Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined the chorus of military members saying that the bases named after Confederate leaders who lost the war must go, the New York Times reported. He’s also standing in opposition to President Donald Trump’s move to send soldiers into American streets during protests.
Gates, who served as President George W. Bush’s secretary and stayed on until 2011, still identifies as a Republican and hasn’t denounced the party.
“The events since the killing of George Floyd present us with an opportunity where we can move forward to change those bases,” Gates told the Times in an interview. “It’s always puzzled me that we don’t have a Fort George Washington or a Fort Ulysses S. Grant or a Fort Patton or a facility named for an African-American Medal of Honor recipient. I think the time has come, and we have a real opportunity here.”
“I’m very sensitive to the notion of rewriting history,” Gates, who is a Soviet scholar, explained.
However, he explained that the names and statues should never be seen as an honor.
“They belong in a museum someplace, so we’re not celebrating them, we’re learning from them and the mistakes they made,” he said.
Gates was also asked about whether he would have sent the Army troops into the streets to respond to protesters.
“I think it would have been a mistake,” he said, calling them different from the National Guard, which is typically deployed to help hand out aid after natural disasters. “Their primary training is to kill people, not crowd control, not law enforcement. They are trained to kill our enemies.”
The interview was part of his book tour for his latest volume Exercise of Power. He appeared on NBC earlier where he credited Trump with the low bar of not starting any new wars.
“I told a senior member of the administration a while ago, ‘Have you guys thought about the fact that it’s not a great idea to antagonize everybody in the world at the same time?'” Gates recalled. “Just think how much more powerful our negotiating position with China would be if on our side of the table we also had the Europeans and the Japanese and the Australians.”