“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”
That’s the stark advice given to Marines in Iraq in 2003 by retired four-star General James Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s possible Defence Secretary.
Gen Mattis, who is dubbed “Mad Dog”, is known as much for his uncompromising approach to America’s enemies as for his memorable turn of phrase.
The 66-year-old’s quotes, or #mattisisms, have been faithfully shared online by veterans who revere his candour and leadership, much of it served at the spear tip of battle.
After meeting him on Saturday, Mr Trump said Gen Mattis – who had a 44-year career with the Marine Corps – was “the real deal” and “a true General’s General”.
While rising through the ranks, Gen Mattis also earned the nickname “Warrior Monk” because he never married or had children.
He retired in 2013 after serving as head of US Central Command (Centcom), the American military’s wing in charge of all its Middle East forces.
Gen Mattis was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, specifically its views on Iran.
He has called Iran “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East”.
Before he was promoted to lead Centcom in 2010, Gen Mattis was appointed as the head of US Joint Forces Command and Nato Supreme Allied Commander in 2007.
Gen James Mattis, in his own words
- “I don’t lose any sleep at night over the potential for failure. I cannot even spell the word.”
- “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”
- “I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you [expletive] with me, I’ll kill you all.”
- “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
- “There is nothing better than getting shot at and missed. It’s really great.”
- “I’m going to plead with you, do not cross us. Because if you do, the survivors will write about what we do here for 10,000 years.”
(Source: San Diego Union Tribune)
Gen Mattis led an assault battalion during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded a task force into southern Afghanistan in 2001.
He also helmed a Marine division at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003 and played a key role a year later in the Battle of Fallujah.
Gen Mattis co-authored a counterinsurgency manual, which was credited for easing sectarian violence in Iraq before the US withdrawal in December 2011.
But his refusal to mince words has been both celebrated and censured.
In 2005, Gen Mattis came under fire for comments made while talking to service members in San Diego.
“It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling,” he said at a panel discussion.
“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.”
The Marine Corps said at the time the general had been spoken to about his remarks and agreed “he should have chosen his words more carefully”.
Though Gen Mattis is considered a top choice for the job, he faces a hurdle if appointed as Pentagon chief.
A retired officer is required to be out of uniform for at least seven years before he or she can serve as defence secretary.
Gen Mattis, who has only been retired for three years, would require a formal waiver from the Republican-controlled Congress to qualify for the role.
His confirmation would make him the country’s second retired general to serve as Pentagon chief.
Army General George Marshall received a congressional waiver to serve as President Harry Truman’s defence secretary in 1950. He had previously served as President Truman’s Secretary of State.
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