"Ladies and gentlemen," Mattis said, "we will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake — as a strategic mistake."
Mattis was one of the Iraq campaign's most important ground commanders. He led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and later oversaw the bloody retaking of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004.
As for the Pentagon's view on the Iraq invasion at the time, Mattis said this: "I think people were pretty much aware that the U.S. military didn't think it was a very wise idea. But we give a cheery 'Aye aye, sir.' Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private."
Mattis's comments came during a question-and-answer session after a keynote delivered last year at ASIS International, a conference for "global security professionals" held in Anaheim, California. A conference participant provided an audio recording of Mattis's speech exclusively to The Intercept.