Donald Trump Picks Retired Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis for Defense Secretary
By Nika Knight / Common Dreams
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who once bragged about how much he enjoyed killing people, for Secretary of Defense.
“It’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them,” Mattis said about Afghan men, when asked in 2005 about the people of Afghanistan. (Mattis led the Marines in the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan.)
“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know,” Mattis continued. “It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
Mattis, who retired in 2013, today believes that “political Islam” is one of the greatest threats to the nation’s security, reports the Washington Post.
Trump announced his pick at a rally in Ohio on Thursday evening.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of Defense,” Trump said. “But we’re not announcing until Monday, so don’t tell anybody.”
The Constitution prohibits military officials from holding the position of Defense Secretary unless they’ve been retired for seven years, and so Congress will have to pass a waiver to allow an exception for Mattis. (At least one senator—Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)—has promised to vote against such a waiver.)
Yet that prohibition is something to take seriously, many observers argue, as the U.S. itself has often warned other countries that preserving civilian control of the military is a cornerstone of democracy.
It’s particularly concerning that in addition to Mattis, Trump has chosen or is said to be considering four other military generals for top positions in his administration.
“Appointing too many generals would throw off the balance of a system that for good reason favors civilian leadership,” writes Carol Giacomo in the New York Times.
“The concern is not so much that military leaders might drag the country into more wars,” Giacomo continues. “It is that the Pentagon, with its nearly $600 billion budget, already exercises vast sway in national security policymaking and dwarfs the State Department in resources.”
Indeed, the Washington Post even quotes an anonymous former senior Pentagon official who warns about the dangers of a military official in the role.
“If there’s any concern at all, it’s the principle of civilian control over the military. This role was never intended to be a kind of Joint Chiefs of Staff on steroids,” the official told the Post, “and that’s the biggest single risk tied to Mattis.”
Giacomo adds: “If Mr. Trump fills his cabinet with generals, what kind of message will he send to the rest of the world?”
Nika Knight is a staff writer at Common Dreams.