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U.S. military to prohibit flying of Confederate flag on bases and ships

Last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper asked an external advisory committee to give him ideas for how to improve the atmosphere of inclusion in the U.S. military in the wake of the death of George Floyd. This week the committee reported back.

All U.S. military services have unanimously recommended to the secretary that the Confederate flag should be barred from display on military bases, on ships and in any public space, including barracks.

The recommendation does not apply to tattoos or displaying the Confederate flag in pieces of historical art that may be hanging at the Pentagon or on bases across the country.

The U.S. Marine Corps was the first to ban the display of the Confederate flag last month.

“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps,” the USMC said. “Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society.”

General David Goldfein, the retiring Air Force chief of staff, agreed with the decision to ban the Confederate flag. Goldfein is being replaced by General Charles Brown, the first African-American head of the Air Force. Brown also backs the move to ban the flag.

Other top military leaders including Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff General James McConville and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said they are committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect. The leaders say they will work together to combat racism within the armed services.

“Our ability to defend this country from all enemies, foreign and domestic, is founded upon a sacred trust with the American people,” they wrote in a letter. “Racial division erodes that trust.”

The proposed policy states that to do its mission, the military “must cultivate an environment in which we trust one another completely and treat each other with dignity and respect. Unlike the United States flag, the Confederate battle flag tends to promote division not unity, among our people.”

“The flag that we wear on our sleeves today, the flag we drape on the coffins of our people who have given their lives for our nation is the U.S. flag,” the policy proposal says.

President Donald Trump has said he would veto the Defense Authorization Act if it includes language to change the names of 10 Army bases named after Confederate generals. The unanimous recommendation to bar the Confederate flag from being displayed could set the Defense Department up for a showdown with Trump.

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