Pictured: French President Emmanuel Macron arrives with Chief of the Defense Staff General François Lecointre prior to the annual Bastille Day military ceremony on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, on July 14, 2020. (Photo by Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images)
A group of retired generals has warned in an open letter that France is sliding toward a civil war due to the government's failure to control mass migration and creeping Islamism in the country. The letter, which has broad public support, according to polls, also warns against cultural Marxism, runaway multiculturalism and the expansion of no-go zones in France.
The warning comes amid a wave of jihadist attacks — including the beheading of a schoolteacher — committed by young men, none of whom were previously known to French intelligence services. The letter also comes after widespread public indignation over a French justice system compromised by political correctness — as evidenced by the refusal to prosecute an African immigrant from Mali who, while shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the Greatest"), killed an elderly Jewish woman by breaking into her home and pushing her off her balcony.
The breakdown in security, and the government's apparent inability or unwillingness to do anything about it, has catapulted the leader of the conservative National Rally [Rassemblement National] party, Marine Le Pen, to first place, ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron, in polls before presidential elections set for April 2022.
The open letter, published by the French magazine Valeurs Actuelles [Current Values] on April 21 and addressed to the French political establishment, was signed by 20 retired generals, a hundred senior officers more than a thousand other members of the military. A translation of the letter, which calls for a return to French patriotism, reads as follows:
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Government,
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament,
"The hour is grave. France is in peril. She is threatened by several mortal dangers. We who, even in retirement, remain soldiers of France, cannot, under the present circumstances, remain indifferent to the fate of our beautiful country.
"Our tricolor flags are not just pieces of cloth. They symbolize the tradition of those who, throughout the ages, whatever their skin color or religion, served France and gave their lives for her. On these flags, we find, in golden letters, the words, 'Honor and Fatherland.' Today, our honor rests on denouncing the disintegration of our country.
"Disintegration which, through a certain type of anti-racism, has a single goal: to create division, even hatred, between communities on our soil. Today, some speak of racialism, indigenism and decolonial theories, but by using these terms, hateful and fanatic partisans are trying to spark a racial war. They despise our country, her traditions, and her culture, and, by attempting to erase her past and her history, want to see her relegated to the dustbin of history. With this objective, they destroy statues and twist centuries-old words and phrases, all to overturn our past military and civilian glories.
"Disintegration which, with Islamism and the suburban hordes [hordes de banlieue], leads to the detachment of large parts of our nation to transform them into territories that are subject to dogmas contrary to our Constitution. Every Frenchman, whatever his belief or non-belief, should everywhere be at home in continental France [l'Hexagone]; there cannot and must not exist any city or district where the laws of the Republic do not apply.
"Disintegration which, when hatred takes precedence over fraternity during the [anti-government] Yellow Vest [gilets jaunes] demonstrations, where the government uses the police as proxy agents and scapegoats against French citizens expressing their despair and hopelessness. All this while masked individuals infiltrate the protests and ransack businesses and threaten these same police. Yet, the police only follow the directives, often contradictory, established by you, the political ruling class.
"Perils are mounting, violence is increasing day by day. Who could have predicted, ten years ago, that a teacher would one day be beheaded as he was leaving his school? We, servants of the Nation, who have always been prepared to pay the ultimate price for our country, cannot be passive spectators in the face of such actions.
"It is imperative that the leaders of our country find the courage required to eradicate these dangers. To do this, it is often sufficient to enforce, with determination, existing laws. Do not forget that, like us, a large majority of our fellow citizens is exasperated by your cowardice and guilty silence.
"As Cardinal Mercier, Primate of Belgium, once said: 'When prudence is everywhere, courage is nowhere.' Ladies and gentlemen, stop equivocating. The situation is serious, the work ahead is daunting; do not waste time and know that we are ready to support policies to safeguard the nation.
"On the other hand, if nothing is done, laxity will continue to spread, inexorably, through our society. Ultimately, there will be an explosion, and our comrades on active duty will be forced to intervene and carry out a perilous mission of protecting our civilizational values and safeguarding the lives of our fellow citizens.
"As we can see, the time for procrastination is over. Otherwise, tomorrow, civil war will put an end to this growing chaos, and there will be thousands of deaths, for which you will bear responsibility."
Reactions in France
The letter — published on the 60th anniversary of a failed coup against the government of Charles de Gaulle — sparked an angry rebuke from the French government.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the letter by military figures was "contrary to all of our republican principles, to the honor and the duty of the army."
Defense Minister Florence Parly vowed to punish any of the letter's signatories who might still be serving in the military. "Two immutable principles guide the action of members of the military with regard to politics: neutrality and loyalty," she wrote in a tweet.
Former French Justice Minister Rachida Dati, who is now mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris, agreed with the contents of the letter, but stressed that the military should not be involved in politics. In an interview with France Info radio, Dati, who was born into an immigrant Muslim family, said:
"What is written in this letter is a reality. When you have a country plagued by urban guerrilla warfare, when you have a very regular and very high terrorist threat, when you have more and more glaring and flagrant inequalities, when you have a part of our patriots who are breaking up from society, we cannot say that the country is doing well.
"Today, the police have become a target for terrorists, and I consider that the police are not supported enough, including by institutions and especially the judiciary. I am afraid that the police will crack one day, and if they crack, we will go well beyond the disintegration of society."
Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen endorsed the letter but also stressed that change must come by means of a democratic political process, not through military intervention. In an article published by Valeurs Actuelles on April 23, she wrote:
"As a citizen and as a politician, I subscribe to your analysis and share your grief. Like you, I believe that it is the duty of all French patriots, wherever they come from, to stand up for the recovery and even, let's say it, the salvation of the country....
"The very recent declarations of the President of the Republic on his project to 'deconstruct the history of France,' do indeed show us that these harmful drifts do not result from a moment of distraction but from a political direction driven by fundamentally corrupting ideological considerations.
"The concerns that you courageously express cannot remain at the stage of airing indignation, however powerful. It requires, in a democracy, the search for a political solution which must materialize through an alternate project which must be validated by French voters.
"This is the object of my political approach and of my candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic with the objective of a government of National Union [un gouvernement d'Union nationale].
"Already many senior officials and figures from civil society have joined us. I invite you to join our action to take part in the coming battle [presidential campaign], which is certainly a political and peaceful battle, but which is above all the battle for France."
The sentiment expressed in the open letter appears to have broad public support, according to a new poll. A Harris Interactive survey carried out for LCI television on April 29 found that 58% of those questioned support the soldiers who signed the letter. Almost one in two (49%) said that the army should intervene to guarantee order, even without a request by the government.
The poll also found:
- 86% agreed with the statement that in certain towns and districts, the laws of the Republic are not applied;
- 84% agreed that, in France, violence grows day by day;
- 74% agreed that in France, there exists a form of antiracism that exacerbates hate between communities;
- 73% agreed that French society is disintegrating;
- 62% agreed that, in asking the police and the gendarmerie to intervene during the Yellow Vest (Gilet Jaune) protests, the government has provoked a loss of confidence in law enforcement;
- 45% agreed that France is on the brink of civil war.
Spate of Jihadist Attacks
The open letter and Le Pen's response come amid a spate of at least nine consecutive jihadist attacks in France, all of which were carried out by individuals who were unknown to French intelligence services, and who therefore were not suspected of being radicalized and consequently were not on a jihadist watchlist. The attacks suggest that French authorities have lost control of monitoring Islamic radicals in the country.
In the most recent attack, on April 23, 2021, a 36-year-old Tunisian jihadist who entered France illegally in 2009, but was granted French residency in December 2020, stabbed to death a 49-year-old female administrative employee at a police station in Rambouillet, a quiet town near Paris. Witnesses heard him say "Allahu Akbar" during the attack. He was shot and killed by police. The woman left behind two daughters, aged 13 and 18.
The most high-profile recent attack occurred on October 16, 2020, when an 18-year-old Chechen migrant beheaded Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old teacher of history and geography, in Éragny, a suburb of Paris. Paty was murdered after a 13-year-old truant Muslim girl, eager to prevent her father from discovering that she had been suspended from school, fabricated a story that Paty had instructed Muslim students to leave the classroom so that he could show the rest of the class "a photograph of the Prophet naked." A total of ten jihadists, including an imam, a parent of a student, and two students at Paty's school, were indicted in the crime. Paty left behind a five-year-old boy.
Meanwhile, on April 14, France's highest judicial court, the Cour de Cassation [Final Court of Appeal], ruled that Kobili Traoré, a 32-year-old migrant from Mali, who, on April 4, 2017, while shouting "Allahu Akbar", murdered a 65-year-old Jewish woman, Lucie Attal-Halimi (also known as Sarah Halimi), and threw her off her balcony, could not be tried because he allegedly was in the grip of a cannabis-induced "delusional fit," and therefore not in control of his actions.
The ruling sparked mass protests in Paris and other French cities. French President Emmanuel Macron subsequently called for a change in French law to address the issue. In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, he said: "Deciding to take narcotics and then 'going mad' should, not in my view, remove your criminal responsibility."
Macron, in response to the open letter by French generals, has also vowed to crack down on suspected jihadists.
On April 28, Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the government plans to submit a bill to Parliament seeking permanent authority to order telecommunications companies to monitor not just telephone data but also the webpages visited by their users in real time. Government algorithms would alert intelligence officials when certain criteria are met, such as an internet user visiting a specific sequence of pages.
Meanwhile, polls show that Marine Le Pen would win the first round of the presidential election scheduled for April 9, 2022, and that Macron would only narrowly defeat Le Pen in the run-off on April 15. This implies that the two frontrunners are neck-and-neck, and that potential jihadist attacks carried out between now and election day may very well sway more voters to Le Pen.
Former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, in a recent interview with the Financial Times, said that Le Pen could defeat Macron due to the latter's "haughty" character and "oligarchic" policies that have alienated voters and boosted Le Pen's popularity. "Macron is hated because he's arrogant," said Montebourg. "So he's not the 'rampart'. He's the one who will put Madame Le Pen in power."
A recent analysis by the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, a think tank linked to the Socialist Party, predicted that Le Pen could defeat Macron if enough voters abstained from casting ballots in the run-off election:
"When we ask the French population what they feel when they see or hear Emmanuel Macron, the four emotions that stand out the most are all deeply negative. It is above all with a feeling of 'anger' (28%), 'despair' (21%), 'disgust' (21%) and 'shame' (21%) that the French think about Macron.... We must not lose sight of the fact that he is particularly hated by a substantial part of the electorate....
"Republican sympathizers express more negative emotions towards Emmanuel Macron than towards Marine Le Pen. Certainly, this rejection of Emmanuel Macron, observed among a large part of the population, would handicap the outgoing president with a view to a second round."
An Ifop poll published by the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche on April 24 found that 86% of those surveyed said that security — terrorism and delinquency — will be a top issue in the coming election. The importance of the security issue has jumped by 26 points since May 2020, according to Ifop.
Suburbs Are Breeding Grounds for Islamic Extremism
The Muslim population of France is currently estimated at around six million, or roughly nine percent of the total population, according to a recent survey by Pew Research. No one, in fact, knows the exact number of Muslims in France, and even Pew admits that "France hasn't measured religion in a nationwide census since 1872."
What is known, however, is that millions of Muslims in France are permanently hidden from the official statistics. French analyst Yves Mamou explains:
"This figure [six million] does even not take into consideration the Muslim population that immigrated to France from North Africa in the 1960s and early 1970s. There are a few million of them — nobody knows how many exactly. They became French very early, and for demographers, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are not regarded as immigrants anymore. These Muslims are, rather, integrated into statistics as French citizens born of French parents. They are Muslim, but under the statistics radar."
In any event, Pew estimates that with a "zero migration scenario," the Muslim population of France is set to increase to 12.7% by 2050; with a "medium migration scenario," the Muslim population of France is expected to rise to roughly 13 million people and comprise 17% of the French population. With a "high migration scenario," the Muslim population of France is set to exceed one-fifth of the total population.
Many Muslims in France live in poverty-ridden and crime-infested suburbs called banlieues, which are breeding grounds for Islamic fundamentalism and are often referred to as no-go zones because of the dangerous conditions there for police and other representatives of state authority.
President Macron has substantially scaled back plans to rehabilitate the banlieues and has instead called on local mayors and civil society groups to find solutions at the grassroots level. Macron's failure to improve life in the suburbs has been condemned by leaders from across the political spectrum.
Marine Le Pen noted that Macron has failed to address the issues of immigration and Islamism:
"Barely a word on immigration, barely a word on Islamic fundamentalism. We know perfectly well that these problems are partly the source of the difficulties in the suburbs. Refusing to see the reality is to condemn oneself to failure."
An estimated six million people — around one-tenth of France's population — live in 1,500 neighborhoods classified by the government as Sensitive Urban Zones (zones urbaines sensibles, ZUS).
In October 2011, a landmark 2,200-page report, "Suburbs of the Republic" ("Banlieue de la République") found that many French suburbs are becoming "separate Islamic societies" cut off from the French state, and where Islamic law is rapidly displacing French civil law. The report said that Muslim immigrants are increasingly rejecting French values and instead are immersing themselves in radical Islam.
The authors of the report warned that France is on the brink of a major social explosion because of the failure of Muslims to integrate into French society.