WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army wants to remove any sort of divisive symbols from military bases, the Army secretary said on Thursday, suggesting the Pentagon was close to a broader policy barring such symbols from all military installations.
A number of military services, including the Marine Corps, have already banned the display of Confederate flags even as President Donald Trump has said that flying the flag is “freedom of speech.”
“Anything that is a divisive symbol, we do want to take those of our installations and that sort of thing out of our formation,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters without specifying the symbols.
Asked if that would include specifically identifying Confederate flags as divisive symbols, McCarthy, appointed by Trump to his role last year, said: “We would have any divisive symbols on a no-fly list, if you will.”
A spokeswoman for McCarthy said he was not specifically referring to the Confederate flag and would defer to the Pentagon on any specific guidance on the issue.
McCarthy added that the Pentagon was close to a decision on a uniform policy for the different services on divisive symbols.
Recent U.S. social unrest has raised new questions about Confederate symbols, including monuments, memorials and the flag, as most consider them emblems of slavery, racism and xenophobia. Supporters say they represent the South’s heritage and culture, and serve as a memorial to Confederate casualties during the 1861-65 Civil War.
Trump, who has stoked racial divisions as part of his re-election campaign, has criticized the desecration and removal of statues of Confederate and other former U.S. leaders to energize his political base.
Last month, Trump rejected renaming military bases named after Confederate generals, slapping down Pentagon officials who openly discuss the issue.
Last week the top U.S. general said the military had to take a “hard look” at symbols of the Confederacy, including base names.
Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller