President Donald Trump ruled out Wednesday renaming military bases bearing the names of renegade Confederate generals who killed Americans in the deadliest conflict in US history.
Proposals to change the names have gained traction after the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed, unarmed black man who died in police custody May 25 after having his neck kneeled on by a since-fired white police officer for nearly nine minutes.
But Trump said his administration “will not even consider” the idea, claiming, “Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”
Roughly 10 US bases are named after Confederate leaders, including North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, Texas’ Fort Hood and Fort Benning in Georgia. All are named after prominent confederate generals.
The confederacy, a group of southern states, seceded from the US to maintain the legal right to own black people as slaves, sparking the deadliest war in American history.
Traditional estimates place the number of Americans who died during the Civil War at about 620,000, but some studies have suggested the true toll could be as high as 750,000.
Trump’s insistence that no base names be changed comes after the Army indicated Monday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were open to a discussion about the idea as the US continues to grapple with racial injustice.
The development, which is a change of course from statements made earlier this year, was first reported by Politico.
Proponents of changing the base names note they glorify a group that committed treason against the US, and exacerbate racial tensions because of the cause for which the individuals fought.
But Trump said “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,” he said.
The Navy announced Tuesday it would ban the display of the Confederate flag, a decision that comes less than a week after the Marine Corps took similar action.
Retired Army General and former CIA chief David Petraeus wrote in the Atlantic magazine Tuesday that the time is now “to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military installations.”
“The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention. Now, belatedly, is the moment for us to pay such attention,” he wrote.
Petraeus’ writing comes as successive confederate monuments have been taken down through official directives and protester actions. Others have been vandalized by demonstrators, but not completely toppled.
Separately, a statue of Christopher Columbus, the man credited with discovering the Americas for the West, and in doing so sparking the genocide of its indigenous peoples, was toppled in Virginia.
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