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Cunning Linguists
The military is hurting, hurting, hurting for Arabic-English translators, writes Ann Hull in The Washington Post. Then again, maybe they aren't actually "hurting" -- maybe just itching...and just the tiniest bit. This would explain why Arabic interpreter Cathleen Glover is now employed as a pool cleaner at the Sri Lankan ambassador's residence:

She learned Arabic at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), the military's premier language school, in Monterey, Calif. Her timing as a soldier was fortuitous: Around her graduation last year, a Government Accounting Office study reported that the Army faced a critical shortage of linguists needed to translate intercepts and interrogate suspects in the war on terrorism.

"I was what the country needed," Glover said.

She was, and she wasn't. Glover is gay. She mastered Arabic but couldn't handle living a double life under the military policy known as "don't ask, don't tell." After two years in the Army, Glover, 26, voluntarily wrote a statement acknowledging her homosexuality.

Confronted with a shortage of Arabic interpreters and its policy banning openly gay service members, the Pentagon had a choice to make.

Which is how former Spec. Glover came to be cleaning pools instead of sitting in the desert, translating Arabic for the U.S. government.

In the past two years, the Department of Defense has discharged 37 linguists from the Defense Language Institute for being gay. Like Glover, many studied Arabic. At a time of heightened need for intelligence specialists, 37 linguists were rendered useless because of their homosexuality.

How about we discharge the backward dumbasses responsible for maintaining the ludicrous "don't ask, don't tell" rule? Along with anybody who is really, really tweaked by how other consenting adults are having sex, and with whom.

Posted by aalkon at December 5, 2003 9:21 AM

Comments

"Glover, 26, voluntarily wrote a statement acknowledging her homosexuality."

Is she 26 or 6? I'm no supporter of "don't ask, don't tell" either, but I can't understand why she wrote a letter confessing her homosexuality. Was she hoping the troops would throw her a big "We Love You Anyway" party, complete with a heartwarming group hug? Or perhaps this a way to become a gay rights heroine before getting out of a job she didn't like anyway.

"Confronted with [...] its policy banning openly gay service members, the Pentagon had a choice to make."

And their choice was such a BIG surprise! I'm no fan of the Pentagon either, but the policy is there for a reason: To be implemented. Institutional policies are formulated to simplify decision-making and avoid the effort of taking action on a case-by-case basis. There is no provision in this particular policy saying "Keep the lesbians if there's a shortage of interpreters."

Posted by: Lena at December 6, 2003 9:46 AM

I think she wrote it knowing she'd get tossed. She didn't seem to be complaining about being out -- it was Hull, the woman who wrote the story, who really seemed to be playing up the irony.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 7, 2003 6:24 AM

This kind of thing just *kills* me. I'm not bit fan of the pentagon or the current administration either. And I agree with Lena that that's what policies are for. BUT, the pentagon outsources so many things these days, why not outsource those linguists? The advantage to outsourcing is that those contractors are not bound by ALL of the pentagon's policies.

Posted by: Jay at December 8, 2003 11:09 PM

That's a great point, Jay. However, there are some downsides to the outsourcing rage. The DHHS is now outsourcing "project officer" positions for large health and medical research grants to private companies that have little experience in those areas. Researchers find it hard to respect these people, because they're basically clueless.

Posted by: Lena at December 9, 2003 8:04 AM