Pentagon Bans Confederate Flag From Military Bases

Pentagon Bans Confederate Flag From Military Bases
In this July 10, 2020, file photo Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing on counternarcotics operations at U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Fla. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

The Department of Defense has banned the display of Confederate flags from military bases and other installations.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a memo issued to members of the military on Friday that only certain flags are allowed to be flown.

The Confederate flag was not among them.

“We must always remain focused on what unifies us, our sworn oath to the Constitution and our shared duty to defend the nation,” Esper wrote. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”

The flags that are allowed include any state flags, military service flags, and the prisoner of war/missing in action flag.

Flags of countries the United States is an ally or partner of or flags for official purposes, are also allowed, as are flags of groups the United States is a member of like NATO.

The other flags listed include general officer flags, president-appointed and Senate-confirmed civilian flags, and senior executive service and military department-specific service flags.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at how to remove divisive symbols.

"Anything that is a divisive symbol, we do want to take those [off] our installations and that sort of thing out of our formation," he said, reported Reuters.

Asked if that would include Confederate flags, he added: "We would have any divisive symbols on a no-fly list, if you will."

 Activists with Confederate flags gather at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., on July 1, 2017. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Activists with Confederate flags gather at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., on July 1, 2017. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Both Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, the nation's top military official, told lawmakers in Washington earlier in July that they were open to renaming the 10 U.S. military bases named after Confederates.

“For those young soldiers that go onto a base, a Fort Hood, or a Fort Bragg, or a fort wherever, named after a Confederate general, they can be reminded that that general fought for an institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors,” Milley said.

“We’ve got to take a hard look at the symbology, the symbols. Things like Confederate flags and statues and bases and all that kind of stuff.”

Esper told members of Congress at the time that a review of Confederate flags was underway.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, has opposed both the renaming of bases and some rules against flying the Confederate flag.

Trump said this week that he believes displaying the flag is a free speech matter.

The push comes as military officials enact a wide range of reforms.

Esper on Tuesday ordered officials to stop including photographs when weighing who to promote and select, along with other measures like reviewing hairstyle policies he said were meant to "root out prejudice and bias."

According to training materials obtained by watchdog Judicial Watch, guides for the Pentagon's Equal Opportunity Management agency criticize people who “believe that human similarities are more important than differences;” advise people to acknowledge their so-called privilege when “it is pointed out to them;” claim that heterosexuals have “sexual orientation privilege;” and that “religious privilege” exists.

"These documents show that the Department of Defense has been indoctrinating our troops with anti-American and racially inflammatory ‘training,’" Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.