Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Confederate flag was the flag of traitors

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Fri October 25, 2013
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
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
LZ Granderson says the cyber-standing ovation given to Robyn Lawley, an Australian plus-size model who posted unretouched photos, shows how crazy Americans' notions of beauty have become
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
A crisis like the Gaza conflict or the surge of immigrants can be an opportunity for a lame duck president, writes Julian Zelizer
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Carol Costello says the league's light punishment sent the message that it didn't consider domestic violence a serious offense
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Danny Cevallos says saggy pants aren't the kind of fashion statement protected by the First Amendment.
updated 2:52 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Margaret Hoover says some GOP legislators support a state's right to allow same-sex marriage and the right of churches, synagogues and mosques not to perform the sacrament
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Megan McCracken and Jennifer Moreno say it's unacceptable for states to experiment with new execution procedures without full disclosure
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Priya Satia says today's drones for bombardment and surveillance have their roots in the deadly history of Western aerial control of the Middle East that began in World War One
updated 12:35 PM EDT, Mon July 28, 2014
Jeff Yang says it's great to see the comics make an effort at diversifying the halls of justice
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Rick Francona says the reported artillery firing from Russian territory is a sign Vladimir Putin has escalated the Ukraine battle
updated 2:22 PM EDT, Sun July 27, 2014
Paul Callan says the fact that appeals delay the death penalty doesn't make it an unconstitutional punishment, as one judge ruled
updated 6:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Pilot Robert Mark says it's been tough for the airline industry after the plane crashes in Ukraine and Taiwan.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Jennifer DeVoe laments efforts to end subsidies that allow working Americans to finally afford health insurance.
updated 11:33 AM EDT, Sat July 26, 2014
Ruti Teitel says assigning a costly and humiliating "collective guilt" to Germany after WWI would end up teaching the global community hard lessons about who to blame for war crimes
updated 8:45 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
John Sutter responds to criticism of his column on the ethics of eating dog.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Frida Ghitis says it's tempting to ignore North Korea's antics as bluster but the cruel regime is dangerous.
updated 2:50 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
To the question "Is Putin evil?" Alexander Motyl says he is evil enough for condemnation by people of good will.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Laurie Garrett: Poor governance, ignorance, hysteria worsen the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT