Friday, May 06, 2011

On code names

Some American Indians have expressed anger (or disgust) over the use of the code name Geronimo for Osama bin Laden.  One one level, the name may have been meant to pay tribute to the wiliness of both the al Qaeda leader and the chief of the Chiricahua Apaches.  But tying the courageous Indian leader who was defending his ancestral lands against invaders to a mass-murdering religious fanatic was, at best, insensitive.

Which brings up one of my pet peeves:  the whole use of code names these days.  I'm thinking particularly of names for military operations--"Iraqi Freedom," "Desert Storm," but the example of Geronimo/bin Laden shows the same confusion.

Code-names are supposed to be CODE.  They are meant to conceal, not reveal.  Historically, the names given to operations had nothing to do with the objective; that was the whole point.  So, the invasion of North Africa was Torch, of Sicily Husky and of Normandy--as we all know--Overlord.  None of the titles had anything to do with the target.  During WWII, the names were picked at random from a long list (sometimes a name was rejected as being perhaps too revealing or perhaps embarrassing if known).

That's the other thing about code-names:  they are not revealed at the time; that would defeat the purpose.  They are held secret until revealing them will not hurt anyone.  

What we have today is clumsy propagandizing meant to evoke heroic warmaking.  Arrogant foolishness.

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