Top military chief condemns the confederacy

I was taken by surprise yesterday when general Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military person in the US, issued a strong condemnation of the confederacy in his congressional testimony, calling it an “act of treason” and confederate leaders as traitors. This was surprising because Donald Trump, who is the commander in chief of the US armed forces and thus Milley’s ultimate boss, has opposed the removal of monuments and other symbols of the confederacy using coded language aimed to appeal to white nationalists, such as “protecting the nation’s heritage” and “preserving history”. In particular, Trump said that he would oppose the renaming of military bases named after confederate leaders, even to the extent of threatening to veto any defense bill that contains such provisions. Since Trump likes to pander to the military, he is unlikely to condemn Milley’s remarks the way he would have done if anyone else had made those statements. But it must rankle him.

But Milley was unequivocal.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday condemned Confederate leaders as traitors and said he supports a review of Army bases named after those who fought against the Union, a viewpoint that puts him at odds with the commander in chief.

Pressed by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) about the 10 Army installations named for Confederate leaders, Milley told the House Armed Services Committee that the military needs “to take a hard look at the symbology” of the Civil War — such as base names, display of the Confederate battle flag and statues — as well as improve in other areas such as “the substance of promotions.

“The American Civil War … 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 backs on their oath,” Milley said. “Now, some have a different view of that. Some think it’s heritage. Others think it’s hate.”

“The way we should do it matters as much as that we should do it. So we need to have, I’ve recommended, a commission of folks to 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.”

Brown also pushed Defense Secretary Mark Esper about plans for a military-wide ban on the Confederate flag. The Marine Corps has already banned the flag’s display and the Navy has announced it’s formulating a similar order.

A draft plan for a department-wide ban has been circulating among Pentagon brass, according to multiple reports this week. Esper told Brown that he has “a process underway” to examine “substantive and symbolic” issues.

Why did Milley use such strong language when he could have danced around the issue? It is possible that he does feel that strongly about the confederacy. Or it could be that there have been rumblings about how the military is allowing Trump to it as a political prop. For example, Milley was strongly criticized for taking part in the infamous photo op in front of a church in Washington, DC after peaceful protestors had been forcibly cleared by a large number of armed personnel from a variety of government agencies. He later apologized, saying that he regretted taking part

“I should not have been there,” Milley told the National Defense University in a pre-recorded video commencement address.

“My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

Milley and defense secretary Mark Esper were widely criticized for participating in the photo-op, with many former defense officials saying the two were helping Trump’s efforts to politicize the military.

The US military is the biggest single drain on the US government, responsible for a huge part of its budget. They know that they need to stay in the good graces of the US public, and to both major political parties, to continue to feed at that trough and hitching their wagons to Trump’s fading star is something they want to avoid.


  1. DonDueed says

    United States military leaders disapprove of the Secessionists! Film at eleven!
    … the film being a daguerreotype.
    Seriously, it’s just amazing that something like this even has to be articulated, 155 years after the defeat of the Army of Northern Virginia.

  2. Deepak says

    Seriously, it’s just amazing that something like this even has to be articulated

    “You fought in the army , lost your legs, but you are a Democrat ? You must hate your country”
    “You fought against the army , wanted to secede , and you are a white racist? Then you were just a patriot of your times!”

  3. Who Cares says

    How can they be traitors? I mean they were not inhabitants of the USA after secession so they couldn’t commit the kinds of treason he claims they did. A legal secession, to the point that the politicians in Washington could and would not do anything about it. Hence the absolute propaganda blitz by Lincoln (and the trampling on the free press, imprisoning opposing politicians and a few more dictator moves) after the Confederate States started the War of Southern Aggression by leveling Fort Sumter.

    That said WTF do US bases have names of the military commanders of the conquered confederate states, especially seeing that those people sometimes explicitly said they were doing their job to keep the right of slavery?

  4. mnb0 says

    “This was surprising because Donald Trump, who is the commander in chief of the US armed forces”
    Non-sequitur. Soldiers demand respect from their superiors just like other people. It would have highly surprised me if all high-ranking soldiers would have respected Donald the Clown, who understands as little about the military as about anything else.
    This again is a good reason for me, as a non-American, to hope that Donald the Clown will beat Joe Biden. The latter may be a bit less awful, but chances are that he will be respected by the American military indeed, with possible devestating consequences for the rest of the world (ie everything non-American).
    Like Obame beginning a drone war in Somalia.
    In other words: I tend to prefer an awful totally incompetent good-for-nothing to a somewhat less afwul candidate who’s competent to cause a lot of misery (mainly outside of the USA, of course).

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