Former Sen. James Webb of Virginia, weighing in publicly Wednesday on the ongoing debate over the Confederate flag, said the battle flag has “wrongly been used” for racist and other purposes in recent decades, while he urged respect for the “complicated” history of the Civil War.
“This is an emotional time, and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,” Mr. Webb, who is weighing a 2016 presidential run on the Democratic side, wrote in a Facebook post. “The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.”
“But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South,” Mr. Webb wrote. “It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.”
“This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect,” he wrote.
As lawmakers and 2016 contenders issued statements of support for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call earlier in the week to remove the Confederate flag from state Capitol grounds in Columbia, Mr. Webb, a Vietnam veteran who has written extensively about his Scots-Irish ancestry, had not weighed in publicly.
He complained in his book, “Born Fighting,” about “revisionist politicians and academics” who oversimplified the Civil War and tried to “defame the entire Confederate Army in a move that can only be termed the Nazification of the Confederacy.”
“But what many historians miss — and what those who react so strongly to seeing Confederate battle flags on car bumpers and in the yards of descendants of Confederate veterans do not understand — is that slavery was emphatically not the reason that most individual southerners fought so long and hard, and at such overwhelming cost,” Mr. Webb wrote in the book.
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