Friday, June 8, 2007

Gay Arabic Translator: "I’m willing to serve."

A gay Arabic translator who was discharged from the Navy under the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" writes in the New York Times today, asking for the opportunity to serve his country:

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.


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.


In response to difficult recruiting prospects, the Army has already taken a number of steps, lengthening soldiers’ deployments to 15 months from 12, enlisting felons and extending the age limit to 42. Why then won’t Congress pass a bill like the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell”? The bipartisan bill, by some analysts’ estimates, could add more than 41,000 soldiers — all gay, of course.

As the friends I once served with head off to 15-month deployments, I regret I’m not there to lessen their burden and to serve my country. I’m trained to fight, I speak Arabic and I’m willing to serve. No recruiter needs to make a persuasive argument to sign me up. I’m ready, and I’m waiting.

It's time to end our misguided policy of discharging gays from the military. It's wrong, it's unnecessary, it's counterproductive, and it ignores the fact that our closest allies, like Britain, have allowed gays to serve openly for years without incident. (I've covered this issue before.)

Will we come to our senses? It probably depends on the outcome of the next election. Every Democratic presidential candidate is in favor of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and allowing gays to serve openly. All of the Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, want to keep discharging gays from the military.

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