In second letter, French military accuse Macron of according 'concessions to Islamism'

A group of serving French military has published a new open letter in a conservative magazine, warning President Emmanuel Macron that the “survival” of France is at stake after he made “concessions” to Islamism.

The letter posted on the Valeurs Actuelles website late on Sunday echoes the tone of a similar letter published by the same magazine last month, which also warned that a civil conflict was brewing.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a close ally of Macron, slammed the letter as a “crude manoeuvre” and accused its anonymous signatories of lacking “courage”.

The previous letter, signed by a handful of officers and some 20 semi-retired generals, sparked a furore in France, with the prime minister calling it an unacceptable interference and France's top general vowing that those behind it would be punished.

It is not clear how many people are behind the current letter or what their ranks are.

In contrast to the previous letter, it is also open to be signed by the public, with Valeurs Actuelles saying more than 93,000 had done so by Monday morning.

“We are not talking about extending your mandates or conquering others. We are talking about the survival of our country, the survival of your country,” said the letter, which was addressed to Macron and his cabinet.

The authors described themselves as active-duty soldiers from the younger generation of the military, a so-called “generation of fire” that had seen active service.

“They have offered up their lives to destroy the Islamism that you have made concessions to on our soil.”

They claimed also to have served in the Sentinelle security operation within France launched after a wave of jihadist attacks in 2015.

They observed that for some religious communities “France means nothing but an object of sarcasm, contempt or even hatred”.

It added: “If a civil war breaks out, the military will maintain order on its own soil [...] civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well.”

The letter comes in a febrile political atmosphere ahead of the 2022 elections when Macron's main challenger is expected to again be the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Analysts say Macron has tacked to the right in recent months to prevent Le Pen from exploiting a series of attacks in late 2020 blamed on Islamist extremists who recently immigrated to France.

“I believe that when you are in the military you don't do this kind of thing in hiding,” Darmanin told BFM television. “These people are anonymous. Is this courage? To be anonymous?”

Prime Minister Jean Castex had labelled the rare intervention in politics by military figures in last month's letter “an initiative against all of our republican principles, of honour and the duty of the army”.

France's armed forces chief of staff, General Francois Lecointre, said those who signed it would face punishments ranging from forced full retirement to disciplinary action.

Serving members of the French military have fired a second salvo at Emmanuel Macron’s government in an open letter accusing it of “cowardice, deceit, perversion”, just weeks after a first letter warned the country was heading for “civil war”.

Like the first letter, it appears in the rightwing magazine Valeurs Actuelles. It was reportedly signed anonymously “by active military personnel” and is appended with a petition on the magazine’s website for others to sign.

The letter’s signatories refer to the seventh verse of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, that refers to the “avenging” slain elders or following them to “their coffins”. It was published in support of the first letter, published on 21 April, the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’Etat against General Charles de Gaulle over his support for Algerian independence.

Signed by a number of retired generals as well as at least 18 serving soldiers including four officers, it warned of the “disintegration” of France evoking what it called the “perils” of Islamic extremist and “the hordes from the banlieue”.

It also accused anti-racism groups of creating “hatred between communities” and cautioned that “lax” government policies could spark chaos requiring military action to “protect our civilisational values”.

Afterwards, furious ministers accused the signatories, who were supported by the far-right Rassemblement National party leader, Marine Le Pen, of breaking military rules and threatened legal action against them. The armed forces minister, Florence Parly, said: “The armies are not there to campaign but to defend France”, while the interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, accused Le Pen of having her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s “taste” for the sound of marching boots.

The second letter, published late on Sunday evening, batted off threats of punishment and launched an all-out attack on the government, accusing it of “trampling” on veterans’ honour and “sullying” their reputation “when their only fault is to love their country and mourn its visible decline”.

“To quibble about the form of our elders’ tribune instead of recognising the evidence of their findings, you have to be cowardly. To invoke a misinterpreted duty of reserve in order to silence French citizens, one must be very deceitful. To encourage the army’s senior officers to take a stand and expose themselves, before angrily sanctioning them as soon as they write anything other than battle reports, one must be quite perverse.

“Cowardice, deceit, perversion: this is not our vision of the hierarchy. On the contrary, the army is, par excellence, the place where we speak the truth because we commit our lives.”

It concluded: “Once again, civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well.” By 10am Monday morning, Valeurs Actuelles claimed 76,461 people had signed the petition.

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