Hawley Decries ‘Historical Revisionism’ Of Stripping Confederate Names From Bases

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) speaks at a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on June 10, 2020. (Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)
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June 12, 2020 12:36 p.m.

A Republican senator opposed to re-naming military installations honoring Confederate generals says doing so would be “historical revisionism.” 

Sure, the Civil War was terrible, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said Thursday on the Senate floor. But it also “gave us heroes and a more perfect union to love!”

And, by Hawley’s logic, replacing those Confederate names with others who didn’t fight on behalf of a slavocracy would be an affront to Americans’ history of “shared struggle.” 

Hawley was raging against new legislation in the Senate that would create a three-year timeline for the military to change its Confederate-named bases and other assets. It won the approval of the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday with a voice vote and bipartisan support. The Federalist published Hawley’s speech as an op-ed Friday

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In the wake of the recent police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and subsequent nationwide upheaval, the Defense Department signaled a new willingness to consider changing the names — only for President Donald Trump to flatly refuse the consideration. The Senate legislation, penned by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, would force Trump to put his veto pen where his mouth is. 

But to Hawley, some Black Lives Matter protesters and reform-minded legislators don’t want racial justice. 

According to the senator, protesters who say “systemic racism” was the cause of Floyd’s death at the hands of police are agitators, as are those who call for defunding police departments.

“There is no scab they will not pick at, no divide they will not exploit, no controversy they will not gin up to make us hate each other,” he said.

The same applied to Confederate names on government assets, he argued. 

Those in favor of a change, Hawley said, want “to erase from history every person and name and event not righteous enough, and to cast those who would object as defenders of the cause of slavery, to reenact in our current politics that Civil War that tore brother against brother and divided this nation against itself.” 

Hawley announced Thursday morning that he was against the amendment to rename the bases. He added in his floor speech that he would introduce an amendment to reverse it. 

Hawley didn’t actually mention in his speech any of the Confederate generals whose names currently adorn American military installations. Rather, he danced around the issue, noting that the battlefield at Gettysburg contains monuments to both Union and Confederate soldiers. 

At places like Gettysburg, he said, we teach Americans “how we became a better nation through the crucible of that terrible war. And we teach them there to be proud that we did so.” 

“That hard-fought pride, in the shared struggle that unites us, is now fading,” Hawley said. “That story is being erased. A nation united in the cause of justice is dividing. And we are increasingly at war with ourselves.”

Hawley asserted that he was not celebrating the “cause of the Confederacy,” but rather embracing “the cause of union, our union, shared together as Americans.” 

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