Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Time to follow Gen. Buckner’s example and pull down that Confederate flag

Best of Best Defense: Number 27 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on June 22.

confederate_rebel_flag-svg
confederate_rebel_flag-svg

 

Best of Best Defense: Number 27 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on June 22.

During the bloody battle of Okinawa, late in World War II, Army Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner Jr., saw a Marine unit flying the Confederate flag over a position. Buckner, himself the son of a Confederate general, ordered it taken down. “Americans from all over are involved in this battle,” he said.

 

Best of Best Defense: Number 27 in our list of the most viewed posts of 2015. This post ran originally on June 22.

During the bloody battle of Okinawa, late in World War II, Army Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner Jr., saw a Marine unit flying the Confederate flag over a position. Buckner, himself the son of a Confederate general, ordered it taken down. “Americans from all over are involved in this battle,” he said.

And he wasn’t the son of just any Confederate general. His father, Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner Sr., was the officer who was defeated by U.S. Grant at Fort Donelson, Tenn., in February 1862. That action led to Grant’s nickname, “Unconditional Surrender.” But the two generals got over their problems and Buckner Sr. was a pallbearer at Grant’s funeral.

If a Confederate general and his son could find this sort of reconciliation and understanding, why is it so hard for some Americans to do so now?

Maybe we can make some good result from that horrible South Carolina shooting. Taking down the Confederate flag would be an appropriate memorial.

I know that flag means something to many white Southerners. But it means something very different to many black Americans, and to many others, such as myself. I see it as a symbol of slavery, of hundreds of years of racist oppression. And I see its display now and in recent decades as an attempt to deny the gains of the Civil Rights movement. Why would anyone want to uphold a symbol that insults millions of their fellow citizens?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.