Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, during which he denounced the Confederacy as treasonous, and backed consideration for renaming Confederate-named military bases.
“The Confederacy, the American Civil War, was fought, and it was an act of rebellion,” Milley told the committee. “It was an act of treason, at the time, against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution. Those officers turned their back on their oath.”
Milley said bases named for Confederate military leaders reminds young soldiers going to those bases that the grounds are named for those who “fought for an institution of slavery.”
He pointed to one of his superiors early in his career who worked at Fort Bragg, a base named for Confederate officer Braxton Bragg. “He said he went to work every day on a base that represented a guy who enslaved his grandparents,” Milley said of his superior.
“There is no place our armed forces for manifestations or symbols of racism, bias or discrimination,” Milley said. “Divisiveness leads to defeat.”
Milley told the committee he recommended establishing a commission to “take a hard look at the bases, the statues, the names and all of this stuff, to see if we can have a rational, mature discussion” on renaming them.
“The way we should do it matters as much as that we should do it,” he added.
Milley’s remarks stand in contrast to those of President Donald Trump, who said he would “not even consider” renaming the Confederate-named military bases.
“These monumental and very powerful bases have become part of a great American heritage, and a history of winning, victory and freedom,” Trump said in a tweet last month. “Our history as the greatest nation in the world will not be tampered with. Respect our military!” Trump added.
…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…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 10, 2020
Milley also said on Thursday that the U.S. military is a cohesive team of diverse people working to accomplish the same mission, and said equality is a matter of “military readiness, not just political correctness.”
Milley said he was outraged by the “brutal and senseless killing” of George Floyd – a Black man who died in police custody on May 25 after officer Derek Chauvin used a kneeling restraint move for several minutes. Milley said the incident has exposed problems in our nation.
“The protests that have ensued not only speak to this injustice, but also to centuries of injustice towards Black Americans. We, as a nation and as a military, are still struggling with racism, and we have much work to do,” Milley said.