Charged with wanting to politicize the U.S. military, Donald Trump stepped away from all controversy with the Pentagon on Saturday during the graduation ceremony of the prestigious military academy at West Point, near New York.
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The American president chose a solemn tone in his speech, far from the martial accents adopted in the face of the demonstrations against racism and police brutality in recent weeks, which pushed the highest officials of the Pentagon to publicly dissociate themselves from the presidential word.
“The army was on the front line to end the terrible injustice of segregation” during the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, he said, before the 1,107 student officers seated in the sun in respecting a physical distance, pandemic of coronavirus obliges. “
Donald Trump has alluded to the great anger that has taken hold of the country since the death in late May of an African-American, George Floyd, killed by white policeman during his arrest in Minneapolis.
He thanked “the men and women of the National Guard” who were deployed to “ensure peace, security and the rule of constitutional law in our streets”. This reserve force notably protected the walls of the White House in Washington.
After several violent demonstrations and scenes of looting in several American cities, the president had raised an outcry by threatening to deploy the army to restore “law and order”.
Defense Minister Mark Esper, a West Point graduate himself, opposed the idea last week. “The option of using active soldiers should only be used as a last resort and in the most urgent and dramatic situations,” he said.
On Thursday, the American chief of staff, General Mark Milley, regretted having displayed himself in uniform alongside the president after the brutal dispersal of demonstrators near the White House. “I should not have been there,” he said, deploring having “given the impression that the military was interfering in internal politics”.
Another divergence with the president, the two Pentagon officials have indicated that they are favorable to the idea of renaming the American military bases bearing the names of Confederate generals of the American Civil War, pro-slavery. An idea to which Donald Trump categorically opposed.
The Republican billionaire, who according to some media has considered a moment to sack Mark Esper, has since wanted to calm his relations with the Pentagon.
“The job of American soldiers is not to rebuild foreign countries, but to vigorously defend our nation from foreign enemies,” he said on Saturday.
He also repeated his desire to put an end to “the era of endless wars”, alluding in particular to the plan for the withdrawal of the American army from Afghanistan.
Donald Trump, who never did his military service, often spoke to the soldiers during his trips abroad and did not hesitate to applaud the soldiers during remarks in polemical tone, for example boo the journalists who were covering an event, highlighting the support of part of the American military for his views.
Prior to his speech, former graduates of West Point Academy, who trained many US military and government officials, warned young cadets in an open letter against “blind obedience” to orders, pointing out the dangers posed by the “tyrants”.
“The politicization of the armed forces weakens the link between the army and American society,” recall these 400 alumni of all generations who say they have served them all ten American administrations. “If this link was broken, the damage to our country would be incalculable.”
Donald Trump had announced in April that he would participate in the graduation of the academy, located a hundred kilometers north of New York, the American epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organizers had to modify the ceremonial in order to comply as much as possible with the health security instructions in the face of the coronavirus.
The cadets thus left two weeks of quarantine and arrived at the ceremony by wearing a mask, without their families, who were exceptionally not invited this year.