The military, defying Trump, bans confederate flags on all its properties

One of the consequences of the way that US politicians pander to the military is that it weakens their ability to go counter to the military on the rare occasions when the military is ahead of them on some issue. We see this with the recent moves to remove all things that honor the leaders of the confederacy, be they statues and other monuments or the naming of buildings and institutions. Trump clearly has white nationalist sympathies and has said that he opposes the renaming of military bases named after confederate generals and would veto any legislation that seeks to do so. But the Pentagon has already set in motion studies on this issue and one has to think that it will eventually happen.

But the military has already gone against Trump’s desires with respect to the confederate flag. Trump had already indicated where his sympathies lay by criticizing NASCAR for banning the flag at its events. The Marines had already banned it and the Navy said that it would too and the other branches of the military were considering it. The defense secretary Mark Esper, no doubt trying to thread the needle of removing the flag while not openly going against Trump, rather than forbidding the flying of the confederate flag on all military property, instead issued a list of approved flags that did not have the confederate flag as one element, thus effectively banning it.

A draft version of the policy reportedly explicitly banned the Confederate flag on Defense Department property. Yet the official language simply lists the types of flags that are allowed to be displayed, including the American flag; the flags of the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia; military flags and those of allies.

The decision not to name a specific, prohibited flag was “to ensure the department-wide policy would be apolitical and withstand potential free speech political challenges,” a defense official familiar with the decision told reporters ahead of the policy rollout.

In recent weeks, Esper has faced mounting pressure from the military service leaders to ban the Confederate flag outright, POLITICO first reported, since protests swept the nation in the wake George Floyd’s death.

The Marine Corps this spring took the lead and banned the flag on all Corps property, followed by U.S. Forces Korea. The Navy later announced it was preparing its own ban. Esper supports the Marine Corps’ decision in particular to ban the flag, the official said. But the defense secretary had told the services to pause these efforts until he could issue a department-wide policy.

The new policy does not change those initiatives, or limit the services from enacting their own stricter regulations. The services “are still free to act on other flags,” the official said.

The White House is aware of the policy change, the official said.

So Trump has caved on this issue while not acknowledging doing so, yet another example of his cravenness.


  1. says

    Hey, it’s fair. We hate being abused, stomped on, and sexually assaulted, and that’s a kind of hate the military will not stand for.

  2. René says

    In no way defending displaying the Confederate flag in any circumstance, I just want to say just once that I find the design of displaying thirteen stars in a symmetric design rather clever.(The 50 stars in he current US flag are also beautifully positioned, mind you. How would an additional state be accommodated?)

  3. xohjoh2n says

    I understand why an idiot racist might like the confederate flag, but I just don’t understand why the US military would idolize them: they fought against you, and lost. Is that the sort of thing the US miliary looks up to? Well, that would explain ‘Nam I guess. And Cuba, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanistan… the US military just like losing.

    But Trump? He went on so much about winner and losers, did nobody tell him?



  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    René @ # 3: … I find the design of displaying thirteen stars in a symmetric design rather clever.

    If a bit fraught with political stretching. Only 11 states officially joined the Confederacy, after all.

    The slave-holding states of Missouri and Kentucky never seceded, but the Confederate government claimed them anyway, and gave seats to delegates from those states in its legislature -- not to mention stars in its flag.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    That bans also includes LGBTQIA flags, falsely equating them to hate flags

    I think it’s a bit strong to say the ban equates the LGBTQIA flag with hate flags. I mean, if you want to walk round the place I work you have to wear steel toe capped boots. That requirement doesn’t equate snowboard boots with flip flops, although it does coincidentally exclude the wearing of either.

    The military is threading a needle here (i.e. defying the commander-in-chief), and while I absolutely agree that the (presumably) unintended consequences are undesirable, they are at least a least-worst option. The alternative is to have the armed forces take a public position on what is acceptable political speech (and per the Constitution, however much you support one and loath the other, flying a confederate flag and flying a rainbow flag are both political speech). Banning ALL flag-based political statements by serving military seems sensible. I really really wouldn’t want to see Marines on duty with MAGA patches on their uniforms…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *