Friday, February 4

IT'S A HELL OF A HOOT ...

The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice.

In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation's destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are war mongers.

On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

-General Douglas MacArthur-
US Army

"Duty, Honor, Country" Address To Cadets At West Point
May 12, 1962


Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you.

You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they don'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.

-Lt. General James Mattis-
US Marine Corps

Panel Discussion/San Diego, CA
February 3, 2005



UPDATE: I just read these comments by Matthew J. Peterson at the Claremont Institute site (which you'll also find in my "Links/Blogroll" section) on the flap over Lt. General James Mattis' self-described fondness for shooting people, and I must take issue with Mr. Peterson's inference, if I am reading him correctly, that Mattis didn't do anything at all much different from General George Patton's pronouncements on war, popularized by George C. Scott in the famous opening scene of the movie, "Patton." In that scene, Patton was addressing (as he actually did) assembled Third Army troops in a "pre-battle speech," not a panel discussion audience, as Mattis did. Patton was stating in his inimitable style what he expected of his men, as they were about to engage in combat. Never did he describe shooting anyone as a hoot or anything that was the equivalent of Mattis' showboating, cavalier attitude. As Carlo D'Este writes in his book, "Patton -- A Genius For War":

"What his critics have overlooked is that by reducing the terrible uncertainty of combat to the level of an endeavor shared by all, he not only raised morale but improved their chances of emerging from it with their lives intact."

I should add, and this is a matter of history, while the opening speech of George C. Scott's was fairly true to the one General Patton actually gave, a later scene in the movie in which (and I'll paraphrase from memory) Patton is seen surveying the smoldering, body-littered remains of a battlefield and says, "God, forgive me, I do love it so ...," was apocryphal. Fact is, Patton deplored war. As D'Este writes in the book's Prologue:

"While it is true that Patton loved war, it was only in the pragmatic sense that he considered conflict an inevitable part of man's nature. He detested the death and devastation it wrought."

UPDATE II: I received, I'm pleased to report, a very thoughtful email from Matt Peterson, Assistant Director, Center for Local Government, of the The Claremont Institute, in reply to my first update of this post, in which I pointed to his column at the CI's Local Government site with respect to Lt. General James Mattis' ill-chosen words. In taking issue with Mr. Peterson, I was careful to write, "... if I am reading him correctly ..." Turns out, I was not. While I would never quote from an email without first gaining the writer's approval to do so, I will say that Matt Peterson did clarify his comments and assured me that he was not explicitly or implicitly defending what the Lt. General had to say. He did, however, go on to write in his email that the mainstream media's reaction to certain of James Mattis' remarks during the panel discussion in San Diego was over-the-top and that Mattis, while impolitic in his remarks, is undoubtedly a fine officer. In this, I absolutely agree with Mr. Peterson. I've even asked myself if my post juxtaposing the eloquence of Douglas MacArthur with (at least on their surface and perhaps out of context) the flippant, ill-advised words of the US Marine Corps Lt. General was fair. In retrospect, probably not. But I was not and am not impugning Mattis' personal character, courage or exemplary career in the Corps. I simply think he was too cavalier in what he said to those in the audience and his comments were getting a lot of play in the press, to say the least.

I should add (and perhaps Matt Peterson may read this) that Mr. Peterson and the Claremont Institute's Center for Local Government's Ken Masugi are colleagues. I attended Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA (back in geologic time it was originally named Claremont Men's College, but subsequently became coed and "Mens" was replaced with "McKenna" to keep "CMC" intact and to acknowledge the gifts of money, time and expertise provided it by a long-standing donor and trustee, Mr. McKenna ) and was a classmate of Ken Masugi's. He's a brilliant, accomplished man and I have no doubt that Matt Peterson is as well. Ken, by the way, is Director of the Center for Local Government. It's site is also in my Links/Blogroll section. I know the trio of superlative writers at Powerline, as but one example, are big fans of the site.

Lastly (yes, I'm insufferably long-winded), why did I concern myself with Matt Peterson's reference to George S. Patton? Well, I'm admittedly fond of the man and his soldiering. Yes, I enjoyed George C. Scott's portrayal, but I've also read and have on the bookshelves of my personal library several exceptional biographies of Patton. But, most importantly, I've read (and re-read) Patton's own opus, "War As I Knew It," and gained additional insights into the man that the movie either did not provide or distorted in some fashion. Patton was remarkable (as are all great men and women). As but one example (and I was impressed by it), General Patton wrote at length about the importance of an infantryman caring properly for his feet, and how officers must assure that regular feet inspections occur, and that the troops have the right to competent command and caring, professional officers. You see, ol' "Blood and Guts" did not egotistically put himself first, as the movie mightly suggests. Patton was, in fact, a very wealthy man and spent a lot of his own money on the care and feeding of his men, including providing supplies for them when he was training a tank corps in the California desert.