Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former Marine general who has the respect of everyone at the Pentagon, didn’t simply resign and head out for retirement. He did something historic—resigning with a public letter saying he was in stark disagreement with Donald Trump, quite specifically in regards to his views on Russia and China. Never in the history of this nation has a defense secretary resigned in protest over issues of national security and military strategy. Never.
But, Mattis did something else extraordinary, something that should quite seriously set off alarm bells for us all. As Donald Trump was tweeting that Mattis was heading off to retirement, Mattis was ordering his aides to distribute 50 copies of his resignation letter throughout the highest echelons of the Pentagon. The New York Times has the extraordinarily unusual details of Mattis’s resignation.
Officials said Mr. Mattis went to the White House with his resignation letter already written, but nonetheless made a last attempt at persuading the president to reverse his decision about Syria, which Mr. Trump announced on Wednesday over the objections of his senior advisers.
Mr. Mattis, a retired four-star Marine general, was rebuffed. Returning to the Pentagon, he asked aides to print out 50 copies of his resignation letter and distribute them around the building.
James Mattis thought pulling out of Syria was such a danger to the United States that he again tried to talk Donald Trump out of it and resigned on the spot when Trump refused, deploying his resignation letter around the Pentagon to make certain our military leaders knew he was resigning because Donald Trump’s view are so dangerous to the security of the United States. That’s the equivalent of pulling every fire alarm in the building on the way out the door. Sen. Lindsey Graham very directly said on national television last night that he believed this was such a serious national security lapse that it “would be paving the way for a second 9/11.”
Folks, we are in perilous territory with this president. It’s important to note that President Obama relieved General Mattis of command because he was too hawkish when it came to Iran. And yet, Joe Biden was out sounding alarms regarding Mattis’s departure yesterday as well.
And how are U.S. Intelligence officials and our troops in the field reacting? With disgust and horror.
NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel says troops are “distraught.”
And if all of that weren’t concerning enough, James Wolfsthal, a former Special Assistant to the President for National Security and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the National Security Council during the Obama administration, says early on in Mattis’s tenure he had taken an extraordinary step of inserting himself into the nuclear chain of command. Think about that! Mattis and Pentagon officials put a buffer between Donald Trump and our nuclear tools. And now that buffer is gone. Here is a glimpse of the nightmare thread from Wolfsthal.
(Join more discussion of this tweet thread in Daily Kos community member durrati’s post.)
Will the House of Representatives and the Senate respond and finally start acting as the check and balance the founders intended them to be? Now is the time for them to act in the interest of our national security and the security of the world. The moment demands it.
Below is the full text of James Mattis’ resignation letter.
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.
I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.
Jim N. Mattis
Sounds like the senior military resignations are just getting started.