5 Badass Quotes From Marine General James Mattis

Leadership

Marines love Gen. James Mattis, and with good reason. He’s a Marine’s Marine, which means he always speaks his mind.


A former enlisted Marine who entered the Corps in 1969, Mattis received his commission as an infantry officer in 1972. He served in the Persian Gulf War, where he commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. Mattis led Task Force 58 into southern Afghanistan at the onset of the war. In Iraq, he commanded troops during the first and second Battles of Fallujah, and alongside now-retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, oversaw the development of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency doctrine that would come to define and shape both wars.

Related: 5 Badass Schwarzkopf Quotes In Honor Of The 25th Gulf War Anniversary »

In 2013 Mattis left his post as commanding general of United States Central Command and retired from the Marine Corps after 44 years of service.

Widely admired for his keen intellect and fairness — Mattis has been referred to as the “Warrior Monk” — his frankness has endeared him to post-9/11 Marines and veterans, with whom he holds an almost legendary cult-status. Many modern military veterans, like this author, can recall seeing his quotes — often referred to as“Mattis-isms” — on the walls at MOS school, in the hallways of headquarters buildings, or piling up in Facebook newsfeeds as memes.

Here are Task & Purpose’s five favorite quotes from one of the Corps’ most respected living legends.

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."

Taken from a speech Mattis gave to his Marines when they arrived in Iraq in 2003, these are words to live by in an asymmetrical battlespace, where enemy combatants attack without warning before blending back in with the local populace.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command, talks to Marines from Marine Wing Support Group 27, May 6, 2007.U.S. Marine Corps photo

"I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all."

After the initial invasion of Iraq, Mattis met with Iraqi military officers in 2003 and delivered these cautionary words — his own take on “big stick policy.”

“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.”

While speaking to Marines at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq, Mattis encouraged them in his typical fashion to stay sharp and carry on their mission. The quote first appeared in print in Thomas E. Ricks’ book “Fiasco: American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003 to 2005.”

"Marines don't know how to spell the word defeat."

Though the origin of this particular adage is unclear, it’s probably one of the most popular Mattis-isms out there. It has also lent credence to the long-standing joke that Marines are too dumb to spell defeat. We’re not. The word just isn’t in our vocabulary.

"You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon."

Mattis wrote this letter and had it delivered to each of his Marines on March 19, 2003, one day before the initial invasion of Iraq. In addition to providing words of encouragement, Mattis implored his men to remember who they are, where they come from, and the branch they belong to.

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would back the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies that Washington fears may be under threat by Iran.

Worries about a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane at the entrance to the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents.

Tehran denies responsibility but the attacks, and similar ones in May, have further soured relations that have plummeted since Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark international nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.

Trump has restored and extended U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. That has forced countries around the world to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own.

But in an interview with Time magazine, Trump, striking a different tone from some Republican lawmakers who have urged a military approach to Iran, said last week's tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman had only a "very minor" impact so far.

Asked if he would consider military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons or to ensure the free flow of oil through the Gulf, Trump said: "I would certainly go over nuclear weapons and I would keep the other a question mark."

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(Lockheed Martin photo)

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Tuesday he is appalled by a state DFL Party staff member's tweet referring to the recently-launched USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a "murder boat."

"Certainly, the disrespect shown is beyond the pale," said Walz, who served in the Army National Guard.

William Davis, who has been the DFL Party's research director and deputy communications director, made the controversial comment in response to a tweet about the launch of a new Navy combat ship in Wisconsin: "But actually, I think it's gross they're using the name of our fine cities for a murder boat," Davis wrote on Twitter over the weekend.

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(U.S. Air Force/TSgt. Dana Flamer)

TAMPA — Minutes before the Acting Secretary of Defense withdrew Tuesday from his confirmation process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke at MacDill Air Force Base about the need to coordinate "diplomatic and defense efforts'' to address rising tensions with Iran.

Pompeo, who arrived in Tampa on Monday, met with Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. and Army Gen. Richard Clarke, commanders of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command respectively, to align the Government's efforts in the Middle East, according to Central Command.

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Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — The trial of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher officially kicked off on Tuesday with the completion of jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony indicating that drinking alcohol on the front lines of Mosul, Iraq in 2017 seemed to be a common occurrence for members of SEAL Team 7 Alpha Platoon.

Government prosecutors characterized Gallagher as a knife-wielding murderer who not only killed a wounded ISIS fighter but shot indiscriminately at innocent civilians, while the defense argued that those allegations were falsehoods spread by Gallagher's angry subordinates, with attorney Tim Parlatore telling the jury that "this trial is not about murder. It's about mutiny."

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President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will "not to go forward with his confirmation process."

Trump said that Army Secretary Mark Esper will now serve as acting defense secretary.

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