- GOP lawmakers want to stop the Pentagon from removing a controversial Confederate statue.
- The memorial is in Arlington National Cemetery and was set to be removed by the Naming Commission.
- It’s part of a push to rename and remove military installations named after the Confederacy.
House Republicans want to prevent the Pentagon from removing a Confederate memorial from “America’s most sacred shrine,” Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Congressman Andrew Clyde led a group of more than 40 GOP colleagues in calling for the Department of Defense to halt the planned removal of the Reconciliation Monument, also known as the Confederate Memorial, “until Congress completes the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 appropriations process.”
In a letter to DOD Secretary Lloyd Austin, the GOP lawmakers said the monument’s removal “does not align with the original intent of Congress.”
“The Department of Defense must comply with this request or risk denigrating the delicate balance of the principles of separation of powers between Congress and the Executive, outlined in the Constitution,” they added.
They also noted the memorial’s “history and intended purpose.”
“In 1900, Congress authorized Confederate remains to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and in 1906, Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, permitted construction of a monument honoring our country’s new shared reconciliation from its troubled divisions,” they wrote.
For over a century, the bronze statue commemorating the Confederacy has stood inside Arlington — known as the “nation’s premier military cemetery,” as well as “America’s most sacred shrine.”
The cemetery’s website says that the statue depicts a classical female figure with a crown of olive leaves. It also shows rebel soldiers and enslaved Black people.
The descendants of the statue’s sculptor, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Jewish artist who fought for the Confederacy, have backed calls to have the statue removed.
In a letter to The Washington Post, signed by family members, they stated: “This statue intended to rewrite history to justify the Confederacy and the subsequent racist Jim Crow laws. It glorifies the fight to own human beings, and, in its portrayal of African Americans, implies their collusion.”
The monument was set to be removed following a review by the Pentagon’s Naming Commission, an eight-person panel tasked with changing the names of “bases, posts, ships, streets and more” named after the Confederacy.
The push to rename and remove such memorials came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in 2020, with the DOD noting that “many people protested systemic racism and pointed to Confederate statues and bases as part of that system.”
Some of the sites renamed in the process include Fort Benning, Georgia, which was named after Confederate general Henry L. Benning and is now Fort Moore, and Fort Hood, Texas, which was named after another Confederate general, John Bell Hood, and is now Fort Cavazos, according to a DOD press release in January.
The National Park Service describes Arlington National Cemetery on its website as “the most famous cemetery in the country.”
Today, about 400,000 veterans who served in conflicts ranging from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan are buried at the site.
Black soldiers were buried in a segregated section until 1948.