VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - The annual Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beachwrapped up Thursday with an address from the Commander of the U.S.Joint Forces Command, who took everyone to task - from terroriststo the news media.
"I mean I'm probably the last person that ought to be givingpublic affairs advice," General James Mattis told the attendees tomuch laughter.
Gen. Mattis has a reputation for speaking his mind and keepinghis audience interested, and he certainly lived up to thatreputation Thursday.
"We're either your best friends or your worst enemy, but we'recoming into this area to make a difference," Mattis told the crowd,adding perspective to his view that American and Coalition forcesin Afghanistan and Pakistan must be willing to take risks to avoidinflicting civilian casualties.
"This enemy wants us to take them on in a way that actuallyhurts the innocent people, the bystanders in the target area," saidMattis.
The general said coalition forces are winning the war inAfghanistan on the battlefield, but losing on another front.
"The enemy is winning at times in the press. We all know that,"said Mattis.
He also said the media too often uses a passive voice todescribe terrorist attacks.
"How many of us have heard that? 'A bomb went off in Baghdadtoday,'" Mattis asked. "No, a bomb didn't just go off in Bhagdadtoday. Some murderous thugs who knew there were women and childrenin that market place intentionally blinded, burned and maimedpeople."
When asked about Defense Secretary Robert Gates remarks lastweek about tightening the defense budget, Mattis said he welcomescost cutting proposals.
"Those who say that we've got to have more and more money fordefense, if in fact what we're doing is breaking the nationaltreasury, then we're operating against the real goal that all of ushave and that is a strong America," he said.
The address by Gen. Mattis was the final event at this year'sconference.
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