WASHINGTON (AP) - 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, a Democrat and 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 is 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.
``We are quite certain that the use of the name Geronimo as a code for Osama bin Laden was based on misunderstood and misconceived historical perspectives of Geronimo and his armed struggle against the United States and Mexican governments,'' Houser wrote.
``However, to equate Geronimo or any other Native American figure with Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer and cowardly terrorist, is painful and offensive to our tribe and to all Native Americans.''
The White House referred questions on the matter to the Defense Department, which said no disrespect was meant to Native Americans.
The department wouldn't elaborate on the use of Geronimo's name but said code names typically are chosen randomly and allow those working on a mission to communicate without divulging information to adversaries.
미국 인디언들, 빈 라덴 소탕작전 암호에 뿔났다
미국의 빈 라덴 사살 작전에 사용된 암호명 '제로니모'가 모욕적이라며 미국의 인디언들이 규탄했다.
'제로니모'는 서부영화의 등장인물로도 유명한 인디언 전사였다.
이런 전설적인 아파치 히어로를 국제적인 테러리스트였던 빈 라덴에 빗댄 것은 인디언들에게 모욕이며 수치라고 미국의 인디언들은 목요일 밝혔다.
인디언 전사 '제로니모'는 발자국을 남기지 않고 걸어다녔던 것으로 유명했으며 멕시코와 미국 군인들을 교묘히 피해다닌 것으로 알려져있다. 이는 빈 라덴이 미군의 공격을 교묘히 피해다녔던 것과 유사하다.
하지만 미국 인디언들에게 '제로니모'와 빈 라덴은 다르다. '제로니모'는 그들에게 전설적인 히어로지만 빈 라덴은 증오의 대상인 테러리스트이기 때문이다.
분노한 미국 인디언들은 미국 정부의 이러한 암호명 설정을 규탄하며 오바마 대통령의 사과를 요구하고 있다.
인디언 단체의 한 대표는 이러한 암호명 설정에 나쁜 의도가 없었다는 것은 알지만 문화적인 차이와 역사에 대한 잘못된 인식에서 비롯되는 것이라고 말했다.
백악관은 해당 사안을 국방부에 넘겼으며 미국 인디언들에 대한 악의는 없었다고 밝혔다.
국방부는 암호명은 대개 임의로 결정되는 것이라고 밝힐 뿐 '제로니모'라는 암호를 선정한 것에 대해서는 더 이상의 언급은 하지 않았다.