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French defense minister threatens ‘sanctions’ against ex-generals behind open letter blasting Islamism and ‘suburban hordes’

The letter, which had caused a stir in the media, was published in the conservative ‘Valeurs Actuelles’ news magazine on April 21. The appeal was signed by around 20 retired generals along with “a hundred senior officers and more than a thousand soldiers,” the magazine said.

Striking an ominous tone, generals asked French President Emmanuel Macron and the government to save France from what they said was a creeping disintegration, and to defend the country against “Islamism and the hordes of the suburbs,” as well as against “masked individuals” that attack businesses and police. They also warned that “certain ‘anti-racism’ and ‘decolonial theories’” sow divisions in society with the goal of starting a “race war,” and that the current political climate could ultimately lead to a civil war in France, unless something is urgently done to stop it.

Parly accused the former generals of “calling for a kind of insurrection or, at least, creating a climate of division.” She told France Info radio that the opinions expressed in the letter were “an insult launched at thousands of soldiers.”

One doesn’t rub salt into wounds. When you are responsible, you don’t stir up divisions, though these cannot be denied. We mustn’t exaggerate them either, and we shouldn’t seek to make them bigger.

The minister argued that even retired military personnel are bound by the code of conduct of the reservists, and the actions of the letter’s signatories were unacceptable and irresponsible. Parly said she has directed the Chief of the Defense Staff to apply “sanctions” against the ex-officers. 

“The military statute, which is known to everyone, permits the military to have opinions, but limits their expression to the private sphere,” Parly said.

The leader of the right-wing National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, endorsed the message of the letter, saying that it was a duty of patriots to fight for the “salvation of the country.” She invited the authors to support her party and her candidacy in the 2022 presidential election. 

Parly has condemned Le Pen’s comments, saying that the Armed Forces must stay neutral in domestic affairs. “Wanting to politicize the military is an insult to their mission,” she wrote, in an op-ed in the newspaper Liberation, adding that politicization of the army will “weaken France.”

The discussion over radicalism was reignited in France after a string of high-profile Islamic terrorist attacks last year. Last week, a Tunisian national, who was living in France and radicalized by watching jihadist videos, attacked a police station in Rambouillet near Paris and killed a female police employee.

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