Not everyone recalls the day back in February 2005 when Lieutenant General James Mattis told a San Diego audience that “It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people.” Those were the words of one of “the nation’s finest”, a decorated military officer. The statement caused a bit of an uproar, as Mattis had broken the solemn soldierly oath never to do anything in a public forum which might tarnish the noble image of the courageous warriors who continually battle for justice and to make the world a safer, more peaceful place… Nothing really happened to Mattis, except that he was apparently asked to avoid speaking engagements for a while. Later he was promoted to General and, in 2010, named the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM).
It was recently reported that General Mattis is among a number of retired officers who are in cahoots with the lethal drone industry and private military companies (PMCs), some of which are now logistics and analysis firms whose role in the drone program is to locate targets for drone operators to dispatch. Is it “targeted killing” or is it the once-upon-a-time taboo “assassination”? Six of one, half a dozen of the other. The people are pegged as posing an imminent threat—though not immediately so—and even when they are not armed, and no one has any idea what their name is, or whether they have ever participated in any act of terrorism, they are added to one of the US government’s hit lists to be eliminated as the opportunity presents itself. That’s because “last resort” in Obama–speak means “feasible”.
Of course, the more evil terrorists killed, the better! No matter how many “Number 2 Al Qaeda leaders” are extirpated from the face of the earth, there will always be more. Especially when people are profiting from their deaths. In the age of PMCs, men such as James Mattis now have an extra financial incentive to add line items to hit lists in order to line their own pockets. “It’s a hell of a hoot” to drone some people, particularly when one grows rich from doing so.
For more information and related criticism, see We Kill Because We Can: From Soldiering to Assassination in the Drone Age, Chapter 10: Death and Taxes