John Kelly and Honor

When a Fifth-Grader Gets It

The Civil War’s Bloody Lane

Retired Marine General and Trump chief-of-staff John Kelly said recently that, Confederate General Robert E. Lee was  “an honorable man who gave up his country to fight for his state.”

Kelly’s statement tells us much about how he personally views the concept of honor.


The idea of honor is anchored in the concept of respect which is, “deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

We don’t just admire them, we do so deeply.

Kelly deeply admires Robert E. Lee, a  man who swore, “I will bear true allegiance to the United States of America, and that I will serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies or opposers whatsoever, and observe and obey the orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to the rules and articles for the government of the Armies of the United States.”

Of course, Lee broke that oath, betrayed the United States and became a traitor as he not only fought for the Confederacy but led their forces in battle.

Lee is directly responsible for the deaths of over 600,000 people.




If breaking a solemn oath or taking up arms against your country makes you honorable, Generals Lee and Kelly have some rather odd company on their team.

Lee Harvey Oswald, Benedict Arnold and even Timothy McVeigh are “honorable” men according to Kelly’s definition.

All served in the armed forces and Oswald was even a Marine.


Such are the consequences when you recklessly politicize moral concepts to fit your needs of the moment.

Yesterday, I was guiding a group of fifth-graders through Arlington National Cemetery.

We had walked up to the foot of the Custis-Lee mansion and I paused to give the basic history.

With these young kids sometimes I go easy on the sordid story of how the place was chosen, which was basically out of spite for Lee’s decision to turn his back on his country.

I went easy yesterday, or tried to, anyway.

When I asked for questions a young lady stepped forward and up went her hand.

“Wasn’t Robert E. Lee a traitor?”, she asked.

General Kelly seems to have great difficulty grasping the most obvious concepts to the considerable detriment of our country.

Thank god we have fifth-graders to set him straight.

Arlington National Cemetery.



  • RHackett says:

    Only a complete idiot or Trump follower (but I repeat myself) still believes the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery.

  • Mark Von Nida says:

    Sorry to bring up the past but wasn’t George Washington a commissioned officer, lieutenant colonel in the British Army in charge of all his Magesty’s forces in Virginia, sworn serve King George? Fought for England in the French and Indian wars?
    If the Lee and the Southern States had no rights to cede from the Union then why did George and the Colonies have the right to cede from England?

    • Eric Lamar says:

      My dear friend, betrayal and treason works–but only if you win.

      Such are the lessons of the very history you cite.


  • RHackett says:


    Washington was all about freedom and fighting taxation without representation. Till he became president. Do a Google search on the Whiskey Rebellion.

    See who led the troops to put it down and how it ended.

    Hint: It ended badly for the rebels.

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