Trump orders tanks for Independence Day parade, critics call it political ploy
Washington, Jul 3 : President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to marshal tanks and fighter jets to showcase America's military might during the July 4th Independence Day parade, alarming many who feel that he is using the armed forces for his 2020 re-election bid.
Unlike other countries, the annual celebration of the American Independence Day on July 4 is traditionally not marked by any military parade. Previous presidents have taken a low profile at independence commemorations.
The last time tanks and troops rolled through Washington was in June 1991, when 8,000 soldiers marched in the so-called 'National Victory Celebration' marking the end of the first US invasion of Iraq.
"Big 4th of July in D.C. 'Salute to America.' The Pentagon and our great military leaders are thrilled to be doing this & showing to the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced military anywhere in the world," Trump said Tuesday.
The White House and the Pentagon have been preparing this military parade for months now. Trump had expressed his desire to have a military parade on the occasion of Independence Day celebration soon after his inauguration in January 2017.
According to the Department of Interior, this year's annual Independence Day celebration on the National Mall, will feature music, flyovers, fireworks, and an address by President Trump.
"Salute to America will honor each of the nation's five service branches with music, military demonstrations, multiple flyovers including a flight demonstration by the Blue Angels, and much more," it said.
However, several former military leaders and those from the opposition Democratic Party were critical of the display of American military might in a parade on July 4.
"This looks like it's becoming much more of a Republican Party event — a political event about the president — than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it's unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that," retired Army Lt Gen David Barno, who commanded US troops in Afghanistan under President George W Bush, told Politico.
"The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it's absolutely obscene,” retired Army Maj. Gen William Nash, a veteran of Vietnam, the Gulf War and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans told the media outlet.
Congressman Tim Ryan from Democratic Party demanded answers regarding the costs associated with President Trump's "Salute to America" event.
In a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Mark T Esper, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, and Secretary of Transportation Elaine L Chao, he expressed worry that the Trump administration is wasting scarce national park, infrastructure and defence funding on a military-style vanity project that some warn could cause damage to the National Mall and other infrastructure.
"What is supposed to be a day to celebrate our country has turned into a Trump political rally. The President is showboating and wasting taxpayer funding just to inflate his ego. Our Armed Forces and military assets are not political props. President Trump's insistence on using them to advance his own political agenda is an insult to the brave men and women who put politics aside in service to our country," Ryan said.
Democratic Party Congressman Don Beyer, who represents DC suburbs in Virginia including Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon, said that Trump's attempts to make the annual Independence Day celebration in the National Capital Region about himself are appalling.
"Even worse, the authoritarian-style trappings he demands, including tanks, will come at a great cost to taxpayers, and threaten significant harm to local roads and bridges,” he said.
"I am deeply concerned by the suggestion that the President's insistence on displaying tanks could subject Arlington Memorial Bridge to strains grossly exceeding its weight restrictions," Beyer said.
"Trump is hijacking the celebration and twisting it into a taxpayer-funded, partisan political rally that's more about promoting a Trumpian cult of personality than the spirit of American independence and freedom," said Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Chair of the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and Vice Chair of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
The fact that the Republican National Committee is selling VIP tickets to the event only proves that in the Trump era, nothing is sacred and everything is available for sale, she said.
"But most shameful of all is that our military is being co-opted for a gratuitous display of strength by a Commander-in-Chief who relishes the attention of dictators and despots. The American people should never allow any President of the United States to behave this way," the Congresswoman said.