Jacob Heilbrunn

Defaming American Indians: Equating Osama bin Laden With Geronimo

 Political correctness abounds in America. But sometimes it's OK to be politically correct. The code name Geronimo for the operation to take out Osama bin Laden is such a case. American Indians are protesting the use of the name Geronimo—and they are right to do so.

Geronimo was the leader of the Chiricahua Apache. He was a thorn in the side of the U.S. military, which did not exactly employ delicate methods in seeking to extrude American Indians from their native lands. It remains a sorry chapter in American history. There was no cogent reason to recall the ghosts of the past by calling Osama bin Laden "Geronimo." Wikipedia reminds us that Geronimo's skull and other artefacts were allegedly heisted by Yale's Skull and Bone Society. Geronimo himself converted to Christianity, but was expelled from the Dutch Reform Church for gambling, which makes him, all in all, a rather sympathetic figure. In short, he doesn't seem to have embodied anything like the fanaticism of bin Laden and his coterie. Quite the contrary. He surrendered when the U.S. Army cornered him.

So it's hardly surprising that native Americans are aggrieved at the misuse of his name. As the Tulsa World reports,

 

 

American Indians testifying at a U.S. Senate hearing took turns expressing shock Thursday at their own military's apparent decision to link the name of Geronimo, viewed not only as an iconic figure in their history but a role model for their youth, to the operation that took out Osama bin Laden.

Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and the Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association, said the incident must be
rectified. Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, said Geronimo, who suffered many indignities during his lifetime, has been slurred once again by being compared to a terrorist.

 

 

Surely there were a host of other names that the Obama administration could have selected. The Fort Sill Apache Tribe in Oklahoma is requesting an apology from President Obama. It's too late to change the name. But Obama should indicate that it was a mistake to equate Geronimo with bin Laden.