If Middle East strongmen Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were still in this world, it would have been a better place, because what came instead is much worse, US presidential candidate Donald Trump said.
Asked by CNN's Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show whether the world would have been better off with Hussein and Gaddafi still ruling in Iraq and Syria, Trump said “100 percent."
"I mean, look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists. [Hussein] would kill the terrorists immediately, which is like now it's the Harvard of terrorism," Trump said.
"I'm not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now Libya, nobody even knows Libya, frankly there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It's all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what's going on."
Both Hussein and Gaddafi were dictatorial leaders who ruled with a strong hand. Hussein was ousted by a US-led coalition that acted with no mandate on a pretext that he had a clandestine program of weapons of mass destruction. The accusation was later proven to be false. He was tried and executed by the post-invasion authorities.
Gaddafi was ousted by a violent uprising propped by a NATO bombing campaign, which hijacked a UN resolution demanding protection of civilians from bombings by Gaddafi forces. NATO instead devastated the Libyan army, allowing the rebels to catch and summarily execute Gaddafi.
Both Hussein and Gaddafi committed atrocities against their own people, but now the situation with human rights in Iraq and Libya is “worse than ever," Trump told CNN.
"People are getting their heads chopped off, they're being drowned. Right now, they are far worse than they were, ever, under Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi," he said.
“Libya is a disaster. Iraq is a disaster. Syria is. The whole Middle East. And it all blew up around [former Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton and [President] Barack Obama."
Trump, who has been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for next year's presidential election, has been losing ground to his rival Ben Carson, who surged past Trump in the early-voting state of Iowa. The latest opinion poll, published Friday by Bloomberg/Des Moines Register, gives 28 percent support for Carson as opposed to 19 percent for Trump for the state's Republican caucus.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who committed UK's military support to then-President George W Bush to invade Iraq in 2003, has acknowledged that the current Middle East bloodshed may stem from that decision. He also said that in Iraq, Libya and Syria the West tried different approaches to regime change, and in none of these countries did turn out well.