Skip to comments.General Mattis' Appointment Raises Free Speech Concerns
Posted on 07/13/2010 8:29:28 AM PDT by John R. Guardiano
The appointment of Marine Corps General James N. Mattis to head up Central Command (CENTCOM) is, of course, very good news. Mattis, after all, may well be Americas greatest living general. He certainly is one of the most intellectually formidable advocates of counterinsurgency warfare.
However, Mattis appointment - or, to be more precise, the reaction to his appointment amongst reporters and by the Pentagon leadership raises troubling doubts about whether the American elite understand and are committed to free speech.
I say this for two reasons: First because the Pentagon has imposed new and more restrictive rules on military media engagements; and second because Mattis himself was not on hand to speak with reporters when, on July 8, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his appointment.
The Department of Defense and the White House did not want Mattis talking with reporters because he has a history of making colorful and provocative comments. For example, in 2005, Mattis said this at a professional conference on military transformation:
"Actually, its a lot of fun to fight em [Jihadists]. You know. Its a hell of a hoot. Its fun to shoot some people. Ill be right upfront with you. I like brawling.
"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap around women for five years because they didnt wear a veil. You know guys like that aint got no manhood left anyway, so its a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
These innocuous comments created a minor brouhaha at the time because without any contextual explication, they are easily misconstrued. But as I explained five years ago in the American Spectator, understood in context, Mattis remarks are wholly unobjectionable...
What are you talking about? It's the US military, not Oprah's book club. There is no such thing as "free speech" when you're wearing the uniform.
What "concerns" are you referring? I'm pretty sure the DoD hasn't kept any reporter from writing any story. That would be a "free speech" issue. But, the military is under NO OBLIGATION to make it's uniformed service personnel available to reporters.
Amen to your comments. This guy sounds like he never served or is a REMF.
We (the people) can no longer tolereate generals who wink and smile no matter what—especially when the cp has been overrun!
There is no free speech in the military.
It was Col David Hackworth who till a few years ago frequently used the following quote in his writings.
“When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.” General George Washington, New York Legislature, 1775
Hack was known to be outspoken in the extreme, frequently badmouthing the politician/soldiers he encountered, and referred to them and others as the “perfumed princes” of our day.
btw, col hackworth often spoke of the Marines—here are some of his writings here....
Thanks for your comment, but you’re simply wrong. We’re not talking, remember, about the Nazi or Soviet military, or some subpar Third World military. We’re talking about the United States military. We pride ourselves on being a thinking man’s force. Thus we do not mindlessly and blindly just follow orders. We improvise, adapt and overcome.
Perhaps James Webb (now the senior senator from Virginia) put it best when, in 1978, he wrote:
“A citizen does not give up his First Amendment right to free speech when he puts on a military uniform, with small exceptions.”
You’re wrong. I have served, in the Marine Corps and Navy. My service is modest; however, it has significantly shaped my worldview and my steadfast belief in free speech for military personnel.
The link to my piece, unfortunately, got messed up. Here it is again:
“General Mattis’ Appointment Raises Free Speech Concerns”
A citizen does not. Mattis, like any other service member, is still allowed to express his opinions within the guidelines outlined in DoD Directive 1344.10. Those are guidelines structured to protect the service member's personal freedom of expression with respect to their personal political views on issues - on both military and civilian political issues - measured against Command's concern about discipline and moral.
BUT, that's not what we're talking about here. We are talking about Gates's ability in limiting Mattis, or any other officer, with respect to their press contacts while serving in an official capacity and speaking on behalf of their respective service branch, or unified command.
Mattis is free to speak his mind on a range of issues, so long as he frames them in the context of his personal views and not his views as Commander, and so long as he stays away from any operational subjects that Gates, acting as SecDef, has disallowed.