America’s military appears to be split down the middle, when it comes to voting in a new president.
Much like the chasm which divides American voters, retired senior military leaders are taking sides, and making no bones about their support.
Days after the Trump-Pence campaign released an endorsement letter signed by 235 retired military officers, a coalition of nearly 500 current and former national security leaders has released its own letter endorsing challenger Joe Biden for president, Military.com reported.
The open letter, published Thursday morning by National Security Leaders for Biden, contains 489 names, including 22 retired four-star generals and admirals; five former defense secretaries; and other notable leaders including former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former NASA administrator Charles Bolden, among others.
Addressed to “Our Fellow Citizens,” the letter describes its signers as including Republicans, Democrats and Independents united by a common fear for the future of the country, the report said.
“The next president will inherit a nation — and a world — in turmoil,” the letter states.
“The current President has demonstrated he is not equal to the enormous responsibilities of his office; he cannot rise to meet challenges large or small. Thanks to his disdainful attitude and his failures, our allies no longer trust or respect us, and our enemies no longer fear us.”
It cites the Covid-19 pandemic, economic recession, malign Russian influence and threats from a nuclear North Korea as challenges the US president will face over the next four years, adding that Biden was capable of taking them on, the report said.
Other notable names on the lengthy list include Michele Flournoy, a former under secretary of defense widely believed to be Biden’s pick for defense secretary and former national security advisor and U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. The former defense secretaries signing on included Ash Carter, William Cohen, Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta and William Perry.
Steve Abbot, who retired from the Navy as a four-star admiral in 2000 and later served as deputy homeland security advisor under President George W. Bush, told Military.com he saw the current moment in US history as extraordinary and galvanizing.
“It is indeed a group that includes … people that haven’t had any identification with any political effort, but believe that these are fraught times in the nation’s history and that they needed to come together to deal with the crisis that is at hand,” he said. “So this is not a one-party effort. It’s cross-partisan.”
He added that President Donald Trump, in statements like his most recent charge that top Pentagon leaders only wanted to fight wars to keep defense contractors happy, was further dividing the nation and damaging the military, the report said.
As a former naval aviator who flew with the late John McCain, Abbot said it had become clear years previous that he could not support Trump. McCain, who was held and tortured as a prisoner of war for more than five years in Vietnam, served in the US Senate for 31 years.
Trump created controversy in 2015 by saying McCain wasn’t a war hero. “I like people who weren’t captured,” he said at the time.
“This president said back in previous cycles that John McCain was not a hero, he was a loser,” Abbot said. “And I knew when he said that, that he was not on my wavelength. Because John McCain, in my view, is a national hero.”
Meanwhile, some 235 retired senior military officers have signed a letter backing the reelection of President Trump and warning that electing former Vice President Biden would lead to growing influence in government by “socialists and Marxists.”
A letter released by the Trump-Pence campaign was signed by eight four-star generals or admirals, 42 three-star generals or admirals and at least one Medal of Honor recipient: retired Marine Maj. Gen. Jim Livingston, the report said.
“It can be argued that this is the most important election since our country was founded,” the open letter from the retired officers said. “With the Democratic Party welcoming to socialists and Marxists, our historic way of life is at stake.”
“We believe that President Donald Trump is committed to a strong America,” the letter continued. “As president, he will continue to secure our borders, defeat our adversaries, and restore law and order domestically.”
The endorsements for Trump from respected military leaders came close on the heels of allegations from anonymous sources that the president had routinely insulted the Pentagon’s leadership and called those who died in battle “losers” and suckers, the report said.
Several other news organizations, including Fox News, have partly confirmed the allegations, but Trump has dismissed the report as a “total lie.”