Friday, May 06, 2011

Tonya Gonella Frichner, president and founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, recent North American Regional Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and, discuss the controversy over the use of an  American Indian hero, Geronimo, as the code-name for the Bin Laden operation. 


Tonya Gonella Frichner and Ben Zimmer

Comments [55]

Paul Seftel from NYC

The Geronimo Code is part of Goyathlay's legacy. The injustice perpetrated against him, the breaking of all treaties, his imprisonment and burial at Fort Sill and subsequent legend of his stolen skull by the Yale fraternity power elite, has never been apologized for, nor the request for return of his remains to NM been respected or honored. The occult fetish use of his skull, and name for the benefit of the war machine that has profited greatly from the abuse of this power, is significant and relevant to the overall story, and may be the hidden reason for native anger over this. The two faced nature of the government/ native peoples relationship, should come up at every given opportunity, for else it is not true that 'We Remember'. The nature of Homeland Security does honor Geronimo in this Light, through our remembering of the war chief seer, and bringing to light the darkness.

In the first chapter of his autobiography, he talks about the Origin of the Apache, and the trial of light over dark and how it came to be. Read it and you will find an allegory and spirit in our time.

May. 07 2011 05:08 PM

I truly despise all of the identity politics in this piece and the entire show. "People of Native origin, what do YOU think? Please call in!"

May. 07 2011 02:24 PM

I'm curious why the people with the given name Geronimo are not all up in arms about this too! Perhaps they understand it for what it is, a code name! Geez!

May. 07 2011 09:44 AM
Mike from Inwood

It makes for really boring radio when all the guests just agree with one another, especially when they express the biases the host confesses to share. Giving them a platform to whine together unopposed by common sense thinking really makes me dislike them.

May. 07 2011 12:55 AM
Dennis Mega

What a disappointing segment this was. Jamie Floyd who labelled the naming of the bin-Laden mission as a "misstep" and the 2 biased guests who also had a problem with the "Geronimo" naming with no one to offset their opinions. Not much fairness here. Do we really need to discuss the name of the mission or should we just appreciate that it was successful and that one of the worst mass murderers in world history is gone for good. I really can't believe that the president or the military had any sinister motive for using the name "Geronimo." This political correctness run amuck once again. Shame on WNYC-FM for broadcasting such a one-sided show.

May. 06 2011 07:06 PM
DL from BK

I find the majority reaction on this thread is seriously disturbing. Unless the majority of posts here are just from people trolling (either to dismiss a presumed Left wing issue or monitoring potentially anti-Obama news) it seems there is a consensus to blindly accept and unskeptically support the US military, the White House and to completely ignore or care about the history of this country. Also if the objections of Native Americans are so quickly dismissed we have lost a foot-hold on our national moral conscious.

Our military has a long and continued history with both annihilating and honoring Native American warriors and warrior tribes. Using Geronimo for any reason by the military is not a neutral choice. Do you think anyone in the JSOC or CIA thought that ‘Geronimo’ didn’t apply to bin Laden himself whether it was a codeword for him or the mission? It just should not happen. It insults living Native Americans (including those serving in the military), ignores (or distorts our history) and sends a horrendous message to any culture our military encounters (i.e. you guys are just like the American Indians we dealt with).

To those who think this is a non-issue, please wake-up. Our culture is being taken over by military law, planning, decisions, mythology, words and debates. What the military / CIA says matters. US civilians can honor their military without revering and blindly accepting their framing of our shared reality. Soldiers/Sailors serve us and we can and will honor that. But they represent us as well and I think a demonstrated understanding and sensitivity to US history is very important. It helps to remind us of where we came from, what we have learned and where we are now going.

May. 06 2011 03:58 PM

At least this segment on WNPR represented some recognition that our native tribes do have issues and that they are rarely addressed.

May. 06 2011 03:53 PM
Elisa from NJ

It is surprising to me that our virtually flawless mission against a reviled figure, should be thoughtlessly named “Geronimo”. Our leaders commendably respected Islamic tradition in the burial rites for Bin Laden, but failed to honor our own native people. Geronimo was honorably defending assaults on his people.

Elisa Sananman
I am not of First Nation ancestry

Chiricahua Apache. (1829-1909)

May. 06 2011 03:50 PM
GROW A PAIR! from Reality

this is what you choose to waste your time with?

what a bunch of nonsense.

WHO CARES what name they used?

it means NOTHING.

Thankfully President Obama wasn't sitting around worrying about this nonsense when it was time to ACT.

why don't you talk about something important, like the rise of Radical Islam in the US? that's the REAL threat.

get it together, people...

May. 06 2011 12:48 PM
Edward from NJ

My first thought upon hearing the code name was, "Oh God, are people going to whine about this?" Apparently.

May. 06 2011 12:10 PM

The use of Geronimo's name in connection with the Bin Laden operation was extremely offensive and totally inappropriate.

It's astonishing to see so many listeners spinning like whirling dervishes and pretending that this use was completely benign and was in no way a slur against Native Americans. You listeners can spin all you want, but you can't change the fact that was an insult to an individual and a slur against an ethnic group.

May. 06 2011 11:51 AM

This is exactly what our country was based on. Geranimo was considered a terrorist to the white man. The native Americans were called Savages. The people who colonized this land of ours terrorized the Native Americans(Genocide).

We have to get out of other countries and take care of our own people. We are continually in other places in order to satisfy the few wealthy people who run this country.We the American people do not even have the time see the truth, because we are too busy trying to survive.
If we do not mind our own business, others will react. Lets go back to basics and get real. We do not make anything in this country anymore. We are not educating our children. Our elderly will no longer have support. Health Care is not affordable. Ignorance thrives in this country. Lets be responsible for our actions. If we continue to rely on others for our needs, we will suffer consequences. We are letting the very wealthy control this country. Oil ( MIDDLE EAST)and cheap labor(POOR COUNTRIES) equals the use of our big cars and clothes on our back. We can employ our people. Yes We

May. 06 2011 11:38 AM

What I noticed after listening to the radio show and reading posts is that there is already an attempt to spin the code name of Bin Laden as "Geronimo" into an honor to Native Americans. Saying crazy things like, "Geronimo" meant "us" the Ameiricans or "Geronimo" meant strength of "will" and the "will of the operation," or why else do you think we name our armaments names like "Apache Helicopter?" Why, because we respect the "Spirit" of Native Americans. That is of course why we code named Bin Laden, "Geronimo"...The truth of the matter is Geronimo was a fugitive of the law for ten years and Bin Laden was a fugitive of the law for ten years. They now may be one and two as all-time most mythical fugitives of the law. Bin Laden was killed and Geronimo was placed in jail and died in jail. These current war-room officials picked this name because they were dabbling with history...I am eager to find out the words exclaimed by The President of The United States when Geronimo was captured. For President Obama upon killing Bin Laden, it was, "We got him!" I am praying that the exclaimation upon capturing Geronimo was not identical or similar by the then President. I will now have to research it.

May. 06 2011 11:29 AM
Nancy Joyce Simmons

I thought this segment was very poorly handled. There was deliberate obfuscation. The code name Geronimo was for the mission, not Bin Laden. In other words, it stood for the Navy SEALS, you know, fierce warriors of legendary prowess and bravery. I'm of Scots Highland decent, a people who were savagely suppressed for centuries by the English. Had they named the mission after Rob Roy, a famous Highland warrior, I'd have been proud.

May. 06 2011 11:23 AM
Tony from Canarsie

By saying that "the majority" of native Americans support the mission, wasn't your guest herself insulting native Americans, by implying that a minority didn't support the mission?

How about doing a segment about real issues facing native peoples?

May. 06 2011 11:12 AM
Ed Lowe from NY/NJ

Geronomo was not the code name for Bin Laden. Geronomo was the military code to signal success of the mission; it is phonetically distinct, and will continue to be used in that context. As a person of distinguished Shawnee heratige, I can not speak for Apache sensitivity but Techumpsa just doesn't have the radio punch of Geronomo. My great grandfather was a scout for the 9th Cavalry, the buffalo soldiers and I and my father served in the U.S, Navy and U.S. Army with more than 50 years combined service. Geronomo was a great general and field commander as was Techumpsa; therefore their names will continue to ring down through history of military lore...i.e. Caesar, Hannible, etc.

May. 06 2011 11:09 AM
A from New York

If you do any more programs like this, I will rethink my contributions to WNYC/NPR. Period.

Stop wasting our time with this politically correct, victimization garbage - and I'm a democrat!

Who decided this was a good topic? The replacement annoncer?

May. 06 2011 11:06 AM
gus from New York City

I had to write, because this morning, you crossed the line of inconsequentiality with the "debate" over using Geronimo as a code name for the mission to get Bin Laden. First, it was a CODE NAME, which means it was not for public consumption. Second, it was the name for the MISSION, not the prey. But when a very reasoned listener pointed out that the name implied the heroism of our Navy Seals and not the intended target the Native American spokesperson whined something to the effect of, "But how do we get that across to the public?" I'd had enough. How? Tell them! The quantity of distractions by people and politicians unwilling to face our real problems seems infinite. I'm really fed up, not interested in seeing what utter triviality you'll be spending good air time on next.

May. 06 2011 11:06 AM
lynne stiles from CT

This is crazy!

We, as americans, defeat a common enemy, and Native Americans believe it's all about insulting them?

Geronimo was the name of the mission, a mission to defeat an enemy that has changed and harmed American in many ways. To name this mission after a noble warrior, whose people were treated terribly, was not a "insensitive" or harmful act. Geronimo was an American, a Native American, and I bet he would be proud that incredibly brave men, who put their lives on the line, defeated Bin Laden.

WNYC, I'm sorry I recently contributed to you! This is one of worse stories you have had. Move on to jobs, the economy, education for Native Americans, but don't make killing bin Laden a failure because it may have offended some people who did not understand the use of the word Geronimo, nor the respect warriors have for this man.

Native Americans have suffered, but everything is not about insulting them, nor do they own the person or word Geronimo. He was an American warrior and all of us can feel proud.

May. 06 2011 11:04 AM
Justin from Brooklyn

Offended, disgusted, but appropriate and not surprised, considering the fact that if Geronimo was alive today, he would be labeled a 'Home Grown Terrorist' under the existing Patriot Act. In addition to Martin Luther King, and ANY and ALL activists who go against U.S. Government policies. And ALL would be hunted down, taken to Guatanimo and held without trial or representation as long as the government sees fit.

May. 06 2011 11:04 AM
Mike from Tribeca

The host just commented, "The next time" they should come up with a code name "we can all embrace."

Embrace? Talk about an inappropriate choice of words!

May. 06 2011 11:01 AM
The Truth from Becky

caller "I think they should leave the poor Indians alone" What about the poor Blacks and Browns....people seem to have sympathy for every one else's cause except these two groups..oh yeah and the gays.

May. 06 2011 10:59 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I suggest that we call the next terrorist "Chuzzlewit"!
Glad to play a part!

May. 06 2011 10:59 AM

this is so ridic i can't even handle it. i feel this is such a non-issue. its just a code. period.

May. 06 2011 10:58 AM
Jon from Manhattan

Oy vey. Get a life. Please?

May. 06 2011 10:58 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Seemingly "little" things are oh so loaded.

May. 06 2011 10:57 AM
xheightx from brooklyn

What commentwhennec and the guest seems to miss is the IRONY here not ignorance which folds in both the respect and duality of values toward native americans and the military's current enemy. No doubt today's native americans are patriots but is there no irony in that while honoring the person that was Geronimo.

May. 06 2011 10:57 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I thought w/a linguist on, we'd hear about how "Geronimo" is actually Spanish for the Latin name "Hieronymus"!

May. 06 2011 10:57 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I agree with mozo. I'm about as liberal as they come, and with all due respect, this is a little nuts.

May. 06 2011 10:57 AM
Mike from Tribeca

If you want to get into details, you might also want to mention that Geronimo, who's actual name was Goyahkla, was a member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe in New Mexico.

May. 06 2011 10:56 AM

OPERATION "GERONIMO" not exactly renaming the SOB....

May. 06 2011 10:56 AM
NDY from NYC

Can we please get over all these absurd politically correct inquiries? Good, grief. Why are you wasting our time with this?

Poor me...poor me.....

May. 06 2011 10:55 AM
Rob from Brooklyn, NY

This is one of the dumbest, most overly drawn-out segments I've ever heard on WNYC. Honestly, who really cares?

May. 06 2011 10:55 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

These activists need to get real jobs. Aren't there really pressing social problems that could better occupy their sincere efforts....feeding, clothing and caring for the elderly?
What would we do without a victimization industry?

May. 06 2011 10:55 AM

Next step: Set up "Sensitivity Commissions" to parse out all phrases and words before they can be used for any missions etc.....puh-leeze!

May. 06 2011 10:55 AM
John from South Brooklyn

Is today April 1? When I heard the mission was called Geronimo I didn't think of the man, I thought of the battle cry. There are two different meanings, whether folks like it or not.

May. 06 2011 10:54 AM
Tim from Tappan

The guest just will not believe that the name was the of the mission not of bin Laden. She just wants to push her own agenda, regardless of the facts.

May. 06 2011 10:54 AM
PJay from NYC/Northern NJ

Let's move on to actually important issues. Does every interest group need to weigh-in on their issue du jour?

While we're at it, let's let up on the Bin Ladin topic already. Too many people are crying revenge or retribution regarding Bin Ladin. His death is simply "justice", and really nothing more.

May. 06 2011 10:53 AM

Is this for real? And I'm a liberal. Come on!

May. 06 2011 10:53 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Chuzzlewit and co: You seem to display the ignorance of privilege, of which you are ignorant. It's a prevalent phenomenon. No disprespect.

May. 06 2011 10:52 AM

What a non-issue. PC gone wild.

May. 06 2011 10:51 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Not just American Indians/Native Americans--when I heard it I wondered, "Isn't that an insult to the actual historical Geronimo?"

I'd mostly heard about the name being shouted as parachutists jumped out of airplanes. But I have no idea how it came to be used that way--do the guests know?.

May. 06 2011 10:51 AM

“Was there feelings hurt, when the 101 Airborne, yelled "Geronimo" , as they jumped out of the planes over Normandy on D-Day?

May. 06 2011 10:51 AM

Jeez, doesn't the name just imply something about taking a big leap or risk? The word Geronimo has taken on a meaning apart from the actual historical figure. Why is everyone so dumb?

May. 06 2011 10:50 AM

Oh Boy. Really? We are really being too sensitive.

May. 06 2011 10:49 AM
Ben from Park Slope

I'm sorry, but this seems like such a non issue to me.

When on a military mission, all that matters is a name that is quick to say absolutely distinguishable on a radio.

The next time a military man says ALPHA XRAY TANGO you should have a radio segment featuring the radiologists and south American dance teams who are offended.

May. 06 2011 10:49 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

I'm wee bits Mohawk and Huron, and I can honestly say that this is the greatest non-issue of the day. The producers at WNYC should really be ashamed for publicizing this nonsense.

May. 06 2011 10:48 AM
Tom from Toronot

Its an ironic name for an operation that was ostensibly a "shoot-to-kill" operation.

From Wiki... "As a prisoner of war in old age he became a celebrity but was never allowed to return to the land of his birth."

I think for similar reasons it was decided to put an end to Bin Laden there and then. A dead Osama was more convenient.

May. 06 2011 10:47 AM
Jim from Nyack

Why are we wasting our time with this. People need to get over themselves. Perhaps Shirley would have been a better name? Move on.

May. 06 2011 10:47 AM

stop talking about him. u make him greater

May. 06 2011 10:26 AM
Jeff Pappas from Ct.

I remember people saying "Geronimoooo! "
as they parachuted out of airplanes I thought it was being used to imply " No fear , Strength and Good Luck "
Perhaps the Military culture was thinking of this, but they certainly should be sensitive to the other denotations a code word could imply.
Also lets remember our Indian friends the code talkers in WW2 who with their unwritten language baffled our enemies, back when an Enemy was a definable Country and not a bunch of Gangster thugs whom we now have renamed Terrorists.

May. 06 2011 10:13 AM

Using the code name Geronimo to represent Bin Laden first and foremost says "immaturity" at its highest order. It proves these war room government officials treated their jobs as if playing child-like spy games. It is well documented that Geronimo was a fugitive of The American Government for about the same length of time as Bin Laden. Geronimo gained mythical status and did Bin Laden. But for today's American Government to call Bid Laden "Geronimo" simply proves they were whimsically having fun with history, as if it was a game. The problem is for today's Government to liken themselves to a late 1800's American Federal Government lakes taste and sensitivity. There was a "kill-um all" mentality against Native Americans especially againt thsose who fought back against Federal Troops. Those more docile Native Americans were placed in Reservations...stripped of their true lands...stripped often of their names...and often taken from their families. Geronimo died in jail. Obama being a Minority himself and a student of history should have known the name was a terrible choice. Taken as a congruent argument if Geronimo did not want to become Reservationalized thereby losing his culture... then Bin Laden if called "Geronimo" is therefore the protector of his culture. This is why the name "Geronimo" for Bin Laden is so devastating. There is no doubt that white Americans ruined Native American culture and conquered them and their lands....Do we really want the people of The Middle East thinking we seek to do the same to them. Choosing the name Geronimo is "Freudian Slip" of the highest order. An apology is owed to any and all affected, and a deeper understanding into the truths of racism and its manifestations should be further debated. Since as we have seen with the name "Geronimo," racism can come from our own President, who happens to be Black, and should of course known better.

May. 06 2011 09:21 AM
Jen from Park Slope

told you that day when you started repeating it with verve

May. 06 2011 09:19 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Please tell me that this segment is just a (bad) parody of liberal talk radio for some pre-weekend levity!!!

OK, I guess President Obama didn't object to the name because of his special animus toward Native-Americans.....or is he just another one of us many unwitting participants of covert institutionalzed racism? (Yes, let our guest take it to their "Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues" at the UN where, presumably, Libya and Syria will vote on it.)

It's a challenging world and we are falling behind. No wonder our country is a nation in decline. We are definitely graduatng too many people from law schools.

May. 06 2011 08:21 AM

What happened to the Andrew Breitbart interview? I was looking forward to it.

May. 06 2011 08:07 AM

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