It is safe to say that President Donald Trump is a fan of dictators, despots and strong-men. He has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, complemented North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and applauded former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Now Trump can add another one to his list of idols.
Politico reports that last month President Trump phoned his Filipino counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte. During that phone call, Trump congratulated Duterte for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem” in the Philipines.
Under Duterte, the Filipino government has conducted extrajudicial killings, hired death squads and encouraged citizens to murder drug dealers and addicts. This has led to thousands of deaths.
A transcript of the April 29 conversation between the two was published online by The Intercept. In it we can read the full conversation. Trump said:
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
Since July last year Filipino police and vigilantes have murdered more than 6,000 people. Many are suspected drug dealers, but a significant number are innocent family members or people caught up in the violence.
There have also been reports that corrupt police forces have been murdering dealers to hide their own involvement in the drug trade.
The State Department has said that one of the “most significant human rights problems” in the Philipines was an “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process.”
Most of Trump’s conversation with Duterte focused on North Korea and its dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump managed to refrain from praising him this time round, instead informing Duterte that the U.S. has stationed two nuclear submarines off the Korean coast.
Duterte is a thug and a crook. When he was mayor of the city of Davao he personally murdered suspects, saying:
“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police] that if I can do it why can’t you.”
During his time as mayor Duterte earned a reputation for cutting crime, but also criticism for supporting death squads. Like Trump, he is wholly unsuited to being a national leader but has ridden a wave of populism to achieve his political ambitions.
This is the kind of man Trump is inspired by. The fact that he praised Duterte for literally using murder as a solution to a social problem that America also suffers from is frightening and indicative of what Trump really thinks about America’s drug problem.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has already announced that he wants to bring back the failed war on drugs and enforce minimum sentences for crimes like simple possession. Now Trump has signaled that he is impressed policies that use death squads and extrajudicial killings to solve a crisis of addiction.
What sets America apart as an example to many developing countries in the world is that we have due process and habeas corpus.
What kind of example is Trump setting when he compliments someone for ignoring the morals and values that make our country great?