President Donald Trump said Wednesday he would “not even consider” changing the names of U.S. military bases that honor Confederate generals.
Pressure to rename the bases comes as the country contends with its racist past following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent coast-to-coast protests against systematic racial injustice. Those advocating the change say that keeping the Confederate names commemorates that injustice.
But Trump tweeted that he adamantly rejects the idea. The White House press secretary subsequently read it from the briefing room podium.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
“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!”
This isn’t the first time there have been calls to change the names of some of the country’s most prominent bases. In recent years, when events such as the white supremacist march on Charlottesville in 2017 renewed focus on the nation’s persistent issues with racism, efforts were made to rename them.
Fort Bragg in North Carolina, for example, is named for Braxton Bragg, a U.S. Military Academy graduate who commanded the Army of Tennessee for the Confederacy.
Now, after Floyd’s killing in police custody in Minneapolis ignited a nationwide soul-searching, the Pentagon’s top brass, U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, said this week they are open to a “bipartisan conversation” about renaming.
David Petraeus, a retired four-star Army general and former CIA director, wrote an editorial in the Atlantic in support of renaming, saying, “It’s ironic that American soldiers and Marines are being trained at bases named for people who fought against the Union.”
But White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who read the president’s statement at the start of her afternoon news briefing, was unequivocal, even suggesting Trump would veto legislation that authorizes defense programs if it included the renaming of one of the bases.
“The president will not be signing legislation that renames America’s forts,” she said. “We’ve got to honor what has happened there, not rename it. So that is an absolute nonstarter for the president.”
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Colby Itkowitz