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French military chief invites ‘civil war’ letter soldiers to quit

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Politicians and military leaders in France have denounced the two editorials
Politicians and military leaders in France have denounced the two editorials   -   Copyright  Christian Hartmann/AP
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The head of France’s military has called on anonymous signatories of a letter, which claimed “civil war is brewing” in France, to resign from the army.

It was the second letter, apparently authored by a military tribune, to be published in a right wing magazine, denouncing the “disintegration” of France and the dangers of Islamism.

Three weeks ago the weekly magazine Valeurs Actuelles published a similar letter, authored by 20 former generals, which claimed France was "in peril", stating that "Islamism and hordes from the suburbs" were transforming the country, which was “disintegrating”.

It was also endorsed by a hundred high-ranking officers and more than a thousand other soldiers, the magazine said.

The latest letter, written by those who call themselves “recent career soldiers”, some of whom have "experienced enemy fire" in Mali, Afghanistan or the Central African Republic, denounces what they perceive as a “brewing” civil war.

Neither the number nor the identity of these soldiers is known, as they call for the "survival" of the country.

In response, General François Lecointre wrote a letter to all soldiers which stated: "The most reasonable thing is certainly to leave the institution to be able to freely make public one's ideas and convictions.”

The chief of staff of the French armed forces continued that “the obligation of reserve imposed on all military personnel has been widely transgressed” in recent weeks, and accused the signatories of “dragging the army into political debates in which it has neither legitimacy nor vocation to intervene”.

"Each soldier is free to think what he or she wants, but it is up to them to distinguish unambiguously between their responsibility as citizens and their responsibility as soldiers," he insisted, reaffirming that it is the army's "neutrality" that allows it to be involved "without reserve and without ulterior motives".

The two letters have provoked a small political storm.

Although members of the French military can hold public office, they are not allowed to join political groups or associations. Even retired, they are expected to be neutral and their freedom of expression is restricted.

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen voiced her support for the generals, while the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, said the first editorial was an "insult thrown in the faces of thousands of soldiers".