White House officials have rejected accusations that they are using the US armed forces for political gain.
US President Donald Trump is taking the rare step of celebrating American Independence Day with a military parade.
The July 4 holiday in Washington DC will be marked with tank parades, fly overs, and firework displays.
Trump has openly mulled the plans for a parade for years but made a firm announcement in February.
On his Twitter account on Tuesday the Republican leader wrote: “The Pentagon & 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. Incredible Flyovers & biggest ever Fireworks!”
Military parades are rare in America but Trump’s plans are not without precedent.
Former presidents John F Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower both ordered military parades as shows of strength aimed at the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
A parade was also held after the end of the first Gulf War in 1991 but even that had its critics, including among the troops made to take part.
Smithsonian Magazine quotes some soldiers who called the event a “little too extreme” and a “campaign boost for [former president George] Bush and the Republicans”.
Criticisms have also been levelled at Trump over the cost of the parade, the use of the military for political gain, and concerns that the event demonstrates the lurch towards authoritarianism in the US.
Trump is making the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber fly from Missouri to DC (and back) so they can parade for him on July 4.— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) July 4, 2019
The cost is $140,000 per hour to fly.https://t.co/Xzrvy3LuKw
“The President is showboating and wasting taxpayer funding just to inflate his ego. Our Armed Forces and military assets are not political props,” said Democrat Congressman Tim Ryan on his Twitter.
The concerns are not limited to political rivals. CNN reported that military chiefs have also raised concerns about the politicisation of the event.
White House officials rejected the idea that they were politicising the armed forces, while Trump has attempted to play down rumours about the expense.
While the exact cost of the parade is not yet known, federal agencies are expected to foot a bill expected to run into the tens of millions of dollars.
The National Park Service is diverting $2.5m of money set out for park improvements to pay for costs associated with the parade.
Democrat commentator Scott Dworkin wrote: “Trump’s Fourth of July plans are ludicrous. They
make our country look weak and ridiculous. It’s a waste of money. Our tax dollars and our military should never be used for a campaign rally.”
Addressing concerns about the cost, the US President said: “The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth. We own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all. Fireworks are donated by two of the greats. Nice!”
The defining issue of 2020 is related to but even bigger than the abuse at the border, the Census mess, and the North Korean-style military parade for his donors. It’s Trump’s all-out war on American democracy, and every candidate should make that their focus. That’s the fight.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) July 3, 2019
This year’s Independence Day celebrations come as campaigning for the 2020 presidential elections are in full swing.
The Democrats will pick one of 25 confirmed candidates so far in their primary elections. They include progressives such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, as well as more right-leaning candidates, such as former vice president Joe Biden.