“Soldiers of France”

“170714-D-PB383-009” by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A fortnight ago, I was asked if I might translate the open letter signed by retired French generals warning the government of the very real possibility of a civil war in France.

It was felt that an automatic, machine-translation would not render the heartfelt emotions conveyed by the style of the original
I acquiesced, on the proviso that I would do it following my own style of writing, which tends towards the flamboyant peppered with Romantic flourishes. So, I let the text write itself in my head, as though I was hearing a British general giving a speech to the nation.
I was encouraged to do so, so that’s what I did.

French Generals: If Nothing is Done, Civil War Will Come

Last Monday, another letter, this time written by members of the military still on active duty, was published. French citizens were asked to sign the letter in order to support the soldiers. To this day, more than 250 000 people have signed it.

Open Letter From Active-Duty French Soldiers: “Civil unrest is simmering in France and you know it perfectly well”

Here is the introductory text from “Valeurs Actuelles”, translated into English, followed by the letter itself, translated into British English.

For the past few days, rumours had been doing the rounds  that a new forum signed by members of the armed forces would be published. Written by military staff on active duty, it is showing support to the the first open letter which we published here on our “Valeurs Actuelles” website.
We have now decided to publish this second letter, which has already been widely circulated and is been widely talked about in the media and we’re doing it this evening. We have also decided to allow those of our fellow citizens who might share some or all of the concerns of our military personnel to sign this letter. Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to do so.

This aim of this forum is not to disparage our institutions but to sound the alarm as to the seriousness of the situation.

[Exclusif] Signez la nouvelle tribune des militaires


Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ministries, members of Parliament, general officers, and to all whom it may concern.

The seventh stanza of La Marseillaise(1), known as “the children’s stanza” is no longer sung, though it has much to teach us. Let it speak for itself:

“For when we enlist as soldiers, our elders will have departed
There, shall we find their dust and the traces of their virtues
We hanker less to survive them than share their resting place
We shall have the sublime pride of avenging them or joining them in death”

Our elders are combatants who have earned respect. They are, for example, those old warriors whose honour you trampled in the past few weeks.

It is those thousands upon thousands who served France, who signed a tribune full of common sense, those soldiers who gave the best years of their lives to defend our freedom, obeying your orders, to wage your wars or implement your budgetary restrictions, whose honour you have defiled even when the people of France offered them their full support.

Those people who fought against all the enemies of France, you called them factious when their only crime was to love their country and cry over her all too obvious decline.

In those conditions, it behoves to us who have recently entered the military career to step into the limelight and tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

We are those whom the news outlets named the “Generation of Fire (2)“.
We are military men and women, on active duty, from all ranks and forces and with the widest range of opinions, and we love our country. This is our only pride. And even as the law forbids us to express ourselves openly, still we cannot stay silent.

Afghanistan, Mali, the Central African Republic, or elsewhere, a number of us has come under enemy fire. Some have lost comrades. They have offered their lives to destroy the Islamic foe you bend over backwards to accommodate on our soil.

Most of us have taken part in Operation Sentinel(3). We saw with our own eyes the abandoned “banlieues” (4), we have witnessed the permissive tolerance of the authorities for crime and delinquency. We have been targeted by several religious communities who sought to use us as their own instrument and for whom France means nothing, nothing but an object of derision, something to be loathed and even hated.

We marched on the 14th of July (5) for the military parade. And for months the authorities demanded we be wary of this well-meaning, diverse crowd, which was cheering us because we represent them; we were forbidden to wear our uniforms whilst in the streets, making us into potential victims, on a soil we are nonetheless perfectly able to defend

Yes, our elders are right, and their whole letter is right, in its entirety. We witness the violence in our cities and in our villages. We can see communitarianism (6) becoming entrenched in the public space and in public debates. We can see the hatred of France and her history becoming the norm.

You might argue that it is not within the remit of the military to state these truths. But it is: because our situational observations are apolitical , our assessments are always professional. We have witnessed this disintegration in countries in crisis.It is a sign of a looming collapse. It forecasts chaos and violence, and contrary to what you insist on affirming in a variety of media outlets, it won’t be coming from “a military pronunciamento” but from a civil insurrection.

To quibble over the form of the tribune written by our elders instead of admitting the obvious truth of their statements, one must be a lily-livered coward. To invoke a badly interpreted duty of confidentiality, with the sole aim of silencing French citizens, one must be deceitful. To encourage senior army officers to take a stand and make their names known to all before furiously imposing sanctions as soon as they write something other than stories of battles, one must be quite perverse.

Cowardice, deceit, perversion: this is not our vision of a hierarchy. The army is quite the reverse, a place where truth is spoken because we’ve committed our lives to it. It is in this trust in the armed forces that we call for with our hearts.

And if a civil war were to break out, the armed forces would maintain order on domestic soil, because they will be asked to. It is the very definition of a civil war. No one can wish for so terrible a scenario to unfold, neither us nor our elders, but we must stress, again, that civil unrest is simmering in France and you know it perfectly well.

The cry of alarm sounded by our old veterans is an echo of more distant times.
They are the resistance fighters of 1940, whom people like you often called factious as they carried on fighting when the legalists, frozen in fear and quaking in their boots, were gambling on making a deal with the devil, to try and minimise damages.
They are the Poilus(7) of 1914, who would die for a few yards of soil, when you are abandoning, without batting an eyelid, whole neighbourhoods to the law of the jungle. They are the departed, either famous or without a name, fallen on the battlefields or after a life dedicated to serving in the armed forces.

Have all our elders, who made our country what it is, who defined her territory, defended her culture, given or received orders in her language, have they all fought for you to let France turn into a failed state, one which is replacing the ever-increasing and obvious impotence of the state with a brutal tyranny against those of her servants who would still warn her?

Your remit is to act, Ladies and Gentlemen. And this time, we don’t mean a display of fake emotion, ready-made clichés or media exposure. This is not about you trying to remain in office and get reelected. The stakes could not be higher: the survival of France is at stake: will our country, your country tumble into oblivion?


Monsieur le Président de la République,
Mesdames et Messieurs les ministres, parlementaires, officiers généraux, en vos grades et qualités,

On ne chante plus le septième couplet de la Marseillaise, dit « couplet des enfants ». Il est pourtant riche d’enseignements. Laissons-lui le soin de nous les prodiguer :

« Nous entrerons dans la carrière quand nos aînés n’y seront plus. Nous y trouverons leur poussière, et la trace de leurs vertus. Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre que de partager leur cercueil, nous aurons le sublime orgueil de les venger ou de les suivre »

Nos aînés, ce sont des combattants qui ont mérité qu’on les respecte. Ce sont par exemple les vieux soldats dont vous avez piétiné l’honneur ces dernières semaines.

Ce sont ces milliers de serviteurs de la France, signataires d’une tribune de simple bon sens, des soldats qui ont donné leurs plus belles années pour défendre notre liberté, obéissant à vos ordres, pour faire vos guerres ou mettre en œuvre vos restrictions budgétaires, que vous avez salis alors que le peuple de France les soutenait.

Ces gens qui ont lutté contre tous les ennemis de la France, vous les avez traités de factieux alors que leur seul tort est d’aimer leur pays et de pleurer sa visible déchéance.

Dans ces conditions, c’est à nous, qui sommes récemment entrés dans la carrière, d’entrer dans l’arène pour avoir simplement l’honneur d’y dire la vérité.

Nous sommes de ce que les journaux ont nommé « la génération du feu ». Hommes et femmes, militaires en activité, de toutes les armées et de tous les grades, de toutes les sensibilités, nous aimons notre pays. Ce sont nos seuls titres de gloire. Et si nous ne pouvons pas, réglementairement, nous exprimer à visage découvert, il nous est tout aussi impossible de nous taire.

Afghanistan, Mali, Centrafrique ou ailleurs, un certain nombre d’entre nous ont connu le feu ennemi. Certains y ont laissé des camarades. Ils ont offert leur peau pour détruire l’islamisme auquel vous faites des concessions sur notre sol.

Presque tous, nous avons connu l’opération Sentinelle. Nous y avons vu de nos yeux les banlieues abandonnées, les accommodements avec la délinquance. Nous avons subi les tentatives d’instrumentalisation de plusieurs communautés religieuses, pour qui la France ne signifie rien -rien qu’un objet de sarcasmes, de mépris voire de haine.

Nous avons défilé le 14 juillet. Et cette foule bienveillante et diverse, qui nous acclamait parce que nous en sommes l’émanation, on nous a demandé de nous en méfier pendant des mois, en nous interdisant de circuler en uniforme, en faisant de nous des victimes en puissance, sur un sol que nous sommes pourtant capables de défendre.

Oui, nos aînés ont raison sur le fond de leur texte, dans sa totalité. Nous voyons la violence dans nos villes et villages. Nous voyons le communautarisme s’installer dans l’espace public, dans le débat public. Nous voyons la haine de la France et de son histoire devenir la norme.

Ce n’est peut-être pas à des militaires de dire cela, arguerez-vous. Bien au contraire : parce que nous sommes apolitiques dans nos appréciations de situation, c’est un constat professionnel que nous livrons. Car cette déchéance, nous l’avons vue dans bien des pays en crise. Elle précède l’effondrement. Elle annonce le chaos et la violence, et contrairement à ce que vous affirmez ici où là, ce chaos et cette violence ne viendront pas d’un « pronunciamento militaire » mais d’une insurrection civile.

Pour ergoter sur la forme de la tribune de nos aînés au lieu de reconnaître l’évidence de leurs constats, il faut être bien lâche. Pour invoquer un devoir de réserve mal interprété dans le but de faire taire des citoyens français, il faut être bien fourbe. Pour encourager les cadres dirigeants de l’armée à prendre position et à s’exposer, avant de les sanctionner rageusement dès qu’ils écrivent autre chose que des récits de batailles, il faut être bien pervers.

Lâcheté, fourberie, perversion : telle n’est pas notre vision de la hiérarchie.
L’armée est au contraire, par excellence, le lieu où l’on se parle vrai parce que l’on engage sa vie. C’est cette confiance en l’institution militaire que nous appelons de nos vœux.

Oui, si une guerre civile éclate, l’armée maintiendra l’ordre sur son propre sol, parce qu’on le lui demandera. C’est même la définition de la guerre civile. Personne ne peut vouloir une situation aussi terrible, nos aînés pas plus que nous, mais oui, de nouveau, la guerre civile couve en France et vous le savez parfaitement.

Le cri d’alarme de nos Anciens renvoie enfin à de plus lointains échos. Nos aînés, ce sont les résistants de 1940, que, bien souvent, des gens comme vous traitaient de factieux, et qui ont continué le combat pendant que les légalistes, transis de peur, misaient déjà sur les concessions avec le mal pour limiter les dégâts ; ce sont les poilus de 14, qui mouraient pour quelques mètres de terre, alors que vous abandonnez, sans réagir, des quartiers entiers de notre pays à la loi du plus fort; ce sont tous les morts, célèbres ou anonymes, tombés au front ou après une vie de service.

Tous nos aînés, ceux qui ont fait de notre pays ce qu’il est, qui ont dessiné son territoire, défendu sa culture, donné ou reçu des ordres dans sa langue, ont-ils combattu pour que vous laissiez la France devenir un Etat failli, qui remplace son impuissance régalienne de plus en plus patente par une tyrannie brutale contre ceux de ses serviteurs qui veulent encore l’avertir ?

Agissez, Mesdames et Messieurs. Il ne s’agit pas, cette fois, d’émotion sur commande, de formules toutes faites ou de médiatisation. Il ne s’agit pas de prolonger vos mandats ou d’en conquérir d’autres. Il s’agit de la survie de notre pays, de votre pays.

(1) the French national anthem
(2) la génération du feu
(3) opération Sentinelle
link to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Op%C3%A9ration_Sentinelle
(4) US: projects, UK: sink estates
(5) Bastille Day
(6) communautarisme: basically an attack on all Western values and a low-level asymmetric
war to wrench territories from the French and establish alien fiefdoms. All institutions are
infiltrated and corrupted from within
(7) Poilus: French soldiers of WWI, so named because they couldn’t shave

© Aisotrcbifst 2021

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