Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Marine General,

Marine Lt. Gen. James Mattis got himself in some hot water by saying the following:

A senior U.S. Marine Corps general who said it was "fun to shoot some people" should have chosen his words more carefully but will not be disciplined, military officials said on Thursday.Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the comments at a conference Tuesday in San Diego.

"Actually it’s quite fun to fight ’em, 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," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "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."

Discussions - 25 Comments

Another "John Wayne" kind of hero in my estimation. Just the right kind of soldier whose Commander-In-Chief is nicknamed a "Cowboy" by his critics.

His example of "slapping women around" was poorly chosen. How about publicly stoning them? And, those scum who sent the Downs Syndrome kid out as a suicide bomber?

I could go on and on, but I can certainly see his point.


Actually Gen. Mattis’ comment is almost "Pattonesque". It may not be quite the right words but the heart is in the right place. I agree with Peyton. These sadistic Islamist dogs need to be hunted down and exterminated. The MSM is using anything to trash our efforts there.

I assume the reported distress arises from the general’s use of the word "ain’t." The rest of his comments seem entirely sensible.

DJ - It’s not only GWB’s critics who call him a "cowboy." Many of his supporters enthusiastically embrace that image, as well. Did you not hear or see anything about the inaugural balls filled with celebrants in cowboy hats and boots?

All - As for the Mattis case, I guess all of the NoLeftTurns gang are unconcerned that this soldier has strayed a bit from the policy goal of introducing democracy to being the judge, jury and executioner for domestic violence crimes (questions: Did he witness any of these crimes? Who bothers with beating your wife for veil violations when soldiers are storming your home?) of non-U.S. citizens.

Are any of the "values" voters here at all bothered that this soldier describes his war killing as "fun"?

Finally, let’s hope that, if this guy is married or otherwise attached, he doesn’t return Stateside to vent some of his frustration on his own wife/girlfriend.

Mattis is most likely the finest Marine
combat leader since Chesty Puller. Anyone who has seen him knows he doesn’t "look" liike a Marine but he sure knows how to act like one. You should read the "The March Up" by Bing West and "E-Tool" Smith (Don’t the Marines have cool nicknames? Any guesses how he got it?--it stands for "entrenching tool," militarese for the small shovel Marines carry on their packs). My criticism of Mattis is that he forgot that he wasn’t trying to inspire his Marines but was instead addressing a civilian group with press present. We wouldn’t want the ladies of the press getting a case of the vapors.

For Chris L: In "The March Up," West and Smith observe that the Marines of Mattis’ division treated surrendering Iraqi humanely--the way they are supposed to be treated. There attitude toward the jihadis was a little different. It was captured in a comment by a Marine that I used for the title of my review of the book in NRO. He said, "you know, this is the perfect war. They want to die and we want to kill them"

I think it is quite telling the word "exterminate" was used as a positive in an above post.

How do we know that the "insurgents" we kill are wife-beating dogs? How is this hate propoganda being proven? Are we not disturbed that celebrated members of our society find it pleasurable, and a "hoot" to kill others? Is this not the same kind of heartless, inhumane evil we ascribe to the "insurgents"?

The Marine Corps routinely uses such propoganda to convince otherwise generally decent young boys to kill others who have done them no specific harm. For a good man, a Marine like my husband, this kind of language was both offensive and disturbing. Thank God there are still those more temperate and discerning Marines who value honor above brutality.

The Marine Corps routinely uses such propoganda to convince otherwise generally decent young boys to kill others who have done them no specific harm.

Um, well, yeah, but isn’t that kind of the point of having a military? In World War II, the Nazis hadn’t done our "decent young boys" any "specific harm." Heck, they were all the way over in Europe. But the Marines trained these boys to kill Nazi soldiers nonetheless. Was that "offensive and disturbing"?

Dr. Moser -

The difference here is that those WWII Marines were telling those "young boys" that they were fighting for duty (which they were). Lt. Gen. Mattis stated that he is killing for pleasure. That is disturbing . . . I hope his attitude didn’t spread to the "young boys" he was training . . .

Finger-wagging, kindergarten cop judgmentalism has no place in the reality of war. This man did and said nothing wrong. He’s exactly the kind of man we need to protect us from the would-be tyrants and their subordinates in this world. He’s exactly the kind of commander we need to teach today’s young men to fight for us as well. It might make some people "uncomfortable" and they might find such language "offensive" or crude. But such people would do well to remember what made it possible for them to luxuriate in these feelings. Such people had better wake up or remain a distinct minority or these luxuries won’t be available much longer. Life is tough, grow up and get used to it.

John Moser - give us a break already with the constant Nazi comparisons. You don’t like it when the left compares Bush to Hitler (and rightly so), so stop comparing every other Iraqi with the Nazis...geez...

And as for the current situation, the Iraqi "insurgents" have done neither specific or even GENERAL harm to American least prior to the U.S. invading Iraq under a rather b.s. pretext.

Is there ANYTHING that can possibly originate from the U.S. military that you might hesitate from applauding?? (and to answer any facile flipside you might toss my way rather than answering my question, yes, there’s plenty of behaviors exhibited by US soldiers that I might applaud. From the sounds of it, those of Mrs. Kubiak’s husband - those willing to think independently and not adopt the mindless killing machine mentality - might be some of them. Also, at this point, conscientious objectors get my thumbs up, and those who return from Iraq and denounce this war....for starters)


Your accusation that those who denounce this war and the brutalities carried out therein are "luxuriating" here at home is both ignorant and silly. As the wife of a Marine Corps officer, I can tell you that my husband was not alone in his scorn of this kind of violent rhetoric. Many, many Marines who served with honor in Iraq deplored the needless killing of so many innocent civilians.

It is my husbands educated opinion that only those who have never killed would speak so highly of it. I assume you, Julie, would fit that criteria. Perhaps we should listen to those soldiers with something meaningful to impart rather than those echoing the propoganda. It is amazing to me that we fight this war in the name of "freedom and justice" yet we honor only those actions filled with violence and terror.

General Mattis may have spoken a bit rashly, given the setting, but the man is hardly a bloodthirsty monster.

As evidence for that view, I would submit the eminent journalist Robert Kaplan’s essay from The Atlantic Monthly, "Five Days in Fallujah" (July/August 2004). Kaplan reports on the fighting there last spring which Gen. Mattis (a man with a definite reputation as a "hard-charging" Marine commander) directed as CO of the 1st Marine Division.

Kaplan, who has spent quite a bit of time in quite a few war zones, points out that Mattis "constantly drilled humanitarian concerns" into his men, and further says that the times during the April fighting when the Marines that Kaplan was with seemed most upset were on two occasions when innocent civilian residents of Fallujah were killed (in one case by a terrorist mortar shell that missed the Marines’ position and hit a 6-year-old Iraqi girl instead).

The whole essay is available to subscribers only, but its opening section is at:

Here is the "message to all hands" that then Major General Mattis issued to his troops as they prepared to enter Iraq in March 2003:

"For decades, Saddam Hussein has tortured, imprisoned, raped and murdered the Iraqi people; invaded neighboring countries without provocation; and threatened the world with weapons of mass destruction. The time has come to end his reign of terror. On your young shoulders rest the hopes of mankind.

"When I give you the word, together we will cross the Line of Dedparture, close with those forces that choose to fight, and destroy them. Our fight is not with the Iraqi people, nor is it with members of the Iraqi army who choose to surrender. While we will move swiftly and aggressively against those who resisit, we will treat all others with decency, demonstrating chivalry and soldierly compassion for people who have endured a lifetime under Saddam’s oppression.

Chemical attacks, treachery, and the use of the innocent as human shileds can be expected, as can unethical tactics. Take it all in stride. Be the hunter, not the hunted: never allow your unit to be caught with its guard down. Use good judgment and act in the best interest of our Nation.

"You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith with your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and strong spirit.

"For the mission’s sake, our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles--who fought for life and never lost their nerve--carry out you mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world that there is ’No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy’ than a U.S. Marine."

J.N. Mattis
Major General, US Marines

He then led from the front, like a modern day Xenophon, who led the 10,000 on the Anabasis, "the march up," following the same trail in 400 BC as the 1st Marine Division did in 2003. The Marines did not target Iraqi civilians. Did some die? Inevitably, given the character of this war. But some Marines also died because they erred on the side of humanity. War is a hard school.

I think Lt. Gen. James Mattis may have chosen his words poorly. His point is clear, and in my mind, correct. This people have committed atrocites. Therefor they shall die. "Fun" to be the one to do so? Perhaps. There would be a certain sense of accomplishment, of retribution, from helping in the demise of a reign of terror.

This man is the kind we need protecting us. In fact, this is the kind of man every free nation needs protecting their interests; men who will not flinch in the face of danger. Men who will not hesitate, when that split second hesitation may save his life, and thus enable him to better protect his country.

Granted, Mattis’ words may have been "ill chosen," but that is besides the point. I wish people would look beyond the words and see the deeper truth behind them. Julie Ponzi is right.

People need to get in touch with reality. In a world of terror, tyranny, despotism, and totalitarianism, isolationism and pacifistic doctrines cannot possibly triumph. Especially when there are weapons like nuclear warheads out there. Or like chemical weapons. Or virtually any kind of missle. These things must be defended against, and sitting on one’s butt and doing nothing will accomplish exactly that: NOTHING. The free nations of the world need men like Mattis.

Mr. Stone -

In your mind his words are "correct"? You think that it should be a "hoot" to kill people? It doesn’t matter what they did (well . . . to a point that DOES matter, but); they are still people!

I do not want a man who is not killing out of duty, but rather out of pleasure, as a part of my country’s military. I think that is sick. The kind of men we need to protect our country are the ones who know how to do it with wisdom and prudence, not the ones who are doing it for the "fun" of it.

There is NO deeper truth in this man’s words. He meant exactly what he said. This was not a "slip of the tongue". You don’t have to enjoy killing anyone to have the courage to fight terrorism. I’m appalled at his words, and, quite frankly, I’m a little frightened by yours.

John Moser - give us a break already with the constant Nazi comparisons. You don’t like it when the left compares Bush to Hitler (and rightly so), so stop comparing every other Iraqi with the Nazis...geez...

It doesn’t have to be Nazis--plug in any enemy that America has faced, the Vietcong, the Japanese, the Confederates, whatever. My point is that military training entails taking good, decent boys who’ve been taught all their lives that killing is wrong, and making killers out of them. Ask any drill instructor, and he’ll tell you that this is the goal. It’s not easy, and involves making these young men hate their country’s enemies, even if these people have done nothing to the young men individually. As they say in boot camp, the goal isn’t to die for one’s country--it’s to get the other guy to die for his. It may not be pretty, but it’s what wins wars.

But let’s stop pretending this is about Mattis. Let’s face it--the only ones who are complaining about him are the ones who opposed the Iraq War from the start. And this is why the Nazi imagery is relevant. If this were a war that liberals supported--as they supported World War II--does anyone really think there’d be a story here?

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.--George Orwell

If this were a war that liberals supported--as they supported World War II--does anyone really think there’d be a story here?

This is a ridiculous statement. But only because it is probably true. If there was not so much heated, bipolarized passion about this war, it probably would not be a story (which I find rather alarming). Good point, though. I would hope that this would be a concern no matter what the war, but I think Dr. Moser is right . . . on this point anyway. :)

Jarhead : A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by: Anthony Swofford.

Go read this book. Also for clarification: Soldiers are in the Army, Marines are in the Marine Corps. Lori my guess is that half these people don’t want to understand the reality. They wouldn’t even approve of the music "soldiers" listen to to get pumped up... "Fire Water Burn"(We don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn, burn motherfucker burn...)

Dr. Moser says: "Ask any drill instructor, and he’ll tell you that this is the goal. It’s not easy, and involves making these young men hate their country’s enemies, even if these people have done nothing to the young men individually. As they say in boot camp, the goal isn’t to die for one’s country--it’s to get the other guy to die for his. It may not be pretty, but it’s what wins wars." This is very true... but it might also be true that the Marine Corps "brainwashes" these marines. Is there much honor in playing along with the brainwashing, once you are aware of it?

As a former football player who played to inflict dammage on the opposing quaterback, defend the honor of the school, field, and prom queen, I once identified myself as a football player. Football players listened to the coaches, they hooped and hollered, they banged helmets and listened to the pep talk with religious zeal. You sucked it up and drove on. You play keep going, coach can’t take you out if he wanted to. You transform your body, mind, and spirit and hone it to a single goal.

Being a soldier should be something like that... As a football player at Ashland I remmember laughing at my roomate Dan Kubiak the scrawny ex-soccer playing philosopher who wanted to be a marine so bad he would walk around the room chanting kill! kill! kill! Ironically it was during my time with Dan that I decided I no longer had the "love" for the game. I discovered that there was something greater to be done with a head than banging it into an equally determined Offensive Lineman.

While I am aware that there are serious differences between the duty owed to the nation, and those owed to a sports team, I am not sure the required mental state is all that different. Who is to say that in the end what attracts us to a thing are not its trappings, and that when we become aware of the deficencies between what is presented and the reality we become disillusioned?

Lori says: "Perhaps we should listen to those soldiers with something meaningful to impart rather than those echoing the propoganda." Maybe when a soldier ceases to echo the propoganda he ceases to be a soldier...maybe a key element of being something is ignorance of your options, and someone with open options isn’t anything but an individual. But life as an individual is difficult, as it is unattached to a trapping.

Notice how Bush in his second inaugural attacks this sort of Individualism, when he says "Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another." Liberty then does not mean a mind that is sanctioned to act independently but rather a mind that acts in service to and in dependence upon its trappings. It appears then that liberty is akin to self-government and that this in turn is itself dependent on our attachment to the "trappings" or as Bush would call them "edifices of character". These edifices of character are supported by communities...and more specifically religion.

It should go without saying that you have to believe in such truths in order for them to have a hold upon you. In theory all Soldiers and Marines are sworn to defend the constitution of the United States but in practice very few have read the document. It should go something like this: The edifice of character is built in squads, supported by Platoons with standards and sustained in our national life by the self-evident truths of the declaration and the words of the constitution,(if we paraphrase Bush further we include the diverse opinions of the soldiers...which in truth are the only things that sustain the standards)

But it would seem to me that a key aspect of Liberty requires the ability to step out of the "edifice of character" in order to pass judgement upon it, if only for ourselves, since there is no guarantee that truth and reason is the foundation for what is built in famillies or supported by communities. In fact the mind set that took blind action on the teachings of familly and the support of communities, was the mindset and view towards self-government and the individual of the german people during World War 2. The German who reflected lost his Germanhood in becoming an individual. This noxious exuberence against mere monadistic individualism was a key part of the German "edifice of character" that reinforced it and made it potent even against competing truths shown by the actual experience with the thing itself. Assuming the average Nazi at a concentration camp was a human being like us, what kept this (protestant)majority from objecting to carrying out such genocide?

What is it about the "edifice of character" found in jocks that make them scorn academics? or academics jocks? or Civilians to jarheads?

Who is to decide where the "edifice of character ends" and propaganda begins, who is to make the distinction, and what is liberty if not the realization that your life is yours and not to be left to the collective whim of the topiary builders and the constructors of "character edifices"? At the very least Liberty means the ability to pick your "trappings" and discard them when you believe they are propaganda.

So, Matt, lemme get this straight. You think that Mattis’s remarks should be a concern no matter what sort of war we were engaged in, BUT you also think that Moser is right in saying that this wouldn’t be at all newsworthy if liberals approved of the war? So, you think it should’ve been a concern, but just not mentioned in the news???

Sorry, Moser, I ain’t buying it. I would’ve been happy to fight to liberate Nazi death camps, but that doesn’t mean that I would’ve found it a "hoot" or "a hell of a lot of fun" to kill the enemy. I don’t think I would look back on such events as a good time.

Also, the kind of ideal soldier that you describe is one who would need to do a complete shut-off of any critical thinking functions, and have absolute blind faith in his leaders, be they human or deities. The perfect mindset for cannon fodder, be they Iraqis or Americans. The thing is, as much of a science as the military has made of capturing the "hearts and minds" of its soldiers for ridiculous elective wars (based on debunked premises) such as this, they still haven’t made it foolproof. Witness the the number of our soldiers who are refusing to return to "duty" after a break, becoming COs, or just offing themselves (and others) in the field.

And, "buttercup" - as for the Orwell quote attempt at a zinger, the fact is that the current US military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan are hardly helping me (and plenty of others) to sleep peaceably, precisely BECAUSE of what our "rough men" are doing in those countries (Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, etc.). At this rate, the kooky right fringe calls to "kill ’em all" (as in Muslims) might have to become a more respectable mainstream consideration if Bush & Co. are to save face in this war on Evil, seeing that our actions are so effectively radicalizing many of them, and providing excellent recruiting propaganda for the terrorists.

Just Another Ohio Voter(and to clarify my thinking): There are as many calls to "kill them all"(muslims), as to "hug them all"(muslims). The main problem is a cycle of radicalization followed by appeasement. Our appeasement in turn makes radicalization a decent tactic.

American security doesn’t require that the terrorism-sponsoring nations of the Middle East be free, only that they be non-threatening...In other words kill them all! It needs to be made known that continued sponsorship of terrorism will mean immediate destruction. Unfortunately our attempts at "freeing" the Middle East work against this principle... and entrench another in its place...(hug them all).

Under "hug them all" we attempt to give Iraqi’s elections that have little to do with any internal changes in ideas and practices. My worry is that the Iraqi government will become a popularly elected theocracy. Certainly rule by Sharia is compatible with democracy in the sense of unlimited majority rule. I do believe that Bush is right in saying that in the long run american security depends upon the expansion of Liberty.

Howhever the crux of the problem is Bush’s understanding of Liberty: The understanding of Liberty that he puts forth is more compatible with Islam than it is with Individualism. Under Bush self-government is a collective process built by institutions that shape the "edifice of character". Liberty thus does not mean that a man’s possessions are his by right, but rather that they exist by permission of the community. In fact the words of the Koran can be used as informative building blocks for these rights!

This is an attempt to moderate Islam through democracy, but is not the same as an expansion of Liberty.

If Bush could be honest and also advance his agenda he would say simply: American security depends upon our ability to moderate Islam. Sometimes moderating Islam requires "rough men" and sometimes it requires "sensitive men", and sometimes it requires recasting the meanings of freedom and liberty alltogether.

Another Ohio Voter -

What are you talking about? Did you actually read my comment or did you just skim it? I said I found it rather alarming because I believed he was right. Maybe if you would read my comments with a little prudence instead of hostility, you’d actually know what I was saying . . .

I didn’t say that it wouldn’t be newsworthy. I said that I agree that it would not be such a huge story, and that I found that somewhat alarming. Sheesh . . . read . . .

Matt - didn’t mean to come off as hostile. I REALLY WAS trying to get what you said straight. And I’m still not sure I do. You seem to simultaneously agree and disagree with Moser - I guess you ONLY agree with him that it wouldn’t be a big story, but disagree with him that it should. Sorry, I read your post, but I just didn’t see it as clearly as you apparently intended.

Another Ohio Voted -

Alrighty then. Yeah, you got what I meant that time. I’ll try to make things more clear in the future. :)

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