Geronimo descendant slams use of name for bin Laden

Apache warrior Geronimo
© AFP/National Archives/File Ho


WASHINGTON (AFP) – A great grandson of Geronimo furious over use of the Native American warrior’s name as military code took his grievance to US lawmakers Thursday, demanding they expunge the moniker from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

“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,” Harlyn Geronimo, who served two tours in a US military uniform in Vietnam, said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

The elite US Navy SEAL team that stormed bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan uttered the words “Geronimo-E KIA” — enemy killed in action — after the Al-Qaeda leader was confirmed dead.

Some US officials have stressed the mission itself was called “Jackpot” and that the name Geronimo was not equated with the Al-Qaeda leader, but was the verbal signal that the mission had succeeded.

That jibes somewhat with a version of events reported by the New York Times, which quoted CIA head Leon Panetta as saying “We have a visual on Geronimo” during the intelligence chief’s narration of the raid to President Barack Obama and other top officials gathered in the White House Situation Room.

Harlyn Geronimo, whose father fought on Omaha Beach in northern France during the D-day invasion in 1944, asked Obama or Defense Secretary Robert Gates to explain “how this disgraceful use of my great grandfather’s name occurred” and to apologize “for the grievous insult.”

He also asked that use of his family name in the operation that killed bin Laden be expunged from all US government records, “leaving only for history the fact this insult to Native Americans occurred in all its pity.”

Harlyn Geronimo’s statement was due Thursday to be submitted to the US Senate Commission on Indian Affairs at a hearing on the “impact of racist stereotypes on indigenous peoples.”

Geronimo, an Apache chief who lived from 1829 to 1909, was a famed warrior who fought US and Mexican authorities and forces in what is now the US state of New Mexico, as the American West was being settled.

He was never captured or killed, his great grandson pointed out, but eventually surrendered when a US general promised him that he would be reunited with members of his tribe who had been forcibly moved to the state of Florida from reservations in Arizona.

Native Americans have complained that use of the name Geronimo in the bin Laden operation linked them to a mass murderer who was one of the most reviled enemies of the United States.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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