A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
In the list of frightening cabinet appointments by President-elect Donald Trump, perhaps the most disturbing is his pick for Secretary of Defense, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Not only would the appointment be illegal, violating a federal law stating that it has to have been at least seven years since defense secretaries have been on active duty, but also General Mattis has been repeatedly implicated in war-crimes.
Evidently, General Mattis’ nickname “Mad-Dog” has been earned through his reputation for having a callous disregard for human life. He has been quoted by The Washington Post as saying that he enjoyed the fighting in Afghanistan because “it’s fun to shoot some people. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot.”
As head of the First Marine Division in Iraq, Mattis played a leading role during U.S. sieges of the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, in which apartment blocks, hospitals, and mosques were targeted and more than 5,000 civilians killed. “I personally witnessed women, children, elderly people and ambulances being targeted by U.S. snipers under Mattis’s command,” said journalist Dahr Jamail, who was inside Fallujah during the siege. “Mosques were deliberately targeted by the US military, hospitals bombed, medical workers detained, ambulances shot at, cease-fires violated, media repressed, and the use of depleted uranium was widespread.” Jamail also claims that civilian bodies were buried in mass graves by US personnel after the siege.
Jamail broke the story of the US military’s use of white phosphorous, an incendiary weapon similar to napalm in its ability to burn all the way down to the bone. The use of white phosphorus was a violation of international law, given that it was unleashed in the city during a time when the Pentagon itself admitted to at least 50,000 civilians still being present.
More than 200,000 civilians were displaced from their homes during the siege on Fallujah, and over 75 percent of the city was destroyed.
The horrific legacy of depleted uranium contamination continues, with stillbirths and birth defects still occurring at astronomical rates, creating a situation so extreme that some Iraqi doctors are calling it a “genocide.”
Another example of General Mattis’ disregard for human life occurred in 2005 when US marines in Iraq committed a massacre of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the city of Haditha. The slaughtering of unarmed men, women, children and elderly people, shot multiple times at close range, was retribution for a roadside bomb attack on a convoy of marines. The atrocity garnered international attention.
Although a number of marines were implicated in the massacre, only eight were arrested. At the trial, General Mattis was the convening authority, and he dismissed all charges.
The appointment of General James “Mad-Dog” Mattis to the position of Secretary of Defense is yet another indication of the incoming Trump administration’s wanton disregard for human rights and international law.
Copyright 2016 Michael Simms.
Portions of this article are drawn from Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq by Dahr Jamail with a foreword by Amy Goodman, published by Haymarket Books in 2008.
General James “Mad-Dog” Mattis