Our Military Leaders
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- A Marine Corps general with battle awards is being counseled to watch his words more carefully after publicly observing that "it's fun to shoot some people."
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, a career infantry officer now in charge of developing ways to better train and equip Marines, also made fun of the manhood of Afghans during comments Tuesday while speaking at a forum in San Diego. On Thursday, Gen. Mike Hagee, the commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, issued a statement of regret about Mattis' remarks, saying they reflected "the unfortunate and harsh realities of war."
According to an audio recording, Mattis had 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 upfront 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. 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."His comments evoked laughter and applause from the audience. Mattis was speaking during a panel discussion hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a spokeswoman for the general said.
Gen. Hagee's statement said, "Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully."
"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee's statement added. Among Marines, Mattis is regarded as a fighting general and an expert in the art of warfare. Among his decorations are the Bronze Star with a combat distinguishing device and a combat action ribbon, awarded for close-quarters fighting.
He is currently the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., and deputy commandant for combat development. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it was up to Mattis to address his own comments, but he added, "All of us who are leaders have a responsibility in our words and our actions to provide the right example all the time for those who look to us for leadership."
Pace spoke to a Pentagon press conference. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he had not read Mattis' words and deferred to Pace. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties group, called on the Pentagon to discipline Mattis for the remarks.
"We do not need generals who treat the grim business of war as a sporting event," said the council's executive director, Nihad Awad. "These disturbing remarks are indicative of an apparent indifference to the value of human life."