The Confederate flag will no longer be permitted at United States military bases and Defense Department buildings after weeks of protests against racism rocked the US and led to several statues being torn down by activists or removed by local officials.
“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” a statement from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Friday.
Calls were made for Confederate flags to be banned at US military bases and bases named after Confederate leaders were demanded to be changed. However, US President Donald Trump has explicitly voiced his objection to the latter.
Today I issued a memorandum to the force on the display of flags at @DeptofDefense facilities. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation. pic.twitter.com/YQPc3kxf4V— Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) July 17, 2020
Although Esper’s memorandum, “Public Display or Depiction of Flags in the Department of Defense,” did not mention the Confederate flag specifically, a list of acceptable flags was listed.
The US and state banners, flags of other allies and partners, the widely displayed [Prisoner of War/Missing in Action] POW/MIA flag and official military unit flags will be acceptable.
A Defense Department official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that the decision not to name a specific prohibited flag was to ensure the policy would be apolitical and could withstand potential legal challenges based on free speech.
The official said the White House was aware of the new policy.
Esper discussed the matter with senior leaders during a meeting Wednesday, including some of the legal issues surrounding a variety of bans, which some officials believe could be challenged in court.
The final version is a compromise that enables Esper to enact a ban that passes legal muster and gives military leaders what they want but doesn’t infuriate Trump, who is the commander in chief.
“What has always united us remains clear - our common mission, our oath to support and defend the Constitution, and our American flag. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation,” Esper said in his Friday memo.
- With The Associated Press