General James N. Mattis, former commander of the First Marine Division in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, takes his place with history’s other morally corrupt military figures. Mattis, like Marshal MacMahon, Cecil Rhodes, and Heydrich before him, has the distinction of gloating over the killing of poorly armed and defenseless resisters while serving masters of privilege and power. Mattis earned his place in this hall of infamy with his actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, leading the outrageous slaughter in Fallujah of April 2004. While the civilized world protested this butchery of irregular combatants in sandals and on motorbikes, Mattis’s masters rewarded him with a promotion to commanding officer of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
Like jost bullies, Mattis took his promotion as an opportunity to promote himself as a tough guy. “It’s fun to shot some people,” Mathis said before a recent forum. “I’ll be right up front with you, I like brawling.” One can only wonder if Mattis would be so enthused with brawling if he were actually in a fair fight with a similarly armed opponent and in the face of actual combat. Generals are always the first to celebrate the pleasures of war when they are far away from the dangers.
Mattis explains how he identifies the bad guys with the following: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil.” From this cultural observation, Mattis concludes, “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.” If these words spewed from the mouth of a LA gang member, or a South Bronx street tough, every self-righteous TV anchor, Sunday morning gasbag, and talk show host would scream for a public execution.
But it’s difficult to be shocked by men like Mattis, whose particularly psychopathic personality drives them to a career in the military, the criminal justice system or the police. The shock is that they are allowed to assume positions of power and authority by the political watchdogs. And the even greater shock is that leaders and influentials turn their heads, stare at their shoes, and lack the moral courage, the “manhood,” to denounce their words and actions.
With the scandals of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the video-game no-danger air war against the Iraqi people, there is plenty for people of good faith to object. The holy rollers, the smug “pro-lifers,” the “values” crowd, and the entire pundit class could demonstrate their moral sincerity, their courage, yes, and their precious “manhood,” by calling for General Mattis’s resignation.
But it ain’t going to happen. Like the cowardly weaklings that goad the schoolyard bully, the O’Reillys, the Limbaughs, and their “liberal” counterparts will evade, excuse, and even applaud the ranting of Mattis.
Surely the deafening silence among “responsible” centrist forces casts a shadow over the electoral strategy endorsed by many liberals and some on the left. The “anybody but Bush” strategy was based upon the understanding that some grand coalition would face down the threat of fascism posed by the ultra-right. But where is this grand coalition when confronted by the only-too-real-face of fascism revealed by Mattis?
Clinton, Schumer, Gore, Kerry and the rest of the Democratic Party are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they fear they will be thought weak on the war against terror?
And now there is talk about a possible movie about Fallujah with Harrison Ford playing Mattis. Could a political career be far behind?