By now, even Republicans who for decades have bowed to the spectacle of honoring Confederate battle flags and monuments must confront the charade bound up in continuing to have U.S. Army installations named for pro-slavery figures who fought to defeat the United States of America in the Civil War. While one can argue whether statistics support the notion that police brutality is visited more often on people of color than whites, there’s no doubting that the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police has sobered a nation long guilty of enabling racism.
The least we can do is honor our men and women in the armed forces, many of them racial minorities, by renaming Army installations for Americans who didn’t take up arms against our military. And as with so many things, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
Wrong way: a Democratic-run House military appropriations committee’s spending bill last week for fiscal year 2021. It includes a provision prohibiting military construction projects on bases named for Confederate figures. To quote Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “Our brave servicemembers should not have to live and train on bases named for traitors to the cause of creating a more perfect union. Betraying the United States is not an act that should be honored, and it’s beyond time for change at those military bases that do that with their namesake. Along with other Democrats and Republicans who favor these changes, I will use all the tools in our legislative toolbox to rectify these misguided historical monikers.”
Whoa! We agree with the sentiment but not the tactic. This Democratic measure, approved along party lines, is just as wrong-headed and self-defeating as President Trump’s vow to veto the defense authorization bill if Congress approves bipartisan plans in the Senate pressing for a process to rename military installations now named for Confederate figures including Fort Hood, some 50 miles from Waco. As Republican Congressman John Carter correctly noted in protesting the House measure last week, however Congress goes about removing the names of Confederate figures from U.S. posts, it shouldn’t do so in ways that undermine the day-to-day duties of our troops or impede our broader military mission (whatever that is anymore).
“Just yesterday in Texas, it was 100 degrees,” said Congressman Carter, referring to Fort Hood, which is in his district, and the prospect of larger, modern maintenance facilities. “Today it’s bumping up against 100 degrees. When you have an Abrams tank sitting in the sun because the motor pool is too small to work in, and it sits in the blazing sun all day long, you can literally cook breakfast on an Abrams tank. It will cause second-degree burns to those who touch it with the tender parts of their body like their arms and elbows.”
Message received. Other congressional committees are carrying the ball on renaming inappropriately named Army facilities. Good for them. Meanwhile, committees specifically charged with military construction projects should get on with their duties and help our soldiers more efficiently get on with theirs.