President Trump on Wednesday poured cold water on the possibility of renaming Army installations named for Confederate leaders, one day after an Army spokesperson said top Pentagon officials were open to discussions about doing so.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump said the 10 Army posts bearing the names of Confederate generals "have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom."
"My Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations," the president said. "Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with."
Mr. Trump's statement was printed and distributed to reporters at the White House during Wednesday's briefing and read by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany from the podium.
"To suggest that these forts were somehow inherently racist and their names need to be changed is a complete disrespect to the men and women who the last bit of American land they saw before they went overseas and lost their lives were these forts," McEnany told reporters, adding the posts are "known for the heroes within it, that trained there, that deployed from there."
When asked what Mr. Trump would do if Congress were to pass a bill that changed the names of these military posts, McEnany said he "will not be signing legislation that renames America's forts."
The president's tweets come after an Army spokesperson said Tuesday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were "open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic."
The 10 Army bases named for Confederate leaders are: Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Camp Beauregard and Fort Polk in Louisiana, Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia, Fort Rucker in Alabama, Fort Hood in Texas, and Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee and Fort Pickett in Virginia.
In a lengthy essay in The Atlantic on Tuesday, retired General David Petraeus argued in favor of renaming the bases, saying 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."
"Plainly put, Lee, Bragg, and the rest committed treason, however much they may have agonized over it," wrote Petraeus. "The majority of them had worn the uniform of the U.S. Army, and that Army should not brook any celebration of those who betrayed their country."
Calls to remove Confederate monuments, statues and the flag from public places have reignited as tens of thousands of people from coast-to-coast protest police brutality and racial injustice following the death of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis.
Last week, the U.S. Marine Corps issued a directive to commanders to "identify and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag or its depiction within workplaces, common-access areas and public areas on their installations." The U.S. Navy said Tuesday that Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday directed his staff to start working on an order that would prohibit the Confederate flag from all public spaces and work areas on Navy installations.
First published on June 10, 2020 / 3:37 PM
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