Dear Commons Community,
On his final day as defense secretary, General Jim Mattis today urged all Pentagon employees, military and civilian, to “hold fast” in defense of the nation.
Mattis, who submitted his resignation on Dec. 20 and was, in effect, fired by President Donald Trump three days later, was working in the Pentagon and preparing to hand off his duties to Deputy Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
In a written farewell message (see above), Mattis quoted a one-sentence telegram that President Abraham Lincoln sent to the commander of Union forces, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, on Feb. 1, 1865, in the final weeks of the Civil War. It said: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.” On that date, Lincoln signed a joint congressional resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery.
Mattis, who resigned over a series of policy disagreements with Trump, including over the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, said he’s confident Pentagon employees will remain “undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life.”
“Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult,” he wrote. “So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.”
Mattis had initially said he planned to serve as head of the Defense Department through February to ensure an orderly transition. But the fallout of his decision to leave — including the shock and dismay expressed on Capitol Hill — annoyed Trump, who accelerated Mattis’ departure to Jan. 1.
General Mattis was a class act and deserved better.