Confederate flags, monuments, and names of military bases became the subject of fierce controversy after the tragic death of African-American George Floyd.
After several weeks of fierce debate in the country and internal discussions, the Pentagon announced its intention to make it impossible to display Confederate flags at US military facilities.
This will be done in a fancy way without mentioning the word “ban” or a specific flag. Officials described the policy, outlined in a memo leaked to the Associated Press (AP), as an ingenious way to ban the display of the flag without causing open dissent from President Donald Trump. He believes the First Amendment protects the right to display the Confederate flag.
A Memorandum signed by defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday evening lists the types of flags that can be displayed at US military facilities. The Confederate flag is not one of them – thus, its display is a violation of the rules, although there is no direct ban on it in the order of the Minister.
Details of the policy, which is expected to be released on Friday, were first reported by the AP.
“We must always put above all what unites us, our oath to the Constitution, and our common duty to protect the country,” Esper said in the Memorandum. “The Flags we raise must comply with military imperatives of the highest order and discipline, comply with a dignified and respectful attitude to all our people, and avoid controversial symbols.”
Today I issued a memorandum to the force on the display of flags at @DeptofDefense facilities. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation. pic.twitter.com/YQPc3kxf4V
— Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) July 17, 2020
Among the sanctioned heraldry listed in the Memorandum are the flags of the United States and States, allied and partner countries, the flag of solidarity with American prisoners of war, and the official flags of military units.
Confederate flags, monuments, and names of military bases have been the subject of fierce controversy in the weeks since the death of an African-American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis as a result of excessive police violence.
Monuments and symbols of the Confederacy became the object of protests by participants of actions condemning racism in many cities of the country. Some government officials are considering removing these monuments, but there are towns and areas where this position is met with persistent resistance.
According to a Defense Department official familiar with the matter, the decision not to name a specifically banned flag should ensure that the Pentagon’s position remains non-political and can withstand potential legal challenges based on free speech. The official said the White House is aware of the new position of the military Department.
Earlier, Trump categorically rejected any idea to change the names of military bases dedicated to the leaders of the Confederacy and said that the use of the Confederate flag is a matter of freedom of speech.
According to the Esper Memorandum, displaying unauthorized flags, such as the Confederate flag that was used by slaveholders during the Civil war, is acceptable in museums, in historical exhibitions, in works of art, or educational programs.