A “Mad Dog” Who Loves to Shoot People

It had to be him. Of all people, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the burly Marine Corps general infamous for using blunt and sometimes unprintable words, was chosen to fill the military’s most important position. He’s been chosen as CENTCOM Commander — the command responsible for a region comprised of 20 countries stretching from Egypt to Central Asia and also for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Actually, the 60-year-old, who hails from the small town of Pullman, Washington, was eligible to retire. But then Gen. Stanley McChrystal made no bones about expressing his opinions in a hotel bar in Paris. The Afghanistan commander raked President Barack Obama, his commander-in-chief, over the coals when talking to journalists. His boss promptly fired him and replaced him with then-CENTCOM Commander Gen. David Petraeus. That was Mattis’ big chance.

Pentagon Chief Robert Gates, according to the Washington Post, began to heap praises on the four-star Marine. “General Mattis has proven to be one of the military’s most innovative and iconoclastic thinkers,” Gates said. At the same time, Washington was informed that Gates had advised the battle-hardened soldier to control his often-sharp tongue to avoid suffering the same fate as the ousted McChrystal.

Gates gave Mattis the warning for good reason. In 2005, Mattis, who had been commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, had ad-libbed light-heartedly in San Diego that he enjoyed shooting people: “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. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.”

For that incident, Mattis was told to be more careful in his choice of words, but no other action was taken. And Secretary Gates hastened to add: “I think that the subsequent five years have demonstrated that the lesson was learned.” And, in fact, Mattis sounded much different recently as he advised his troops, “Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it’s a victory for al-Qaida and other insurgents.”

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