The Pentagon has confirmed it is preparing a military parade similar to the French Bastille Day celebration, at the behest of the American president. The project has come under fire from a large number of critics.
With its uniformed troops, armored vehicles, and an air show, the July 14 parade on the Champs-Elysées certainly made an impression on Donald Trump. After being won over by the Parisian performance – “it was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen” — he is now planning to organize his own demonstration of military might along Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the White House to Capitol Hill.
During a secret meeting on January 18, the U.S. president asked the Defense Department “to top” the French march. “The marching orders were: ‘I want a parade like the one in France,’” said one of the military officials at the meeting, as reported by the Washington Post. How the discussion evolved, however, has remained a mystery.
“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” said the White House press secretary in a statement. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” CNN has remarked that this announcement comes after a decision by North Korea to exhibit dozens of long-distance missiles at a parade in Pyongyang on February 8.
A “Logistical Nightmare”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis supports Trump’s decision, and sees the parade as a sign of “the president’s “respect” and “affection” for the military. But according to Time magazine, organizing the event will “probably be a logistical nightmare,” and is likely to cost millions of dollars with no one knowing who will pay for it.
The last military parade held in Washington was to celebrate the end of the Gulf War in 1991. It cost a total of 22 million dollars (adjusted for 2018 inflation), and was attended by between 200,000 and 800,000 people. Streetlights were removed from the sidewalks for the march, and 1,000 city employees were tasked with cleaning the streets. What’s more, the 70-ton tanks damaged the capital’s roads.
A fleet of tanks and other armored vehicles will have to be brought in from Texas or Georgia for the 2018 parade. Several dates are currently being considered, including Memorial Day (May 28), Independence Day (July 4), and Veterans’ Day (November 11), which this year will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
A number of critics have spoken out against what the Washington Post has called the “biggest troll” of the president’s time in office to date. And former general Paul Eaton has stated that “Donald Trump has continually shown himself to have authoritarian tendencies, and this is just another worrisome example.” A worry shared by other veterans, such as former lieutenant general Mick Bednarek. “We, as Americans, and members of the Department of Defense, do not want to come across as doing one-upmanship of the North Koreans or the Russians or the Chinese, parading our military might,” he said on the Politico website.
Bednarek also worries that the parade is “domestic propaganda,” and “less about honoring the troops, and more about outdoing other militaries.” Another group of veterans went as far as comparing the POTUS to “a wannabe banana republic strongman.”
The Guardian has also condemned what it calls “a macho competition.” The British daily went on to warn that while “the project reveals [Donald Trump] as a would-be despot,” those opposed to the parade should keep things subtle. Despite the cost and the damage, “a large chunk of U.S. society will want to rise to its feet and applaud. A counter-demonstration could easily be cast as unpatriotic, hostile to those in uniform, rather than to the commander-in-chief.”