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Members eye expunging all traces of Confederacy in military

Trump blasts Warren for effort to rename military bases, but her language goes much further

A Confederate flag is held by an attendee of the 63rd Annual Shad Planking political rally in Wakefield, Va.
A Confederate flag is held by an attendee of the 63rd Annual Shad Planking political rally in Wakefield, Va. (Tom Williams/Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump just ripped Sen. Elizabeth Warren for proposing that military bases named after Confederates be renamed.

“Seriously failed presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren, just introduced an Amendment on the renaming of many of our legendary Military Bases from which we trained to WIN two World Wars,” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon.

What Trump may not know is that, under the Massachusetts Democrat’s proposal and another one in the House, not only would the bases be renamed but also any Dixie flags and stickers would come down — as would all other traces in the U.S. military of what some Southerners and historical revisionists still call the “lost cause” of the Confederacy.

Likewise, a draft House bill by Reps. Anthony G. Brown, D-Md., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., goes beyond renaming installations.

It would require within one year that the Pentagon do away with names on installations “and other property of the Department of Defense” if the designations honor the Confederacy or otherwise do not comport with the armed services’ core values.

“The symbols and individuals that our military honors matter,” Brown said in a statement Thursday. “It matters to the culture of inclusivity and unity needed for our military to get the job done.”

Bacon, for his part, said: “Now is the time to embrace our values, ‘that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.’”

More than forts

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The Senate Armed Services Committee included Warren’s language as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, the NDAA, on Wednesday night.

The amendment, the text of which has not yet been made public, would require the Pentagon to jettison within three years all names, symbols, displays, monuments or paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy or anyone who volunteered to serve it, Senate aides said.

So Warren’s amendment is not just about changing the names of the 10 Army installations that bear the names of Confederate soldiers, like Fort Benning or Fort Bragg. It is about all symbols and signs of that cause.

The Navy and Marine Corps this week announced they are banning the Confederate flag, and the Army says it will follow suit soon.

The pending legislation would codify those actions, and then some.

GOP pushback

Trump ended his Thursday tweet on Warren’s amendment by saying, “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!”

Indeed, even though the GOP-majority Armed Services Committee green-lighted Warren’s measure, it did so over the opposition of some members — led by the panel’s chairman, Oklahoma Republican James M. Inhofe.

Inhofe told reporters Thursday he will look to dilute the provision on the Senate floor or in the House-Senate conference on the bill.

Inhofe said he wants to make the jettisoning of Confederate names and signs merely an option, not a mandate, for the Pentagon. And he would give local authorities veto power over any changes in installation names, he said.

“We have a lot more time on this,” he said.

This year’s NDAA would authorize more than $730 billion in national defense programs. If it is enacted this year, it would be 60th consecutive fiscal year it will have become law.

But the battle over the Confederate names and images may jeopardize the bill’s prospects this year.

The House proposal by Brown and Bacon, both members of House Armed Services, could end up in that chamber’s NDAA when the panel considers the legislation on July 1.


While Warren’s measure would mandate the Pentagon get rid of traces of anything that celebrates the Confederacy, implementing it would be the job of an eight-member commission, aides said.

Half of the commission would be named by the Pentagon and half by the Armed Services committees on a bipartisan basis.

The commission would set criteria for deciding what in the U.S. military qualifies for being renamed or removed, the plan for doing so, the costs involved and a plan for incorporating the sensitivities of people who live near bases that would have to be renamed, according to aides.

The amendment says the commission must brief Congress on progress by October 2021 and a final report is due in October 2022, the aides said.

The Brown-Bacon bill has a tighter timeline of one year. Its commission would be more heavily populated with congressional appointees. And the commission’s mandate would be to weed out offensive names and signs of all kinds, whether Confederate or otherwise.

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