Friday, December 02, 2016
Trump actually called James Mattis by his nickname “Mad Dog” when introducing him as his nominee for secretary of defense because, let’s face it, when they handed him a list of possibles, he stopped when he got to the nickname, pointed a stubby finger at the page and shouted “That’s the guy!”
Much has been made of M.D. not being a torture advocate. His position on war crimes is another matter. In the Bush years he routinely intervened to stop trials of marines for murdering civilians and other atrocities and to overturn sentences. The case I particularly followed was that of a group of marines who decided to form a rogue death squad and sneak off base at night to go out hunting for a suspected insurgent. Well, he wasn’t home, so they decided that the next best thing was just to grab and kill any random Iraqi they could find, who turned out to be an invalided former cop (and grandfather of four) who happened to live next door, Hashim Ibrahim Awad or Awad the Lame as he was known. Mattis decided that this murder wasn’t worth more than 17 months in prison (including time awaiting trial).
There are other reasons Mattis would be a bad secretary of war (at least Trump isn’t bringing Rummy out of retirement), including the important principle for a democracy of civilian leadership of the military, but his repeated acts in support of impunity for war crimes should be quite enough to demonstrate his unfitness for the office.