A group of currently serving French soldiers has published an open letter warning President Emmanuel Macron that the survival of France is at stake after his “concessions” to Islamism.
The French government condemned it, as well as a similar letter in April.
This previous letter was signed and published by 20 French semi-retired generals.
The letter to the government last month came from semi-retired generals. The minister in charge of the armed forces, Florence Parly, said they would be punished for defying a law that forbids reservists or serving members of the military from expressing opinions in public on religion and politics.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin called the latest letter a “crude manoeuvre” and accused its anonymous signatories of lacking “courage”.
The new text was published late on May 9th by Valeurs Actuelles, although the numbers and ranks of its original signatories remains unknown.
The authors of the letter describe themselves as part of a younger generation of soldiers who have served in Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic, or joined domestic anti-terrorism operations.
“They gave their skin to destroy the Islamism to which you are giving concessions on our soil,” they wrote.
In contrast to the previous one, it can be signed by the public, with more than 220,000 already signing it.
“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 wrote.
AFP cited an anonymous source, who is reportedly a high-ranking officer in the French military headquarters, who said the letter would not go unanswered.
“A firm reminder will be made by the command on the respect of duty,” said the anonymous high-ranking official.
“One can have personal convictions but the armed forces are apolitical and have absolute loyalty to the elected president. If you feel bad you can leave the army with a clean conscience,” the officer said.
“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?”
The letter comes in a politically uncertain period ahead of the 2022 elections, when Macron’s main challenger is expected to again be the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Indeed, a recent poll found that the majority of French people also believe that the country is headed towards civil war.
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.
Whether any of that has happened is unknown.