Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke Praises Saddam Hussein.

I am rarely astonished by anything that comes from the mouth of Congressman Ryan Zinke, but this exchange, captured by C-Span, was simply breathtaking. After offering the keen insight that he knew Saddam Hussein was a “bad, bad, bad, bad man,” Montana’s Congressman commended Saddam Hussein for his effective work at combating terrorists:

What made Saddam Hussein so effective at “hunting terrorists” is that he didn’t care if the people he killed and tortured really were involved in terrorism. He didn’t care if they were children. He didn’t care if they were proven guilty or had their fundamental human rights respected. He just killed and tortured people he defined as terrorists, even if that meant they were simply political opponents or obstacles to his quest for power.

Terrorism was, for Hussein, simply an effective rhetorical trick to justify indefensible actions, a concept Americans have become quite familiar with in the past two decades.

What, precisely, does Congressman Zinke admire about Hussein’s anti-terrorism efforts? His secret police? His use of torture?  His sexual violence? His mass killings?

Here’s what the State Department said about Hussein in 2003:

Under Saddam’s regime many hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of his actions, the vast majority of them Muslims. According to a 2001 Amnesty International report, “victims of torture in Iraq are subjected to a wide range of forms of torture, including the gouging out of eyes, severe beatings, and electric shocks … some victims have died as a result and many have been left with permanent physical and psychological damage.”

Congressman Zinke, a man who has joked about torturing people himself in the past, is trying to have it both ways in the most horrific way. You can’t argue that Saddam Hussein was an effective anti-terrorist leader but “a bad man” when the very tools he used to go after “terrorists” are the things that made him such a despicable leader.

To argue that Saddam Hussein was a “bad man” but effective at combating terrorism is the literal and moral equivalent of arguing that Adolf Hitler was a bad man but effective at combatting the threat of communism. It’s abhorrent, and shows not only terrible judgment, but a profound lack of humanity.

When people write about their fear that Donald Trump could bring fascism to America, they’re often dismissed by those who say that concern is hyperbolic, but when Trump has members of Congress like Ryan Zinke defending horrific abuses of civil rights, torture, and even mass killings as effective tools for combatting the nebulous threat of terrorism, that fear is entirely justified.

Congressman Zinke will tonight, no doubt, claim that Secretary Clinton and President Obama are weak-willed and don’t believe in American values. That’s quite a stretch for someone willing to defend Saddam Hussein’s use of torture and murder simply to gain the admiration of Donald Trump.


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  • Shameless pandering again and again from Commander Zinke, who think’s he’s SEC DEF already with kissing the Toxic Trumpster ring, or something else!?

  • Ironically, this is one of the arguments we who were opposed to the Iraq war made at the time. Al Qaida could not have been flourishing in Iraq because Saddam would not have allowed the threat to his authority. Later of course, we obligingly removed that obstacle…

  • You wrote “What, precisely, does Congressman Zinke admire about Hussein’s anti-terrorism efforts?”

    I listened to the interview, and the answer is ‘precisely’ nothing.

    While I don’t have a degree in Secondary Education, English/History, I learned in both high school and college [B.S. Forest Management] to be more precise in my use of the English language. In this case, the word ‘admire’ comes to mind.

    Admire: to feel respect or approval for (someone or something). : to look at (something or someone) with enjoyment. Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary.

    In ‘fact’ the congressman said Hussein “…was a bad, bad, bad man” a far cry from respect, approval or enjoyment, don’t you think?

    What, in your view, is the “literal and moral equivalent” of twisting another person’s words, particularly when such person is an educator?

    Respectfully, as you fancy yourself a [modern day] journalist, allow me to offer to you a couple of statements of principle:

    1st: The Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics admonishes “Seek Truth and Report It [saying] Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

    2nd: The American Society for Newspaper Editors. Article I states “The primary purpose of gathering and distributing news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time” and Article IV says “Every effort must be made to assure that the news content is accurate, free from bias, and in context, and that all sides are presented fairly”.

    Finally, Jon Huntsman [one of the few individuals to escape the Nixon administration with is reputation in tact] sets the stage for a practical discussion of ethics in his acclaimed book, “Winners Never Cheat” defining what it means to be ethical, stating “We are not always required by law to do what is right and proper. Decency and generosity, for instance, carry no legal mandate…Most ethical dilemmas boil down to the color gray.” But he cautions, “Shades of gray are almost always outside the bounds of propriety.”

    • While I appreciate your deep concern for my ethics and your college degree, I think you missing the point. My post notes that Congressman Zinke repeatedly (and sophisticatedly) argued that Hussein was “a bad, bad, bad, bad man.” He did that right before agreeing with Donald Trump that Hussein was “good” on terrorism. Give the undisputed methods Hussein used to control terrorism in Iraq, I find it troubling that a member of Congress would endorse extra-legal killings, torture, and the rest of the atrocities that Hussein used in the name of fighting terrorism. At the end of his angry rant, Zinke even says that Hussein was a “bad, bad, bad man” but effective at hunting terrorists because “he was a brute.”

      Is there some technique that Hussein used, unmentioned by Zinke, that I should be aware of?

      My dictionary says that admire means “to feel respect or approval for (someone or something)” Clearly, Zinke is expressing his approval of Hussein when it comes to controlling terrorism, even if the person who did it was a “bad,bad,bad man.”

      And what did Trump say (the remarks that Zinke is defending)?

      “He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

      Even Paul Ryan condemned the remarks that Zinke was angrily defending.

      For you to come here and leave out the part where Zinke endorsed Trump’s view that Hussein was effective at controlling terrorism and then accuse me of twisting words is kind of absurd, but thanks for the comment.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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