Donald Trump’s new defense secretary is his most outrageous hire yet — retired General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, famous for saying it was “a hell of a lot of fun” to shoot certain people.
The 66-year-old, who led the Marines in one of the bloodiest battles of the Iraq War as US Central Command, is known for being terrifyingly tough.
Mattis, also known as “Chaos” and immortalized in HBO drama Generation Kill, also implemented a troop surge in Afghanistan.
His other colorful quotes include “If you f*** with me, I’ll kill you all,” and “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”
Mr Trump announced the appointment at an arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the start of his “Thank you” tour on Thursday night.
“We are going to appoint ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis as our secretary of defense,” the President-elect told the crowd. ““He’s our best. They say he’s the closest thing to (World War II-era) general George Patton that we have.”
He will join an intimidating team that includes retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security adviser and Mike Pompeo as CIA director.
Like Lt-Gen Flynn, General Mattis has been highly critical of the multination agreement reached last year with Iran to curtail its nuclear program. But while Mr Trump has spoken positively of working with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Mattis has warned that Moscow wants to “break NATO apart”.
Senator John McCain has said General Mattis is “one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader.”
A confirmed bachelor and scholar, said to have a personal library of more than 7000 books, he has also been dubbed “Warrior Monk.” He is not just an advocate of brute force, issuing reading lists to Marines and telling them “engage your brain before you engage your weapon.”
But there’s one area where the imposing leader is not afraid to have tunnel vision, noting: “Marines don’t know how to spell the word defeat.”
His hair-raising comments have attracted the hashtag #Mattisms among defense reporters, who regularly tweet his best lines.
“The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event,” he once reminisced.
On another occasion, he observed: “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over. We may think it over, we may declare it over, but in fact, the enemy gets a vote,”
He’s called Al-Qaeda “dumb” and noted that “with millions of people & cars going everywhere, the enemy is going to get a car bomb out there once in a while.”
But he was forced to apologize after his 2005 comment about shooting people being fun during a panel discussion in a San Diego, California.
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” he said. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”
Mr Trump’s victory tour got off to a shaky start in Cincinnati on Thursday night, with around half the seats in the arena empty.
The same stadium was at full capacity when he spoke there a few weeks before election day, but on Thursday night there was no one queuing at the entrance or the concession stands.
Ohio was one of the vital Southern swing state that helped the President-elect to victory, but it seemed as though the ardor had died at the US Bank Arena.
The stadium has a capacity of more than 17,000, but around half the seats were still empty shortly before the Republican billionaire was due to take the stage with Vice-President elect Mike Pence.
Mr Trump had even paid for a radio advert to play in the city to publicize the tour.
“It’s cold outside,” explained one of the sparse crowd members, Tim Smolinski, a 63-year-old semi-retired aerospace engineer attending with his wife.
Others said huge traffic jams and sealed-off roads near the venue — home to the minor league Cincinnati Cyclones ice hockey team — could explain why the arena was not full.
The property mogul drew huge enthusiastic crowds during the presidential campaign, but his opening rally looked like something of a damp squib.
Those present were nevertheless thrilled the 70-year-old had undertaken what is essentially a victory tour — an unusual step for a newly elected president — in the key swing states that handed him the presidency.
“I think it’s just exciting that he even wants to spend the time to acknowledge the people that brought him to the place that he is,” said 71-year-old Terry Babic, who is retired but still does radio broadcasting.
Mr Babic said he and his wife drove five hours from Cleveland just to attend. The Trump supporters in attendance said that so far, the President-elect had met their expectations during the transition period before he succeeds Barack Obama on January 20, despite media reports of tensions and hiccups in the process.
“Sure, some of his tweets could be worded better,” said William Kelly, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cincinnati who voted for the first time last month. “I think some of the stuff he says might be straightforward and off the cuff and sure, not what you want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear because it’s true.”
Mr Kelly, wearing a Trump hat, cited the deal reached to keep 1000 jobs at an air conditioner plant in Indiana from being shifted to Mexico as proof that the President-elect was a man of action.
At the official souvenir stand, red “Make America Great Again” hats had been replaced with different red caps that say “USA” and “Trump 45” on the back — as he will be the 45th US president.
— With wires