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Debate Grows Over Renaming Army Bases

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House Democrats are calling for 10 military bases named after Confederate soldiers to be renamed.

The push comes in the wake of violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, which has prompted a number of cities and other localities to remove Confederate monuments, according to The Hill.

Two dozen Democrats, including the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Aug. 21 arguing that the names of people "who fought against our nation as part of the Confederacy" should not be used.

Two of the bases concerned are Fort Hood in Texas, the world's largest military facility, and Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

"These designations only serve to promote a dark and divisive time in our history and do not uphold the best of our country," the letter noted, according to The Hill.

A group of Democratic legislators introduced a bill on Aug. 18 that would order Mattis to rename any military property "that is currently named after any individual who took up arms against the United States during the American Civil War or any individual or entity that supported such efforts," according to Politico.

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The Pentagon refused to indicate whether it would rename the bases.

"We do not comment on pending legislation," Navy Commander Patrick Evans told Politico.

An anonymous military official pointed out that many schools, parks, veterans' hospitals and other government facilities are named after Confederate figures.

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The Army also refused comment.

"I think the Army doesn't want to get out too far ahead," former army officer George Eaton who is now an Army historian, told Politico. "Let's take Robert E. Lee. He was a great officer before 1861 and there are things he did we should remember. Do we expunge his entire record? Or do we find a way to reconcile what he did for the nation but not celebrate him?"

Debates about renaming the military bases have flared up before, such as in 2015 following the killing of nine African Americans by a white supremacist in South Carolina.

Politico noted that the debate has been revived following Charlottesville because military commanders moved swiftly to speak out against racism, in contrast to President Donald Trump who blamed the violence on "many sides."

Tod Harrison, a national security analyst and a descendant of Mississippi slave owners, criticized the military.

"Naming a base or a ship for a person or event is an expression of honor that reflects the values we hold as a military and as a society," said Harrison. "When senior military leaders condemn hatred, racism and bigotry on Twitter but tolerate bases named in honor of Confederate war leaders it sends a mixed signal to service members."

Sources: The Hill, Politico / Featured Image: Robert Harrison/FORSCOM Public Affairs via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: U.S. Department of States/Flickr, Jessica Maxwell/FORSCOM Public Affairs

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