Esper Effectively Bans Confederate Flags On Military Property With New Flag Rules

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper speaks during a joint press conference at Pentagon on March 05, 2020. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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July 17, 2020 3:59 p.m.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper implemented new rules on Friday regarding flags that would prohibit displays of the Confederate battle flag on U.S. military property.

Under Esper’s new policy, the only permissible flags of non-American entities are those that represent countries “for which the United States is an ally or partner.”

Additionally, a flag belonging to a particular organization may only be displayed if the U.S. is a member.

“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” Esper wrote in a memo laying out the rules.

The Pentagon leader asserted that the Defense Department ought to fly flags that align with “military imperatives,” which include “rejecting divisive symbols.”

“With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation,” he wrote.

Esper’s decision clashes with President Donald Trump’s bear-hugging of the Confederate battle flag and other symbols of the Confederacy, which are widely recognized as trademarks of white supremacy.

Despite their deeply racist overtones, Trump has consistently bashed efforts to remove Confederate symbols from government property, including when the U.S. Army floated the possibility of renaming military bases named after Confederate generals.

“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom. The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars,” Trump wrote in his Twitter rant about the proposed changes in June. “Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations.”

The White House did not respond to request for comment on Friday.

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