June 12, 2020

Duckworth Joins Schumer, Warren, Reed, Colleagues to Call On President Trump To Support Bipartisan Proposal In Annual Defense Bill To Rename All Bases & Other Military Assets Named For The Confederacy And Anyone Who Served In The Confederacy

 

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and SASC Ranking Member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in urging President Donald Trump to support the bipartisan SASC-adopted proposal to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy and anyone who voluntarily served it from bases and other property of the U.S. military. The amendment was adopted with strong, bipartisan support and is in keeping with the Marine Corps’ recent directive that commanders remove all public displays of the Confederate battle flag carried during the Civil War. This week, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy publicly indicated that they are “open to bipartisan discussions” to rename Army bases that honor Confederate officers who led the fight against the Union and defended the institution of slavery.

 

“The Confederacy remains a haunting symbol of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation, racial terror, and the systematic subjugation of Black people, which are antithetical to the values of our military and our country,” the lawmakers wrote. “It is long past time for the United States military to cease honoring, commemorating, or otherwise celebrating those who took up arms against the United States in the Civil War, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American lives in order to preserve the institution of chattel slavery.”

 

Over the past weeks, the protests and demonstrations in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, as well as the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery, have underlined the urgent necessity of confronting America’s history of racism against Black Americans. However, Trump recently tweeted troubling statements that he “will not even consider” renaming Confederate-named bases, claiming that they are “part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” 

 

“Your rejection of this proposal reflects a profound misunderstanding of this moment in our nation’s history, when Americans are demanding that we reckon with a centuries-old legacy of systemic racism and our military leaders recognize that condoning Confederate symbols undermines their mission and unit cohesion. Renaming these installations does not disrespect our military; rather, it addresses a long-standing harm and provides a long overdue opportunity to honor the sacrifices and contributions of our service members in a way that better reflects our nation’s diversity and values,” the lawmakers wrote.

 

Under the provision adopted by the Committee, assets for removal are defined as any base, installation, street, building, facility, aircraft, ship, plane, weapon, equipment, or any other property owned or controlled by the Department of Defense. The proposal also creates a process for identifying all military assets where the Confederacy is honored and implementing this new removal requirement. Duckworth co-sponsored this provision.


Senator Duckworth is a former Army Black Hawk pilot who served in the Reserve Forces for 23 years. Earlier this week, Duckworth wrote to leaders of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard Bureau to call on each of them to prohibit the display of the Confederate Battle Flag. Since her letter, the U.S. Navy has announced it will prohibit the Confederate Battle Flag from all public spaces and work areas. Duckworth also spoke out when Trump tweeted a refusal to consider renaming U.S. military bases currently named after confederate leaders who took up arms against America to defend their ability to own, sell and kill Black Americans.

The letter was also signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) Tim Kaine (D-VA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Gary C. Peters (D-MI) and Doug Jones (D-AL).


Full text of the letter here and included below.


Dear President Trump:

Over the past weeks, the protests and demonstrations in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police as well as the brutal murder of Ahmaud Arbery have underlined the urgent necessity of confronting America’s history of racism against Black Americans. In that spirit, we write in support of a proposal recently adopted by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) in the markup of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy from military bases and other property of the Department of Defense (DoD).

It is unacceptable that over 155 years after the end of the Civil War, at least ten United States Army bases1 and other property of the Armed Forces bear names of officers who served in the Confederacy. In the words of Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, the Confederacy was founded upon the idea that African-Americans were “not equal to the white man” and that “slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” 2 The Confederacy remains a haunting symbol of white supremacy, Jim Crow segregation, racial terror, and the systematic subjugation of Black people, which are antithetical to the values of our military and our country. It is long past time for the United States military to cease honoring, commemorating, or otherwise celebrating those who took up arms against the United States in the Civil War, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American lives in order to preserve the institution of chattel slavery.

We are deeply troubled by your recent tweets stating you “will not even consider” the renaming of these bases because they are “part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom.” 3 Your rejection of this proposal reflects a profound misunderstanding of this moment in our nation’s history, when Americans are demanding that we reckon with a centuries-old legacy of systemic racism and our military leaders recognize that condoning Confederate symbols undermines their mission and unit cohesion. Renaming these installations does not disrespect our military; rather, it addresses a long-standing harm and provides a long overdue opportunity to honor the sacrifices and contributions of our service members in a way that better reflects our nation’s diversity and values.

As President and Commander-in-Chief, we urge you to stand on the right side of history and support the SASC-adopted proposal to remove all names, symbols, displays, monuments, and paraphernalia that honor or commemorate the Confederacy from bases and other property of the U.S. military.