Trump picks corporate war criminal 'Mad Dog' Mattis for Secretary of Defense
Jacksonville, FL – On Dec. 1, president-elect Donald Trump announced that he plans to appoint retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense. Trump made the announcement at a ‘victory rally’ in Cincinnati, Ohio, celebrating his election last month.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mattis will lead the Department of Defense, which is headquartered at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Second only to the president, the secretary of defense commands the entire U.S. military and its operations.
Sharp aggression and enthusiasm for violent combat marks Mattis' 47-year military career. After leading an assault battalion during the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Mattis became head of the Marines under George W. Bush. He led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and later the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which killed an estimated 1 million Iraqis and over 4000 U.S. soldiers.
During the 2004 siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah – the bloodiest battle of the war on Iraq – Mattis received the nickname “Mad Dog” by troops and reporters for his relentless and unhinged style of war. The siege left an estimated 1500 Iraqis and 95 U.S. soldiers dead. Mattis boasted in a 2005 interview that “it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot” people in Afghanistan, adding that if Iraqis “fuck with me, I'll kill you all.” Former soldiers serving under Mattis have also noted his enthusiasm for brutality.
Mattis encouraged a general tolerance of war crimes in the Marines, and he insulated killers from scrutiny or prosecution. In 2007, a group of U.S. Marines massacred 24 unarmed Iraqi women, men and children in the city of Haditha. The incident, which drew comparisons to the My Lai massacre by U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, promoted an investigation by military authorities. Mattis, head of the Marines' parent unit, cleared most of the accused soldiers and dismissed charges on several others. The only soldier to face consequences, Sergeant Frank Wuterich, received a small fine and no jail time after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of “dereliction of duty.”
Picking Mattis signals Trump's intent to escalate military aggression towards Iran. During his tenure as head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013, Mattis pushed for the U.S. to take a more belligerent stance towards Iran. He proposed greater covert operations against the Iranian government and vocally opposed diplomatic efforts. When the Obama administration began negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in 2013, they removed Mattis, an outspoken critic of the negotiations, from Central Command.
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly called for overturning the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, which received approval from all five members of the UN Security Council in 2015. While the billionaire real estate mogul occasionally spoke against U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, Trump's selection of Mattis for Defense Secretary shows where his actual priorities lie: moves toward war with Iran and more U.S. involvement in the region.
Like the rest of Trump's cabinet picks, Mattis also possesses deep ties to corporate America. Theranos, a giant biotech company worth an estimated $9 billion, picked up multimillion dollar contracts with the U.S. military under Mattis. They still face federal investigations into their questionable blood testing technology, which caused health problems in soldiers and produced wildly inaccurate results. Mattis joined their board of directors in 2013 after being relieved of his post at Central Command. Far from the populist rhetoric he used on the campaign trail, Trump's cabinet picks give the green light for the 1% to essentially raid the public treasury for their own profit.
Beyond the Senate appointment vote, Mattis faces another obstacle to taking the top spot at the Pentagon. U.S. law requires Defense Secretary appointees with prior military experience to spend a minimum of seven years as civilians. Mattis only retired from the military a little over three years ago, meaning the Senate must vote to exempt him from this legal requirement prior to confirmation.
Trump paid lip service to anti-war sentiment during the election because he knows how unpopular war is with most Americans. A Quinnipiac University poll from 2015 found that only 13% of people support military action against Iran, with 77% preferring diplomacy between the two countries. For years, a majority of people in the U.S. have opposed war with Iran and the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan. The vast majority of working people in the U.S. will suffer from another war in the Middle East and have no interest in the military aggression pushed by Trump and Mattis.
Anti-war activists and all people opposed to U.S. wars need to mobilize against Mattis. All of Trump's cabinet appointments thus far point to a far right-wing government for the 1% on the horizon. Now is the time for organizers, activists, revolutionaries and freedom fighters to mobilize against Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20 and his anti-people policies to come.