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Commentary: National security leaders stand with Biden

(J. Scott Applewhite | AP photo) Then-Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a luncheon for military women, active-duty service members and veterans, spouses and caregivers on Veterans Day, 2015, at the vice president's official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington. Biden announced that Delaware's new National Guard headquarters in New Castle will be named for his late son, Beau Biden, a two-term attorney general who served in Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in May.

We are three of nearly 800 retired generals, admirals, ambassadors and other national security senior leaders who recently signed an Open Letter to America. We urge veterans and voters to support Joe Biden. We are troubled and concerned about what’s happening to the nation we love and have defended. The president has failed in his leadership, and it is time for a change.

In all our years of military service, we have never heard any leader utter what came out of Donald Trump’s mouth — that he “takes no responsibility.” We never heard a leader ridicule — as a “loser or sucker” — any warriors who had died in combat. Those words are shameful and betray the dedication and commitment of courageous men and women. His words disrespect those who have worn the uniform and signed up to risk and, if necessary, to give their lives for our country. We and they are not “losers or suckers.”

Real leadership is about setting the example and shared hardship. It’s not a reality show on television. This president has failed to set the right example. At no time in his life has he shown that he is willing to share the hardships or take the risks of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard personnel and veterans. He talks about “my generals” and “my military,” and then demeans and ridicules their integrity and experience — even the Navy SEALs who took out Osama bin Laden.

The COVID-19 pandemic still rages, unchecked and unnerving. Over 220,000 have died and over 8 million Americans have been infected. These deaths already exceed the 214,938 combat deaths in the Civil War (both sides). If the trend continues, by year’s end, more Americans will have died from COVID-19 than who died in World War II combat (291,557).

Harry S. Truman, as the American president, understood that in real crises “the buck stops here.” Faced with so many millions of Americans out of work, losing businesses, their health insurance and looking at a tidal wave of coming evictions because families cannot pay their rent, President Trump has failed to bring the country together to defend against the biggest threat to national security in generations. We have dealt with Joe Biden and are confident that he would take full responsibility to deal with the pandemic effectively, and to get the country back on its feet.

Real leadership depends on the trustworthiness of the leader to tell the truth — always. This president lies regularly about the pandemic and downplays its seriousness. He failed to be truthful to the American public, and he failed to tell us what to do to protect ourselves.

To preserve the security of our nation is what our military careers have been all about. The world is still dangerous, but our president has isolated us from the allies who could be counted upon to stand with us and make the world safer for us all. We are alone as we have never been. The word of the American president is no longer reliable or trusted.

National security covers many kinds of risks. There is a sea change going on right now as the nation comes to understand that policing and justice have vastly different outcomes if you are Black or brown. Our president fans the flames of racial division as a campaign tactic. What does this have to do with national security? A lot, because 43% of the active-duty military forces are Black or brown. We believe Joe Biden will be the healer the nation needs.

Abraham Lincoln, at his second inauguration, set the standard for the kind of presidential leadership that we desperately need today: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right … let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Donald Trump, based on all we have seen, heard and experienced, is not capable of nor has any interest in binding up this cherished nation’s current grievous wounds.

We have endorsed Joe Biden. We have seen that he has the character, principles, wisdom and leadership necessary to address a world on fire. All 800 of us who signed the letter vigorously support his election. We urge our fellow citizens to do the same.

David Irvine

Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, U.S. Army (retired), was an Army strategic intelligence officer and practices law in Salt Lake City.

Charley Otstott

Lt. Gen. Charles Otstott, U.S. Army (retired), Fairfax Station, Va., is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, commanded the 25th Infantry Division and was deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

Steve Xenakis

Brig. Gen. Stephen N. Xenakis, U.S. Army (retired), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is an Army psychiatrist and an adjunct professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

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