ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps Commandant chastised but also defended one of his top commanders after video surfaced on NBC of the three-star general publicly saying “it’s fun to shoot some people.”

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling,” Lt. Gen. James Mattis told a gathering in San Diego during a panel discussion at the Convention Center there Wednesday.

Mattis, a veteran of operations in Afghanistan, more recently led thousands of Marines into combat in Iraq as the commander of 1st Marine Division.

He’s currently the head of the corps’ Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va.

“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued, according to the Web site of NBC’s local affiliate in San Diego. “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.”

Marine Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee responded to Mattis’ comments Thursday, saying he wished Mattis had been more careful with his comments.

“I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully,” reads Hagee’s statement.

At the same time, however, Hagee defended his general.

“While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war. Lt. Gen. Mattis often speaks with a great deal of candor,” wrote Hagee.

“Throughout our history, Marines have given their lives in the defense of this nation and human rights around the globe,” continued Hagee.

“When necessary, this commitment helps to provide us the fortitude to take the lives of those who oppress others or threaten this nation’s security. This is not something we relish, yet we accept it as a reality in our profession of arms.”

Hagee gave no indication that Mattis would suffer any punishment.

“Lt. Gen. Mattis is a superb leader and one of the Corps most courageous and experienced warriors. I remain confident that he will continue to serve this nation with dedication and distinction.”

Mattis was attending a panel discussion on lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq sponsored by the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association, according to Capt. Jeff Landis, a Quantico spokesman.

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