Friday, February 04, 2005

Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

WHAT IS THE KEY WORD in the first paragraph of this article in today's New York Times:

A senior Marine general who commanded forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been admonished by the commandant of the Marine Corps for saying publicly, "It's fun to shoot some people."

Yep, that's right. If Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis had said that privately, we would not be reading about it in our morning papers today. More to the point, if Lt. Gen. Mattis had said what he said privately, he would not have been admonished. Clearly, there's nothing unusual or troubling about his words in and of themselves, from the point of view of his superior officers. Comments like his are as common in war as mushrooms after a rainfall. If that were not true, he would have been relieved of duty, not "counseled...concerning his remarks" by the commandant of the Marine Corps.

In that sense, I'm glad Mattis voiced these sentiments out loud:

"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. ...
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."

Mattis spoke the truth -- just as he did when he said, "The Marines have landed, and we now own a piece of Afghanistan" when Marines seized an airstrip just after the invasion began. Donald Rumsfeld was upset because the Bush administration's ostensible purpose in invading Afghanistan was to "liberate" the country from the Taliban. But the real purpose WAS to "seize land in a Muslim nation." From that point of view, Mattis's boast was quite useful.

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