All Our Base Are Belong To Dead Confederates
Video screenshot, Lincoln Project ad

On the very day NASCAR announced it would no longer allow displays of the Confederate Treason flag at any of its events, Donald Trump took a bold stand in favor of the short-lived enemy nation the United States of America defeated in the Civil War. Trump's Tweetgasm vowing the damned Yankees would never take away the names of military bases named after Confederate generals was posted a while before the NASCAR tweet, but it was a noteworthy contrast. Particularly since the stock car racing entertainment giant knows how to use grammatical English and proper capitalization.

Trump's pro-Confederacy rant was so important, in fact, that the White House delayed a scheduled press briefing by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for nearly an hour to allow time for Trump to get the tweets out. As the presser got underway, every reporter in the room was given a printout of the tweets, which for the sake of history we'll present here:

It has been suggested that we should rename as many as 10 of our Legendary Military Bases, such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Benning in Georgia, etc. These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a...

...history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations...

...Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!

If only Trump had used just one or two more superlatives, he might have gotten his point across more effectively.

Trump's outburst came in response to recent statements from Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Defense Secretary Mark Esper that they would be willing to discuss changing the names of ten Army posts named after various Confederate generals. The Army has until now always rejected calls to change the names of places like Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, Fort Benning, in Georgia, or Fort Hood, in Texas, because "tradition," but the Times They Are A-Changing, it seems. It probably also doesn't hurt that Trump mightily pissed off many military leaders with his talk of deploying active-duty soldiers to crush protests against police brutality.

An Army spokesperson told Politico Monday that the two weeks of protests against institutional racism in policing (and other institutions) "made us start looking more at ourselves and the things that we do and how that is communicated to the force as well as the American public." That's anonymous but official communication for Esper and McCarthy, not just some off-the-record tip.

The New York Timesreports (this time based on an anonymous anonymous source) that Esper and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley met Tuesday to

discuss the gap in the military between its mostly white officer corps and its diverse enlisted ranks, where 43 percent are people of color.

Mr. Esper and General Milley discussed coming up with what officials called a "comprehensive plan" to address Army base names, Confederate symbols on military installations and the alienation that many service members who are people of color say they have come to feel in a military where most of their senior leaders are white men.

Trump, on the other hand, had been stewing angrily over the reports that the military, which he sees as his private security force, was considering such a terrible act of political correctness. The Times doesn't specifically note whether Trump knew about retired General David Petraeus's excellent Atlantic essay that lays out the argument for changing the base names. Who knows what Trump hears? He certainly wouldn't have read it. If Trump were aware of the essay, that would have made him mad, too, since Petraeus has also criticized Trump's betrayal of the Kurds and his Ukraine fuckery.

The Times does report that Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who until recently represented the Confederate state of North Carolina, "encouraged the president to block any attempt to change the names."

Once the tweets were out there, McEnany explained that it would be a sin to change the names of any "forts" because how dare you call America's brave military men and women racists, you monster. You get the distinct impression she thinks the forts are surrounded by big tall walls made of stone, or perhaps logs that are pointy at the top.

Nobody in the Trump administration understands what institutional racism is, duh.

As Petraeus points out in his essay, the reason the US has bases named after Confederate generals has less to do with "honoring" great military leaders than with getting local buy-in for their construction, and for taking the large parcels of land required, at the height of Jim Crow, when Confederate monuments were being used to glorify white supremacy.

[Most were] established either during World War I, at one peak of the Lost Cause movement, or in the early 1940s, as the country was feverishly gearing up for World War II. Army leaders, to say nothing of political figures at the time, undoubtedly wanted to ingratiate themselves with the southern states in which the forts were located. They bowed to — and in many cases shared — the Lost Cause nostalgia that also sponsored so much civilian statuary, street naming, and memorial building from the end of Reconstruction through the 1930s[.]

Petraeus and others point out that the bases aren't just named after slaveholders and — a not incidental matter — literal traitors to the United States, "none of [whom] were actually in the U.S. Army when they performed the actions for which they were honored." Beyond that, several of them were just terrible generals. The Washington Post offers a few brief summaries:

Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the headquarters of the Special Forces, bears the name of Gen. Braxton Bragg, a commander often assailed as one of the most bumbling commanders in the war. Bragg was relieved of command after losing the battle for Chattanooga in 1863, then served as a military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Fort Benning in Georgia, the home of Army infantry and airborne training, is named after Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, who led troops at Antietam and Gettysburg. In remarks in 1861 laying out slavery as the reason for secession, Benning warned that abolition would lead to "black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?"

Fort Hood in Texas is named after John Bell Hood, who resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to fight against it. His "reckless" command hastened the fall of Atlanta, one historian wrote, and his losses at the Battle of Franklin were so disastrous that they have been called the "Pickett's Charge of the West," in reference to a bloody and failed assault named for Maj. Gen. George Pickett, one of Gen. Robert E. Lee's top commanders at Gettysburg.

Yes, there's also a Fort Pickett in Virginia.

And let's not forget: all these bases Trump claims represent a "history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom" lost their damn war, which was fought to preserve slavery. Hell, as Petraeus points out, one of them, John Brown Gordon, was almost certainly a founding leader of the KKK. He opposed Reconstruction, and while he denied belonging to the Klan, he acknowledged in congressional testimony in 1871 that he belonged to a secret "peace police" that was solely devoted to the "preservation of peace." If you get his drift, and we're certain you do.

During yesterday's briefing, McEnany said Trump "will not be signing legislation that renames America's forts," which could turn out to be an empty threat, or maybe just more chaos Trump unleashes on the nation, because the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday approved an amendment to the national defense authorization bill that would do exactly that to the "forts." (This veto threat, of course, means Trump would be placing glorifying the Confederacy above things like, you know, pay raises for troops.) The amendment, offered by Elizabeth Warren, would require the Pentagon to set up a base-renaming commission and get rid of Confederate names for all bases within three years. But not just the bases themselves. It would require the renaming of all military assets, from ships to street names on military bases, too. House Democrats look likely to pass a similar bill as well.

Gosh, it's almost as if Senate Republicans don't think Trump will be around in three years.

In any case, get ready to hear a lot more fuss about this, since unlike police racism and the pandemic, a good culture wars fight has few downsides for Trump's base, and there will no doubt be some people willing to buy into the notion of "proud military heritage," even if they can't stand Trump on other issues.

Hell, let's just keep "Fort Bragg" but add that it's now named after Billy.

Also too, here's a nice ad from the Lincoln Project, calling Trump the second leader of the Confederacy. it's very nicely done, and its mention of Trump's support for the wrong side in Charlottesville even accepts his disingenuous claim that "very fine people" only meant the pro-Confederate marchers, not the Nazis. But what's so fine about treason, Mr. "President"?

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[Politico / Roll Call / NYT / Atlantic / Wapo / Buzzfeed News / Joe. My. God]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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