June 11, 2020

Remembering Confederate Generals

On Tuesday, retired General and former CIA director David Petraeus wrote an op-ed calling for the renaming of army bases named for Confederate generals. The Atlantic

“In the past few days, officials have said that the Pentagon, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, was open to having a bipartisan conversation about renaming the Army bases named for Confederate leaders.” Reuters

President Trump tweeted on Wednesday, “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.” Twitter

NASCAR on Wednesday said it is banning the display of the Confederate flag at all events and properties of the auto racing giant.” CNBC

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports renaming the bases and removing confederate monuments.

“Trump displayed no understanding of just who the namesakes of these bases were—nor that these bases were given their names after World War I and, in some cases, after World War II… And rather than take the lead on a movement to redress the symbolism of white supremacy, a step that shouldn’t be so difficult, he once again prefers to bask in what he sees as the buzzwords of his base—STRENGTH! HEROES! MILITARY!—even as decorated veterans, who embody those values more authentically than he ever will, are coming to terms with the sinful roots of certain aspects of their tradition.”
Fred Kaplan, Slate

“The history of the giant carvings on Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, is instructive. Planning of the carvings began only in 1914. Substantial funding for the project came from the KKK, which met on the mountain's top to burn crosses and the project's first directors and promoters were Klan members…

“After the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools in 1954, Southern states vowed a program of ‘Massive Resistance.’ Part of the resistance was installing more white-supremacist icons. This was when the State of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain; finished the huge carvings -- bigger than the presidents on Mount Rushmore -- of two Confederate military leaders, Stonewall Jackson and Lee, and the political leader, Jefferson Davis; and added the Confederate battle flag to Georgia's state flag…

All Confederate monuments should be removed. Ideally, they should be removed by state and local governments, not demonstrators; if governments remove them, rather than protestors, society's rejection of the monuments and the evil that they represent is clearer. The removals would follow the recent lead of cities such as Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Ala. and Richmond. African Americans should not have to encounter each day the equivalent of state-endorsed swastikas.”
George Shepherd, CNN

“As the nation grapples with racial injustice, President Trump and the White House are mounting an impassioned defense against removing Confederate generals’ names from important military bases… ‘Fort Bragg is known for the heroes within it, that train there, that deployed from there,’ [White House Press Secretary] McEnany said. ‘And it’s an insult to say to the men and women who left there, the last thing they saw on American soil before going overseas and in some cases losing their lives, to tell them that what they left was inherently a racist institution because of a name. That’s unacceptable to the president, and rightfully so’…

“But making that case also suggests a name change somehow mitigates all of that. Are Fort Bragg or Fort Benning really great because of the names they carry, or because of the people who lead them and the soldiers they produce? Do people who come from these bases really believe that changing their names would somehow diminish their important experiences there or the preparation they went through?”
Aaron Blake, Washington Post

“Far from connoting power and winning, some of these base names indicate the opposite. Fort Pickett was named after an inept commander who was [accused of] war crimes. Fort Bragg was named for another incompetent general ‘known for pettiness and cruelty.’ Fort Gordon was named after a Ku Klux Klan leader. Every damn one of them was a loser in a bad cause. And their names were attached to military facilities not to honor their courage or skill but to support the big lie of the neo-Confederacy, the whitewashing of the lost cause in order to perpetuate Jim Crow and the terrorism that created and maintained it.”
Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine

Regarding NASCAR’s decision, “The Confederate flag, rooted in an immoral commitment to the defense, promotion, and expansion of racial slavery, should be relegated to history's dustbin. Yet rather than be studied as an artifact of the peculiar institution's past grip on the nation's soul, too many white Americans cling to the flag as a source of honor rather than a symbol of shame…

“Kaepernick's peaceful demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice was never about disrespecting the American flag. But the brandishing of Confederate flags anywhere in this nation does exactly that. The Confederacy, far from representing an honorable struggle for states' rights and Southern honor as its defenders proclaim, is among the biggest symbols of white supremacy and anti-black racism in American history… The elevation of the Confederate flag and the corresponding raising of monuments to soldiers who should be considered war criminals betrays our nation's deepest commitments and principles.”
Peniel Joseph, CNN

From the Right

The right is divided about renaming the bases and removing confederate monuments.

The right is divided about renaming the bases and removing confederate monuments.

Some say that “The bases are staging grounds – nothing more, nothing less. Their existence is essential, but their names aren’t. It has never, ever made sense for U.S. military bases to be named after men who served as generals in armed warfare against the United States…

“Each statue, memorial, observance, and facility name has a particular history, significance, and context of its own. For the president of the United States to argue not in favor of context or history, but instead to make a blanket assertion that all renamings are off the table, is outlandish… A reasoned and decent respect for black Americans should absolutely require that renamings be ‘considered,’ in a review that takes a dispassionate look at how and why the bases were named in the first place and any other relevant factors.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

Others argue that “Although I wish the president would show more sensitivity for the legitimate moral debate here, I'm in broad agreement… These bases are no longer known for those they were named after but rather for their places as the homes of great fighting units. Fort Bragg stands for units such as Delta Force and the 82nd Airborne Division, elements of the U.S. Army that serve as the nation's tip of the spear across the world… Fort Hood, similarly, stands for units such as the gloried 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Cavalry Regiment. And Fort Benning is home to the Army Rangers and schools the nation's newest soldiers in the art of infantry, airborne, and armored assault…

“Yes, Benning was a racist idiot. But then there are Americans like Ruppert Sargent. Sargent, a black American, elected to serve his nation and passed out of Fort Benning's Officer Candidate School as a second lieutenant. Not even 30 years old, Sargent was killed in action in Vietnam after jumping on a grenade to save two of his men. Today, it is men and women like Sargent who define Fort Benning, not Henry Benning.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

“Lay aside the substance of [Trump’s] points for a second and focus on this: These tweets gain him nothing. He already won all 11 former Confederate states in 2016. At most this’ll help him hold on in places like Texas and Georgia that are trending blue — although it could also provide extra motivation for Democrats there, especially black Democrats, to turn out and beat him. Anyone who’s sufficiently invested in preserving Confederate ‘heritage’ or in ‘fighting political correctness’ was already safely voting for Trump this fall…

“Option one for Trump was to make a gesture of conciliation towards Americans who are worried about racism by renaming the forts. Option two was to do nothing and keep quiet so as not to gift-wrap a talking point for Democrats that he’s making the problem worse. Option three was to do what he did.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Dated But Relevant: Regarding Confederate monuments, “There is good reason to leave monuments where they stand, but let’s be clear. The reason for keeping them has nothing to do with honoring the cause of the Confederacy or the memory of slavery. Even though many of them were erected for that purpose in the decades spanning the 1870s to the 1930s, that should not be our purpose for keeping them now. The case for keeping our Confederate monuments has everything to do with preserving our history, the better to understand it…

“Monuments become part of our landscape down through the decades, and their physical presence testifies to the past in a way that museums cannot… Something as central to American history as the war between North and South should impose on us and demand our attention—not so that we can honor the principles of the Confederacy, but so we can understand and remember who we were and all we suffered to survive the Civil War and remain one nation.”
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

“Monuments are part of the historical evidence. This is why erasing even the loathsome statues of Confederate generals is an error. Slavery was more than a system of laws, and its legacies endured beyond plantation house museums…

“If we wreck [the statues] or hide [them], we remove the evidence of this wickedness from our children’s sight. The better response is to alter the meaning of Confederate statues not by destruction but by enrichment: to change the statues from assertions of racial power to evidence of a crime. This can be done by education and school trips, by installing plaques and counter-statues and other artworks on site, and – after the consent of the voters has been obtained — moving statues into museums.”
Dominic Green, Spectator USA

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