Washington: The U.S. military's use of Geronimo as a code name for Osama bin Laden tarnished the achievement of the raid by insulting an American ethnic group, Native American tribal leaders and advocates told Congress on Thursday.Comparing the legendary Apache leader to a terrorist and enemy of the United States was deeply insulting and did real damage to Native Americans of all ages, said Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Washington-based Native rights organization. ''It is shocking, really shocking, that this happened,'' said Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.
Harjo called the incident a painful reminder of a pattern that goes back to the founding of the country.''Our names are stolen and then we're renamed in order to control us, frankly,'' she told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. ''My dad was not an enemy when he helped win World War II.'' Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Indian Affairs panel, said he was dismayed at the use of Geronimo's name in the raid that killed bin Laden. ''This victory has otherwise united our country, and it's unfortunate that this code name was chosen,'' Akaka said.
The committee had scheduled a hearing on racial stereotypes before the raid that killed bin Laden, but Akaka said the controversy over the code name showed the importance of focusing on institutional stereotypes. The use of Geronimo's name has appalled many Native Americans and drawn calls for an apology. The 19th century warrior was known for his ability to walk without leaving footprints, allowing him to evade thousands of Mexican and U.S. soldiers, much like bin Laden evaded capture for the past decade.
But for Native Americans, there's an important difference: Geronimo was a hero - not a terrorist. Statements of disapproval from tribal leaders, a call for President Barack Obama to apologize, and scores of angry comments on social network sites have surged since the issue came to light this week. Jeff Houser, chairman of Geronimo's Fort Sill Apache Tribe, noted in a letter to Obama that the decision behind the code name stemmed from an ongoing cultural disconnect, not malice. But the damage is the same.
In image:This 1887 file photo provided by the National Archives shows the famed Indian warrior Geronimo, a Chiricahua Apache, posing with a rifle. The leader of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe is looking for a formal apology from President Barack Obama for the government's use of the code name "Geronimo" for Osama bin Laden.
Text & Images: AP