June 08, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Translate

Today's New York Times has a an op-ed piece by Stephen Benjamin, a former US Navy Arabic translator, what the military calls a "linguist". He volunteered for the Navy, went to the Defense Language Institute to learn Arabic, and was ready and willing to go to Iraq. He never got there. Why? Because military snooping on IM exchanges between Benjamin and his roommate revealed that they are gay, as a result of which he was discharged from the Navy.

As we have discussed before on a number of occasions, the US military badly needs people with Arabic language skills. Discharging those they have merely because they are gay is stupid. Both the success of other armed forces in incorporating gay soldiers and polls of US forces indicate that it will not lead to the alleged problems of unit cohesion that constitute the only halfway credible argument against allowing openly gay soldiers.

Benjamin's account also reveals that the US is not following its announced policy of "Don't ask, don't tell.". Mr. Benjamin was not open about his gayness. He was exposed by government snooping. Apparently the administration believes that pandering to the distaste of social conservatives for homosexuality is worth the lives of American soldiers. That's a funny way of supporting the troops.

Posted by Bill Poser at June 8, 2007 04:52 PM