you want to talk about Trump.

    1. Needed more (((Jooos))).

      1. If Iran keeps on, we may soon be all out of Jews..

        1. Don’t be ridiculous, RC. The rest of the Arab folk will gladly assimilate the Shebrews into the fold first; waste not, want not, yes?

          Of course, the (((mitzvahs))) may not get such a deal, should the dissolution of Israel actually occur…

    2. Yeah, and now Obama wants to negotiate a deal with Russia over the Ukraine.

      After Obama stupidly traded our leverage against Iran’s nuclear program away for magic beans, I wouldn’t trust him to negotiate a deal for internet service with my ISP.

      P.S. When’s the last time anyone’s seen a comment taken down because it disagreed with libertarian orthodoxy (whatever the hell that is).

      That’s gotta be Mary Quite Contrary up at the top, right? Does she have to pay for that? If so, LOL!

      1. Yeah, and now Obama wants to negotiate a deal with Russia over the Ukraine.

        Sod Dammit to Hell! No matter where I go, I can’t escape this fucker! Herpes is less permanent than Obumbles…

        Heads up Your Pestilency-in-Chief: Russia ain’t *NEVER* going to give back Kreml without a fight. PLEASE, for the love of Sod, just stay out of this one… *EVERYTHING* you touch turns to shit.

    3. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Friday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $100 per hour. I work through this website. Go Here…. http://www.trends88.com

  2. Meanwhile, Obama kills American citizens without due process.

    Not wishes he could kill them. Not makes note that he can kill them. Literally uses drones to drop bombs on them for exercising their first amendment rights on a distasteful manner. And his former SoS bragged about participating in those decisions.

    But let’s talk about trump. Because we can’t let him get the power to do…exactly what his opponent has already participated in doing.

    1. And borders don’t seem to matter.He’s ordering military strikes in countries we are not at war with.Then there’s all the innocents that have been killed by these strikes.Seems Trump wants to be more like Obama.

    2. drop bombs on them for exercising their first amendment rights on a distasteful manner or because they happen to just be near another American citizen when that one is targeted.

      1. Don’t forget to download your Stuxnet Pokemon

        1. You use Siemens?

    3. That sort of thing would never happen if only we had a Constitutional Scholar in the White House.

      Hey wait a minute….

  3. Keep in mind too that Saddam’s terrorists weren’t necessarily America’s terrorists. When Trump starts going after terrorists are they going to be Trump’s terrorists or America’s terrorists? Is he going to be drone-striking ISIS or the Kurds or the Washington Post?

    1. His drone strikes are going to be yuuuuuge!

    2. Your Future Reptilian Overlords would enjoy a thorough WAPO bombing

    3. Well, they were in the sense that terrorists active in Iraq under Saddam were being supported by America…

    4. Tell me more about droning the WaPo.

      1. Could the NYT be added?

    1. Excellent, I’m stealing that.

  4. Envious. Not jealous.

  5. This article is out of touch. Trump was on the subject or foreign policy and the stupidity of the Iraq invasion.

    I took his statement to mean that U.S. citizens were better protected with him in power that with him overthrown.

    Sheldon Richmond is looking to make libertarian PR off his statement rather than give an “honest” interpretation.

    1. That’s how I understood Trump too. He didn’t say that the fact that they didn’t talk or read them their rights was good. He meant that even though Assad was a bad guy & didn’t read them their rights, at least he did something good by killing them.

  6. So you’re saying Trump is basically the Adam Lanza of presidential politics. Okay, but what does that make Shitllary? The John Wayne Gacey of presidential politics?

    1. The Saddam Hussein of American politics? Or Hitler?

      1. Certainly puts a different spin on being, “Saddamized!”

    1. Except for all the historical examples of those who wanted gun confiscation to make mass slaughter easier, but we’ll just pretend they don’t exist

    2. Without the New Yorker giving us false choices we wouldn’t have any at all!

    3. You’re either for allowing citizens to defend themselves from mass slaughter, or you’re against – pick one.

      As a bonus, name last mass shooting that wasn’t in a “gun free zone”.

  7. Well,Iraq and Libya are so much better off now that those nasty dictators are gone.

    1. Better off for them maybe. But the job of the U.S. igovernment s to protect U.S. citizens and not everyone across the globe.

    2. Certainly, arguing that the Iraq War was a mistake from an American security standpoint because removing Saddam from power gave us everything from ISIS to Iranian hegemony in the region is a perfectly legitimate argument.

      Those were excellent reasons for Bush Sr. not to invade Iraq in 1991, and they were excellent reasons not to invade Iraq in 2003, as well. If Hillary can’t admit this retroactively, that suggests she’s too incompetent to be President.

      If the only issue at stake were Trump’s acknowledgement that the Iraq War was a mistake for the reasons he gave, on the one hand, and Hillary’s willful refusal to admit the truth, on the other, then we should all vote for Trump hands down.

      Who is more likely to invade Syria with ground troops–Trump, who thinks Iraq was a strategic blunder, or Hillary, who refuses to repudiate her support for invading Iraq despite it being a strategic disaster for American security?

      1. Trump thinks whatever seems popular at the time, consistency be damned. This makes him pretty much exactly like Hillary, and equally likely to invade Syria. (“Take their oil !” and all that…)

        1. At least he’s willing to acknowledge the downside of invading Iraq.

          If Hillary still thinks Iraq was a great idea, to the point that she won’t even publicly acknowledge the downsides, then he’s head and shoulders above Hillary on the question of whether we should invade Syria.

          Remember, Hillary lost to Obama because she was such a cheerleader for the Iraq War. In fact, her primary criticism of Bush Jr. during the Iraq War was that Bush wasn’t going far enough. She’s more of a neocon that Bush ever was–and she’s been consistent that way over the years.

          As an aside, using Sheldon Richman’s logic, if Hillary was a big fan of the Iraq War, does that mean we should accuse her of supporting torture in Abu Ghraib? Because if acknowledging that Saddam Hussein was ruthless against terrorism equals wanting to suspend the Fifth Amendment here at home, then shouldn’t Hillary supporting the Iraq War and thinking Bush didn’t go far enough equate to her wanting to suspend the Eighth Amendment?

          The correct answer is no, Hillary doesn’t want to suspend the Eight Amendment, and accusing her of such would be indicative of Hillary Derangement Syndrome.

        2. I disagree. Hillary didn’t push the overthrow of Qaddafi on the basis of American popular opinion. Shit, ask ten people who Muammar Qaddafi was and I’ll give you a hundred bucks if three people can tell you. She didn’t argue for a fomentation of the Syrian civil war in order to appease the American public. I don’t know that anyone but her could tell you her full reasoning behind her decisions at State, but I do know that she has never felt a reluctance to involve America in foreign conflicts, nor does she have a shred of humility regarding her strategic abilities or capacity to accurately assess situations. She is the kind of person who, as president, would commit ground troops to a civil war in Syria without consulting Congress or either side of the war, for that matter. When it went to shit, she’d shrug her shoulders and move right along without a shred of regret or guilt, and she’d make the same mistake again.

          Trump is a populist, and a pragmatist. He will tell his audience whatever he thinks they want to hear, and then he’ll do what he can with the support he can generate from people with actual power. Of the two, I’d rather have him holding the football than her.

  8. ” He was praising the killing of suspected terrorists without charge or trial in which the prosecution has the burden of proof.”
    He could have been talking about Obama or Bush or Hilary for that matter. So your point was what again? Read the headline, go to the article wondering if Richmond actually has anything this time. Nope.
    I’m no fan of Trump ?, but this is the worst kind of journalism, take a comment out of context and build a strawman to attack. Reason needs to upgrade their editorial standards. This shit is really getting tiresome.

  9. “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.”

    Well except Hillary wants to strip people of their second amendment rights without due process and the entire democratic party and the population at large also thinks this is a good idea. The only thing that distinguishes Trump from his democratic opponent is the use of small words.

  10. “Let’s be clear: Trump wasn’t endorsing capital punishment for convicted terrorists. He was praising the killing of suspected terrorists without charge or trial in which the prosecution has the burden of proof.”

    Trump was making the point that leaving Saddam Hussein in power was an effective deterrent against terrorism, and removing Saddam Hussein from power–which Hillary Clinton supported enthusiastically–turned Iraq into “Harvard for terrorists”.

    To me, suggesting that Trump wants to get rid of pesky civil rights in this country because of this statement about Saddam Hussein is indicative of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which I define as being so anti-Trump that one starts to take leave of his senses.

    An unnamed regular commenter last week told me that because Trump claimed the 9/11 hijackers’ wives and girlfriends knew about 9/11 ahead of time and fled the U.S. before the attack, this means that Trump wants to track down and kill the wives and girlfriends of every ISIS terrorist–without trial.

    There are so many legitimate things to go after Trump for–why not pick one of them?

    1. That’s true. A lot of the slander of Trump is concern trolling. They wouldn’t bring up the legitimate reasons to go after Trump with, because they don’t disagree w Trump about them. The reasons would backfire on them.

      Or they’re just eye-rollingly nuts themselves, like anti-abortionists who attacked Trump when he said that if abortion were illegal, there would be legal penalties for patients who ordered them. I was just into this w somebody yesterday: “The woman is a victim too. The doctor knows a human being is being killed, and fools the patient into thinking that’s not so. How could Trump have been so awful as to want to punish one of the victims? It shows he has no understanding of the issue.” (paraphrased)

      1. It’s like I was saying the other day about ENB and Robby, just because you’re against something doesn’t mean anything you say against that something is alright. At some point, when we say stupid shit, we start to discredit ourselves.

        And talk about backfiring, the kind of concern trolling you’re talking about is exactly what won Trump the nomination. The more people called him racist, the more votes he won. I’m sure some of those primary voters were actually racists, but for more and more people, being incorrectly denounced as a racist by concern trolling media types is the best endorsement for President imaginable. You can’t buy that kind of advertising!

        If Sheldon Richman wants to put Trump in the White House, by all means, keep accusing Trump of wanting to suspend the Fifth Amendment.

  11. Pointing out that U.S. security was better back when Saddam Hussein was in power because of his ruthlessness against terrorists isn’t an attack on the Fifth Amendment any more than pointing out that Saddam Hussein presented a check on Iranian hegemony is an endorsement of Iraq’s use of mustard gas during the Iran-Iraq War.

    These observations aren’t endorsements of any human rights violations; they simply indicate that Trump thinks the Iraq War–which Hillary Clinton supported enthusiastically–was a mistake from the standpoint of American security.

    I can’t think of a better example of Trump Derangement Syndrome than when people who opposed the Iraq War for the same reasons Trump does, effectively, start arguing in favor of the Iraq War simply because Trump is arguing against it. Richman sounds like the neocons circa 2003!

  12. Obama feels the same way, so does Hillary.

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  14. Reminds me of someone on “Cats Roundtable” this AM?I think it was Giuliani?going on about how awful the Russians are for propping up Assad. This is Putin Derangement Syndrome. If it’d been the Americans doing the same thing, would he have said it was propping up Assad?

    1. Just as w Trump, there’s plenty of stuff to lay into Putin about, but they’re taking it to ridiculous extremes by painting him as the Devil.

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  16. Tienanmen Square? That’s supposed to be spelled with an A. Tiananmen means “Gate of Heavenly Peace,” whereas Tienanmen means “Gate Attached to One’s Daughter.”

    1. If you’re going to contribute intelligent comments like that, you need to choose a username that’s phonetically possible.

      For goodness’ sake, at least put a “u” after the “q”.

      1. I will use the bottom row of the Dvorak keyboard as my username, and no one will stop me!

  17. If you think Hillary is better because she is a professional politician…. That’s all I have to say.

  18. ‘What is horrifying is that Trump seemed envious that Saddam could “kill terrorists” without due process?’

    Isn’t this the argument for not having intervened in the Middle East, really? I mean, Iraq was a lot stabler under Hussein, and maybe we should have left it that way, but… isn’t thinking that being envious of Hussein’s willingness to gas Shiites and Kurds, children and all? So were you for the Iraq war, do you think Saddam extended due process to Kurdish children before killing them with poison gas, or do you have a more nuanced view that you’d care to explain?

    1. Turns out the guy who was most right about Iraq was Pat Buchanan.

      The fundamental error of the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war was in assuming freedom was a universal value.

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  20. So you mean Donald Trump supports the exact same policies as Bush, Obama, and Clinton, only he’s straightforward enough to admit to it??


  21. Unfortunately, it is not just Trump who wants to do away with due process. The Democrats just held a sit-in demanding a “no-fly, no buy” list. There was one senator (I forget his name) who said out right that due process was blocking their ambitions.

    Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of a much larger problem

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