Story at a glance
- The Pentagon has released a list of flags acceptable to fly at all military bases, and it does not include the Confederate flag.
- Since the police killing of George Floyd in May, protests against police brutality have sparked a renewed interest in removing glorifying references to Confederate war generals.
- Despite President Trump's support for the Confederate flag, many have made legal moves to have it removed — notably the Marine Corps, NASCAR and the governor of Tennessee.
The Pentagon released a new policy on Friday effectively banning the display of the Confederate flag on all U.S. military bases around the world. The language of the policy does not explicitly name the flag — rather it lists the types of flags that are allowed to be displayed, which include the American flag, the flags of the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia, military flags and those of allies.
"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," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wrote in a memo laying out the new policy. The guidance applies to the public displays of flags by service members or Department of Defense (DoD) civilians "in all DoD work places, common access areas, and public areas."
The symbolic policy opposes recent statements by President Trump on the matter, who has expressed an unwillingness to ban the Confederate flag outright, despite a mounting public outcry to do so. President Trump criticized NASCAR for banning the flag in a recent interview with CBS News’ Catherine Herridge, saying that “people love it.”
“I know people that like the Confederate flag, and they’re not thinking about slavery,” he said. “I look at NASCAR. You go to NASCAR. You had those flags all over the place. They stopped it. I just think it’s freedom of speech, whether it’s Confederate flags or Black Lives Matter or anything else you want to talk about, it’s freedom of speech.”
An ongoing debate about the display of the Confederate battle flags, as well as military installations that pay tribute to Confederate officers, has been ramping up around the country in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Moves have already been made by others to remove the controversial flag — a painful reminder of slavery for many Americans — by the Marine Corps and the U.S. Forces Korea. The Navy has also announced that it is preparing a ban of its own.
"I am committed to fielding the most powerful military force the world has known by strengthening the bonds of our most valuable resource — our people. That is why we honor the American flag, which is the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display," Esper wrote. “As Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a veteran of the Second World War, once wrote about the United States flag: ‘It is a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of good will for other peoples who share our aspirations.’ ”
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