WASHINGTON, U.S. - Based on U.S. President Donald Trump’s orders to organize a grand military parade through the streets of Washington - White House officials are pacing ahead with all the preparations.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis elaborated plans for the military parade, claiming the plan reflects Trump’s respect for the armed forces.
Meanwhile, brushing aside criticism that such a display could be an unnecessary show of raw military power, the White House is pushing ahead with plans to make the parade grand and pompous.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mattis said, “I think we’re all aware in this country of the president’s affection and respect for the military. We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them up to the White House for decision.”
However, after Mattis spent much of the media briefing making the case for adequate, stable defense funding, he was questioned on the cost of the parade but dodged the question.
Mattis said, “I think what my responsibility is to make certain I lay out the strategy and make the argument for the oversight of Congress to make the determination of fully funding us. As far as the parade goes, again, the president’s respect, his fondness for the military, I think is reflected in him asking for these options.”
Earlier this week, a report in The Washington Post revealed Trump’s plans for an elaborate parade this year and said that soldiers would march and tanks would roll in the parade.
The report, however, pointed out that so far, no date has been selected for the grand parade.
Soon after the plans were first revealed, Democrats and several other experts were quick to criticize them - claiming that massive military parades are common in authoritarian countries like China and North Korea but not America.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that such a parade risks being "kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness" if it's all about showing off military hardware.
However, White House legislative director Marc Short countered, "I'm not sure honouring the military is a waste of money."
The president’s critics also argued that plans for a military parade evoke the tactics of the Soviet Union or North Korea, not a democracy that is sure of its military strength.
Further, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), military veterans on the House Armed Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively, wrote a letter to Mattis urging him to tell Trump such a parade would be “frivolous.”
They wrote in the letter, “No one in the world doubts the strength of our military or the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. A parade will not alter that perception. Instead, it will likely prompt ridicule from our friends and foes alike. It should go without saying that just because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, likewise said he was “greatly concerned” with the reported plans.
Smith said, “The military is not President Trump’s personal toy set. He cannot be allowed to continue focusing on parades and ego-inflating toys instead of real, basic military needs that can jeopardize lives if they are not met.”
Even top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee sent a letter to Mattis demanding answers on the cost of such an event.
The lawmakers wrote, “At a time of war, with American service members serving in harm’s way, such a parade seems to be inappropriate and wasteful. Every penny of the millions of dollars that the parade would cost and every second of the tens of thousands of personnel hours its execution would require, should be devoted to the most essential missions of the Department of Defense — protecting the American people and our security interests.”
Trump’s supporters, however, believe that critics of the parade are being disingenuous and skewing history.
According to reports, the idea of staging a grand parade of the armed forces in Washington was first introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron last September.
He had then stated that the parade would be staged on July 4.
Trump is also said to have reminisced about watching France's Bastille Day military parade when he visited Paris.
He reportedly said the two-hour parade was a "tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France.”
He added that he wanted one on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington that would be grander than the one he saw in Paris.
Further, the President has also long expressed a desire for a display of the military’s might in the capital.
He reportedly wanted to include tanks and missile launchers in his inauguration parade, and later said he is considering a military parade for the Fourth of July.
Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a statement this week, “We are aware of the request and are in the process of determining specific details. As you can expect, this is a complex event and there are many variables that go into the planning and execution of a parade. DOD will provide options for the president and send them to the White House for review.”