Saturday, November 02, 2002
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Translate

In this log entry, Mike Silverman refers to this story at the Gay Financial News that links to this press release from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Here's the entire text of the press release:
Despite a shortage of qualified Arabic linguists in the intelligence and defense fields, the Army has fired a significant number of trained language specialists from the military’s Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California because they are gay.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has assisted in the cases of seven Arabic speakers trained at DLI, including Private First Class Patricia Ramirez. Ramirez recently acknowledged her sexual orientation in a letter to her command.

The DLI command originally informed Ramirez in writing that, despite her sexual orientation, she was being retained in the Army and should continue to report for duty.

Within weeks of that announcement, however, SLDN learned that DLI officials had apparently reopened Ramirez’s case and were illegally questioning service members on base to obtain information about homosexual conduct. Additional service members at DLI were reportedly threatened with disciplinary action if they did not cooperate with the command’s renewed investigation of Ramirez.

Shortly thereafter, Ramirez was informed that, despite DLI’s earlier promises to allow her career to continue, she was being fired under the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

Ramirez indicated to her command that, if the Army would allow openly lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel to serve without prejudice, she would be happy to continue serving. “The truth is that I would like very much like to complete language training and serve my country,” Ramirez wrote.

“The command at DLI should have closed this case when it told PFC Ramirez to continue with her career,” said SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn. “Brave, patriotic Americans should not be fired in the name of federally sanctioned discrimination. That is blatantly un-American.”

Officials within the intelligence communities have spoken publicly about the impact a shortage of Arabic linguists has had on the nation’s fight against terrorism. A recent report from the House of Representatives noted that, “the GAO reported a significant shortfall in linguists. After the 9-11 attacks, this shortfall actually increased slightly. A long-term linguist and analyst hiring strategy is required.”

Ugh number one. This whole "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is stupid and counterproductive. We need translators for Arabic; we train translators of Arabic; we let go translators of Arabic because they're not heterosexual. Is that any way to run a country? An army?

Ugh number two. The whole "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy remains the policy of the US military, and anyone, gay or straight, who enlists ought to understand that. Yes, that simple-minded way of looking at things doesn't take into account young people who discover their sexuality after they enlist. Still, it just strikes me as nuts how some LBG young people enlist, knowing full well what the policy is, then expect not to be thrown out when the fact that they're not straight becomes known somehow.

Ugh number three. The military shouldn't jerk people around. I know, I know: pipe dreams, etc.

Ugh number two doesn't mean that SLDN doesn't deserve some kudos for taking on a rough job: Just because young people screw up regarding military policy and their own sexual orientation doesn't mean they ought to lose their rights as citizens or not have those rights vigorously protected.

Timatollah bottom line: "Don't ask, don't tell" is bad policy and is actually against the national interests and needs to be changed, but don't pretend that ignoring that policy is a demonstration of civil disobedience or personally responsibility.