- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the whole exchange, unedited. I was interested that Donald Trump, by his account, went out of his way to ask General James Mattis about the efficacy of torture:
HABERMAN: And on torture? Where are you — and waterboarding?
TRUMP: So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy. In fact, I met with a number of other generals, they say he’s the finest there is. He is being seriously, seriously considered for secretary of defense, which is — I think it’s time maybe, it’s time for a general. Look at what’s going on. We don’t win, we can’t beat anybody, we don’t win anymore. At anything. We don’t win on the border, we don’t win with trade, we certainly don’t win with the military. General Mattis is a strong, highly dignified man. I met with him at length and I asked him that question. I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, “I’ve never found it to be useful.” He said, “I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.” And I was very impressed by that answer. I was surprised, because he’s known as being like the toughest guy. And when he said that, I’m not saying it changed my man. Look, we have people that are chopping off heads and drowning people in steel cages and we’re not allowed to waterboard. But I’ll tell you what, I was impressed by that answer. It certainly does not — it’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he’d say “It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it.” He actually said, “No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better.”
Some background here.
Also from the transcript is this quote: “I think going into Iraq was one of the great mistakes in the history of our country.” (Tom aside: I can remember when I got grief for writing that in Fiasco. Now it is non-controversial.)
I can’t make out what Trump thinks about Syria. I came away from the transcript thinking that perhaps he doesn’t understand Iran’s role in it.
Photo credit: DREW ANGERER/Getty Images