In case you didn’t feel it, James “Mad Dog” Mattis graced Orange County with his presence, appearing at the Richard Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda on Friday, Sept. 13. He’s on a full-scale tour promoting his book “Call Sign Chaos,” which is currently No. 1 on the New York Times best sellers list.
General Mattis is now a retired, highly decorated Marine Corps General who has served over four decades in uniform. In his final years, he was the head of the U.S. Central Command, overseeing many of the military operations in the Middle East, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His most recent gig was an appointment within President Donald Trump’s administration as the Secretary of Defense, but Mattis packed his bags up early by resigning in late 2018, after a near two-year stint in the cabinet. The cause was likely an abrupt decision the president made to pull our troops out of Syria, who were combating ISIS at the time.
Now, with the release of “Call Sign Chaos,” the public gets a first-person account and a behind the scenes glimpse of the courageous life and career of a loyal patriot.
The event took place in the East Room of the Nixon Library – an exact replica of the one located in the White House. With approximately 700 in attendance, the spectacle began with the marching of the Marine Color Guard, followed by the singing of the National Anthem, which was accompanied by a modestly sized orchestra.
President and CEO of the Richard Nixon Foundation, Hugh Hewitt, introduced Mattis as he trotted on the stage and asked for all those who have served in our military to stand.
Over one-third of the room were on their feet and applause accompanied them.
Obvious, from the start of the interview, was Mattis’s congenial sense of humor. From the get-go he had some advice for any ambitious service men and women in attendance.
“I’ll tell you how to become a four-star general. You young soldiers take notes now,” he said. “What you want to do is fight enemy generals who are dumber than rocks.”
While Mattis’s appearance was short in duration and his language circumspect, there was a sense he had a lot more to tell. Especially about his time in the White House.
“We don’t need tyrants. We need to bring the best out in people,” Mattis said.
He spoke of how our country is suffering a loss of civility and paraphrased an Abraham Lincoln quote. “If this experiment, what you and I call America were to die, it’s going to be by suicide.” Mattis recognizes if we go tribal and extreme divisions persist, our nation’s demise is inevitable.
Hewitt, then referenced “Call Sign Chaos,” and asked Mattis about lessons he had learned regarding the leadership role the U.S. played around the globe. Specifically, when our military was in the midst of hunting down Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora, after 9/11.
“We were on the ground and joined immediately by allied troops, mostly from NATO,” Mattis said. He named Canada, the U.K., Germany, Norway, Jordan, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand as those who stuck their necks out for the U.S.
Perplexed as to why they showed up, Mattis pointed out, “they weren’t attacked by those maniacs on 9/11.” It was explained to him the reason they were supporting the U.S. was because they shared our same values.
Mattis seemed moved by, “how many people trusted us and would come out and fight alongside us knowing, in doing so, they were going to attract the hatred of the terrorists.” He emphasized the importance of remembering those who rallied by our side and the significant role NATO played in that.
“Nations with allies thrive, and those without wither,” Mattis wrote poignantly in his book.
He has also been chronicled as one of America’s great soldier-scholars, given that he boasts a library consisting of over 6,000 books. “Call Sign Chaos” lists 62 others to read on the back.
He encourages everyone to read saying if they don’t, it’s not only idiotic but unethical.
Mattis spoke of the required reading assigned to military personnel in order to move up the ranks. He joked that when he became Defense Secretary, there was no assigned reading list for him, so he made one up.
When he was Defense Secretary, there was a single question he would ask himself anytime orders to deploy troops overseas needed to be signed. “Will the deployment of these troops contribute sufficiently to the well-being of the American people and justify them dying?”
It was evident how much Mattis loved being a Marine. His heartfelt narrative recalling his tenure reveals as much.
Mattis’s hope for the book is that it conveys his, “respect for those men and women who selflessly commit to serving our country.”