Third Party & Independents: Archives

May 25, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Give A Damn If We Get Attacked

The United States military has discharged fifty eight Arabic linguists because they are gay. Yes that is fifty eight Arabic linguists during this War in Iraq and War on Terror.

Where are we? Are we in Hollywood? Can we just cast everyone we need, as they are actors? No we do not live in this fantasy land. People with the right skills are precious.

We are currently fighting a War in Iraq which has been extended now for many years, and seems to be neverending. We are also fighting a global war on terrorism which seems to be neverending and focuses on Muslims. Ummm....hmmmm..so if this is what we the United States are defining as our War on Terror, what language would be the most useful to employ linguists in? Arabic!! Why in the damn world are we firing arabic linguists for being gay, this is beyond stupid.

What happens if a terrorist attack occurs because we don't have enough linguists to translate intelligence, because we fired fifty eight gay linguists?

The 1994 law "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be renamed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Give A Damn If We Get Attacked"

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/23/america/NA-GEN-US-Military-Gays.php

Posted by Richard Rhodes at May 25, 2007 01:56 AM
Comments
Comment #221279

The Clinton era, don’t ask law has always had its problems, but some of the examples are not the result of the law. In your article:

“In an interview with The Associated Press, Benjamin said he was caught improperly using the military’s secret level computer system to send messages to his roommate, who was serving in Iraq. In those messages, he said, he may have referred to being gay or going on a date.”

This guy is a security violation whether he is using his classified computer to talk to his girl or his boy. Arguably he got in more trouble for being gay, but he may have brought it up himself, i.e. when he was caught using the computer illegally, maybe the first thing he said was, “you are targeting me because I am gay”. He then puts the army in an impossible position. They didn’t ask, but he told.

People’s sex lives are generally none of anybody’s business. Don’t ask and don’t tell is good advice in general. I do not care what you do. Do not feel you need to (or should) tell me about it.

Posted by: Jack at May 25, 2007 08:27 AM
Comment #221283

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a step in the right direction, but only a step. One hopes we can soon get beyond such institutionalized homophobia, which, of course, is based more on the fear of one’s self being perceived as gay than anything else.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 25, 2007 10:09 AM
Comment #221293

It does seem kind of dumb to fire 58 Arabic translators during a war against Arab Islamist extremists. About as dumb as invading Iraq, so I guess it’s par for the course for Republicans.

Posted by: American Pundit at May 25, 2007 12:16 PM
Comment #221300

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a ridiculous policy. If you’re gay your’re OK as long as you keep your mouth shut. As soon as you give yourself away you get kicked out. This rule enshrines dishonesty as a basic principle of the military. Is this what we want?

Is it OK to be dishonest about other things? If the commander asks you about arms or some other serious matter, is it OK to lie?

There is so much talk about gays hurting military morale. Being dishonest hurts military morale more.

Practically this is wrong as you can see when we get rid of 58 Arab linguists because they are gay!

Posted by: Paul Siegel at May 25, 2007 02:39 PM
Comment #221301

I’m just wondering why some of the young single troops who’ve just seen their tours extended don’t suddenly come out of the closet. It’s a guaranteed ticket out of Iraq.

Posted by: Michael at May 25, 2007 04:16 PM
Comment #221305

“I’m just wondering why some of the young single troops who’ve just seen their tours extended don’t suddenly come out of the closet. It’s a guaranteed ticket out of Iraq”

Love of country? Pride? Family? Honor? Patriotism?
Ever hear of any of those?

Believe it or not, many people in the US still believe in those things.

Posted by: kctim at May 25, 2007 05:37 PM
Comment #221314

Let me be perfectly honest about gayness.

I support gay marriage (read my post). I think gays should have similar rights. I do not have problems with gays in any jobs. I work with and manage gays.

But the thought of the gay sex act makes me almost physically ill. I think that is the conditioning and reaction of many straight men. It is a lot like the incest taboo. I just do not want to hear any of the details. I am sorry about that. It is not a choice I make. It has not stopped me from having gay friends etc, but when they start talking “shop” I leave. If I was in an environment where such talk was common, I do not think I could work there. BTW - I also do not want to hear the details of straight sex, but I do not have the same viseral reaction. Don’t tell is a good idea.

Posted by: Jack at May 25, 2007 09:16 PM
Comment #221318

>>Love of country? Pride? Family? Honor? Patriotism?

Believe it or not, many people in the US still believe in those things.

Posted by: kctim at May 25, 2007 05:37 PM

kc,

Including many gays, I assume…

Posted by: Marysdude at May 25, 2007 09:57 PM
Comment #221331

Many things have changed in the last 20-30 years, including the gay society. Even though there is a large contingency of “bashers” out there, they are more accepted by many. This seems to have created a more tolerant audience for the discussion of all aspects of thier lives to be okay. These guys are filling positions that we desperately need, and not everyone can be a bulldog-tankdriving-guntoting soldier or Marine. They are every bit as important, though.
I actually agree with Jack that we probably would do fine by not hearing intimate details of most sexual encounters. If the one translator was dismissed for having revealed private activites, then the actions would have been appropriate. What about all the rest ??? If there wasn’t adequate and legitimate reason, then it would seem to be just more of this administrations’ BS attitude.
And hey, congratulations to Cheney’s gay daughter for presenting them with another grandchild. I’m sure he’s busting at the seams with pride and talks endlessly about it……hmmmmmm??? Funny how some things just come back and bite you square in the ass..

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at May 26, 2007 12:14 AM
Comment #221333

I just do not want to hear any of the details. I am sorry about that. It is not a choice I make. It has not stopped me from having gay friends etc, but when they start talking “shop” I leave.

This guy wrote an email to his lover. He didn’t tie anyone up and force them to listen to graphic sex stories. He’s just living his life. If you want to ban soldiers from having sexual discussions of any kind, even in private? If you believe the best way to fight this war is to turn away skilled people just because of their sexual orientation, I think you’re way off base.

What this guy did is similar to anyone using a work computer to write their spouse an email. Firable offense? I guess anything is these days, but that’s just another sign that the world’s out of whack. A lot of your posts are about the need for less government. Please explain why you believe the government should be in Americans bedrooms or be able to make certain subjects taboo.

Has the world gone crazy? Discrimination like this is unAmerican.

Posted by: Max at May 26, 2007 01:10 AM
Comment #221338

Jack,

We are talking about discrimination, not about boors discussing their sex lives in inappropriate settings.

Max,

Yes, it is crazy, and a little difficult to understand. Why would someone’s sexual orientation be so threatening? I don’t believe it’s contagious. I used to tell my male students that they should approve of male homosexuality becomes it removes competition ;) It’s lesbianism they should be worried about! But of course they find that far less threatening. I’ve always assumed a factor in homophobia was insecurity.

Posted by: Gerrold at May 26, 2007 05:08 AM
Comment #221345

Max

Using a classified computer for such things is a serious offense. It is not like using your ordinary work computer.

Personally, I do not support the firings. But there is more to it than simply being gay.

Posted by: Jack at May 26, 2007 09:47 AM
Comment #221355

Jack,

They discharged 58 people, not just the person who used the secure computer. This really is just about them being gay.

The one person who was using the secure computer was discharged under “Don’t ask, don’t tell”, not for any security breach. He was among 70 other people being investigated, none of whom were dismissed even though they wrote profane, sexually explicit messages.

In a nutshell, you are willfully ignoring the military’s stated reason for letting this one person go, ignoring that 57 other people were let go, and ignoring that plenty of other people were using the secure computer in the same way without being let go. It may make you feel better to believe there were other issues, but that’s not why the military says they discriminated against these men.

Posted by: Max at May 26, 2007 11:54 AM
Comment #221366

The person who used the secure computer should have been fired. The other 57 ??????????? Most companies will not allow personal things to be done on their computers, at least not the company I work for.

Posted by: KAP at May 26, 2007 01:49 PM
Comment #221367

I was distressed by this news as I had just seen footage of American/Iraqi raids in Bagdad upon civilian Iraqi households who were supposed to be harboring terrorists. There were women, old men and small children in these rooms, and they were being ordered to raise their hands and against the walls in American English Military Jargon. This seemed totally incongruous to me we have been 5 years in Iraq now and there is just no reason any American there is not able to speak enough Arabic to address Iraqis in their own language. I can’t understand why our military is allowed to communicate in English ever from the top to the bottom. There will be no meaningful understanding of who is who or how to do any job until each American in Iraq is fully fluent with the Iraqis. Iraqi population will be conversant enough in English that is has no advantage in communication of battle plans at this point. We need every interpreter we can lay our hands on to teach our military the language they must use to prevail in any way in converting these folks to respond to a stable government that respects human rights of all it’s citizens; and we can only teach this by our military respecting the human rights of it’s members and the Iraqis they come in contact with.

Posted by: erika morgan at May 26, 2007 02:00 PM
Comment #221378

erkia

Many people just cannot learn foreign languages to any decent extent. The soldiers are not in country that long and they have other things to do. It takes a talented guy about two years of full time study to get to an acceptable level of Arabic. People in the lower half of language learning ability can NEVER learn Arabic to a reasonable extent. Consider the reverse: Arabs who have lived in the U.S. for many years. Most speak English after decades here immersed in an English environment. But would you want to bet your life that every one of them understands your normal speed, accented English. If you do, you problem have not tried to take a cab in New York or Washington.

I bet some of these 58 guys were not at that level. The army teaches people to recognize some phrases. It is not the same as language flency.

Posted by: Jack at May 26, 2007 06:24 PM
Comment #221382

Good article Richard - and nicely titled,

The comments are getting sidetracked here though. The real issue is we are letting petty stuff trump common sense - and worse still - national security. What the one soldier did at most deserved a reprimand, but what of all the others? The article details arguably much more inappropriate email usage by other soldiers which garnered only minor penalties. This isn’t about making coworkers uncomfortable, it’s about retaliation against gays pure and simple.

Paul, you’re exactly on target about “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” I’ve always bristled at policies which encourage dishonesty by punishing honesty. Clinton wimped out in 1993 and we’re still paying the price.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at May 26, 2007 10:01 PM
Comment #221390

Jack,

It doesn’t take two years to learn the ‘necessary’ parts of any language, and many of our troops have been in country longer than that…’necessary’ is typical language used during a normal raid on a family dwelling.

Posted by: Marysdude at May 26, 2007 11:14 PM
Comment #221408

Jack-
That’s a bit of a sour grapes approach to things. Army firing translators for being gay? Must be bad translators! Truth is, to be called translators, these people had to be somewhat good at the language. Problem is, they preferred their own sex in romantic encounters. Well, I guess folks should die because many people are uncomfortable with that.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at May 27, 2007 09:01 AM
Comment #221409

From;

http://www.bobharris.com/

“I thought the war was supposed to be against theologically driven ideologues who want to organize society around their irrational allegiance to certain versions of certain parts of one religious text.

It’s not like the translators were all having the sex at their desks, while translating. That could make for some interesting transcripts.

If there is another attack, it’s entirely possible that thousands of innocent people could die from somebody else’s homophobia.”

Posted by: Rocky at May 27, 2007 09:57 AM
Comment #221416

Marydude
“Including many gays, I assume…”

Yep.
But I don’t have to assume M-dude, I knew a few gay people while serving and I know without a doubt that every one of them shared those feelings about country with me.

Posted by: kctim at May 27, 2007 03:28 PM
Comment #221423

Thanks kctim for reminding us that love for our country isn’t determinded by sexual orientation or political affiliation.

Posted by: Sandra Davidson at May 27, 2007 09:00 PM
Comment #221434

I know for a fact that right after 9-11, across our intelligence services (including our military agencies, the CIA and the State Department) we had a couple hundred competent Arab translators at most. It wasn’t even possible to keep up with the simplest routine intelligence intercepts.

Broadly-speaking, the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy is dumb, discriminatory and counter-productive.

Having said that the don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy is dumb, discriminatory and counter-productive, this story seems extremely far-fetched.

If 58 genuinely competent Arab linguists whose duties actually included much translation have been fired for no other reason than they are gay and have been caught broadcasting the fact that they are gay, it’s necessary to believe that a truly massive number of homosexual Arab linguists have gravitated into our intelligence/translation services almost overnight.

You pretty much have to believe that a gay pride float filled with especially flamboyant—no, absolutely flaming homosexuals—who also happen to be Arab-speakers took a wrong turn and ended up at the recruitment center. What seems more likely is a lot of people discharged under Clinton’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy are trying to make a little political hay here on the basis of knowing a few words of Arabic.

More importantly than that, however, is the fact that even though I personally think it’s wrong to discriminate in this way against gays, we don’t need ANYBODY involved in our intelligence services who can’t keep secrets they’ve been ordered to keep, even secrets as simple as their own sexuality.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at May 28, 2007 01:11 AM
Comment #221444

I could care less if they are gay, grey, or any other way if they are able to do the job without their sexual preference interfering with their job performance.

Posted by: Maineiac at May 28, 2007 08:22 AM
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