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 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 9:40 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 9:05 PM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT