Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Help Wanted: Arabic Translators

Here is a very sad, chilling and ultimately infuriating post on
The Counterterrorism Blog
. It details how a shortage of Arabic translators contributed directly to terrorists' ability to communicate with each other. The post spotlights the case in 1993 of "14 letters that were exchanged between the convicted World Trade Center bombers and a Spanish terror cell." Some of these letters even made it into the OpEd sections of Arabic newapapers.

Now this was back in 1993 and obviously Clinton was in charge, so please no stupid comments saying, "But Clinton..." I think we forget sometimes how insulated we all felt prior to September 2001. You can argue that Bush's policies have been an overall good response or an overall bad response, but the truth is that after the towers fell, the existence of terrorism stopped being a guy whose name we'd heard once or twice and instead barged right into our living room, sat down and cracked open a beer. So if 9/11 "changed everything" then you'd think that policies like these would warrant a closer look, especially in light of the fact that missives written in Arabic have eluded us in the past.

Nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, have been dismissed from the military because they are gay.

The soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism.
The above link is from 2002, but just as we have no reason to believe that all preventable communication between terror cells has ceased, there's nothing to indicate that gay translators wouldn't be just as readily subject to discharge today as they were back in 2002. Regardless, the issue of terrorism was in stark relief in 2002, and it is telling that even then the Bush administration valued politics over effective policy.

To be fair, DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) discharges are down since 9/11, but it seems this is more a function of Commanding Officers' individual decisionmaking rather than a manifestation of new policy. Indeed,
...the Army issued a memo to all its commanders urging them to do everything possible to reduce the number of discharges among this younger group of soldiers. The memo also altered the protocol for discharges of soldiers who have abused drugs and alcohol, failed a physical fitness test or demonstrated unsatisfactory performance. The memo indicated this change was also a way to make it harder for discharges to occur.

The memo did not change the way DADT violations are prosecuted.
It's unfortunate that we seem to have lowered the bar in just about every dischargable category except the one that has no impact on one's ability to serve.

The Counterterrorism Blog link via Instapundit.

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