Homophobia Kills

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family Values, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

I wonder what is more important — getting the terrorists or discriminating against gays?  For some on the right, the answer apparently is the latter.  At least, that’s the national policy.

An excellant op-ed in the New York Times makes this point:

IMAGINE for a moment an American soldier deep in the Iraqi desert. His unit is about to head out when he receives a cable detailing an insurgent ambush right in his convoy’s path. With this information, he and his soldiers are now prepared for the danger that lies ahead.

Reports like these are regularly sent from military translators’ desks, providing critical, often life-saving intelligence to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the military has a desperate shortage of linguists trained to translate such invaluable information and convey it to the war zone.

The lack of qualified translators has been a pressing issue for some time — the Army had filled only half its authorized positions for Arabic translators in 2001. Cables went untranslated on Sept. 10 that might have prevented the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. Today, the American Embassy in Baghdad has nearly 1,000 personnel, but only a handful of fluent Arabic speakers.

I was an Arabic translator. After joining the Navy in 2003, I attended the Defense Language Institute, graduated in the top 10 percent of my class and then spent two years giving our troops the critical translation services they desperately needed. I was ready to serve in Iraq.

But I never got to. In March, I was ousted from the Navy under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which mandates dismissal if a service member is found to be gay.

Read the whole thing: Don’t Ask, Don’t Translate.  You’ll note that the author of this column, Stephen Benjamin, wasn’t asked and didn’t tell; Naval authorities discovered casual—not explicit— instant messages indicating that both he and his roommate were gay.  Even then:

My supervisors did not want to lose me. Most of my peers knew I was gay, and that didn’t bother them. I was always accepted as a member of the team. And my experience was not anomalous: polls of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan show an overwhelming majority are comfortable with gays. Many were aware of at least one gay person in their unit and had no problem with it.

Here’s some astounding facts compiled by the Human Rights Campaign:

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) Poses Exorbitant Costs to the Military and Nation.

1. Nearly 800 specialists with critical skills have been fired from the U.S. military under DADT, including 323 linguists, 55 of whom specialized in Arabic (Government Accountability Office report).

2. At least 65,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans are already protecting our homeland (Urban Institute report). More than 10,000 have been discharge under DADT since the policy was implemented in 1993.

3. American taxpayers have paid between $250 million and $1.2 billion to investigate, eliminate and replace qualified, patriotic service members who want to serve their country but can’t because expressing their sexual orientation violates DADT (Government Accountability Office report). That money could be better spent on at least a dozen Blackhawk helicopters, armored plates for tanks and Humvees or Kevlar body armor for troops.

What is going on here?