In a Defense Department memo issued Friday. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called the American flag “the principal flag we are authorized and encouraged to display.”
“The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” the memo continued.
The memo, which can be seen in its entirety here, went on to state which flags are allowed on military bases. Included were those of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and various U.S. territories; the POW/MIA banner; those of other countries allied with the U.S.; those of organizations to which the U.S. belongs, such as NATO; “ceremonial” flags; and a handful of others.
Left off the list was the so-called “Confederate flag,” meaning that the banner, which has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the George Floyd protests, was now effectively banned from U.S. military bases.
Though never officially the symbol of the Confederate States of America, the Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag has come to be known colloquially as the “Confederate flag.”
According to Politico, the memo was deliberately written in such a way that it banned the Confederate banner without actually mentioning. An earlier draft version of the memo had specifically mentioned it, but, the wording was changed “to ensure the department-wide policy would be apolitical and withstand potential free speech political challenges,” a defense official familiar with the decision said.
Politico writer Lara Seligman suggested that the wording of the memo was specifically intended to “satisfy military leaders without irking President Donald Trump.”
Trump has been abundantly clear that he opposes efforts to remove the flag from certain areas of American life. He’s sharply criticized NASCAR for banning fans from bringing the banner to events, and he’s stated that he views flying it as “freedom of speech.” He has also adamantly opposed to renaming any of the ten military bases that currently bear the names of Confederate generals.
Entities within the military, however, had been taking steps to ban the flag even before the Esper memo. The Marine Corps banned the flag earlier this spring, then U.S. Forces Korea later made the same decision. The Navy was also reportedly preparing to ban the flag as well, before Friday’s memo.