James N. Mattis is a United States Marine Corps general and the current commander of United States Central Command. Having replaced David Petraeus on August 11, 2010, he previously commanded United States Joint Forces Command and served concurrently as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation from November 9, 2007 to September 8, 2009. Prior to that, he commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Forces Central Command, and 1st Marine Division during the Iraq War.
Mattis was born in Pullman, Washington, attended Central Washington University and was commissioned a second lieutenant January 1, 1972. As a lieutenant, he served as a rifle and weapons platoon commander in the 3rd Marine Division. As a captain, he commanded a rifle company and a weapons company in the 1st Marine Brigade, then Recruiting Station Portland as a major. Promoted to lieutenant colonel, he commanded 1st Battalion 7th Marines, one of Task Force Ripper's assault battalions in the Gulf War. As a colonel, he commanded 7th Marine Regiment, then 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Task Force 58 during Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan as a brigadier general. As the commander of TF-58, he became the first Marine to command a Naval Task Force in combat. As a major general, he commanded the 1st Marine Division during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent stability operations in during the Iraq War. Mattis played a key role in the April 2004 battle of Fallujah, Operation Vigilant Resolve, by negotiating with the insurgent command inside of the city, as well as playing an important part in planning the subsequent Operation Phantom Fury in November.
After being promoted to lieutenant general, Mattis took command of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. On February 1, 2005, speaking ad libitum at a forum in San Diego, he said "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. 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. Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." Mattis's remarks sparked controversy and General Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement suggesting that Mattis should have chosen his words more carefully, but would not be disciplined. Following a Pentagon survey that showed only 55% of soldiers and 40% of Marines would report a colleague for abusing civilians, Mattis told his Marines in May 2007, “Whenever you show anger or disgust toward civilians, it's a victory for Al Qaeda and other insurgents.” Reflecting an understanding of the need for restraint in war as key to defeating an insurgency, he added that, "Every time you wave at an Iraqi civilian, Al Qaeda rolls over in its grave."