Top Pentagon officials late Sunday blasted The New York Times for a Memorial Day weekend editorial that criticized the military for naming bases after Confederate generals.
The piece, titled “Why Does the U.S. Military Celebrate White Supremacy,” ran in Sunday’s print edition of the newspaper. It argued that “it is time to rename bases for American heroes — not racist traitors.”
The editorial singled out Georgia’s Fort Benning, North Carolina’s Fort Bragg and other installations named for military figures who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. In some cases, the military has argued that the bases were named for the generals’ actions in prior conflicts, such as the Mexican-American War, or for their contributions to the reunified nation after the Civil War ended in 1865.
Defense Department officials eviscerated the piece and said that it was in especially bad taste to run it over the Memorial Day holiday.
“On a solemn day for remembering those that have given their lives for our country fighting against tyranny and subjugation, the NYT has more than a million possible stories of the ultimate sacrifice by American patriots that they could tell. But they don’t,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman tweeted late Sunday. “Instead they chose to attack the US military — the most diverse meritocracy in the country and the most powerful force for good in world history. We have many stories of valor still waiting to be told this Memorial Day weekend.”
The lengthy editorial argued that the bases in question honor white supremacy and, in some cases, amount to monuments to war criminals.
“Bases named for men who sought to destroy the Union in the name of racial injustice are an insult to the ideals servicemen and women are sworn to uphold — and an embarrassing artifact of the time when the military itself embraced anti-American values. It is long past time for those bases to be renamed,” it reads in part.
It’s indisputable that the 10 bases cited by The New York Times are named after generals who fought for the Confederacy, but the military argues that at least some of the installations honor their actions outside of that conflict.
Army base Fort Bragg in North Carolina, for example, is named after Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg. But the base’s website says it was named “for his actions during the Mexican-American war.”
Alabama’s Fort Rucker was “named in honor of Colonel Edmund W. Rucker, a Civil War Confederate officer, who was given the honorary title of ‘General,’ and who became an industrial leader in Birmingham after the war,” according to the base’s website.
Perhaps the most notable example is Virginia’s Fort Lee, named after famed Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led Southern forces for the duration of the Civil War. Despite having fought against the Union, Lee’s military strategy and tactics remain widely studied.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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