- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2020

Colin Powell criticized President Trump on Thursday for opposing efforts to rename monuments to Confederate leaders who fought against the U.S. in the Civil War.

The retired four-star Army general and former statesman called Mr. Trump “intolerant” for rejecting calls to rename American military bases that currently honor Confederate leaders.

“He doesn’t understand our history,” Mr. Powell, 83, said about Mr. Trump during an interview televised on MSNBC. “He doesn’t understand our history at all.”

Mr. Powell, who served in the administrations of the previous three Republican presidents but opposes the current officer holder, questioned his understanding of U.S. history in light of Mr. Trump rejecting calls to rename several military bases and remove monuments and statues honoring leaders of the former Confederate States of America and its military.

“Robert E. Lee was a great tactician, but he was a leader of the Confederate Army which succeeded in starting a war that killed 600,000 Americans. And so it is one thing to treat him as a tactical hero and put him off in a corner somewhere, but it is not the right place to give him the kind of presence that he has in our society through statues or other discussions,” Mr. Powell said.

“They were not great Americans. They were great members perhaps, tactically, of the Confederate States of America, but they were no longer Americans at that point,” he added.

Calls to remove monuments to the former Confederacy and its slave-holding leaders rekindled following the racially charged killing of George Floyd in late May that sparked nationwide protests.

Mr. Trump, who has praised Lee, the former leader of the Confederate Army, threatened last week to veto an annual defense spending bill if it includes a provision that would result in the renaming of several military bases currently named for Confederates like Lee and others.

Speaking on Independence Day several days later, Mr. Trump said that Americans “perished fighting for freedom in the Civil War,” and that they are being dishonored “by insisting that they fought for racism and they fought for oppression,” adding: “They didn’t fight for those things; they fought for the exact opposite.”

Mr. Powell, a Vietnam war veteran, served as former President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser from 1987 to 1989. He subsequently served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Regan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, and then secretary of state under his son, George W. Bush.

He supported former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race ultimately won by Mr. Trump and has endorsed the party’s presumptive nominee in this year’s race, Joseph R. Biden.

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