US Army/Daniel Torok
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed Thursday the possibility of renaming 10 US Army bases honoring Confederate leaders and said any change would require the utmost care.
Milley labeled the Confederacy "an act of rebellion."
"It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the US Constitution," Milley said. "And those officers turned their back on their oath."
He estimated that minorities make up 43% of the US military and that at least 20% of soldiers in the Army are African American.
Video: Historians and activists weigh in on the removal of controversial statues
The top US military officer called the Confederacy "an act of rebellion," one that violated the Constitution and went "against the Stars and Stripes," as he addressed the topic of bases and statues named after Confederate leaders.
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed Thursday the possibility of renaming the 10 US Army bases named after Confederate leaders, such as Fort Pickett and Fort Hood. He appeared to express support for renaming the bases but said any plan for change would require the utmost care to prevent political consequences.
"We've also got to take a hard look at the symbology, the symbols, things like the Confederate flags and statues and bases," Milley said during a House Armed Service Committee hearing, adding that he ordered a commission for the military to explore the possibility.
Milley estimated minorities make up 43% of the US military and that at least 20% of soldiers in the Army are African American.
"For those young soldiers that go on to a base, Fort Hood or Fort Bragg or wherever, named after a Confederate general, they can be reminded that that general fought for an institution of slavery that may have enslaved one of their ancestors," Milley said.
He said that when he was a young officer at Fort Bragg, he had a staff sergeant tell him "he went to work every day at a base that represented a guy who enslaved his grandparents."
Milley called the Confederacy "an act of rebellion," adding it "was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the US Constitution."
"And those officers turned their back on their oath," he said, referring to Confederate leaders.
"Now some have a different view of that," Milley said. "Some think it's heritage; others think it's hate."
He said that because of the political divisiveness of the issue, the implementation of any sort of policy changes would need to be handled carefully. He said that a commission is taking a look at base names, statues, and other related issues. "The way we should do it matters as much as that we should do it," he said.
The US Army has been pressured in recent weeks to rename 10 military bases named after Confederate leaders — including those with storied pasts, like Fort Bragg and Fort Benning — in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and amid growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
House lawmakers are attempting to allocate $1 million in a defense-spending bill to rename the Army bases this week. A House Appropriations subcommittee earlier this month released its own provisions for the next fiscal year, which would deny funding for new construction projects on bases "bearing the name of a confederate officer, except in the case that a process to replace such names has been initiated."
President Donald Trump has firmly rejected the possibility of renaming bases named after Confederate leaders, tweeting last month "my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations." He has also said he will veto a defense bill that calls for the renaming of bases named after the Confederacy.
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