The Congressional Naming Commission (CNC)

The Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) was a body authorized as part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act.  Its eight commissioners included two retired Army generals, a retired Navy admiral and a retired Marine Corps general.  It also had academics with imposing credentials.  One commissioner is a professor emeritus at West Point and another is a senior official at the American Enterprise Institute.  The commission’s chief historian, Connor Williams, took a leave of absence from his faculty position at Yale to serve on the CNC.  The CNC even had an elected federal official—Austin Scott, a Republican Congressman from Georgia. 

The CNC recommended—among many, many other things—that all active Army bases named for Confederate generals be renamed.  And, in the Preface to Part 1 of its report, it appears to pick a fight.

This is how the CNC report’s Preface characterizes monuments erected to Confederates and the Confederacy in the years following the Civil War:

Most importantly, during the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, the South and much of the nation came to live under a mistaken understanding of the Civil War known as the “Lost Cause.” As part of the “Lost Cause,” across the nation, champions of that memory built monuments to Confederate leaders and to the Confederacy, including on many Department of Defense assets. In every instance and every aspect, these names and memorials have far more to do with the culture under which they were named than they have with any historical acts actually committed by their namesakes. (Preface, page 3).  

(All emphasis in this article is added)

The obvious implication of this statement goes well beyond changing some base names.  The commissioners presume to pass judgement on (a) what these names and memorials meant to everyone and (b) what the “real” motivations for those statues were.  Think about that.

People who read the CNC report will naturally “read between the lines” and conclude that the CNC has determined that anything or anyone associated with the Confederacy is odious and not worthy of public recognition.   The paragraph I’ve quoted above talks about monuments to “Confederate leaders and to the Confederacy.”  But a few paragraphs earlier in the Preface, the CNC said this:

In passing the 2021 William M. “Mac” Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act, the United States Congress determined that Confederates and the Confederacy no longer warrant commemoration through Department of Defense assets.

The average American can connect the dots.  The CNC—which claims to be speaking with Congress’ approval—sure seems to be sending the message that “Confederates,” which presumably includes the lowest-ranking private, are unworthy of respect by the Defense Department. I’m sure that many of the ancestors of those Confederates will not only get the message—they’ll notice its judgmental and arrogant tone.

Interestingly, the CNC does not define the term “Lost Cause.”  I suspect that, for each of us, that term means something different.  If the “Lost Cause” was something so odious that simply being associated with it justifies condemnation and cancellation, then shouldn’t we define it?  Shouldn’t we all operate off one common, agreed-upon term?  Especially when we’re discussing a contentious topic?  There is no Glossary in the CNC report.  So, it’s quite possible that, for the CNC, the term “Lost Cause” meant whatever the CNC wanted it to mean.

Did the CNC think we’d accept its judgements and recommendations as diktats? Apparently so. Unfortunately, there’s apparently no way to ask questions about, or demand explanations for, its recommendations.  The CNC has dissolved itself. Its point-of-contact email for public relations matters now returns error messages when you try to contact it.   Think about that, too.

What a fine way to handle our country’s heritage.  You can read the report for yourself at Home (thenamingcommission.gov)

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3 thoughts on “The Congressional Naming Commission (CNC)”

  1. Just paving the way to label anyone who doesn’t agree with the federal government as a “confederate.” There are “confederates” all over the country at this point and they’re telling us our history and very existence will be eradicated. I can’t imagine these bases being called anything except what they are called. Rename Bragg. Go ahead. I’ll watch.

  2. For historians they apparently don’t read history. If I remember correctly, the land on which those bases were established was”donated” to the federal government. In order to reflect a more “perfect Union” the government allowed the locals to name it. However, a Pentagon spokesman said after “the killing of George Floyd” the Army was “willing to have this conversation” to rename all bases established in the old confederacy. So perhaps we should rename the bases after drug addled felons?

    But I think most of us vets would echo the words of retired General Dan McNeill, a former Ft Bragg commander, saying the name had nothing to do with the person but a lot to do with how Americans understood what you did in life, and what it meant to the security of America.

    So CNC, try reading the story behind the name. Then put your big boy pants on and stand up for what you know to be true. That’s what leaders do.

  3. In my former hometown of New Orleans, an idiot (I need to specify, there are so many) named Mitch Landrieu was mayor. The Landrieu’s are one of the local rich politician families of the state, Mitch’s father was mayor in the 70s, his sister Mary “Ms Piggy” (I really shouldn’t insult Kermit’s girlfriend like that) Landrieu was senator for a couple of terms.

    Well, Mitch had this delusion he could run for president in 2020, but he needed more name recognition. So in a war zone city gunning (pardon the pun) to be the murder capital of the country, he decided what needed to be done was…remove 4 Confederate statues on city property. The most recognized was General Lee at Lee’s Circle. It’s a block away from the National World War II Museum, and ironically about two blocks from the Confederate Museum. After signing a contract with one company to remove the statues, the owner of that company had his car burned.

    Not to be deterred, he hired another contractor, and in the middle of the night they removed General Lee from the podium. All the workers had covers over their faces. The rest of the statues were removed over the next few weeks to be placed in a “suitable” location for display, like a museum. Last time I checked, all of them were in a warehouse collecting dust.

    Cost for this cluster was around 2 million dollars. That would likely have paid for two academy classes of New Orleans cops, for a department chronically understaffed. But we keep reminding people, if Mitch had not removed the statues, think of how many more murders we would have right now.

    Occasionally the wife and I consider moving back to Louisiana when we retire. Then we visit…Alabama or the Texas Hill Country look real good!

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