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French government condemns warning letters from soldiers

French Prime Minister Jean Castex has criticized two incendiary letters from former and active members of the military. It is a "political maneuver" by "right-wing extremists", he told the AFP news agency.

Published: May 13, 2021, 9:27 am

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    According to the Le Parisien newspaper, the French PM challenged the soldiers to reveal their names: “If they think everything is at stake, let them show their faces.”

    On Sunday evening, another open letter from French soldiers was published by French magazine Valeurs Actuelles. More than 250 000 citizens signed it within a few hours. According to the magazine, the well-known author Éric Zemmour and Marion Maréchal, director of the Institute for Social, Economic and Political Sciences (ISSEP) were among them. The active soldiers, who wanted to remain anonymous because of possible professional consequences, described themselves in the fire letter as the “generation of fire”, as “men and women, active members of the military, all armies and from all military ranks – we love our country”. It was no longer possible for them to remain silent, they said.

    The letter was addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, his ministers, parliamentarians and high-ranking officers. Many of the authors had experienced “enemy fire” and some had to leave their comrades dead. “We sacrificed our lives to smash Islamism to which you are making concessions on our soil.”

    The majority took part in 2015 in a large-scale military operation to protect France against terrorist attacks. “There we saw the neglected outskirts with our own eyes, the coming to terms with crime. We have experienced attempts to instrumentalize several religious communities for whom France means nothing – and is only an object of ridicule, contempt, and even hate.”

    The letter also refers to the “Appeal of the Generals”. Around three weeks ago, 20 high-ranking former military officials called for more patriotism and warned of civil war and divisive anti-racism. The initiator of the appeal, Captain Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, said in an interview that the majority of French supported the request. “We are ruled by people who no longer think in terms of government,” he emphasized. “People have to get up and become more courageous again.”

    The French army meanwhile has taken action against the retired generals. According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Chief of Staff François Lecointre announced that the 20 men will soon appear before a military council. The 18 active soldiers who signed the letter also faced disciplinary sanctions.

    Lecointre called for the final retirement of the 19 reservist generals as none of the generals have the right to get involved in politics. Several of them are said to be close to the National Rally of Marine Le Pen. According to the report, the 18 active soldiers face a penalty for violating the duty of political neutrality. Two left-wing parties have even filed charges for “inciting rebellion”.

    Some observers claim the letter was an offer to “support those politicians who are considering saving the nation” and, should the government fail to act, the armed forces would have no choice but to intervene. The date of publication, April 21, was also considered an indication. Almost 60 years ago to the day, an attempted coup by four generals was carried out. They were against Charles de Gaulle, and wanted to prevent Algeria’s independence.

    A new poll conducted by ELABE for BFMTV showed that 85 percent of French voters trusted the military while only 45 percent trusted the justice system.

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