CBS — Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued guidance on Friday that effectively banned Confederate flags at military installations, although it never once mentions the word “Confederate.”
The memo comes as the nation grapples with what to do about public displays of Confederate symbols, and as President Trump’s insistence that the Confederate flag should be protected under “freedom of speech.”
Instead of specifically banning the Confederate flag, Esper’s memo lists all the flags that can be displayed. The flags included are the U.S. flag; military service flags; providentially-approved and Senate-confirmed civilian flags; the POW/MIA flag and others.
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote in the memo.
CBS News’ David Martin reports that the memo was weeks in the making. The Associated Press reported that an earlier version of the policy had specifically banned the Confederate flag.
Esper and General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before a House committee on July 9 that the Pentagon needs to take a “hard look” at Confederate flags and military bases named after Confederate generals.
But Mr. Trump has threatened to veto the $740 billion annual defense policy bill over a provision that would require the Pentagon to change the names of 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals. The provision, offered by Senator Elizabeth Warren, also extends to other military assets named for the Confederate officers and requires the Defense Department to remove names, symbols, displays and monuments that commemorate the Confederacy within three years.
“I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!” Mr. Trump tweeted on June 30.
Mr. Trump has also publicly criticized NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag, a moved that was made after Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black NASCAR driver, had called for the flag’s removal. Mr. Trump blamed Wallace and the “Flag decision” for what he described as the “lowest ratings EVER!” for the sport. Mr. Trump also demanded Wallace apologize after the FBI investigated a noose found in his locker.
David Martin and Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.
First published on July 17, 2020 / 3:06 PM
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