Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden: Why Geronimo?

It seems that the BBC is trying to put a negative spin on the use of the word or name Geronimo ~ that it is associated with the wild west ~ which seems to imply disrespect for Pakistan's sovereignty [at least in name Pakistan is a sovereign nation]. And throws up the idea of similarities between Bin Laden and the Native America Geronimo ~ alluding capture in the mountainous regions of the US west and Pakistan ~ and the supposedly indiscriminate killings.

Forget all that ~ we need just think back to the WWII and the unbreakable code that helped the US and allies win the war ~ was based on the Native American language. With all that has happened in the US history ~ I think we can be a little bit more grown up, than the BBC's  suggestion. So the name obviously conjures an image of bravery ~ and running like the wind ~ daring ~ it was in the spirit of the man that ~ most likely ~ the name Geronimo  was invoked.

The code name for the operation to capture Osama Bin Laden was Geronimo. Why was it named after one of the best-known Native Americans?

Geronimo. The Apache warrior's name conjures up an image of the American Wild West, the world over.

In the best-known photograph of him - taken in 1887 - he glares defiantly into the camera, gripping a rifle. It was this fearless warrior that led the last band of Apache resistance to the white Americans.

The fact that Bin Laden had been killed by US special forces was reported to President Barack Obama on Sunday with the words "Geronimo EKIA" - Enemy Killed In Action.

But US officials have not commented on why the name Geronimo was chosen - and may never do so.

Old West reincarnated
It was back in 2001 that the narrative for America's hunt for the al-Qaeda leader became strewn with Wild West imagery.

George W Bush's call for Bin Laden to be caught "dead or alive" mimicked the posters of the old Hollywood westerns, while borderland Pakistan became the Old West reincarnated in the minds of many commentators.

Bin Laden was referred to by one as a "21st-Century Geronimo, trying to elude the US military somewhere in a dry mountain range that could easily pass for the American West".

Afghanistan's cave-laced mountains, were easy to imagine using the template of the Sierra Madre mountain range thousands of miles away, where the original Geronimo managed to elude US troops for so long in the late 19th Century.

Referring to US military possibilities in the tribal areas of Afghanistan's mountainous regions, Allan R Millet, a retired Marine Corps colonel and Ohio State University professor, said in 2001: "It's like shooting missiles at Geronimo... you might get a couple of Apaches, but what difference does that make?"

The real Geronimo was born in 1829 in what is modern day New Mexico. As one of the Apache leaders, he inherited a tradition of resisting colonisation by both Spaniards and North Americans.

According to Ron Jackson writing in The Oklahoman newspaper in 2009, Geronimo's "legend is rooted in real deeds of bravery and bloodshed."

Eluding capture
He gained early notoriety for his fearless raids against Mexican soldiers. Mexican troops had killed members of his family after storming his village, and his revenge was to kill as many of them as possible.

"By 1872, US government officials were keenly aware of Geronimo's fighting exploits when they corralled him and hundreds of his fellow Chiricahua Apache people onto an Arizona Territory reservation," writes Mr Jackson.

"Four years later, Geronimo led a large band of Apache dissidents off the reservation and into the Sierra Madre mountains of Old Mexico, where they staged raids on anyone unlucky enough to cross their paths.

"Military officials soon branded Geronimo a renegade. During the next decade, Geronimo repeatedly returned to reservation life in peace only to bolt with others for the refuge of the Sierra Madres. They often left a trail of blood. Hidden in the myriad mountain passes and caves, Geronimo and his followers embarrassed military officers by eluding them time and again, at one point with as many as 5,000 US soldiers on their heels."

It was Apache scouts that helped track Geronimo down in 1886.

His struggle to resist the white Americans has led to him being depicted in a sympathetic light by many cultural historians.

Ironically, it is thanks to the Native American's legendary bravery that two of the US army's elite units have the regimental nickname "Geronimo".

The link to the parachute divisions' monikers and the tradition of shouting "Geronimo" while bailing out of a plane can be traced to Fort Benning in the state of Georgia.

According to reports, in 1940 soldiers from the parachute division were preparing to test a daring new manoeuvre, in which men jumped from the plane in rapid succession.

The night before the jump, a small group of soldiers left the base to watch film at the local cinema - a western featuring the fearless Geronimo. As the men later revealed their apprehension about the next day's jump, Pt Aubrey Eberhardt announced that he was going to shout "Geronimo" as he leapt from the plane to demonstrate his courage.

The story goes that as he jumped, "G-E-R-O-N-I-M-O" was clearly heard from the ground. The motivational yell was adopted other servicemen and quickly became standard practice for US army paratroopers - and the favoured cry for little boys performing a daring leap.

The word "Geronimo" was eventually discontinued by the army in favour of a parachute opening count - "one-thousand, two-thousand" - but by this stage it was already the name of the the army's first parachute battalion, the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion.

The nickname Geronimo has also adopted by the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, which has been operational in Iraq and Afghanistan. By adopting the tactics and techniques of al-Qaeda and the Taleban, they help to train other units to defend themselves.

The original Geronimo is buried at Fort Sill in Oklahoma - but one branch of his descendants argue that he should be laid to rest in his tribal homeland of the Gila Mountains of New Mexico. Until the correct sacred burial rite is carried out there, they say, his spirit is still wandering.


Geronimo was actually given the name Goyahkla at birth. One theory is that he acquired the name Geronimo from the Mexicans he fought to avenge the death of members of his family.

According to one story the Mexicans would shout: "Cuidado! (Watch out!) Geronimo!". It could be because they mispronounced his name or, as some historians have suggested, they were calling for the protection of St Jerome.



Federale said...

Traditionally paratroopers shout "Geronimo" when exiting an aircraft. The SEALs are parachute trained as is General Petraus. So, the link may be that related to parachutist training and the spirit of irregular warfare that the Indians waged.

Cole said...

Definitely, I thought it was complimentary ~ rather than offensive.

Over time, people come to respect the enemy ~ and particularly those American Indian fighters.

In the end ~ it was other Indians who had to go and catch him.

I wouldn't say Bin laden was scalped ~ but near enough!!