Major General Rick Devereaux, USAF (Ret.)
Asheville, NC

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photo credit: Max Pixel

There is an unwritten code amongst retired military officers: do not publicly endorse national political candidates. In 2005, General Dick Meyers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, warned me and other newly-minted one-stars to “stay out of national politics after you retire unless you run for office.” Why? Because the public should never wonder whether retired officers were motivated by politics while serving in uniform. This is why I have adhered to “the code” until now.

I am breaking that code because I believe President Trump’s words and deeds pose a direct threat to our national security and the Constitution. The threat Trump poses compels me to speak out publicly and join nearly 500 former national security leaders in endorsing Joe Biden for President. My decision has nothing to do with politics, partisanship, ideology, or policy issues. It is about duty; my duty to uphold the oath I took 46 years ago to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Some might think it extreme to say Trump is threatening our national security and the very Constitution that he swore an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend.” I do not think so; the evidence is there.

Trump’s public statements and tweets have sowed seeds of distrust, chaos, and division over the past four years, eroding faith and trust in our Constitution and democratic institutions. How can Americans trust a President who has lied over 20,000 times? How can a President uphold his oath to protect the enshrined First Amendment right of freedom of the press while continually calling the press “the enemy of the people?” His divisive “dog whistles” directed towards immigrants, minorities, and others jeopardize the safeguards provided by civil rights legislation and undermine his position as the chief law enforcement officer. Finally, his attacks on the post office, mail-in voting, and pronouncement that “the only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged” has eroded trust in the voting process, fomenting fears of a turbulent, even violent, post-election transition. These are his words.

His deeds are worse. Trump shamelessly exploited and abused the U.S. military in support of his personal and political agenda. He denigrated officers who spoke truth to power and referred to fallen troops as “suckers and losers.” One of his most egregious acts was to use troops to clear peaceful protestors from Lafayette Square for a Bible-toting photo in front of St. John’s Church. Our commander-in-chief cozies up to the dictators the U.S. military considers enemies. Finally, Trump’s “quid pro quo” to hold hostage authorized security assistance to Ukraine in return for an investigation into a political rival, a crime for which he was impeached but not removed from office, is the most egregious affront to our national security.

All of this evidence is compelling enough for me to “break the code” of silence, but it is insufficient without a viable alternative. Fortunately, Joe Biden represents the antithesis of Donald Trump. I make this determination based on Biden’s 48-year record of public service, leadership, commitment to democratic institutions, and character. Biden’s integrity, strong support for free expression, unifying leadership, sincere support for our troops, and unbending commitment to our country’s national security make him the perfect antidote to Trump’s dark forces in our nation.

Despite these principled reasons for “breaking the code,” some may still say that I, and other retired senior officers, are just playing politics. To those, I say, carefully read and compare the retired senior officer endorsement letters released by the Trump and Biden campaigns. Judge for yourself the political versus principled content of these competing letters.

I am not alone. Many are breaking the code and openly supporting Biden. The reason is clear: the outcome of this election will define America, and shape the world, for decades. We can choose a President defined by unity, civility, integrity, and free expression, or one defined by division, animosity, falsehoods, and chaos. The choice is ours.

General Devereaux was the former Air Force Director of Operational Planning, Policy, and Strategy at the Pentagon.

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