Opinion: General Mattis Gets It Wrong

AP featured image
President Donald Trump acknowledges Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during a reception commemorating the 35th anniversary of the attack on Beirut Barracks in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Retired Marine General James Mattis, former Secretary of Defense to President Donald Trump, felt it necessary to excoriate his former boss this past Wednesday. Mattis, in a long screed, published in The Atlantic and entitled, “James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution,” said:

“I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled.”

“The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.”

“We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

“Mockery of the Constitution,” How so? I keep hearing that phrase, especially regarding the potential use of troops. However, nobody, including General Mattis has described just how President Trump is doing such.

Mattis continues,

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,”

Sorry General. Where were you when he was attacked during the transition and never let up on—while you were serving as his Secretary of Defense? Where were you, when he was being spied upon by the agencies that are supposed to be spying for him and against our foreign enemies—while you were his Secretary of Defense? I’m sorry Sir, but it’s not President Trump who is dividing us. It’s the folks who still won’t accept the results of the 2016 election. It’s the foreign and domestic actors with mayhem in mind, who using the pretext of civil rights, that seek to divide us over an essentially non-existent problem.


Mattis follows with

“We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

That sounds a whole lot like a call to remove him from office…and not in legal way. General Mattis needs to walk this back a bit. The last thing we need in these turbulent time is a 7…or 8 days in May scenario.

Then, retired Marine Corps General Mattis does something I would never have thought a Flag Officer of serious distinction would ever do, he attempts to pawn an untruth off on the American People by saying (emphasis mine)

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago,” he writes, “I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

That is a shameful statement. At no time were American Soldiers ordered to violate anyone’s rights and certainly not to provide any photo op. That just did not happen. General Mattis has a well deserved reputation for being a prolific reader. Perhaps he might consider re-reading the U.S. Constitution and the Insurrection Act with Amendments, which provide President Trump with the authority that he is considering using.


One of my Academy classmates reminded me of something that noted history scholar, General Mattis might wish to consider; Presidents Jefferson, Jackson, Grant, Hayes, Cleveland, Wilson, F. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, L. Johnson, and G HW Bush have all invoked the Insurrection Act. Since 1968, it has been invoked 5 times…to quell riots.

A couple of my regular readers also noted some pretty egregious uses of the Insurrection Act (Hat tips to JT & MK).

1863-Lincoln used Federal Troops to quell the draft riots.

1919-Wilson used Federal Troops to quell Chicago race riots

1932-Hoover used Federal Troops to disperse World War 1 Veterans who were in Washington peaceably marching to receive their promised bonuses. Then Majors Eisenhower and Patton took part in this under the command of General MacArthur.

1946-Truman sent Federal Troops to disperse striking railway workers.

The constitutional basis for President Trump’s proposed but not yet decided, much less, executed action, is long established. Which brings us to the actions in Lafayette Park, where Park Police properly and safely dispersed rioters, criminals who were attacking them. This was not in any way an abuse of power or a case of excessive force, despite a concerted effort by the left to characterize it as such.

General Mattis undoubtably retains a clearance, so I’m sure the Park Police and the Secret Service would both be willing to let him read their after-action reports (AAR) regarding the actions in Lafayette Park and also let him review the video. Once he has done this, I believe as an honest man of integrity, would change his opinion..


General Mattis, Sir, you have a reputation for integrity and scholarship. You might not agree with President Trump’s agenda, or his communication style and that’s fair. However, at no time has he violated the rights of American Citizens. At no time has he encouraged my beloved Army or my respected brethren in the Marine Corps to do so. I urge you to “review the tape” and apologize for your intemperate remarks.


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