Military Discharged 26 Gay Arab and Farsi Translators
The military discharged twenty Arab translators and six Farsi speakers who announced they were gay, according to a new report.
The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its Ã¢€œdonÃ¢€™t ask, donÃ¢€™t tellÃ¢€ policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group. The group contends the records show that the military Ã¢€” at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies donÃ¢€™t have enough Arabic speakers Ã¢€” is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security. Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.
While the loss of 26 people with these critical language skills over the course of six years is not exactly catastrophic, it does seem unwise. Certainly, the military needs all the Middle Eastern language translators it can get.
Still, the way the story is presented is rather muddled. For one thing, “a research group” hardly seems the most straightforward way to describe a gay rights activist organization.
For another, the idea that the burden for this falls on the shoulders of “the military” is misleading. Federal law, notably the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Executive Order implementing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, are the impetus for this. Additionally, it seems rather clear that the translators in question have some culpability as well, as one can discover by reading between the lines much later in the article:
But others, like Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the discharged linguists never should have been accepted at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey in the first place. Ã¢€œResources unfortunately were used to train young people who were not eligible to be in the military,Ã¢€ she said.
In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 543 Arabic linguists and 166 Farsi linguists graduated from their 63-week courses, according to a DLI spokesman. That was up from 377 and 139, respectively, in the previous year. Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as contributing to the governmentÃ¢€™s failure to thwart the Sept. 11 attacks. The independent Sept. 11 commission made similar conclusions.
Ian Finkenbinder, an Army Arabic linguist who graduated from the Defense Language Institute in 2002, was discharged from the military last month after announcing to his superiors that heÃ¢€™s gay. Finkenbinder, who said his close friends in the Army already knew he was gay, served eight months in Iraq and was about to return for a second tour when he made the revelation official. Ã¢€œI looked at myself and said, Ã¢€˜Are you willing to go to war with an institution that wonÃ¢€™t recognize that you have the right to live as you want to?,Ã¢€Ã¢€™ said Finkenbinder, 22, who now lives in Baltimore. Ã¢€œIt just got to be tiresome to deal with that Ã¢€” to constantly have such a significant part of your life under scrutiny.Ã¢€
From this we see two things. First, the 26 people in question joined the military knowing full well what the policy was. Then, they announced that they were homosexual, forcing the military to discharge them. Indeed, in the case of Finkenbinder (and I suspect many of the others) it was a conscious decision to get thrown out of the service rather than go to war.
All that said, the policy makes little sense. This is especially true when, as noted here recently, some of the combatant commands have decided to selectively enforce it during wartime. Jim Henley has much, much more on this angle.
via Andrew Sullivan