The broadside also raises questions about “the mental and physical condition of the Commander in Chief” and sounds the alarm about a host of hot-button issues, such as the border wall. It goes on to accuse congressional leaders of “using the U.S. military as political pawns with thousands of troops deployed around the U.S. Capitol Building.”
The group’s website claims that “we are in a fight for our survival as a Constitutional Republic like no other time since our founding in 1776.”
As news of the letter spread, it set off a round of recriminations among current and former military members. One serving Navy officer, who did not want to be identified publicly, called it “disturbing and reckless.”
Jim Golby, an expert in civil-military relations, called it a “shameful effort to use their rank and the military’s reputation for such a gross and blatant partisan attack,” while a retired Air Force colonel who teaches cadets at the Air Force Academy, Marybeth Ulrich, labeled it “anti-democratic.”
“I think it hurts the military and by extension it hurts the country,” said retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describing it as replete with “right-wing Republican talking points.”
The talking points in the letter fall generally in line with die-hard loyalists in Trump’s orbit, who question the results of the election despite the fact that the courts and Trump’s own Justice Department said there was no reason to declare him the winner.
Several experts said it reminded them of the current crisis in civil-military relations in France, where dozens of retired generals were recently sanctioned after warning in an open letter in a right-wing magazine of civil war for the “protection of our civilisational values.”
That letter was followed up by an anonymous one from current officers calling French politicians cowards for not dealing with the Muslim population, sparking calls for a purge of the ranks. The controversy has undermined public confidence in the French military and recalled the bitter feuds between the brass and elected officials during the early years of the Cold War.
The American letter was striking for several reasons. It is not unusual for retired officers to take sides in electoral politics and endorse candidates. But its fiery, even angry, language and conspiracy-mongering struck multiple long-time observers as particularly out of bounds and dangerous. Coming outside the campaign season was also seen as rare if not unprecedented.
Notable signatories included retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who is running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire; retired Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who stirred controversy for some of his anti-Muslim views and is now executive vice president of the Family Research Council; and retired Vice Adm. John Poindexter, who was the deputy national security adviser for President Ronald Reagan and was convicted in the Iran-Contra Affair.
The letter, mostly signed by ex-military leaders who have been out of uniform for decades, was organized by retired Army Maj. Gen. Joe Arbuckle, a Vietnam veteran who retired in 2000.
Arbuckle, in response to questions from POLITICO, acknowledged in an email that the partisan nature of the effort is not normal but defended it as necessary given what’s at stake.
”Retired generals and admirals normally do not engage in political actions,” he said, “but the situation facing our nation today is dire and we must speak out in order to be faithful to our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the U.S. against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
“We are facing threats greater than at any other time since our country was founded,” Arbuckle added. “Aside from China, many of these threats flow directly from policy positions and actions of our own government. It is critical that the threats to our national security be brought to the…