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Nearly 500 national security experts – both civilians and former senior officers in uniform – have endorsed Joe Biden for the presidency, saying “the current president” does not live up to “the enormous responsibilities of his office”.
Addressed to “our fellow citizens”, the 489 national security experts include 22 four-star officers. The letter never mentions President Trump’s name.
Among the signatories of the letter is retired Air Force General Paul Selva, who resigned his post as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs last year, the No. 2 Officer of the Pentagon. Selva could not immediately be reached for comment.
Another is former Vice Admiral Michael Franken, who retired in 2017 and ran unsuccessfully this year for nomination to the Democratic Iowa Senate.
There is also General Peter Chiarelli, who served as the Army’s No.2 Officer before retiring in 2012.
Chiarelli, in an interview with NPR, said he had never been involved in politics until now.
“I think the current administration is a real threat to the republic,” he said, citing the president’s “attacks on institutions” and his “failure to lead”, particularly on a coronavirus response. Chiarelli said it “makes me sick” that wearing masks to prevent the spread of the virus has been politicized by the president.
“I believed I had to get up and be counted,” he added.
Other signatories to the letter include former State Department Assistant Secretary Richard Armitage, who served under George W. Bush, as well as Democratic stalwarts like former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former senior Pentagon official Michele Flournoy.
The pro-Biden letter follows Trump’s endorsement last week by 235 senior military leaders, claiming the president has rebuilt the military and is a “strong supporter” of military personnel and veterans.
“Joe Biden’s record on the military and veterans is a failure: debilitating budget cuts, failed foreign policy decisions and a failure to provide our nation’s heroes with the quality health care they deserve,” we read in the letter.
Among the signatories: Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, who served as a senior naval officer until 1982, and retired Admiral Leighton Smith, who commanded the US naval forces in Europe in the 1990s.
Peter Feaver, a civilian military expert at Duke University, says the pro-Biden letter was likely once the Trump campaign issued its own letter.
What is striking about the letter endorsing Biden, he adds, is that “some of the people on the lists have held high positions under President Trump and therefore are likely reacting to what they witnessed and not only what they observed from a distance. “
And Feaver says all of this could lead to continued politicization of an army that is traditionally non-partisan.
“When a senior military leader thus denounces his former commander-in-chief as an admiral [William] Crowe did it in 1992 against President George HW Bush – it has an inevitable politicizing effect on the senior military appointment process. “
In addition to former senior civilian officials, generals and admirals, the pro-Biden letter is also signed by a number of retired senior officials, including the Army Sgt. Major Sean Baker and Marine Sgt. Major John Estrada.
He begins by saying that the COVID-19 pandemic “has proven that America needs reasoned, wise and responsible leadership. America needs a president who understands, as President Harry S said. Truman, that “the responsibility ends here”. “
Echoing Trump’s comments on the coronavirus, the letter read: “It is unthinkable that (Biden) would ever utter the phrase ‘I’m not taking responsibility at all’.”
The letter says Biden is “the leader our nation needs” and “a good man with a strong sense of right and wrong.”
In addition to Trump’s White House coronavirus response, the letter says that due to the president’s “dismissive attitude and failures”, climate change continues “unabated”, as does Korea’s nuclear program North.
And he says the president has “ceded his influence to a Russian adversary who puts bounties on the heads of US military personnel.” This is a reference to intelligence reports that Russia paid the Taliban to target the US military in Afghanistan, although Pentagon officials say they are still reviewing those reports.
The letter also blames the White House for its lack of support for NATO, Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS, as well as Japan and South Korea.
The president withdrew hundreds of American troops from Syria, allowing Turkey to enter and target the Kurds, angering American forces on the ground who were working with the Kurds to push back Daesh.
“Joe Biden would never sell our allies to appease despots because he doesn’t like an allied leader,” the letter said.