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Debates Over Arlington’s Confederate Memorial
(American Conservative) – im Webb, a former U.S. senator from Virginia, former secretary of the Navy, man of letters, and a Vietnam platoon leader with a heroic combat record, recently rendered a public service in coming to the defense of the endangered century-old Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery in a Wall Street Journal commentary. “I cannot imagine,” Webb wrote, “that the removal of this memorial, conceived and built with the sole purpose of healing the wounds of the Civil War and restoring national harmony, could be within the intent of a sweeping sentence placed inside a nearly trillion-dollar piece of legislation.” The legislation in question being the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021.
The response from those seeking the memorial’s removal, starting with the vice-chair of the NDAA-created “naming commission” that recommended it, was standard fare. The memorial, currently slated for removal by the end of the year, is a tribute to “an enemy who chose treason to preserve slavery” and “celebrate[s] white supremacy,” declared Brigadier General Ty Seidule, a former West Point history professor. Another letter to the editor recommended following the German example in dealing with the Holocaust’s legacy, accompanied by the predictable syllogism: No monuments to Nazis, no monuments to Confederates.
Wait a second—enslaved African-Americans underwent a Holocaust? According to Wilfred McClay’s sweeping one-volume history of the United States, Land of Hope (2019), they experienced the largest natural increase of any slave population in history. This doesn’t minimize the evil aspects of slavery, including the brutal Middle Passage and the cruelly unchristian practice of separating families. But the idea that American chattel slavery ranks with the Holocaust in the annals of infamy is unsupportable.
A West Point professor, moreover, might be expected to…