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Trump to nominate retired Gen. James Mattis to lead Pentagon

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis as he leaves Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. Trump said at a rally on Dec. 1, that he will nominate Mattis as defense secretary.

WASHINGTON >> Breaking once more from presidential custom, Donald Trump is turning to a military man to steer the U.S. military, choosing retired Gen. James Mattis, who will be the first career officer to lead the Pentagon since just after World War II.

Mattis, 66, is a Marine Corps general who retired in 2013 after serving as commander of the U.S. Central Command, responsible for directing America’s wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president-elect, who has referred to Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog,” made the announcement of his choice for defense secretary at a postelection victory rally Thursday night in Cincinnati.

The selection raises questions about increased military influence in a job designed to ensure civilian control of the armed forces. Those traditional concerns revolve around whether a recently retired service member would rely more on military solutions to international problems rather than take a broader, more diplomatic approach.

For Mattis to be confirmed, Congress would first have to approve legislation bypassing a law that bars retired military officers from becoming defense secretary within seven years of leaving active duty.

Mattis has a reputation as a battle-hardened, tough-talking Marine who was entrusted with some of the most challenging commands in the U.S. military. In a tweet last month, Trump described him as “A true General’s General!”

Mattis also has talked tough on Middle East policy, and was blunt in his assessment in 2013 that the Obama administration’s program of sanctions and diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons were not working. Tehran, he said, “has a history of denial and deceit.”

He also warned of risks in setting up the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011. And he was vocal in his assessment that the U.S. needed to keep two Navy aircraft carriers in the Middle East to provide additional security and support for American military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan that dragged on in recent years.

Mattis would be only the second retired general to serve as defense secretary, the first being George C. Marshall in 1950-51 during the Korean War. Marshall was a much different figure, having previously served as U.S. secretary of state and playing a key role in creating closer ties with Western Europe after World War II.

The only previous exception to the law requiring a gap after military service was for Marshall.

Although his record in combat and his credentials as a senior commander are widely admired, Mattis has little experience in the diplomatic aspects of the job of secretary of defense.

Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, described him as a defense intellectual and as a military leader who distinguished himself in combat.

“He knows the Middle East, South Asia, NATO and other areas and has evinced both a nuanced approach to the wars we’re in and an appreciation for the importance of allies,” Fontaine said in an email exchange. “If he were to get the nomination, I suspect that he could attract a number of very talented people to work with him.”

But Mattis hasn’t been free of controversy. He was criticized for remarking in 2005 that he enjoyed shooting people. He also drew more recent scrutiny for his involvement with the embattled biotech company Theranos, where he serves on the board.

Born in Pullman, Washington, Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969, later earning a history degree from Central Washington University. He was commissioned as an officer in 1972. As a lieutenant colonel, he led an assault battalion into Kuwait during the first U.S. war with Iraq in 1991.

As head of Central Command from 2010 until his retirement in 2013, he was in charge of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mattis commanded the Marines who launched an early amphibious assault into Afghanistan and established a U.S. foothold in the Taliban heartland.

As the first wave of Marines moved toward Kandahar, Mattis declared, “The Marines have landed, and now we own a piece of Afghanistan.”

Two years later, he helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003 as the two-star commander of the 1st Marine Division.

In 2005, he raised eyebrows when he told a San Diego forum that it was “fun to shoot some people.”

According to a recording of his remarks, Mattis said, “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”

He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued. “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.”

Mattis was counseled to choose his words more carefully.

A year later, Mattis came under scrutiny during one of the more high-profile criminal investigations of the Iraq war, the shooting deaths of 24 Iraqis by Marines.

The Iraqis, who included unarmed women and children, were killed by Marines in the town of Haditha after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb. Eight Marines were charged in connection with the killings — four enlisted men were charged with unpremeditated murder, and four officers who weren’t there at the time were accused of failures in investigating and reporting the deaths.

As commander of the accused Marines’ parent unit, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Mattis ultimately dismissed charges against most of the Marines.

Separately, as a top Marine general, Mattis pushed for the military to adopt blood-testing technology developed by Theranos.

As reported by The Washington Post , Mattis first met Theranos founder Elizabeth A. Holmes in 2011. A year later, according to emails obtained by the Post, Holmes used her connection to Mattis to pressure him to intervene after a Pentagon official raised concerns that the company was distributing its technology without approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

The emails show within hours after Holmes asked Mattis for help, he forwarded her email to other military officials asking them, “How do we overcome this new obstacle.”

Mattis joined the Theranos board the same year he retired. The company, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars on the promise of breakthrough blood-testing technology, was forced to invalidate two years of patients’ test results after the reliability of its proprietary blood-testing machinery was questioned by internal and government whistleblowers and investigative reporting by The Wall Street Journal.

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  • Liberals are having a meltdown over General Mattis, and that should tell you all you need to know. There are few military leaders more universally respected and revered by the men who followed them into combat, and one of them is Mad Dog Mattis. I would’ve been proud to follow that man to war. Our nation is in good hands now.

    • Actually, Mattis is widely respected and supported by many Democrats as well Republicans. I see people are passing around some of his colorful language. But that is normal if you have served in the military, especially when we are in combat. He is honest and honorable, but also very, very smart– like Mchristal and Petreus who also enjoy support on both sides of the pollcal divide.

    • Liberals are not having a “meltdown” as you wrote, but we do have a problem that General Mattis is not allowed to take that job under the current statute. So either there needs to be action by Congress to waive the prohibition against this appointment, or Mr. Trump must choose someone else.

  • “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes:
    If you f_ck with with me I’ll k_ll you all.”
    Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis

    #MAGA

        • Sounds like you’re just as brave as Mr. Trump was. I’m betting you never served.

          Rattling the sabers carried by the children of other people is a lot of fun through.

          Trump is a psychotic.

        • klastri aka Kurt on Kauai aka Kauai …again you keep stalking me…you’ll never know my profile because I’m not a narcissist like you. “MYOFB”…
          You’re a very angry deceitful biased narcissistic unhappy person and you were like that even during O’s terms.
          If anyone is psychotic it’s …..look in the mirror.
          GL w/your life…

          January 20, 2017 #MAGA

  • General James Mattis has Impeccable Credentials. Best pick of the pool! Another excellent choice By our POTUS! Who knows the need for Experience and Smart People in his administration….and he sees this, in this general.

    I bet ISIS is rethinking their strategy this very minute! We have to show our strength and power of our military forces ! And now, we having a Leader who will not Back Down or broadcast our intentions when utilizing our military overseas! OR……Drawing Silly Lines in the Sand! lol.

    I know ,we all get it! No president wants War,including President Trump! Maybe this is one of the ways of getting them(ISIS) to the table and start a pathway to Peace x Negotiations……. and General Mattis is the man to help get it done! A true Patriot!
    IMUA!

    • Except that General Mattis is prohibited by law from being Secretary of Defense. There’s that little detail.

      So you are suggesting we negotiate with terrorists? Let me guess …. you’re a Trump supporter?

    • My recall regarding these words by DJT. “I know more than the Generals”….are all three Generals having classes for DJT @ 1300hrs 01-20-2017, (should their nomination be approved by congress), and teach him what he could have learned back when he was deferred with “heel spurs”…I carry a (green) DD Form 2 and am just expressing my opinion i.e. 1st Amendment Rights.

        • Trump has already begun to “Make America Great Again” Kick a$$ and take names. The wimpy libs are struggling as they gasp for air. Political science books are being rewritten as the over educated have learned a lesson and common sense has prevailed. Trump 2020

        • sarge22 – He’s being very brave and blustery with the children of other people. His worthless sons never served – following their coward father’s foot steps. He doesn’t even pay federal taxes to pay for his sabre rattling.

    • Let the liberal trolls continue to find fault. I’m just happy our country is finally moving in teh right direction. Next on the chopping block is the idiocy behind paying entry level jobs $15 an hour.

  • Re: “Donald Trump is turning to a military man to steer the U.S. military”

    WOW… what a unique move.
    Selecting a military-man to lead the U.S. military !!!!!!!!!

    Other POTUS chose a wily-nily civilian, with no military background, to lead the military.

    • @ Marauders_1959 “Other POTUS chose a wily-nily civilian, with no military background, to lead the military.”
      Another name for them are “Donors”.

      #DrainTheSwamp

      January 20,2017 #MAGA

        • You gonna be like this for the next 8 years? Get over the LANDSLIDE LOSS…that’s what happens when you swallow the MSM propagandist news/polls.

        • Keonigohan – Four years or less. It’s exactly how you were for the past eight years.

          Get used to it.

        • Klastri aka Kurt on Kauai aka Kauai…eat CROW for the next 8 years…try some HUMBLE PIE to sweeten your disposition.

  • Wonderful Pick. Gen M. is highly regarded respected and is a warrior monk. He comes in peace but if you mess with our people the wrath of Chaos will be brought to you. Sad part is liberals are trying to find whats wrong with each pick instead of looking at what appears to be some really good choices especially the financial advisory team Trump is putting together.

  • Mattis is a great choice to be SecDef. He will start by making combat readiness the number one priority of all services and will bring to a screeching halt the social experiments imposed on the armed forces by Obama and current SecDef Carter like women in the infantry and other direct combat roles, and changing the way the military trains, fights, lives and uses latrines to accommodate a very few transgenders in the ranks.

  • Given the milquetoast leadership we’ve had at DOD for too long, this is a step in the right direction. The purpose of the military is to defeat the enemy, period, not rebuild nations, win hearts and minds, promote democracy around the world, etc. Those things are the politicians and diplomats agenda. Go to war, win it, and once you have utterly defeated your enemy, rebuild whats left in your own image, so you won’t have anymore problems with them. It worked with Germany and Japan and is exactly how wars should be handled, win first, then you can be magnanimous.

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