In Praising Gen. Lee, Maybe Gen. Kelly Thinks Emancipation Proclamation Came too Soon?

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Gen. Kelly

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Over the last several days, White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly has again provoked anger in the aftermath of his lies against Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson with his most recent ahistorical comments about General Robert E. Lee and the Civil War.

Many people have, correctly, chastised Kelly who has now fully-exposed himself as much more of an “empty barrel” than Congresswoman Wilson whom he attacked unjustly.

Is General Kelly just an ignoramus to history as many in the media are arguing or is something more odious going on here? In an interview on the right-wing show of Laura Ingram, Kelly made several comments that tells us why he is right at home as a member of the Trump White House. Let’s examine a few of the things the good general said.

“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” Kelly said. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it’s different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

General Kelly’s claim that General Lee “was an honorable man” have been rightly rebuked as nonsense—since Lee was by definition a traitor who fought to destroy the nation. Without the rebellion 620,000 soldiers would not have perished. Out of 200,000 Black soldiers who fought for the union about 40,000, or 20%, perished. If Lee had prevailed those survivors would have joined their sisters and brothers as enslaved Africans in the South.

Surely, Kelly, a four-star general, understands this. So, why would he call General Lee “honorable?” Unless of course he believes the Emancipation Declaration came too soon?

There are many ways Kelly could have chosen to characterize Lee. He could’ve said he thought Lee had some good in him despite the negative actions he engaged in as commander of the Confederate States Army. But the fact that he chose to call General Lee, who was a treasonous traitor, “honorable” is an interesting description for a man who participated in an armed attempt to divide the United States, which caused much destruction and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

Many in media have characterized General Kelly as misinformed and ignorant of the history of America as if he was still in grade school. Surely, that is one interpretation of the idiotic comments he made during the Ingram interview. Idiocy and ignorance is synonymous with the Trump White House.

But is General Kelly just a historical dunce, or is something else going on here?

There is evidence to suggest that General Kelly is not as historically dumb as many in the media, academia may think and as his apologists would like it to appear.  Some have, rightly, mocked Kelly's assertion that “It was always loyalty to state first back in those days." This is truly an absurd notion—that General Kelly is surely aware of.

So, why did he make such a statement? As we know, many apologists of Slavery like to claim the Civil War had nothing to do with that so-called “peculiar institution.” When Kelly talks about “loyalty to state” he seems to be, in fact, mirroring the same kind of “state’s rights” arguments that many pro-Slavery proponents made—while pretending that the Civil War had nothing to do with Slavery.

Kelly’s objective when he talked about “loyalty to state,” and when he venerated General Lee as an “honorable man,” was a political stratagem to keep the bigots and racists who support Trump happy.

General Kelly was doing the exact same thing Trump was doing in the aftermath of Charlottesville—when he claimed there were “very fine people, on both sides.” Trump was signaling to the American racists and Nazi sympathizers that he supports them. Kelly was doing the very same thing when he made the fraudulent assertion that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand.”

A president sympathetic to neo-Nazis and a general with a soft-spot for secessionist in the White House.

The good general was performing a service to his boss by signaling to the bigots in the Republican base that they are on their side in the current racial culture war. He was telling them that they are against the attacks on Confederate “heroes” like General Lee, and the dismantling of their monuments. This is why he called General Lee “honorable” and why he said we can’t judge Lee—and, genocidal murderers like Christopher Columbus because they were from a different time.

Tell that to the victims during that "different" time. Lynching, castration, and quartering hurts at any point in history.

In all of the pontificating about these comments, much less is being said about the fact that General Kelly flatly refused to apologize for his brazen lies and character assassination attacks on Congresswoman Wilson. Kelly called Wilson “an empty barrel” and falsely suggested that she tried to take all the credit for obtaining the funding for renaming a building after a fallen FBI agent. Turns out it was a big as a video of Wilson speaking at the event later revealed. Gen. Kelly even conjured up a fable about Wilson calling President Barack Obama to ask for funding.

Why did Kelly introduce President Barack Obama’s name into his fictional account of what Congresswoman Wilson said at the FBI office dedication in Florida? The use of Obama’s name is meant to conjure up rabidly racist responses by those who support Trump’s administration.

For these reasons, it should not surprise us that General Kelly refused to apologize to Congresswoman Wilson—in spite of the fact that there is video evidence that shows he told blatant lies in his attacks against her. Apologizing to a Black person, especially, a Black female is not the kind of signal Kelly and Trump would be comfortable with sending. This would surely upset their White nationalist supporters.

Moreover, it’s becoming clear that Kelly is just like his boss: a misogynistic racist. In earlier comments, Kelly claimed there was a time in America when women were held sacred. When the hell was that? This is a weird statement to make for someone who works for the “grab them by the pussy” president.

There is another noteworthy irony here.

President Trump has been attacking Black NFL players pretending the police brutality protests that started with Colin Kaepernick, somehow, disrespects the American flag. But here we have General Kelly saying General Lee was an “honorable man,” although he fought to split the country: by fighting against the same flag Trump claims Black NFL players are now denigrating. Isn’t General Kelly the one who is now disrespecting the flag by calling the traitorous General Lee “honorable?”

The hypocrisy of the Trump White House is truly unprecedented. For when Trump should’ve also been denouncing the Nazis in Charlottesville, who were carrying American flags, he was instead busy making excuses for these White terrorists by making a false equivalence between them and the anti-fascists who opposed them.

Months ago, when General Kelly took over as chief of staff, many praised the move. The thinking was: General Kelly would bring maturity and stability to this schizophrenic, juvenile nature of this administration. Sadly, we now see that that was just another fantasy that will go unfulfilled.

General Kelly has now illustrated to us, on two separate occasions that he is neither trustworthy nor honorable.

He has soiled his credibility to serve a draft-dodging president. 

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