Washington: US President-elect Donald Trump today announced that he will nominate US Marine retired general James Mattis, renowned for his tough talk and battlefield experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be his defence secretary.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our Secretary of Defence,” Trump told a cheering crowd at Cincinnati in Ohio in his first of the series of ‘Thank You’ victory tour.
“But we are not announcing this till Monday, so don’t tell anybody,” Trump told his supporters in his characteristic way. Trump described 66-year-old Mattis as “one of our great, great generals.”
“He’s our best. They say he’s the closest thing to (World War II-era) general George Patton that we have and it’s about time,” Trump said at the rally. The retired four-star general, known as “Mad Dog,” commanded a Marine battalion during the First Gulf War and a Marine division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In 2010, he was named to head the US Central Command.
Tough-talking Mattis attracted controversy in 2005 when he said “it’s fun to shoot some people” while addressing service members in San Diego. If confirmed by the US Senate, Mattis would replace outgoing Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
The nomination comes after Mattis met with Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey, last month. Trump had said he changed his position on enhanced interrogation after meeting Mattis.
“General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’” Trump told The New York Times in an interview.
“He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture,” Trump said.
General Mattis has received support from top Republican Senators in the Congress, including Senator John McCain, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
Notably McCain and Trump do not see an eye to eye on a lot of issues. “General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain said last month when his named popped up for the first time.
“He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defence and the service of heroes,” he said.
“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defence, the US military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again,” McCain had then said.
Congressman Mac Thornberry, chairman of House Armed Services Committee, said few individuals in the field of national security are as respected and admired as Mattis.
“His nomination as Secretary of Defence is an excellent selection, and I am grateful for his willingness to serve in this capacity. I will work with my colleagues in the coming days to clear the way for his confirmation by the Senate. I can think of no better partner for Congress to work with to support the men and women who serve and protect our nation’s security,” Thornberry said in a statement.