I’m not a Marine, but I know the Marines. With 12-and-a-half years teaching the U.S. military under my belt, I can sincerely say, hand on heart, that the two-and-a-half years I spent at the “Crossroads of the Corps,” teaching at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, were the most meaningful and fulfilling of all. What I learned there leads me to the ineluctable conclusion: Jim Mattis is no Marine.
“Mad Dog” may have worn the uniform of a leatherneck for more years than most, but he has betrayed the values of the Corps by his recent statements about the sitting commander-in-chief. He is no longer one of “the Few, the Proud,” having accused President Trump of somehow violating “the Constitutional rights of . . . fellow citizens” by walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church the day after “peaceful” protestors tried to burn the church to the ground. It’s the same church that every incoming president of the United States has stopped to pray in and show his respects on the morning of his inauguration.
Do I have a right to criticize a man like Mattis? A man allegedly called “Mad Dog” and “Chaos” by his peers? No, I never served in the U.S. military. My only military experience is a few years in the British Army reserves. Once I came to America, however, I twice took the oath of service to my new nation. Once when I joined the Defense Department as a civilian, and then again in 2017 when I joined the White House as a strategist to President Trump.
And even if none of that were true, I would still feel a duty publicly to censure Mattis for a personal reason: because of what I learned from the Marines I have worked for and with over the years. Their love of America and their respect for the truth demand that we react to such reprehensible behavior from a retired general officer who knows better.
Mattis gave his holier-than-thou “statement” to the rabidly anti-Trump platform The Atlantic, which in and of itself is more than strange given that he was a sworn officer of the Trump Administration—a member of his cabinet—as President Trump’s secretary of defense. Did he not know who he was going to work for when he agreed to be his secretary of defense? And why did the condemnation of his former superior, the commander-in-chief appear now, exactly at a time which is so advantageous for the political forces that wish to see the president weakened just months before the election?
Here I could devote paragraphs to my experience of the general and flag officer corps during my time in the Department of Defense and White House. I might tell you how the Clinton, Obama, and even Bush Jr. years fostered an environment of political generals and admirals driven more by groupthink and Beltway conformity than a duty to professional standards of conduct and the truth. But Mattis’s sin is far more egregious than just being a politically motivated “yes man.” He has betrayed the ethos of the Corps.
“We must reject any thinking of our cities as a ‘battlespace’ that our uniformed military is called upon to ‘dominate,’” Mattis said. Why? Is it because he doesn’t like the president? It is because Mattis is on the side of the rioters?
Shouldn’t a general, retired or otherwise, know that a president’s primary responsibility is the security of the citizens of our nation? It is possible that Mattis is unaware of the dozens of times U.S. presidents—Democrat and Republican—have used the military domestically to keep us all safe, from quelling rioters to responding to disasters?
From Woodrow Wilson, who sent units to 20 cities to end anarchist violence, to Herbert Hoover, who used the military to disperse protestors on the Washington Mall? If he does know of this history, then why is this emergency with violence spreading across the country any different? Is it because of who the president happens to be? Have the streets not become a “battlespace” when at least 13 innocent Americans have been slaughtered in less than 13 days—five of them black, by the way—including a 77-year-old retired police captain?
Yes, Mattis is wrong. But more than that, he is a coward. No, not in any sense related to his military service. I have no evidence to the effect that in a firefight with real bullets he wouldn’t acquit himself like a man. No, I am not referring to physical courage, but moral courage.
Instead of staying in his professional lane, and for example, extolling the men and women of the National Guard who have been deployed across Democrat-run cities to protect Americans of all hues, or decrying rioters who taunt them and call them “fascist pigs,” Mattis chooses to attack the president, calling his actions an “abuse of executive authority,” and calling for Americans to “reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.” How interesting.
Mattis is not young. He has been a public figure for several years. In all those years, he chooses only now to be concerned with “abuses of executive authority” and officials who make a “mockery of our Constitution.” Well, sir, America would like to know where your “public statements” of concern for both were when the last occupant of the White House used his executive powers to have the IRS target Conservative organizations associated with the Tea Party? Where was your outrage, General, with those who mocked the Constitution by reneging on the president’s duty to protect Americans at home and abroad as Ambassador Chris Stevens was tortured and killed in Benghazi with three other Americans and then afterward would blame that Jihadist attack on “spontaneous rioters” reacting to a YouTube video?
Where were you, Mad Dog, when your previous employer, Barack Obama, used the full might of his “executive authority” to “make a mockery of our Constitution” by targeting a retired three-star general with all the tools available to the FBI and Department of Justice, an innocent man who had served his nation in uniform for almost as many decades as you? Why no lengthy diatribes to The Atlantic then? Did you only find your conscience after President Trump fired you?
How convenient. How unlike a Marine. How distinctly a rejection of Semper Fidelis.