Paul Greenberg

For once I find myself firmly, indignantly and thoroughly on the side of political correctness.

It's a strange sensation, but a deeply satisfying one. As if something needed to be made absolutely clear, spelled out, published far and wide -- and you proceeded to do just that. Which is the purpose of my writing this column. And this is why it had to be done:

It seems the historical ignoramus who devised code words for the wholly admirable -- indeed, inspiring -- operation to get Osama bin Laden came up with "Geronimo EKIA" as the message that would signal OBL's long awaited demise.

Thank you, U.S. Navy SEALs and all those who worked with you in the chain of command right up to the president of the United States and commander-in-chief of its armed forces.

But why flash "Geronimo EKIA" -- Geronimo Enemy Killed in Action -- to mark this happy occasion? Unacceptable. Completely unacceptable.

It's also a sign of the ignorant times. Like some mastermind's decision early in the War of Terror to refer to it as a Crusade -- when an essential aim of this long struggle against terrorism must be to make it clear that we have not embarked on a religious crusade against Islam. On the contrary, we are waging a just war against those who violate Islamic civilization's long tradition of chivalry, learning and tolerance.

There was a time when American fighting men knew their history better, as during the Second World War when our paratroops began yelling Geronimo! as they jumped out of their planes to attack the stunned enemy below. (That battle cry is supposed to have originated with the 82nd Airborne.)

Whether the troopers got that yell from history or Hollywood's version of it, it was appropriate homage to a legendary American warrior who inspired many a story. As we hope and trust the saga of the SEALs last week will do. May they, too, be celebrated generation after generation, like Merrill's Marauders, Orde Wingate's Chindits and other daring commandos who descended on the enemy when they were least expected.

I can still remember being taken out to the picturesque cliff at Fort Sill in the badlands of Oklahoma where the legendary Geronimo, great rider that he was, was said to have leapt off his horse and into the chasm below to evade capture. He did evade capture many a time before the U.S. Cavalry finally caught up with him. But this particular tale was wholly fictive, since the Apache chief's exploits were confined to the Southwest -- and Mexico, too.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.