Rowan Scarborough over at the Washington Times has a story regarding portraits of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson at the Army War College.
He starts off with the ominous assertion that, “The U.S. Army War College, which molds future field generals, has begun discussing whether it should remove its portraits of Confederate generals — including those of Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.”
How does he come to this conclusion? Because the war college, according to Scarborough, was inventorying its collection of portraits, and “During the inventory, an unidentified official — not the commandant, Maj. Gen. Anthony A. Cucolo III — asked the administration why the college honors two generals who fought against the United States.” So one person asked a question. According to spokeswoman Carol Kerr, “There will be a dialogue when we develop the idea of what do we want the hallway to represent.”
When the war college begins to consider what that particular hallway will represent, then, they will have a dialogue about what portraits/pictures will go into that hallway. So far, I don’t see the problem.
Scarborough continues, “She said one faculty member took down the portraits of Lee and Jackson and put them on the floor as part of the inventory process. That gave rise to rumors that the paintings had been removed.” Ah, so as part of the inventory process, the person assigned to that hallway took paintings off the wall and put them on the floor. They weren’t removed from the room, they were just temporarily placed on the floor. I see. And that led to “rumors that the paintings had been removed.” Apparently whoever started those rumors couldn’t conceive that those paintings laying on the floor were the same ones that had been on the wall.
Scarborough then quotes Kerr again: “ ‘This person was struck by the fact we have quite a few Confederate images,’ she said, adding that the portraits were rehung on a third-floor hallway. ‘[Lee] was certainly not good for the nation. This is the guy we faced on the battlefield whose entire purpose in life was to destroy the nation as it was then conceived. … This is all part of an informed discussion.’ ” So the portraits are back up and that one person is asking, in an academic setting, whether it’s proper for the US Army to honor a man who was responsible for the deaths of so many US soldiers.
Scarborough then opines, “It is the kind of historical cleansing that could spark an Army-wide debate: Lee’s portrait adorns the walls of other military installations and government buildings.” So Scarborough takes one person asking a question in an academic setting and then calls it “historical cleansing” and imagines that this leads to a nationwide wholesale removal of Lee portraits from government buildings.
From what he’s written in this story, it seems to me that Scarborough has done nothing more than manufactured a controversy where none had previously existed. One person asks a question, it somehow gets to Scarborough, and immediately he imagines a wholesale “historical cleansing.” I think he’s been reading too much SCV material. C’mon, man! Is that all you got?
For the record, I think it’s good to ask that question, and it would be a good thing for the staff of the Army War College to have a full discussion of the question of whether they should put portraits of men who fought against the United States in places of honor. It’s an academic institution and they should have a full debate on it. Lee was an outstanding general, and for that reason he should be studied at the war college. Perhaps his portrait should be displayed, along with other outstanding generals who fought for and against the United States. I can imagine a good argument for a display that included not only Lee and Jackson, but also Rommel, von Moltke, Yammamoto, and others. Apparently Mr. Scarborough is afraid of a discussion about what the War College wants to do and would like to try to intimidate the staff to shut them up.
But wait, there’s more.
Today, MGEN Cucolo posted a message about this story to the Carlisle Barracks Banner: “Here’s what happened: a few weeks ago, while relocating his office to a new floor in our main school building over the weekend, one of my leaders looked outside his new office location and simply decided to change the look of the hallway. He took down, off the wall, a number of framed Civil War prints that depicted Confederate States of America forces in action against Union forces or depicted famous Confederate leaders. He did this on his own. There was no directive to ‘remove all traces of the CSA.’ Since this is a public hallway with seminar rooms and offices, the sudden new look drew attention the following week. And since there was no public explanation of my leader’s action, some of my folks jumped to conclusions, even to the point of sending anonymous notes to local media. We have since attempted to clarify the action within our own ranks.
“If it matters to any of you, you could walk into this building today, and see ornately framed paintings and even a few prints similar to the ones that came down off that hallway wall of Confederate forces and leaders mixed in and among countless other paintings and prints of the Army (and the other services) in action from the Revolutionary War through the current fight in Afghanistan. I must admit, there are in fact a large number of Civil War paintings, depicting both North and South. I can only assume one of the reasons there are so many is that we are barely 30 minutes from Gettysburg, home to many renowned artists, a few of whom have been commissioned by US Army War College classes of the past to capture some iconic scene of that conflict.”
Basically, then, there appear to be a few heritage instead of history types at the AWC who pitched a hissy fit while one person was making some changes to the hallway and instead of standing up like men and asking about it they sent anonymous messages to the media. I wonder if they are SCV members.