US general: it is 'fun to shoot some people'
A senior U.S. Marine Corps general who said it was "fun to shoot some people" should have chosen his words more carefully but will not be disciplined, military officials said on Thursday.
Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and is slated to be portrayed by star actor Harrison Ford in an upcoming Hollywood movie, made the comments at a conference on Tuesday in San Diego, California.
"Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," Mattis said.
In a statement, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee praised Mattis as "one of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders."
"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said.
"Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor. I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully," Hagee added.
Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said Hagee did not plan disciplinary action against Mattis. Johnston declined to specify how Hagee had counseled Mattis.
During a Pentagon briefing, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not criticize Mattis' remarks, saying, "I have not read his words. I don't know what he said precisely or the context."
'THE RIGHT EXAMPLE'
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, lauded Mattis' record and leadership.
Without explicitly criticizing Mattis, Pace told the briefing, "First of all, all of us who are leaders have a responsibility in our words and our actions to provide the right example all the time for those who look to us for leadership."
Mattis, formally promoted to three-star general last month, heads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, at Quantico, Virginia.
In November 2001, Mattis proclaimed, "We have landed and we now own terrain in south Afghanistan," after Marines took over a desert airstrip. The comment ruffled feathers at the Pentagon, where officials were uneasy with a U.S. general talking about owning Afghanistan.
In Iraq, he commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion and subsequent counterinsurgency operations.
Mattis was ordered to lead an assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja in April 2004 after the slaying and mutilation of four American contractors, but U.S. leaders halted the offensive and withdrew his Marines before a decisive showdown. He wrapped up his service in Iraq in August, a spokeswoman said.
In November, Marines under different command seized control of the city after the U.S. presidential election.
Ford has been pegged to play the role of Mattis in the film version of an upcoming book "No True Glory," an account of the April battle for Falluja written by Marine veteran Bing West.
Senior Pentagon Intelligence official Lt. Gen. William Boykin referred in 2003 to the struggle against Islamic extremists as a battle with Satan. In a speech, Boykin referred to a Muslim fighter in Somalia, and said, "Well, you know what I knew, that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."
The Pentagon inspector general concluded in August that Boykin should face "appropriate corrective action," and a senior Army general said in October said unspecified action had been taken against Boykin.