The US Department of Defense spokesperson has locked horns with the New York Times (NYT) over a Memorial Day opinion piece saying that the US military “celebrates white supremacy.”
“The NYT has more than a million possible stories of the ultimate sacrifice by American patriots that they could tell. But they don’t,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman tweeted.
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.
Hoffman’s ire was drawn by the NYT’s opinion piece titled ‘Why Does the U.S. Military Celebrate White Supremacy?’ on Saturday. The article was accompanied by an illustration depicting an artillery shell with two black dots on it, resembling a white Ku Klux Klan hood.
The op-ed argued that the Pentagon must rename the 10 military sites across the country that bear the names of Confederate generals who fought for the secessionist slave-holding US states during the 1861-1865 Civil War. The federal government had “embraced pillars of the white supremacist movement” in naming the bases in honor of the Confederate officers, the NYT’s editorial board wrote.
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.
The military installations currently named after Confederate fighters include Fort Bragg, in North Carolina – the largest US base in terms of population, and one of the largest army sites in the world. The base, named after Confederate General Braxton Bragg, serves as the home of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and houses the HQ of the US Army Special Operations Command (Airborne).
Another example is Fort Benning, in Georgia, where the US Army Infantry School and Armor School are located. The base is named after Confederate Brigadier General Henry Benning.
The debate over Confederate legacy was reignited after mass shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Roof was photographed posing with a Confederate flag sometime before the massacre.
The tragedy sparked a series of removals of Confederate statues and flags across the country. That did not go down well with quite a few people, who said that the memorials should be preserved for historical reasons and used to learn about the “inconvenient truths of our past.”