Marines from Arlington, VA, United States, via Wikimedia Commons

Palácio do Planalt, via Wikimedia Commons

Two years ago, The Washington Post broke the news that hundreds of retired United States military members have raked in major cash working as “consultants” for foreign nations. Many of these veterans are retired Generals and Admirals, and thanks to an exhaustive legal battle with the federal government, The Washington Post was able to shed light on this side hustle America’s most trusted leaders have enjoyed.

Questions have bubbled up thanks to this discovery, such as how these retired generals and admirals can balance their loyalty to the United States versus the massive checks they make from foreign governments while testifying before Congress on various issues related to foreign policy. Does their side hustle sanctioned by the United States government make them essentially proxy lobbyists at best and foreign agents at worst of those signing their “consulting” checks?

However, perhaps the “consulting” activity of one of America’s most beloved Marine Corps Generals and a former Secretary of Defense is the most concerning of all the revelations from The Washington Post. General “Mad Dog” Mattis worked as an “advisor” for the United Arab Emirates.

The shady details behind the lack of disclosure, possible falsification of official documents, and connection to the current volatile situation in Yemen will shock you.


The United Arab Emirates, or UAE as it is commonly referred to, is not the only foreign nation known to employ United States military veterans. Still, they have employed more retired military than any other foreign nation.

One of these retired U.S. veterans is none other than retired General and former Trump administration Secretary of Defense James Mattis. In 2015, General Mattis applied to work for the UAE at the behest of his long-time friend Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

The two men became quite close while General Mattis was the head of U.S. Central Command during the Arab Spring of 2011. The 2015 application came at a time when the UAE was working to help squash the civil war in Yemen with Saudi Arabia.

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In his application, General Mattis wrote:

“My duties would include reviewing the UAE’s military situation, focused initially on the Yemen campaign, with the purpose of providing military advice.”

The application wouldn’t be such exciting news, except General Mattis and the State Department went out of their way to conceal it. In fact, if you scour General Mattis’ bio and watch his public confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense, he interestingly and suspiciously omits this stage of employment.

Allegedly, some members of Congress and some Middle East diplomats were aware of General Mattis’ involvement as an advisor for the UAE, but not everyone. But what really gets strange is the topic of General Mattis’ salary for said work.

Did he, or didn’t he?

On the same application, General Mattis writes:

“I will be compensated.”

And yet, General Mattis claims he wasn’t paid for his services. Robert Tyrer, Co-president of the Cohen Group where General Mattis is currently employed as a senior advisor, claims:

“He has never requested nor received any compensation from any foreign government at any time.”

Then the question remains: why did General Mattis write on his application that he would be compensated? Mr. Tyrer provides this explanation:

“General Mattis sought the most rigorous level of review for this request. That higher level review was triggered by describing the role as a compensated position, though General Mattis neither requested nor received any compensation.”

So, to recap… to ensure he received the highest level of scrutiny to keep his powder clean, General Mattis willfully lied on an official document? Let’s set that aside for a moment and assume for this proposed reasoning that this was merely a misguided honest attempt at staying above any perceived impropriety.

It took two months for General Mattis’ application to get approved. In comparison, other applications usually take anywhere from 8 months to a few years.

General Mattis’ application received record-time approval versus rigorous scrutiny. In 2019, General Mattis applied again for employment with the Emirati government as a featured speaker at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

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On his application, he answered the question “Will you be paid for duties performed?” with the following:

“Yes, standard honorarium for all presenters of this lecture series is $100K plus airfare & lodging reimbursement.”

However, you guessed it, General Mattis claims he never received compensation. The reasoning behind his application answer is the same as Mr. Tyrer gave for the 2015 application.

Nothing fishy here…

A possible connection?

So what does this news that General Mattis is one of many other retired Generals and Admirals making bank for “advising” foreign governments have to do with anything of real consequence today? Besides the fact mentioned earlier in this article that allowing this practice creates an obvious conflict of interest for highly influential military leaders in D.C. and the defense industry, it could have many connections to a quickly escalating conflict in the Red Sea.

President Joe Biden recently approved counter-strikes against Iranian targets in the Middle East in retaliation for a drone strike in Jordan that killed three U.S. service members. This drone attack came on the heels of over 150 attacks on U.S. assets in the region since October.

Some of those attacks have been courtesy of the Yemen Houthi group, who have been steadily attacking U.S. and British ships in the Red Sea. So, where is the connection between General Mattis working for the UAE in 2015 and Yemen?

A recent BBC investigation alleges that the UAE, General Mattis’ on-again-off-again employer, has been funding politically motivated assassinations in Yemen going as far back as… 2015. Amongst other whistleblowers in this investigation, former Navy SEAL and COO of the private US security company Spear Operations Group Isaac Gilmore said he was one of many hired by the UAE to assassinate people in Yemen.

Allegedly, these retired military members like Mr. Gilmore not only carried out assassinations but trained UAE units in the art – units like the Emirati-funded Southern Transitional Council’s (STC) subunit known as the Counter Terrorism Unit. STC’s Counter Terrorism Unit contains 11 known al-Qaeda members, including Nasser al-Shiba, the main suspect in the USS Cole attack that killed 17 sailors in 2000.

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The point

While interesting, whether General Mattis was paid or not isn’t the main issue surrounding this relied-upon side hustle for retired U.S. military leaders. General Mattis’ involvement and possible trickle-down connection to what is currently happening in Yemen and the Middle East in general is merely a secondary symptom of the overall disease that cripples United States foreign policy.

Allowing retired U.S. military leaders to work as “consultants” and “advisors,” paid or unpaid, opens them up to easy manipulation by our adversaries and frenemies around the world. The testimonies these men make to Congress help to shape funding for military aid, humanitarian assistance, international infrastructure projects, and defense spending.

The defense contractor boards these men serve on directly benefit from the “advice” and “consulting” that they provide to foreign nations out one side of their mouths and United States lawmakers out the other. The question we should be asking ourselves is, are these “patriots” loyal to the United States, or are they loyal to their own pocketbooks?

The follow-up question is, what pays more…peace or prolonged hostility?




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