ARLINGTON, Va. — A major U.S. Islamic group has called for “appropriate disciplinary action” for the Marine general who said, “It’s fun to shoot some people.”

“We do not need generals who treat the grim business of war as a sporting event,” Nihad Awad, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement. “These disturbing remarks are indicative of an apparent indifference to the value of human life.”

The Washington-based CAIR’s stated mission is “to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”

Lt. Gen James Mattis, the commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va., offered no public apologies for his comments in the wake of a media dust-up.

Marine Corps officials at the Pentagon said they’ve received about a dozen calls and e-mails complaining about Mattis’ comments as well, but said there were no plans for disciplinary measures.

“As far as we’re concerned, the issue is closed,” said a spokesman.

“We see this so-called counseling as less than a slap on the wrist,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for CAIR. “There should at least be some kind of formal reprimand. If the Pentagon wants to be seen as taking this seriously, they have to take serious action.

“I think the great military leaders throughout history has always viewed killing as necessary evil, not as source of pleasure,” Hooper continued. “And in this case he’s talking about killing Muslims. I don’t think this helps America’s image in the Muslim world.”

Mattis was speaking to an electronics association gathering in San Diego on Wednesday.

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight,” he said. “You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. I like brawling,” Mattis can be heard on video captured at the event. “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.”

In statement Thursday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee said he had “counseled” Mattis, saying he wished the general had picked his word more carefully, while Joint Chiefs vice chairman and fellow Marine Gen. Peter Pace offered no rebuke on Mattis’ comments.

“I will tell you that the last three times that that general has been in combat, when he was leading Marines in Afghanistan, and the two times that he led his division in Iraq, his actions, and those of his troops, clearly show that he understands the value of proper leadership and the value of human life,” Pace told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon.

Twice Pace said Mattis was free to explain himself.

“I will leave it to him to tell you what he meant to say when he said what he said,” said Pace.

Mattis, however, declined interview requests. A senior aide said the general does not want to add more fuel to the fire, but added, “He, like all Marines, considers it an honor to fight for his country.”

Harrison Ford is reported to be starring as Mattis in what will be Hollywood’s first feature about the current Iraq war, titled “No True Glory.”

Some in the military community have come to Mattis’ defense.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, a Vietnam veteran and one of Mattis’ predecessors as chief of the Combat Development Command, said the comments are being blown out of proportion.

“I’m in Mattis’ corner,” said Van Riper. Anyone critical of Mattis’ comments, he added, “is a damn dilettante who doesn’t understand what war is all about.”

Among the retired “graybeards,” Van Riper remains an active adviser in Army and Marine Corps training efforts.

“War means fighting and fighting mean killing,” said Van Riper, quoting Nathan Bedford Forrest, a much-lauded cavalry commander of the Civil War.

“If they don’t like it, tell them to put on the uniform and go do it themselves. This isn’t a pretty business. If you’re going to get squeamish about it you shouldn’t send our troops off to war.”

Hagee defended Mattis in a statement released Thursday.

“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 in his statement.

Hagee added that Mattis is one of Corps’ “most courageous and experienced warriors. I remain confident that he will continue to serve this nation with dedication and distinction.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now