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'An unpardonable slander:' The controversy over the use of 'Geronimo' in bin Laden operation


Multi-American's sister blog DCentric has been posting updates on the controversy surrounding the use of the name "Geronimo" as code for the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden last weekend in Pakistan.

Native Americans have taken offense to the military's tying together of the notorious terrorist with the 19th century Apache leader and warrior, to the degree that after bin Laden was killed, the team involved in the raid sent out the transmission “Geronimo EKIA,” for "Geronimo, Enemy Killed in Action."

Yesterday, Geronimo's great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo submitted testimony to the Senate Commission on Indian Affairs for a hearing on racist stereotypes of Native Americans. He demanded an apology from the Obama administration and a "full explanation of how this disgraceful use of my great grandfather’s name occurred." DCentric posted more of his testimony, including this excerpt:

Whether it was intended only to name the military operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden or to give Osama Bin Laden himself the code name Geronimo, either was an outrageous insult and mistake. And it is clear from the military records released that the name Geronimo was used at times by military personnel involved for both the military operation and for Osama Bin Laden himself.

Obviously to equate Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden is an unpardonable slander of Native America and its most famous leader in history.

And to call the operation to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden by the name Geronimo is such a subversion of history that it also defames a great human spirit and Native American leader. For Geronimo himself was the focus of precisely such an operation by the U.S. military, an operation that assured Geronimo a lasting place in American and human history.


Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported on the code name and the reaction from Native Americans, including this ex-Marine:
“I was celebrating that we had gotten this guy and feeling so much a part of America,” Tom Holm, a former Marine, a member of the Creek/Cherokee Nations and a retired professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, said by phone Tuesday. “And then this ‘Geronimo EKIA’ thing comes up. I just said, ‘Why pick on us?’ Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Geronimo ever did, and Hitler would seem to be evil personified, but the code name for bin Laden is Geronimo?”
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