The military’s top general condemned Confederate officers as having committed an act of treason and voiced his intention to take a hard look at military bases honoring them, putting him at odds with President Donald Trump, who has adamantly opposed any changes.
“The Confederacy, the American Civil War was fought, and it was an act of rebellion,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Service Committee on Thursday. “It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the stars and stripes, against the U.S. Constitution and those officers turned their back on their oath.”
Milley said he had recommended that a commission “take a hard look at the bases, the statues, the names, all of this stuff, to see if we can have a rational, mature discussion.”
He also noted that an estimated 20% of soldiers in the Army are Black.
“For those young soldiers that go on to a base ― Fort Hood or Fort Bragg or 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,” he said.
Activists have long fought to change the names of 10 military bases in the U.S. named during the Jim Crow era after Confederate generals. The Army has faced increasing pressure to rename them after weeks of protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.
Despite Army officials ― including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy ― signaling that they were open to discussing the changes, Trump said he would not even consider the matter:
Trump also threatened to veto the annual defense spending bill if it includes a mandate to rename military bases named for Confederate leaders. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would require the Pentagon to remove the names of Confederate leaders from all military bases and assets.