Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Confederate flag was the flag of traitors

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says the Confederate battle flag was carried by enemy troops as they killed U.S. soldiers.
Dean Obeidallah says the Confederate battle flag was carried by enemy troops as they killed U.S. soldiers.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Confederate flag flown by traitors who killed 110,000 U.S. soldiers
  • He says they were traitors because they broke from the U.S. and created enemy nation
  • Today's flag was the battle flag Confederates carried when they killed U.S. troops
  • He says VP of Confederacy said it was founded to keep the "negro" in slavery

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the new comedy documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" It was released this month. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- You can debate whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. But the one thing you can't dispute: The Confederate flag was flown by traitors to the United States of America who slaughtered more than 110,000 U.S. soldiers.

I know some will take issue with my calling the Confederacy a band of traitors, but let's be blunt -- that's what they were. They broke from the United States and created their own nation, calling it the Confederate States of America. They issued their own currency, elected their own president and Congress, raised an army and went to war with the United States of America, firing the first shot at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

What's even more troubling about the so-called Confederate flag we see so often is that it was not the official flag of the Confederacy. It's worse than that. The flag commonly referred to as the Confederate flag was actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Why is that worse? Because this was the flag carried on battlefields by Confederate troops during the Civil War as they killed U.S. soldiers.

And yet people still proudly display the Confederate flag.

We saw it fly at a recent tea party rally in Washington. Last week, two high school students displayed the Confederate flag after another student brought a gay pride flag to school. Even rapper Kanye West is selling souvenirs with Confederate flags emblazoned on them during his new tour (although many say that he doesn't mean to honor the Confederacy).

Why would anyone display a flag that was flown by a nation that viewed the United States as its enemy? And yes, I know that some like to claim euphemistically the Civil War was simply a war between brothers, but it was not. It was far more lethal.

"I know some will take issue with my calling the Confederacy a band of traitors, but let's be blunt -- that's what they were."
Dean Obeidallah

Just read some of the speeches made by the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and it's clear the Confederate states viewed the United States as a sworn enemy. Davis made it clear that Confederate forces would kill any U.S. military personnel that dared step foot in the Confederate nation.

He even threatened and taunted U.S. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant with the warning: "Our cavalry and our people will harass and destroy his army as did the Cossacks that of Napoleon, and the Yankee General, like him will escape with only a bodyguard." (As a reminder, in 1812 the Russian Cossacks slaughtered thousands of Napoleon's troops and drove Napoleon's forces from Russia.)

Davis, in his address to the Congress of the Confederate States in 1861, boasted of "a succession of glorious victories" over the U.S. military, noting that the Confederate troops had, "checked the wicked invasion which greed of gain and the unhallowed lust of power brought upon our soil."

He also bragged about success over "the enemy," the United States: "When the war commenced, the enemy were possessed of certain strategic points and strong places within the Confederate states. ... After more than seven months of war, the enemy have not only failed to extend their occupancy of our soil, but new states and territories have been added to our Confederacy."

2012: Confederate dress banned from prom

Simply put: This was a war between the "wicked" United States forces and a people who had sworn their allegiance to another nation, raised a military and successfully killed U.S. soldiers.

This history alone should dissuade anyone from ever displaying the Confederate battle flag on U.S. soil again. But for those still on the fence, these words from the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, explaining the genesis of the Confederacy should end any doubts -- as well as make your blood boil.

In 1861, Stephens explained to a cheering audience that the Confederacy was founded to expressly reject the proposition that men of all races were equal. Instead, Stephens stated, "The foundations of our new government are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition."

So if you are about to display the Confederate flag, please first think about that statement by the vice president of the Confederacy. Or kindly give some thought to the U.S. soldiers killed by people carrying that flag. Hopefully, that will move you to refrain from it.

Despite my deep opposition to the Confederate flag, however, there's one place that I hope it will be displayed forever: American history museums.

There, it can serve as tribute to the brave U.S. troops who sacrificed their lives to preserve our nation and remain as a constant reminder of how close we came to no longer being the United States of America.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT