Update: On Dec. 1, Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio that he has chosen James Mattis as US secretary of defense. “We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense,” he said.
US president-elect Donald Trump is considering retired general James Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis—aka “Mad Dog” and “Chaos”—has served in the military for more than 40 years, including as head of the US Central Command, which oversees armed forces in the Middle East.
Like his potential boss, he’s prone to spouting off crude statements that create controversy. But by many accounts, he is also a deliberate thinker and scholar, a practice that has earned him another nickname: “Warrior Monk.” (Mattis has another monk-like quality: he’s never married.) Since he only retired three years ago, he would have to get a congressional waiver to get around a rule that bars military members from serving as defense secretary for seven years after they leave active duty.
Here are a few quotes that offer a window into the mind of the man who could take charge of world’s most powerful army.
“It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”
Mattis is known for this kind of bravado. He made these particular remarks during a panel discussion in San Diego, California, in Jan., 2005. He added: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
That’s the advice Mattis gave marines in Iraq, according to an excerpt of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005 by Thomas E. Ricks published in the Armed Forces Journal.
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
Mattis is candid on the realities of war. These particular words of battle wisdom were, according to Fiasco, imparted to a large group of US marines at the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq. “There are hunters and there are victims,” he added. “By your discipline, cunning, obedience and alertness, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim. It’s really a hell of a lot of fun. You’re gonna have a blast out here! I feel sorry for every son of a bitch that doesn’t get to serve with you.”
“Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
But Mattis’s swagger is tempered with thoughtfulness. The words above were written in a message to troops before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resist, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam’s oppression,” Mattis wrote.
“I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all.”
That’s what he told Iraqi military leaders after the American invasion, according to Fiasco.
“There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
He speaks like a warrior. This has made him a beloved figure among US Marines. The quote, attributed to him, was tweeted from the official Twitter account of the US Marine Corp.
“Alexander the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying…the men who have gone before us.”
Mattis wrote this to a colleague in 2003, according to Fiasco. He continued: “We have been fighting on this planet for 5,000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. ‘Winging it’ and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of competence in our profession.”
“The first three things I asked my briefers about when I woke every morning were Iran, Iran, and Iran.”
If Mattis is named defense secretary, expect him to focus on Iran. This comment was made during the Aspen Security Forum in 2013, and was in reference to his time heading the Central Command, from 2010 to 2013.
“We’ve got to be very careful of avoiding confrontation with Iran because right now, with their cyber effort, they’re like children balancing lightbulbs full of nitroglycerin. You get the picture? One of these days they’re going to drop one and it’s going to knock out the London stock exchange or Wall Street because we never drew a line and said, ‘You won’t do it,'” he added.