As the top dog on President-elect Donald Trump’s list to be Secretary of Defense, retired Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis has Trump’s ear for a variety of military matters. In a meeting with Trump last week, when conversation turned to terror suspect interrogations and waterboarding, Mattis had a response that “surprised” and “impressed” the President-elect.
“What do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,'” Trump recalled.
Trump then said Mattis told him, “‘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.'”
“I’m not saying it changed my mind. 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,” Trump continued.
Despite Trump’s immense respect for Mattis, who retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after 44 years of service, his decision to include waterboarding as an interrogation method seems to be heavily based on public opinion.
“If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that,” Trump said.
“But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say,” Trump said. “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.'”
Another strong vocal opponent against waterboarding is Sen. John McCain, who strongly spoke out against the tactic at the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia on Saturday.
“I don’t give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do,” McCain said.
“We will not waterboard. We will not do it.”