Military needs Arabic speakers

Monday, December 8, 2003

Jefferson City News Tribune

The government suffers from a shortage of Arabic speakers. This hampers military, diplomatic and intelligence operations.

The FBI has acknowledged since the 9-11 attacks that it needs more and better translators of all languages, especially Middle Eastern languages. The armed forces need Arabic speakers.

What are our priorities?

Six soldiers trained to speak Arabic were among nine Army linguists dismissed from the service within six months of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March. Two said they sought federal jobs to use their language skills in the war on terror but were rejected. Their transgressions? They were homosexuals.

We need all the Arabic speakers we can get. Terrorists pose a greater threat to America than gays. Under "Don't ask, don't tell," gays can serve in the military, but can't be open about their sexuality. Is this a policy based on reasonable security concerns or on fear?

Maybe one of those Arabic-speaking soldiers could have provided intelligence information to avert another attack or help us find Osama bin Laden. We'll never know. Perhaps the motto should be: "Don't ask, don't tell -- in any language."

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