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Saturday, May 07, 2011

What's in a Name?

A semi-Western coalition of states is warring against troops loyal to Gaddafi in Libya - Operation Odyssey Dawn. An elite force of American special ops takes out Osama Bin Laden in his - relatively comfortable - hideout in Pakistan - code name: Geronimo. I admittedly am coming a little late to this, but surly I am not the only to pause at the seeming lack of historical/cultural awareness of the people naming these missions.

If nomen est omen then Operation Odyssey Dawn has to be the beginning of a long, adventurous and dangerous mission with a doubtful, if finally happy, ending. After all, Odyssey after leaving Troy erred through the Mediterranean for ten years only to arrive in Ithaca to a home beset by quarreling suitors looking to wed his supposed widow. While potentially a rather accurate description, is that really the message the leaders of said new coalition of the willing want to convey to us?

The equation of Geronimo with Osama Bin Laden in turn hints at a shocking historical ignorance or at least misunderstanding of American history. Who was Geronomio? A legendary leader of the Apache in the South-Western United States and Mexico he fought efforts by thousands of US troops to relocate - effectively imprison almost exterminate - his tribe for years. Basically he resisted occupation of the traditional lands of his people by the imperialist forays of white American settlers supported by military force. Geronimo and his people were lied to, treaties with them were broken, their miserable existence on the reservations would most likely be called genocide today. Again, is this really the message that the US military wants to convey to us, whom they want to equate Osama Bin Laden with?

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