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Defense Secretary James Mattis announced Thursday that his tenure will end in February. President Donald Trump called his leaving a retirement, but to everyone else looking on, it seems an awful lot like a resignation.
Perhaps that’s because Mattis’ letter announcing the news, which quickly circulated on Twitter, takes on a passive aggressive tone.
“While the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” the letter reads. Perhaps most damning, he says Trump has “the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects.”
The news comes just one day after the White House announced it would be withdrawing all troops from Syria, the latest in a series of decisions that have gone directly against Mattis’ opinion. He also opposed the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and Trump’s order to ban transgender troops, among other issues. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) summed up their disagreements in a handy list.
Mattis:— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) December 20, 2018
- Tells Trump not to pull out of Iran Deal. He does.
- Tells Trump to counter Russia. He doesn’t.
- Tells Trump North Korea is still a threat. Trump claims victory.
- Tells Trump to value our allies and partners. Trump does the opposite.
- Syria is the last straw.
Vox founder Ezra Klein said Mattis’ statement “reads more like a break-up letter … Translation: It’s not me. It’s really, really you.” Another Twitter user described it as “a polite accusation of treason.”
Mattis's resignation statement reads more like a break-up letter. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects..."— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 20, 2018
Translation: It's not me. It's really, really you. https://t.co/f1Um7tLAep
Mattis letter reads like a polite accusation of treason.— Anthony DeRosa🗽 (@Anthony) December 20, 2018
Several Twitter users including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was Trump’s opponent in the 2016 Republican primaries, expressed harsh words directly and indirectly at the president. Both representatives and public alike, though, somberly spoke of a dire future for the country.
Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation,damage our alliances & empower our adversaries. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ztc0Yihccn— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 20, 2018
Mattis is resigning to spend more time with people who aren’t authoritarians— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) December 20, 2018
I don’t want to say we are fucked with Mattis leaving...— Tony Posnanski (@tonyposnanski) December 20, 2018
But now the senior members of the cabinet consist of a man who locked himself in an elevator and a woman who thinks kids at schools need guns for bears.
Never been more alarmed for the nation since coming to D.C. over three decades ago. https://t.co/gmzADF5z9r— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 20, 2018
Translation: you ****ed our allies, **** you. Mattis resigns after Trump declares unilateral pullout of Syria... pic.twitter.com/uOjJyRo6Oq— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) December 20, 2018
Alyse Stanley is a video game and culture reporter based in Virginia with words at Polygon and USGamer. When she’s not writing about memes, she edits Unwinnable’s monthly magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @pithyalyse.