As 2018 sails off into the receding river of time, departing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis used the occasion of his last day leading America’s military to pen an inspirational farewell message to our nation’s armed forces.
The former four-star Marine general resigned on principle just 11 days ago after President Trump announced that he would withdraw American troops from Syria against the recommendations of both his military advisors and the intelligence community.
In his letter of resignation. Mattis told the president that he had “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours,” saying:
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“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.”
Mattis had offered to stay on until the end of February to allow for an orderly transition in his wake, but when President Trump finally realized that the resignation letter the Defense Secretary sent was a stinging rebuke of the president’s own foreign policy stewardship — after Fox News commentators told him so — Trump shoved him out the door early.
In his valedictory letter to the Defense Department, Mattis exhorted both military and civilian employees of the Pentagon to “hold fast” in their mission to defend the United States. He harkened back to another fractious time in our nation’s history by quoting the single-sentence telegram sent by President Abraham Lincoln to Union Commander General Ulysses Grant in the last weeks of the Civil War:
“Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.”
Despite his disagreement with President Trump’s erratic policy decisions, Mattis told the Defense Department staff that he has confidence that they will continue their work “undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life.”
As of yet, Trump has not been told by Fox News anchors or conservative radio show hosts how he should interpret that last statement, but most patriotic Americans at this point should see any reference to defending the Constitution as an implicit criticism of President Trump and his ignorant disregard of our country’s founding document.
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Original reporting by Robert Burns at Talking Points Memo.