The general sense of fear under Trump

In the first installment of our new series Tales from the Trump Swamp, Elizabeth Schulte looks at Donald Trump's partiality for a man in a uniform in his new cabinet.

Trump with his Defense Secretary nominee Gen. James "Mad Dog" MattisTrump with his Defense Secretary nominee Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis

AS SENATE confirmation hearing began, President-elect Donald Trump's list to fill his cabinet was an avalanche of CEOs, billionaires and generals--lots and lots of generals. In fact, the largest number of generals since Harry Truman was president during the Second World War.

It seems like a strange development for a man who just a few months ago was saying, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me," adding, "I would bomb the s--- out of them."

During the campaign, Trump attacked Hillary Clinton for her support for war in Iraq and Libya. "Going into Iraq may have been the worst decision anybody has made, any president has made, in the history of this country," he said during a Republican primary debate. "I was against the war when it started."

Set aside the fact that's a lie--Trump actually said he supported invading Iraq at the time. The real problem for Trump about the war on Iraq is that the U.S. actually get what it came for: the oil.

As Trump told a 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference audience:

When I heard that we were first going into Iraq, some very smart people told me, "Well, we're actually going for the oil," and I said, "Alright, I get that, there's nothing else, I get it." We didn't take the oil! And when I said, we spent $1.5 trillion, we should take it and pay ourselves back. What are we doing? What the hell are we thinking?

J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman during the Bush administration who served as an adviser on national security for Trump's campaign, called Obama "high on ideology, low on practicality" in an e-mail to the Washington Post. "Hostile regimes took full advantage of his olive branches for little to nothing in return...[Trump] doesn't believe in giving anything away and always strives for the better deal."

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LAST MONTH, Trump summed up the kind of foreign policy his administration might have in store, calling it as "peace through strength"--including the possibility of expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

As for leadership in the White House, Trump's pulling together advisers who are the right fit for his no-beating-around-the-bush, smash-and-grab, win-no-matter-what-the-devastating-human-cost version of U.S. imperialism.

He's got retired Gen. David Petraeus--who led U.S. forces during the 2007-08 surge in Iraq under George W. Bush, and then served as Barack Obama's CIA director, until he was forced to resign after it was discovered he revealed classified documents to his biographer--on the short list for a position in the new White House.

As commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Petraeus oversaw the intentional bombing of funerals and civilian rescuers with drones. Which makes him a war criminal.

Another Trump appointment is Marine Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who will be Defense Secretary if the Senate confirms him.

The four-star general got the name "Mad Dog" after his role in the 2004 attack on Fallujah. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, who was inside Fallujah during the siege, reported that 5,000 Iraqi civilians were killed, buried in mass graves, and some 200,000 civilians were displaced from their homes.

U.S. forces also used white phosphorous, an incendiary weapon similar to napalm that burns all the way down to the bone, according to Jamail, who broke the story.

Speaking to an audience in 2005, Mad Dog bragged about his love for killing "the enemy":

You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.

Matthis, as Jamail argues, is "an unprosecuted war criminal."

But if he can get the waiver he needs from Congress--he hasn't reached the minimum number of years out of the military to take on a civilian role in government--Mattis will run the Pentagon under Trump.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump's pick for National Security Advisor, shares many of the same Muslim-hating views of Trump and the other fellow nominees. Flynn, a Democrat, has called Muslims a "malignant cancer" and claims that sharia law is spreading dangerously through the U.S. He favors controlling Muslim immigration, including instituting a possible Muslim registry.

Flynn was also involved in a right-wing fake news scandal that accused a D.C. pizzeria of operating a child sex ring, which led to a man outraged by the story to open fire on the restaurant.

These are a few of the warmaking faces of Trump's new "peace through strength."